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Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843–1918), the prime figure of modern Oriya fiction, was considered the Vyasakabi or founder poet of Oriya language. Fakir Mohan was born and brought up in the coastal town of Balasore and known primarily as the father of modern Oriya prose fiction. He was one of the first to introduce Social Realism in literature at least 25 years before British Rule, much earlier than the October Revolution of Russia. He was also one of the leading writers to attack British Rule through his poignant satirical remarks. At the dawn of the 19th century Odisha suffered decisive defeats at the hands of the Bengalis, who supported British Rule, and the decline of the socioeconomic structure of Odisha.
“Rebati”: The Theme
Rebati is the story of a young innocent girl whose desire for education is placed in the context of a conservative society in a backward Odisha village, which is hit by a Cholera epidemic. The story itself also opens a third dimension when it deals with the silent romantic relation between Rebati and a school teacher. By displaying a forbidden desire for learning Rebati, the female protagonist of the story, seems to invite misfortune for herself and her community. Fakir Mohan's “Rebati” became an icon and her story an allegory for female education and emancipation. The story is celebrated as an example of Fakirmohan’s reformist zeal.
Role of “Rebati” in the development of feminism
The cultural scenario of Odisha has been changed a lot. In 1871, for the first time, a school for Hindu girls was set up at Cuttack in the house of Abhinash Chandra Chattopadhyaya. Even after the school ran for ten years at Cuttack city, only four Hindu girls could be enrolled. The roles of Fakir Mohan Senapati, Sudhal Dev, the Raja of Bamanda and T.E Ravenshaw, the then Commissioner of Cuttack (Odisha) were significant. Among the female personalities, the efforts of Reba Roy and Rani of Khallikote can be seen, supporting female education in the beginning of the 20th century. The most significant effort appears to be the Utkal Mahila Conference, held in Berhampur in 1924. Gandhiji’s visit to Odisha for the first time in 1921 had an effect. Smt Rasamani Devi, Salaral Devi, Kuntala Kumari Sabat, and Sarojini Chowdhury took a pioneering interest in establishing this Participation of many Oriya women in the historic Karachi Congress session in 1931, which paved the way for a greater role in the national movement. The spread of the Civil Disobedience movement in Odisha was mostly due to the All Orissa Women's Council, which had members from different parts of the state, and Kuntala Kumari as its President. They declared the five rights of women: over their body, over the possessions of their husbands, over their own husband and children, and over their religion. Women like Rama Devi, Malati Devi, Annapurna Devi, and Godavari Devi worked for the socioeconomic progress of the Oriya women, especially the rural ones. After Independence, women such as Shubhadra Mahtab, Malati Devi, Rama Devi, Sarala Devi, and Satyavati Devi continued to work for social transformation. In a later period, the entry of Nandini Satpathy, who hailed from a political background and had been a student activist, and who rose to be the Chief Minister of the State, turned the scenario to one which was total different from that of 1898, when Fakir Mohan had written the story “Rebati”. In the literary field, female participation was not significant until the 1970s. Though Kuntala Kumari Sabat, Bidyut Prabha devi, Binapani Mohanty, and Nandini Satpathy are a few names which can be cited, after the 1970s, some female writers like Sarojini Sahoo, Jayanti Ratha,Susmita Bagchi, Yashodhara Mishra, Hiranmayee Mishra, Chirashree IndraSingh Supriya Panda, Gayatri Saraf., and Mamata Chowdhry were new fiction writers who emerged, among whom Sarojini Sahoo played a significant role for her feministic and sexuality approach in fiction.
Role of “Rebati” in the development of Oriya short stories
"Rebati" not only influenced female education, women’s writing, or feminism; it also influenced the short story writers of Odisha at a later period. In the early 1980s, Jagadish Mohanty, wrote a story based on the protagonist character “Rebati”. and it made a new tradition. Since then hundreds of stories were written on women’s agony, where “Rebati” represents women’s fate in the changing scenario of the time. Asit Kumar Mohanty later published all the stories, along with both Fakir Mohan and Jagadish’s “Rebati” in two of his collections under the same title.
- Fakir Mohan Senapati: STORIES ,Author: Fakir Mohan Senapati ,Translated by: Paul St-Pierre, Leelawati Mohapatra, K K Mohapatra ,ISBN No: 81-89040-00-6 ,Price: Rs. 75.00, Publisher : Grassroots ,Bhubaneswar : http://www.grassrootsbooksindia.com/frontend/book.php?autcode=1&codetype=U
- History of Oriya Literature : Dr. Mansinha , Mayadhar ; Published by Sahitya Akademy,Delhi
- Fakir Mohan Samiksha: Mohanty , Surendra, Published by New Students Store, Binode Behari,Cuttack
- Utkal Deepika, Vol 6, No. 38, September 30, 1871
- “Album”-Short Stories Collection by Jagadish Mohanty,Published by Grantha Mandir, Binode Behari ,Cuttack
- “Rebati”-Edited by Asit Kumar Mohanty and published by Friends Publishers,Binode Behati,Cuttack