Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918)
Fakir Mohan Senapati is regarded as the ‘father’ of Oriya literature, who gave it a new dimension and bringing it to the mainstream. He belongs to the period of late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Life of Fakir Mohan Senapati
Fakir Mohan Senapati was born on 13th January, 1843 at Mallikashpur in Balasore. He was born in a Khandayat family to Laxman Charan Senapati and Tulsi Devi Senapati. He lost his father at an early age of a year and five months old, who died of cholera at Bhubaneswar. Soon after his mother also died fourteen months after her husband leaving Fakir under the watchful care of his grandmother, Kuchila Dei. As a child he remained very sick and often his grandmother took him to the fakirs for treatment. It was his grandmother who changed his original name, Brajamohan to Fakir Mohan as a sign of dedication to the Fakirs. Fakir Mohan married for the first time at the age of thirteen in 1856 to Leelavati Devi. The death of his first wife left him very depressed and remorse. He married for the second time to Krushna Kumari Dei in 1871. But fate did not favor him even this time when he lost his second wife in 1894, who died of diarrhea. His second wife left behind her a son- Mohini Mohan Senapati and a daughter- Sarojini Senapati.
Senapati began his education very late, somewhere around the age of nine. He even worked at his teacher’s house in order to pay his fees. In order to fulfill his hunger for knowledge, he got admitted in the Mission School at Barabati, where he had the opportunity to learn subjects like history, geography and mathematics. Later he taught there as a teacher till 1871.H e then went on to become the Headmaster of the Christian Mission School. It was during this period that he became acquainted with a person named John Bims, the Collector of Balasore during that time. John was also a skilled master and wrote comparative grammar of different Indian languages. Fakir taught Oriya to John Bims, who considered Oriya to be one of the important languages of the nation.
Senapati soon mastered himself in English with the help of a dictionary. He also wrote text books in his own mother tongue, Oriya on different subjects. Encouraged by John, Fakir thereafter served as the Diwan at Nilagiri from the time period 1871 to 1875. After that he served as ‘diwan’ at several places. Fakir served at Damapada from 1876 to 1887 and for the second time from 1894 to 1896.He also served at Dhenkaqnal from 1877 to 1883, at Daspalla from 1884 to 1886, at Pallahada from 1886 to 1887 and at Keonjhar from 1887 to 1892. He also served in the collectorate of Balasore as a clerk for some period of time. In 1868 Fakir set up a printing press at Balasore named Utkal Press.It was the second printing press in Orissa. Fakir Mohan Senapati died on 14th June in the year 1918.His last years was spent in his hometown, Balasore.
Works of Fakir Mohan Senapati
As a writer, Fakir Mohan Senapati has contributed a lot to Oriya literature. He is solely responsible for bringing Oriya literature alive, which has now gained immense popularity among the people. His novels reflect the socio-political aspects of the state during the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. Some of his well known novels are- Chha Mana Atha Guntha, Mamu, Prayaschita and Lachhama. Another book titled Atma Jeevan Charita is considered to be the first autobiography in Oriya.Chha Mana Atha Guntha was first serialized during the last decade of the nineteenth century and was published as a book in 1902. He has also written several short stories such as Rebati (1898), Patent Medicine, Daka Munshi, Adhama Bitta and so on.Rebati is labeled as the first Oriya short story. Fakir Mohan has also written a long poem titled ‘Utkala Brramanam’ which first appeared in 1892. Apart from this, he had also published journals like Bodhadayini and Balasore Samboda Bahika. His contemporaries include the romantic-patriotic poet, Radhanath Ray (1848-1908) and the Bhakta poet and educationist, Madhusudan Rao (1853- 1912). He was also a social reformer and educationist, apart from being a novelist and writer of short stories.