Radhanath Ray

[Kabibara] (28 September 1848 - 1908 / Kedarpur, Baleswar, Orissa / India)

Biography of Radhanath Ray

Radhanath Ray poet

Radhanath Ray (Oriya: ରାଧାନାଥ ରାୟ) is an Oriya poet of initial modernity era in Oriya poetry during the later part of nineteenth century, and is honoured in Oriya literature with the title Kabibara. In his early life, he composed in both Bengali and Oriya languages, but later he shifted his writings in Oriya only. He was born on 28 September 1848, at Kedarpur village in Baleswar district, Orissa. He has contributed verses and poetry for Oriya literature in the nineteenth century.

Role in Language Movement

At Radhanath’s time, in Orissa, the Oriya language movement was active. Though the medieval Oriya literature was richer in comparison to that of Bengali literature, however some of the Bengali educationalists wanted to abolish Oriya language as the medium of teaching from schools. As Bengal was gripped by British Colonialism much before Orissa, the Bengalis had the privilege to motivate the Anglicist scholars to prove Oriya as a branch of Bengali language. John Beams, a British Officer of East India Company first tried to prove that Oriya is more ancient language than Bengali, and it had a richer literature which Bengali had not. In the Orissa division, there were only seven Oriya School teachers; Bengalis formed the majority of teachers, even in the remote areas. Consequently, Bengali text books were prescribed for Oriya students. At that time, Radhanatha was one of prime figure along with Fakir Mohan Senapati, who fought against the expansionism of Bengali educationalist to eradicate Oriya language from Orissa. He was the Inspector of Orissa Schools Association and along with Fakir Mohan Senapati and Madhusudan Rao, he tried to promote text book writings.

Major Works

Radhanatha Ray’s first major work was Kabitabali, a collection of poems in Bengali written at the age of eighteen. It featured in most of the major newspapers and journals in Kolkatta during that time. His other Bengali poem was Lekhabali. Later, he switched over to Oriya language, and wrote famous Kavyas like Kedar Gauri, Nandikeshwari, Chilika, Mahajatra – Jajatikeshari, Tulasistabaka, Urbashi, Darabara, Dasaratha Biyoga, Savitri Charita and Mahendra Giri. Additionally, he wrote more than fifteen essays. Apart from his original works, he is also known for his translations and adaptations from the Latin Literature. They include Usha, Chandrabhaga and Parbati.

Father of Modernism

His writings were inspired by many English Littérateurs like Keats, Scott and Wordsworth. He has contributed to Oriya poetry by introducing new forms. He has penned blank-verses, satire inspired by writings of Dryden and Alexander Pope, denunciation of despots, tyrants and oppressors, concern with social problems, a spirit of protest against conventional morality, a disbelief in the power of gods and goddesses, and patriotic sentiments, which finally brought him trouble from his employers. He was viewed as a national poet of the first order in Orissa.


Though Radhanatha contributed a lot to Oriya literature, however he was not accepted by the contemporary conservative readers of his time. Soon, he was dragged into a controversy. Sudhala Dev, the then king of Bamanda awarded the poet the title 'Kabibara', and the gesture made some of the critics and poets jealous. Some critics wrote that Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja is more powerful than Radhanatha, and these silly arguments turned into a serious topic of controversy like modernity versus tradition. Two of the literary journals The Indradhanu and The Bijali engaged in this controversy, and later all the intellectuals got entangled in this discussion. However, this literary controversy ended with a letter of Radhanath.

Confession of Own Love Affairs

At the age of fifty-three, when Radhanatha was transferred to Burdwan in his service, he came into the contact of a Bengali poetess Ms. Nagendra Bala Ray, with whom a passionate love affair developed. Since Radhanatha was very orthodox, and had a god-fearing personality, this affair made him disturbed. In 1907, he could not resist himself and confessed his misdemeanour publicly, through press. He begged his readers to forgive him for his such behaviour. However, this ‘confession’ made him a saint among his readers of that period.

Radhanath Ray's Works:

Kavyas like Kedar Gauri,
Mahajatra – Jajatikeshari,
Dasaratha Biyoga,
Savitri Charita
and Mahendra Giri

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