Kavisurjya Baladev Rath (c. 1789 – 1845) (Odia: କବିସୂର୍ଯ୍ୟ ବଳଦେବ ରଥ) was an Odia poet and litterateur. He wrote in both Sanskrit and Odia and is remembered for his devotional songs and as the founder of the Dhumpa Sangita.
He was born in Badakhemundi of Ganjam. His father Ujjwal Rath was well versed in scriptures and a was poet laureate. Baladev Ratha's mother died when he was aged on ten years. He was brought up by his maternal grand father at Khalikote who also taught him Sanskrit and Odia literature for the first time. He married at the age of 15. After the death of his father he moved to the nearby Jalantar state. The prince of Jalantar, Rama Chandra Chotray encouraged his literary creations and gave him the title "Kavi Surjya".
Rath was a musician and scholar in his own right. He wrote in the Vaishnavite tradition and the group of writers including Dinakrushna Das and Abhimanyu Samantasinghar to which he belonged have been criticised for their verbosity and convoluted diction but also credited for their emotionally rich and alliterative poetic works that continue to appeal to the masses even today. Among his important works are the Kavisurya Granthavali, Kavisurya Geetabali and the Kishore Chandrananda Chaupadi Chautisa which combines the two literary forms of chaupadi, a quatrain, and the chautisa- a 34 stanza poem where every stanza begins with a new letter of the Odia alphabet. The Kishore Chandrananda Chaupadi Chautisa is noted for its emotional tenderness and the role it played in infusing the riti school of Sanskrit writing with a new style and aesthetic sensibility. He was also the author of several champus including the Ratnakar champu and the Kishore Chandrananda Champu. The Kishore Chandrananda Champu has been written in a mixture of Oriya and Sanskrit and the Oriya part of the work has been credited with cementing his literary reputation in the language.
Rath is thought to have invented the dhumpa, a bamboo percussion instrument, that accompanies the Odia folk art form of dhumpa sangita. The dhumpa accompanies recitations of his poetic satires which are called dhumpa geet. Many of his poetic pieces, especially the champus are often set to dance in Odissi.
Death and commemoration
Rath died at Athgarh in 1845. Dasarathi Das' Kavisurya Baladeva Rath is a biography that examines his life and contributions to Indian literature. Kavisuryanagar, formerly Boirani, a town in Ganjam district has been named in honour of Rath.
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