Upendra Bhanja [Kavi Samrata] (1670-1740 / Kullada, Ghumusara, Orissa / India)
Biography of Upendra Bhanja
Upendra Bhanja (Oriya: ଉପେନ୍ଦ୍ର ଭଞ୍ଜ), born at Kullada, Ghumusara, a princely state in Orissa, was considered as the greatest poet of Oriya Literature and was awarded the title "Kavi-Samrata" (also given as Kabi) – "The Emperor of the Poets".
Born in a royal family, Upendra Bhanja had never eyed for throne. His first wife was the sister of the king of Nayagarh and the daughter of the king of Banapur was his second wife, who was an erudite princess and gave Upendra Bhanja poetical inspiration in an abundant measure. His grand father King Dhananjaya Bhanja was a great poet and wrote Raghunath Bilash (The Ramayana), Ratna Manjari (a poetical romance) etc., which provided models to Upendrabhanja for writing. But unlike his grandfather, he preferred his entire life to poetry rather than to ruling over a kingdom. He had a thorough training in Sanskrit classical literature and mastered Sanskrit dictionaries such as Amar-Kosha, Trikanda Kosha and Medini-Kosha. He even wrote a dictionary Geetabhidhana for helping poets. A statue of him was built in Bhanjanagar.
Upendra Bhanja wrote some 52 books of which only 20 or 25 are available now. Due to the absence of a printing press, many of the hand-copied books have been lost. Some of his eminent Kavyas are Baideheesha Bilasha (with "Ba" initial for each line), Rasalila, Brajaleela, Subhadra Parinaya(with "Sa" initial for every line), Lavanyabati, Premasudhanidhi, Rasikaharabali, Subhadra-Parinya and Chitrakavya-Bondodhya Labanyabati, Koti Brahmanda Sundari, Kala Koutuka (with "Ka" initial for every line), Satisha bilasa" (with initial 'sa' initials every line), "Damayanti BiLasa" (with 'da' initial each line) and "Padmabati Parinaya" (starts with 'pa') etc.
The first published work of Upendra Bhanja is "Rasapanchaka". The first dictionary "Geeta Abidhan" was written by Upendra Bhanja in Oriya literature. Kavi Samrat is not the title of Upendra Bhanja. He was rather entitled as "Bira Bara" as admitted by Upendra Bhanja in his kavyas such as Baidehisabilas, Subhadra Parinya, etc. Kavi Samrat, the title is found in the early part of 19th century in a book written by Mahendra Patnaik. Upendra Bhanja contributed 32,300 words to Oriya language and literature.The obscurity of upendra bhanj, an incomparable poet of Oriya literature, may be attributed to the lack of proper research. Plot and character in Bhanja literature plays negligible role but imaginary ornamental expression by way of literary techniques of the classical Indian literature dominates with magnetic, lovable, intellectual manner. So study of Upendra Bhanja requires high academic pursuits as well as sensible appreciation of art and literary value of the reader along with wide study range in the field of classical Indian literature and appreciable order of morality and spiritual thought. So for Upendra Bhanja, plot and character are not important but momentous feeling influences the character as well as the plot in the structural poetic forms and techniques with explosive reason and emotion in a way of synthetic, stylistic approach in almost all aspects of his expression through Oriya language, literature, culture, socio-cultural behaviour, with high moral order and thoughts of superior human being. On the other hand his writings are being popularised by the commoners because of sensible, emotional touch with sympathetic unusual feelings of the human kind in the context of aesthetic sense and sensibility along with love and lovability of the mankind as experienced through the ages of time together.Strangely,without any deep appreciation of human value and literary appreciation with standard principles of study literature as prescribed in the research methodology and literary criticism with reference to classical Indian poetics, the poet Upendra Bhanja is being misunderstood by some pseudo critics/scholars and writers with biased opinions and unscrupulous baseless manners.
The first Phd. Thesis was submitted by Dr.Satyanarayan Acharya,The First Researcher on Upendra Bhanja,in the year 1978 under UGC sponsorship.
Upendra Bhanja wrote in the last decade of seventeenth and the early decades of eighteenth century and championed a style of poetry called 'Reeti' and 'Deena' in Sanskrit poetics. Though many poets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centaurs write in reeti style, Upendra Bhanja is decided by the greatest of them all. Whether it is shringara, viraha, bhakti or karuna rasa, Upendra Bhanja is the poet of unsurpassed rhetorical excellence. We may venture to say that, apart from Sanskrit, no other language has a poet to compare with him. Upendra Bhanja had practiced his great poetic talents in using "upama","aLankara", "rasas"in all his Kavyas.
The greatness of Upendra Bhanja was in his "Alankara" use such as: Anuprasa, Jamak, etc. The style of presenting facts with comparable factors (upama) is very distinguishable in his “Vidaish bilasha” is the pioneer work of Upendra Bhanja as declared by the poet. "Rasika Harabali" was written on the basis of his own experience at the early part of his young life. His contemporary poet of Bhakta Kavi, Dina Krushna Das as described in his work “Kala Koutuka”. The socio-cultural way of contemporary Oriyas are vividly described in his literature .Upendra Bhanja is not only eminent poet of Orissa but also his writings will be explained through all classical contemporary music systems of India.
Though he had a poetic excellence, his Kavyas have made some critiques irritated for the sexuality he used in his imagery descriptions. During the beginning of modern period or age of Radhanath, Upendra Bhanja was criticized by some modernist for the obscenity in his Kavyas. There was a war of words between two literary periodicals The Indradhanu and The Bijuli. The two periodicals kept their support in favour of two poets Kabisamrat Upendra Bhanja and Radhanath Ray. It was also a war between conservatives and modernist in Oriya Literature. Upendra Bhanja was also criticized for his obscure words. Once a modern poet Guru Prasad wrote "Upendra Bhanja means a woman and a Dictionary".
But above all, the role of Upendra Bhanja can not be denied during the Riti Yuga period of Oriya Litearature.
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