Kailash Chandra Dash

Famous Odia literary critic and writer Dr Natabar Samantaray completed his birth centenary on 29th December 2019. It would be necessary on our part as the lovers of Odia literature and culture to offer respectful tribute in his glorious memory for his lasting contribution to the comprehensive survey and interpretation of Odia literature of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial phase. He was born on 29th December 1918 in Ramachandrapur of Delang of undivided Puri district. His father was Rasbihari Samantaray and mother Tulasi Devi. He had education at Puri Zilla School and passed Matriculation with distinction in 1936. Thereafter he had a testing phaseand had to stay in the Ashram of Durga Charan Chattopadhyay of Banares and passed IA privately. He came to Cuttack in 1939 and completed BA with the help of his relation Sudhanidhi Samantaray. He had Mathematics and Sanskrit in BA stage. In 1942 he had diploma in education and then he became a school teacher. He had passed MA privately in Odia and had got necessary help in this regard from Arttaballabh Mohanty and Pandit Nilakantha Das. At last he started his second phase of life from 26th October 1949 when he became a lecturer in Odia in Baripada College. He was posted in Ravenshaw College on 9th August 1956 and worked there till 1959.

While in Baripada he came in contact with Paramananda Acharya, a famous archaeologist and historian who offered him all possible help for his literary career. In fact Acharya helped him to publish articles first in Prajatantra of 1949(September and October) on easy method of learning Odia letters, Gopabandhu`s Prose Style and Odia Ancient Literature. But his first research article relating to Bidagdha Chintamani of Abhimanyu Samantasinghara was published in the newly established Odia monthly Jhankara of Harekrushna Mahatab in the issue of December 1949. It was a fine analytical study on medieval literature. He was in fact one among the front ranking writers in Jhankar for whom Mahatab had great admiration and appreciation. Later on he had serious interpretative essays in Odia magazines like Jhankar, Kumkuma, Navajibana, Dagara, Nabarabi, Adhunika(Nava Prastha), Konarka, Nababharata, Meher Pradipa, Asantakali, Panchajanya, Marutirtha, Amrutayana and Mrunmayee. All his literary activities from 1949 to 1973 have been presented in his Synopsis of Books, Lists of Research papers and other articles in the form of a booklet. We have an interesting account of his literary journey entitled Mu Kipari Gabeshana Kali and in Chintamani Behera`s essay called Odia Samalochana Sahity are Natabar Samantaray. In 2004 Smaran Kumar Nayak, Ranjita Kumar Panda and Binita Sahu of Kalinga Research Academy(Cuttack) have published a booklet which contains a list of the articles and books of Natabar Samantaray. He had numerous books in Odia like Odia Vaishnava Sahitya(1959), Vyasakavi Fakirmohana(1957/1972), Yuga Pravarttaka Srastha Radhanath(1960), Radhanath O Chilika Kavya(1960), Gangadhar Sahitya Samikshya(1960), Sahitya darshan(1960),Odia Sahityara Kramavikas(1963), Adhunika Odia Sahityara Bhittibhumi(1964), Odia Sahityara Itihasa(1964), Nanda Kishore Sahitya Samikshya(1964), Badajena Sahitya Samikshya(1971), Odia Palli Sahitya(1970), Odia Sahityaku Arttaballabhanka Avadana(1970), Sakhahina Panchasakha(1975), Mu KipariGabeshana Kali(1976), Odia Sahityare Swara Paribarttana(1976), Odia Sahityara Samikshya O Sangraha(1977),Odia Sahityara Kala O Kala(1977),Adhunika Odia Sahitya Bikashara Prusthabhumi(1979), Adhunika Odia Sahityara Digdarshana(1979),Odishara Dharm adharare Panchasakha Parikalpana(1982), Fakir Mohan SahityaSamikshya(1984), RadhanathSahityaSamikshya(1984), Kabi Gopabandhunka Kavya Srusthi Manasa(1999) and Odia Bhasa Bilopa Andolana(edited by Smaran Kumar Nayak). All these literary and critical works are the lasting contributions of NatabarSamantaray which have enriched our literature. In 2017 was published Natabar Samantaray A Reader under the joint editorship of Professor SumanyuSatapathy and Animesh Mahapatra. It contains English translations of some of the famous literary essays of Samantaray with a critical note on his literary works and publishedby Sahitya Academy, New Delhi. This work would help in spreading the literary essays of Natabar Samantaray to the wider English readers.

Natabar was an outstanding writer and substantial critic  of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Odia literature. He was a Sun in the Odia literary horizon. He had a wider readership and as well as critics. His views were contested by GobindaTripathy in the 1960s, Satchidananda Mishra in the 1980s and Gaganendranath Dash in the 1980s and 1990s.He was famous for his contextual study and interpretation of Odia literature. He was the first  Odia critic in this regard. As Mayadha rMansingh stated-his study and researches provide an excellent and solid foundation for the historical interpretation of modern Odia literature from the middle of the 19th century to the recent times. His critical and comprehensive studies relating to the early writers of modern Odia literature such as Radhanath, Fakirmohan, Gangadhar, Nandakishre and Gopabandhu as well as pre-colonial authors such as Jagannath Das, Achyutananda Das, Upendra Bhanja, Abhimanyu, Brajanath Badajena published in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s broke new grounds and created stir in critical literary studies in India. His most significant work Odia Sahityara Itihasa was a pioneering study based on extensive research , a mine of information by itself about a largely unexplored period till then, that not only highlighted the context and achievement of authors in the beginning period of modern Odia literature, but also remained a potential source for subsequent critics to work upon.His interpretative study of the so-called Pancha Sakha literature in Odia and his studies on Atibadi Jagannatha Das on the basis of Jagannath aCharitamruta of Dibakar Das present a new method of criticism.  As pointed out by Jatindra Mohanty he established the norms of study for early important authors of the modern period. Odia literary magazine Dagara presented a brilliant evaluation of his famous literary essays. His English essay entitled An Approach to S Routray-A Chronological Study incorporated in SachiRoutray-A Poet of the People-A Symposium, edited by Vasudha Chgakravarty  in 1955 was a brilliant study on progressive literature.

Thus Natabar Samantaray, a potential milestone of Odia literary criticism, needs a post-modern and beyond post-modern  revisit. A well documented biography is also necessary to know more and more about less and less of this illustrious Odia critic.