Gangadhar Meher [Swabhaba Kavi] (9 August 1862 - 4 April 1924 / Barpali, Bargarh, Orissa / India)
Biography of Gangadhar Meher
Gangadhar Meher (Oriya: ଗଙ୍ଗାଧର ମେହେର), renowned Oriya poet of 19th century also known as Swabhab Kavi, was a literary Midas, who transformed everything into gold by the alchemic touch of his genius. He was a born poet of delicate charm. His was a clean white style. His poem Bhakti (The Devotion) bears eloquent testimony to the change in religious outlook. He was essentially a poet of intuition and side by side he had a penetrating insight. Though poor in wealth and education, he was very rich in mind and culture. In almost all his writings there is a glimpse of originality.
Gangadhar was born in 1862 on the full moon day of Shravan at Barpali of present day Bargarh district of Orissa. Chaitanya Meher was working as a village Vaidya (Ayurvedic doctor) besides his family profession of weaving. But as he could not maintain his family with the income of these works, he opened a village school and began to teach a few children. Gangadhar Meher could read up to the Middle Vernacular Standard hurdling over diverse disadvantages, and his excessive desire for reading one day dragged him to the field of writing poems.
As a young boy, he heard the Oriya Ramayan composed by Balaram Das and afterwards he himself read it as well as the Oriya Mahabharata by Sarala Das. He also read and mastered a great number of Sanskrit books; of which ‘Raghubansam’, deserve mention. He had proficiency in Hindi and Bengali. Tulsi Ramayan in Hindi used to be held by him in great respect. He used to read Bengali magazines and newspapers. Gangadhar, in his student life, read Sanskrit.
Gangadhar got himself married at the age of 10. As his father’s pecuniary condition was not satisfactory, Gangadhar used to go to school in the morning and help his father in weaving in the afternoon. The poet’s weaving was as attractive and beautiful as his poetry. For his clear and beautiful hand writing people used to visit him for writing their documents. The pecuniary condition of the family improved a bit due to his hard labour when to the misfortune of the family, the ancestral house caught fire.
The then Zamindar of Barpali, Lal Nruparaj Singh offered him the post of an Amin (Patwari). Coming to learn of amicable behaviours and good virtues of Gangadhar, the Zamindar promoted him to the post of a Moharir. He continued to serve in the said post and was transferred to Sambalpur, Bijepur and Padmapur and at last transferred to him own native place Barpali on a salary of Rs. 30/- P.M.
The post was very liberal and magnanimous in his social life. During the last age of his life, the poet organized an All Orissa Social Conference of Mehers with a view to uplifting the entire weaver society. Nearly three thousand Mehers from different parts of Orissa assembled in the Conference. The poet put up twelve proposals for the reform of the society and all were passed unanimously.
Gangadhar started composing poems from a very tender age. His first writings follow the style and technique of the ancient Oriya writers. His first Kavya (poetic work) was “Rasa-Ratnakara”. Then being persuaded by some friends he changed his ways and wrote poems and kavyas in the modern Oriya style. Kabibar Radhanath Ray praised his writing very much. Then Gangadhar Meher produced innumerable writings that have no parallel in point of sweet imaginativeness, in beauty and clarity of language, in the novelty of style, in point of forceful character painting and in the lively description of nature from different angels of vision. His writings are like precious jewels in the store room of Utkal Bharati (Oriya language).
Gangadhar Meher College
In 1949, Sambalpur College in Sambalpur, which had opened in 1944, was renamed Gangadhar Meher College in his honour. In 1992, it instituted the Gangadhar Meher National Award for Poetry which is conferred annually.
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Verily I'm a drop
of the ocean of nectar.
Shunning the ocean I had risen up
in the firmament afar.
Coming down now
I've joined the ambrosial flow
and towards the ocean
ahead I'm in motion.
If I evaporate therein