Historians Herman Kulke (extreme left) and Romila Thapar (extreme right) at the 74th session of Indian History Congress at Ravenshaw University in Cuttack on Sunday. Picture by Badrika Nath Das
Cuttack, Dec. 29: Odia Mahabharat (reinterpretation of the Sanskrit version) of Sarala Das in the 15th century was a manifestation of protest by marginalised groups against the hegemony of the Brahminical order in the medieval Odishan society.
But Kaliyug Bhagavat, a genre of Odia literary text, marked “a configuration of Brahminical protest” against it “for reconstructing” the Odishan society, said former reader in history Kailash Chandra Dash, while taking part in a Odisha panel at the 74th session of Indian History Congress at Ravenshaw University here today.
The panel was on “History and the Present: Rethinking Society, State and Region in Odisha”.
Dash said “dissent, protest and reconstruction” were the three significant aspects of the study of social history of pre-colonial and colonial Odisha. He cited the example of protest by the marginalised groups presented by writers such as Sarala Das, Jagannath Das (16th century) and Achyutananda Das (18th century). Dash said the writers in Odia “reinterpreted the Sanskrit versions in their own ways and articulated a discourse of protest” to “disrupt the Brahminical Sanskrit dominance”.
After the Muslim conquest of Odisha in 1568, a new genre of literary texts in Odia called Kaliyug Bhagavat were compiled from the earlier puranic traditional accounts with several additions and revisions.
“Kaliyug Bhagavat belonged to a class of literary texts, which wanted a balancing relationship in society. Their aim was to reconstruct a social order by a process of reciprocity of ideas among all sections of the society,” Dash said, citing example of Kali Bhagavat of Abhirama Paramhansa.
“Kaliyug Bhagavat were thus important mediums of dissent, protest and even reconstruction of the society in Odisha after the later phase of the medieval period to the colonial phase,” he said.
Delhi University’s history professor Bhairab Prasad Sahu briefly presented the changing contours of Odishan Histography.
Sahu said the study of the region as a historical category was a huge beneficiary of two Odisha research projects after the 1970s.
While the first project was restricted to histography related to the coastal Odisha, the second project undertook studies on Odisha in a larger perspective. More importantly, Odisha histography acquired global visibility after the two projects, Sahu said.
Biswamoy Pati, associate professor of the history department at Delhi University, dwelled on the problem of “lack of questioning” by the Odia middle class in general.
Pati said “the tradition of questioning” was missing among the Odia middle class or the enlightened group was “prone to beating about the bush”. He entitled his brief extempore presentation as “The Odia Middle Class: Collaboration, Confrontation and Silences”.
Among others, who took part in the panel, included Herman Kulke (historian on Jaganath cult), Kishore K. Basa and Basant Kumar Mallik (both from Utkal University’s history department), historian Nivedita Mohanty, historian G.C. Tripathy, Asha Sarangi and Pradipta Kumar Choudhury (both from Jawaharlal Nehru University).