Odia Ghazals: Evolution and Prominent Practitioners

in Module
Published on: 26 July 2019

Shyamanuja Das

A Delhi-based journalist, researcher and editor, Shyamanuja Das currently edits multiple business technology publications at 9.9 Group. He has served as editor at Dataquest and has headed Business Research at JuxtConsult. Shyamanuja is involved in writing and research on preservation, promotion and advocacy of Odisha’s culture through his articles, blogs and his Twitter handle, @OdiaCulture.

The ghazal, one of the most important poetic forms of Urdu literature, has inspired poetry in other languages that have come in close contact with Urdu and Islamic traditions. Odia ghazals are an exception to this trend, as Odia’s interaction with Urdu has been historically limited. Instead, Odia ghazals emerged entirely as a twentieth-century phenomenon. 

The origins of Odia ghazals can be traced to Akshaya Kumar Mohanty—a singer, composer and lyricist—the most important musical personality of post-Independence Odisha. Having written numerous ghazals, he inspired many established lyricists and poets to attempt the same; unfortunately, not many of these ghazals, including Mohanty’s, were recorded. To make matters worse, many of the ghazals recorded by All India Radio and commercial record labels were not marked or identified as ghazals, making them difficult to trace. Fortunately, some of Mohanty’s private recordings do exist, and new ones are still being discovered.

This module, apart from tracking the historical evolution of both ghazal writing and ghazal recording in Odisha, evaluates the extent to which Odia ghazals have retained the essential characteristics—poetic form, themes and singing style—of traditional Urdu ghazals.