Ganakabi Baishnav Pani

Born :- 27-Sep-1887
Died :- 10-May-1956
Place of Birth :- Kothapada, Mahanga, Cuttack

Gana Kabi Baishnav Pani was born in the night of Kumar Purnima in 1882 at Kothapada village in Cuttack district in a poor Brahmin family to father Sudarsan Pani and mother Chhaya Devi.

He was named as Satrughna by his parents. In his childhood he was suffering from various diseases and his parents were unable to provide him treatment. They dedicated the child to Lord Jagannath under a banyan tree of Badachhata mutt in Puri and changed his name from Satrughna to Baishnav.

Poverty was a hindrance in his way to get education. Baishnav dropped out from Class -VII. However, as Baishnab was very sober and fond of singing, villagers came forward to provide him financial assistance to continue his studies. He had good command over Odia and Sanskrirt languages. Later, he joined as a Pala artist and wrote many books, including dramas and poems.

It is said that he was a devotee of Binod Bihari deity and visited the temple regularly. His first creation was Meghanada Baddha in 1903 and he dedicated the book to Binod Bihari. His prominent writings were based on mythological plots with incorporation of contemporary socio-economic and political issues of the society. He was a champion of lyric and music. He was influenced by his predecessor Loka Kabi Jagannath Pani of Bhadrak who had introduced musical theatre in Odissa and had written and staged musical plays in Odisha and Bengal.

He never forgot to include the problems of the downtrodden and women in his writings. Baishnav was a social reformer and did not believe in caste system as he married a girl belonging to a washer man family in spite of opposition by his family members and people of higher caste. He was excommunicated.

While struggling with poverty, fortunately Mahanta of Kothapada mutt allowed him to join his theatre troupe to act in minor roles in yatra stage. Baishnav wrote 600 books which include 150 yatras, 19 farces and 65 anthologies of lyrics, poems, stories and other literary pieces. Some of his popular yatras are Dronacharya Baddha, Karna Arjuna, Rangasabha and Daksha Yajna. Some other yatra stories are Karna Baddha, Bijay Basanta, Abu Hassan farce, Saudagara farce, Natua Mohanty farce etc. He was very popular in both West Bengal and Odisha for writing, directing and acting in Odia folk opera/musical theatre. His creations are still played at different places in the State and also on radio and television.

Recognising his contribution to Odia yatra and literature, the Utkal Sahitya Samaj awarded him “Ganakabi” at a function held at Sriram Chandra Bhawan, Cuttack posthumously, 10 years after his death, in the presence of a galaxy of prominent writers and poets.


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