Gangadhar Meher

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Swabhaba Kabi

Gangadhar Meher
Swabhaba Kabi Gangadhar Meher
Native name ଗଙ୍ଗାଧର ମେହେର
Born (1862-08-09)9 August 1862(On the full moon day of Sravan Purnima)
Barpali, Bargarh, Odisha, India
Died 4 April 1924(1924-04-04) (aged 61)[1]
Pen name Swabhaba Kabi
Occupation Judicial Moharir (Accountant)
Language Odia
Nationality Indian
Citizenship India
Education Std V
Genre Poet
Subject Devotion
Notable works Tapaswini, Rasa-Ratnakara, Balaram-dev, Pranaya Ballari, Kichaka Badha, Indumati (First Published work), Ayodhya Drusya, Padmini (Last work)
Spouse Shanta Devi, Champa Devi (After the death of Shanta Devi)
Children Arjun Meher (died at the age of 12), Bhagaban Meher (Famous as Kabi-Putra), Basumati Meher, Laxmi Meher

Swabhaba kabi Gangadhar Meher (Odia: ସ୍ୱଭାବକବି ଗଙ୍ଗାଧର ମେହେର) was a renowned Odia poet of the 19th century, famously known as Swabhab Kavi. Though poor in wealth and education, he remained one of the most prolific and original contributor to Odia literature.[2]


Gangadhar was born in 1862 on the full moon day of Shravan at Barpali of present-day Bargarh district of Odisha. 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 keen eagerness for literature eventually sparked his skills in writing poems.

As a young boy, he heard the Odia Ramayan composed by Balaram Das and afterwards he himself read it as well as the Odia 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. His clear and beautiful hand writing also garnered attention from many people willing to get their transcribed by him. 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.[3]


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 Odisha Social Conference of Mehers with a view to uplifting the entire weaver society. Nearly three thousand Mehers from different parts of Odisha assembled in the Conference. The poet put up twelve proposals for the reform of the society and all were passed unanimously.[4]

Literary career[edit]

Gangadhar started composing poems from a very tender age. His first writings follow the style and technique of the ancient Odia 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 Odia style. Kabibar Radhanath Ray praised his writing very much. The works produced by Gangadhar Meher are marked by vivid imagination, 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 perspectives. His writings remain as some of greatest creations in Odia literature.[5]

Gangadhar Meher University[edit]

In 1949, Sambalpur College in Sambalpur, which had opened in 1944, was renamed Gangadhar Meher College in his honour.[6] Sambalpur University, Burla, Sambalpur instituted the Gangadhar Meher National Award for Poetry which is conferred annually. In 2015, this college upgraded to a university.