Jayanta Mahapatra

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Jayanta Mahapatra
Jayanta Mahapatra.JPG
Born (1928-10-22) 22 October 1928 (age 91)
OccupationIndian English poet, Teacher of Physics
Notable worksRelationship (1980)
Notable awardsSahitya Akademi, Padma Shri
Years active1970–present
ParentsLemuel Mohapatra, Sudhansubala Dash

Jayanta Mahapatra (born 22 October 1928)[1][2] is a major Indian English poet.[3] He is the first Indian poet to win Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry. He is the author of popular poems such as Indian Summer and Hunger, which are regarded as classics in modern Indian English literature. Jayanta Mahapatra was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honour in India in 2009.[4][5] However, he returned the Padma award in 2015 to protest against the rising intolerance in India.[6]

Indian Poets Trio[edit]

Besides being one of the popular Indian poets of his generation, Mahapatra was also part of the trio of poets who laid the foundations of Indian English Poetry. He shared a special bond with A. K. Ramanujan, one of the finest poets in the IEP tradition. Mahapatra is also different in not being a product of the Bombay school of poets besides R. Parthasarathy. Over time, he has managed to carve a quiet, tranquil poetic voice of his own—distinctly different from those of his contemporaries. His wordy lyricism combined with Indian themes put him in a league of his own. In one of his interviews, Mahapatra says, "Meeting with A D Hope, especially in his warm home in Canberra, and with his charming wife, Penelope, is an unforgettable happening in my life. The man's humility was amazing, it humbled me. It was a lesson. I wrote a sort of editorial piece on him in the magazine I was editing—Chandrabhaga, and I'd like you to read what I had said. This appeared in the journal in 1979."[7]

"The Captive Air of Chandipur on Sea" is a fine nature poem by Jayanta Mahapatra. The poet stands at the seashore at Chandipur and he experiences the sadness in the atmosphere. When he listens to the mystic song of the sea, he states that the sweet pleasant music of the sea is finished with the cries of fishermen, who did not return from the sea. The poet mourns for the glory of nature in the past.

The Abandoned British Cemetery at Balasore is a fine poem by Jayanta Mahapatra. Once he visited the British Cemetery at Balasore. During that visit, he was influenced due to ruins of stones and marbles. The poet's anguish is caused not by the sight of ancient graves of unknown people but by the morbid thought of countless lives that continue to be needlessly lost in their prime. The poem is full of beautiful and unusual images.

"Dawn at Puri" is a fine poem by Jayanta Mahapatra. The poem depicts the morning scene on the sea beach at Puri. The poet notices many things at the sandy beach. First, he notices the endless cawing of the crows. The other thing that he notices is the human skull on the beach. The sight of the skull brings him an idea of intense poverty in the people of Orissa. When he looks into the eyes of the women who come for the cremation he observes the expression solemnity in their eyes. The last desire of the woman is she should be also cremated here after her death. "The Whorehouse in a Calcutta Street" is a realistic poem by Jayanta Mahapatra. He tries to recreate a character in a typical Indian situation.

Early life and education[edit]

Born into a prominent Odia Christian family, Mahapatra went to Stewart School in Cuttack, Odisha. He completed his M. Sc. in Physics from Patna University, Bihar, India. He began his teaching career as a lecturer in Physics in 1949. During his professional life, he taught Physics at various government colleges in Odisha including Gangadhar Meher College, Sambalpur, B.J.B College, Bhubaneswar, Fakir Mohan College, Balasore and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. He superannuated at the Ravenshaw College, Cuttack (now Ravenshaw University) and retired from his government job as the Reader in Physics in 1986.[8] He began his writing career very late already in the late sixties. His short stories as well as poems were initially rejected by several publishers. Then his poems got published in international literary journals such as Critical Inquiry, the Sewanee Review, the Kenyan Review, and the New Yorker. His poems were also published in other poetry magazines in India. He received many literary awards for his published poems. He was invited to participate in the International Writing Program (IWP) at Iowa among twenty-two selected international poets. This gave him an opportunity to go out of India and acquire international exposure.

Literary works[edit]

Mahapatra has authored 27 books of poems, of which seven are in Odia and the rest in English. His poetry volumes include Relationship, Bare Face and Shadow Space. Besides poetry, he has experimented widely with myriad forms of prose. His published books of prose include Green Gardener, an anthology of short stories and Door of Paper: Essay and Memoirs. Mahapatra is also a distinguished editor and has been bringing out, for many years, a literary magazine, Chandrabhaga, from Cuttack. The magazine is named after Chandrabhaga, a prominent river in Odisha. His poems appeared in many prestigious poetry anthologies like The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India,[9] published by Hidden Brook Press,[10] Canada.

He began writing poems only when he was in his forties. The publication of his first book of poems, Svayamvara and Other Poems, in 1971 was followed by the publication of Close The Sky Ten By Ten. One of Mahapatra's better-remembered works is the long poem Relationship, for which he became the first Indian English poet to win the Sahitya Akademi award in 1981.

Mahapatra has also translated from Odia into English simultaneously while he was composing his original poems in English and Odia. He has translated poems of senior as well as young writers of Odisha, of Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. Some of his translations are published in the bi-monthly literary magazine titled Indian Literature published by the Central Sahitya Akademi of India and some are in his own magazine titled Chandrabhaga. Some anthologies of his translations have been published by different publishers of India.[11]

Awards, recognition and legacy[edit]

In 1981 Jayanta Mahapatra Mahapatra won Sahitya Akademi award for his book "Relationships". He is also a recipient of the Jacob Glatstein memorial award conferred by Poetry magazine, Chicago. He was also awarded the Allen Tate Poetry Prize for 2009 from The Sewanee Review, Sewanee, United States. He received the SAARC Literary Award, New Delhi, 2009. He was conferred with the Padma Shri award in 2009 by the president of India and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Ravenshaw University on 2 May 2009. He was also awarded D. Lit. degree by Utkal University, Odisha in 2006.


  • “The Hindu: Jayanta Mahapatra - A doyen of Indian-English poetry”[12]

Poetry readings[edit]

Outside India
  • University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1976
  • University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, 1976
  • University of the South, Sewanee, 1976
  • East West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1976
  • Adelaide Festival of Arts, Adelaide, 1978
  • P.E.N. Centre, Sydney, 1978
  • Australian National University, Canberra, 1978
  • International Poets Conference, Tokyo, 1980
  • Asian Poets Conference, Tokyo, 1984

Books by Jayanta Mahapatra[edit]

  • 1971: Close the Sky Ten by Ten, Calcutta: Dialogue Publications[13]
  • 1971: Svayamvara and Other Poems, Calcutta: Writers Workshop[13]
  • 1976: A Father's Hours, Delhi: United Writers[13]
  • 1976: A Rain of Rites, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press[13]
  • 1979: Waiting, Samkaleen Prakashan[13]
  • 1980: The False Start, Bombay: Clearing House[13]
  • 1980: Relationship, Greenfield, New York: Greenfield Review Press[13]


  • 1997: The Green Gardener, short stories, Hyderabad: Orient Longman[13]
  • 2006: Door of Paper: Essay and Memoirs, New Delhi: Authrospress[13]
  • 2011: Bhor Moitra Kanaphula. In Oriya. Bhubaneswar, Paschima[13]

Poetry in Odia

  • 1993: Bali (The Victim), Cutack: Vidyapuri[13]
  • 1995: Kahibe Gotiye Katha (I'll Tell A Story), Arya Prakashan[13]
  • 1997: Baya Raja(The Mad Emperor), Cuttack: Vidyapuri[13]
  • 2004: Tikie Chhayee (A Little Shadow), Cuttack; Vidyapuri[13]
  • 2006: Chali (Walking), Cuttack: Vidyapuri[13]
  • 2008: Jadiba Gapatie (Even If It's A Story), Cuttack: Friends Publishers[13]
  • 2011: Smruti Pari Kichhiti (A Small Memory), Cuttack: Bijayini[13]

Translations into English

  • 1973: Countermeasures: Poems, Calcutta. Dialogue
  • 1976: Wings of the Past: Poems, Calcutta. Rajasree
  • 1981: Song of Kubja and Other Poems, New Delhi. Samkaleen
  • 1994: I Can, But Why Should I Go: Poems, New Delhi. Sahitya Akademi
  • 1996: Verticals of Life: Poems, New Delhi. Sahitya Akademi
  • 1998: Tapaswini: a Poem, Bhubaneswar. Orissa Sahitya Akademi
  • 2001: Discovery and other Poems, Kolkata. Writers Workshop
  • 2003: A Time of Rising (Poems), New Delhi. Har-Anand


  • Kanhaiya Lal Sethia Award for Poetry - 2017 (Jaipur Literature Festival)[14]
  • RL Poetry Lifetime Achievement Award for Poetry, 2013, Hyderabad.
  • Second Prize – International Who's Who in Poetry, London, 1970.
  • Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award – Poetry, Chicago, 1975.
  • Visiting Writer – International Writing Program, Iowa City 1976–77.
  • Cultural Award Visitor, Australia, 1978.
  • Japan Foundation – Visitor's Award, Japan, 1980.

Appearances in the following poetry Anthologies[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 2001: Bijay Kumar Das, The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: 3rd revised and enlarged edition; New Delhi: Atlantic, ISBN 81-7156-968-4[16]
  • 2006: Jaydeep Sarangi and Gauri Shankar Jha (eds), The Indian Imagination of Jayanta Mahapatra, New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2006, ISBN 81-7625-622-6, a compilation of critical articles.[17]
  • Jaydeep Sarangi, Jayanta Mahapatra Joy of Living and Loving in His Poetry, Aavishkar Publishers' Distributors, 2012, ISBN 8179103749. Printed INR: 600.00, hardcover, 162 pp.
  • Zinia Mitra, Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra Imagery and Experiential Identity, Authorspress,2012,ISBN 978-81-7273-655-2 Hardcover, INR:500,172pp
  • The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: Themes & Imagery by Vivekanand Jha, New Delhi: Authorspress,2013 ISBN 978-8172736736[18]
  • Shiba Shankar Nath,"The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra:A Study in Imagery", Delhi:Authorspress,2014,ISBN 978-81-7273-897-6.Printed INR: 700.00, hardcover,173 pp.
  • Rock Pebbles, Vol. XV No.1, January–June 2011(a special issue on Jayanta Mahapatra) ISSN 0975-0509

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jayanta Mahapatra". Poem hunter. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  2. ^ Jayanta Mahapatra studied inCuttack & Patama.He taught Physics in the collegeat Cuttack. "Jayanta Mahapatra : A profile" Check |url= value (help). orissagateway.com. orissagateway.com. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  3. ^ "Sahitya Akademi : Who's Who of Indian Writers". Sahitya Akademi. Sahitya Akademi. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  5. ^ He has translated Oriya poems into English. He has also edited a literary magazine Chandrabhaha.-JRTZHWq1fjJClaEzoM3SoO.html "Jayanta Mahapatra returns Padma Shri protesting 'intolerance'" Check |url= value (help). 23 November 2015.
  6. ^ "Noted poet Jayanta Mahapatra returns Padma Shri - The Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 November 2015.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 October 2007. Retrieved 16 October 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Web page titled "Jayanta Mahapatra's Profile" at the Muse India Web site, accessed 16 October 2007
  9. ^ Grove, Richard. "The Dance of the Peacock:An Anthology of English Poetry from India" (current). Hidden Brook Press, Canada. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  10. ^ Press, Hidden Brook. "Hidden Brook Press". Hidden Brook Press. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  11. ^ "Jayanta Mahapatra - Something in me refuses to die". livemint.com. livemint.com. Retrieved 9 September 2019.
  12. ^ Interview with Jayanta Mahapatra: A doyen of Indian-English poetry
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Bibliography in Land by Jayanta Mahapatra. Authorspress 2013
  14. ^ http://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/jaipur-literature-festival-cuttack-poet-bags-kanhaiya-lal-sethia-award-for-poetry-4486184/
  15. ^ "Ten 20th Century Indian Poets". cse.iitk.ac.in. cse.iitk.ac.in. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  16. ^ Vedam's Books from India website, accessed 16 October 2007.
  17. ^ Vedam's Books from India website, accessed 16 October 2007.
  18. ^ Jha, Vivekanand. The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: Themes and Imagery (First ed.). New Delhi: Authorspress. p. 434. ISBN 9788172736736.

External links[edit]