Shree Jagannath Pani

Born :- 14-Apr-1836
Died :- 11-Dec-1897
Place of Birth :- Nalanga, Bhadrak

Hailed as the father of the most popular Odia Musical Dramma or musical theatre, Jagannath Pani created history in 19th century by introducing a new form of performing art on stage and popularised it among not only the aristocrats, the middle class and the society of knowledgeable people but also the rustic, unlettered poor and the peasants. A musical playwright, Jagannath Pani, once hopelessly poor in primary education, who had even failed to learn the Odia alphabets till he attained the twelfth year of his age and was scathingly rebuked by his family men and relatives, rose to the pinnacle of knowledge in due course of time to prove himself a giant of Odia literature of his times.

Jagannath was born to parents Bhagabat Pani and Rangabati of Nalanga village near Bhadrak on 14 April, 1836, the auspicious day of Maha Vishuv Samkranti. Being the only child born to his parents after a long time of their marriage, Jagannath was too much pampered and became wayward, completely ignoring his lessons at the village school. Even he did not properly know the alphabets till he was 12. But bitter sarcasm and rebuke from his parents and relatives brought about a drastic change in his attitude. Determined to have all knowledge at his command, Jagannath sat in meditation in the Naleswar Mahadev temple in his village and chanted the Panchakshari Saraswati mantra which, it is said, secured him divine blessings. As a result of this, now he was totally transformed. Soon he brought under his control the twenty-one aspects of learning like mantra, chhanda, alankar and music etc.

Jagannath had profound attraction for mellifluous lyrical songs which drew his attention to the works of the Riti era poets. He was influenced by the chhandas, champus and chaupadis which had already gained popularity throughout the length and breadth of Odisha and the Odia speaking tracts outside the province. Volumes of poetry written by the Riti poets like Dhananjaya Bhanja, Narasingha Sen, Arjun Das, Ghana Bhanja, Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja, Bidagdha Kabi Abhimanyu Samant Sinhar, Kabisurya Baladev Rath and Gopalkrushna excited and exalted him and they became his regular feed. In no time he also gained adequate knowledge in grammar, Amarakosha and alankara shastra. Besides, he went through all scriptures like Chandi Purana, Mahabharata, Bilanka Ramayana, Srimad Bhagabat, Jagamohan Ramayana, Nrusingha Purana and Haribansha.

After a sense of fulfilment that he was adequately armed with the knowledge of literature, Jagannath started his literary mission. He wrote poetry, farcical drammas and musical drammas which he performed on stage, attracting people from all sections of society. He had established a theatre which was later managed by some of his heirs. Social reform through entertainment was his motto.

It has not been possible by now to collect all his writings. Many have been lost and many have been found moth eaten. Only the works that were collected from his youngest grandson Braja Sundar Pani and the works preserved in the state museum were published by the Culture department in three volumes. The First Volume contains 17 musical drammas, the Second Volume contains poetry, devotional prayers and one paala while the Third Volume contains four paalas, an incomplete mahabharat and a farcical folk act.

Ganakabi Baishnaba Pani, the renowned musical playwright of the twentieth century, was highly influenced by the works of Jagannath pani, which he himself has admitted. 

Anthology of Lyrics

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