Shree Manoj Das

Born :- 27-Feb-1934
Died :- 27-Apr-2021
Place of Birth :- Khangari, Baleswar

Manoj Das, the wonder litterateur of Odisha, nay India, who established himself and his mother land in the modern literary arena of the world for his exceptional literary works in both Odia and English in wonderful language, emotion and style, was born on 27 February 1934 in Shankhari village of Balasore district to a distinguished family. Manoj was the fifth and the youngest child of his parents. Under the influence of mother Kadambini Devi, he developed interest and reverence for the Ramayana and the Mahabharata from an early age. He later described the two epics as “sources of miraculous energy.” While studying at Balasore District School, the marvels of his personality came to limelight. At that time, his elder brother, eminent historian and litterateur Manmath Nath Das was a history professor at Fakir Mohan College. The house where they lived was the residence of Byasakabi Fakir Mohan Senapati, a jewel among the Odia writers of yester years. Manoj Das's heart was filled with joyous surprise when he came to know about it.

His first book of poems, ‘Satabdira Arttanada’, was published while studying at the school. It was during this time that he launched his monthly literary magazine ‘Digant’, and a collection of short stories, ‘samudrara Kshudha’, was published. During his days in college, he kept up his passion of writing and published ‘Jeebanara Swada’, a novel, ‘Bisha Kanyara Kahani’ (short stories) and ‘Padadhwani’ (poems).

In 1952, during his first year at Fakir Mohan College, he was elected President of the Student Union and Vice President of the State Students Federation. In 1955, he graduated from Samanta Chandrashekhar College, Puri and studied law in Cuttack. By this time his writings had begun to be published in various English magazines and periodicals.

After doing his PG in English from the Ravenshaw, he taught at the Christ College in 1959. This year, his marriage was solemnised with Pratibha Devi, the princess of the erstwhile Kujang state.

The standards of Odia fiction were determined following the publication of his collection of short stories, Aranyak, in 1961. His quest for mysticism motivated him to become an inmate of Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. Since 1963, he had been a professor of English literature and philosophy there. His spouse, Pratijna Devi also joined there in the Department of Psychology as a professor.

Manoj Das was honoured with the Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award in 1965 after the publication of ‘Sesha Basantara Chithi’. He has authored over four dozens of novels, short story books, two poetry books, travel stories and books on history and culture in a captivating language and style. Prominent among them are– Amrutaphala, Prabhanjana (Cyclones), Sesha Tantrikara Sandhanare, Tandralokara Prahari, Aakashara Isara, Buldozers and Kanaka Upatyakara Kahani (Novels);  Upakatha Sataka, Sesha Basantara Chithi, Samudra-kulara Eka Grama (Balyasmruti), Farewell to a Ghost: Short Stories and a Novelette, Aranyaka  and Chasing the Rainbow : growing up in an Indian village (Short story collections); Tuma Gaan O Anyanya Kabita, Kabita Utkala (Poetry); Kete Diganta, Antaranga Bharat (Travelogues); Bharatara Aitihya: Shateka Prashnara Uttara, Mahakalara Prahelika O Anyana Jijnansa, Jibana Jijnasa O Smaranika Stabaka, Prajna Pradeepika (History and Culture).  He has been compared to Vishnu Sharma, the legendary ancient storyteller in Sanskrit, in modern Odia literature for his magnificent style and magic of words.

On request, he almost regularly contributed columns to the Times of India, the Hindustan Times, The Hindu, and the Statesman etc. on request. He was the editor of the well-known magazine, Heritage, as also editor of the nationally circulated children's magazine Chandamama.

Manoj Das was a member of the General Council of the Kendra Sahitya Academi from 1998 to 2002 and honoured with its Fellowship for life. He served as a writer-adviser to the Ministry of Education of the Government of Singapore from 1983 to 1985. In 1999, he travelled to China, leading a delegation of Indian writers.

Besides honorary doctorates from five universities, Manoj Das won many literary awards such as Odisha Sahitya Academi Award (Twice), Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Sarala Award, Saraswati Samman, and titles like Padmashri and Padma Bhushan, Atibadi Jagannath Das Samman, NTR Literary Award, Amritakeerti Puraskar, Veda Vyas Samman and Mystic Kalinga Literary Award (2020). He was presented the first Sri Aurobindo Award (Calcutta) in 1911 for uncovering some unknown facts about Sri Aurobindo’s role in the Indian Freedom Movement after research in the London and Edinburgh archives. This great author breathed his last on 27 April, 2021 at Pondicherry.

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