Odia, one of the oldest languages in the country having Sanskritic origin, is the predominant language spoken in the state and its outlying tracts. It is spoken by about 84 per cent of the population of Orissa. Hindi, Urdu, Bengali and Telugu are widely understood and sometimes spoken. Oriya is the official language of the state. English is spoken by the educated few. According to the 1981 census the Oriya-speaking people constituted 3.62 per cent of India's population and are nearest in strength to the speakers of three other major languages, namely Malayalam (4.00 per cent), Kannada (3.96 per cent)and Punjabi (3.00 per cent).
Though Orissa possesses fewer cities than most other states of the country, almost all the languages recognised by the Constitution including the recently included Nepalese have their speakers among the people. Apart from the speakers of Hindi and Urdu, there are the speakers of other languages like Punjabi (.OS%), Gujarati (.06%), Malayalam (.05%), Tamii (.04%) and so on according to the 1981 census. Orissa mall be described as a polyglot state, there being hardly any instance of linguistic intolerance.
Neighbouring regions: Outside Odisha, there are also significant Odia-speaking populations in other linguistic regions, such as the Midnapore district of West Bengal, the East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum Seraikela Kharsawan district, Simdega, Gumla, Khunti, Ranchi district of Jharkhand, the Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Vishakhapatnam District of Andhra Pradesh, eastern districts of Chhattisgarh state. Due to the increasing migration of labour, the west Indian state of Gujarat also has a significant Odia-speaking population with Surat being the city with the second largest Odia-speaking population in India. The Odia-speaking people are also found in significant numbers in the cities of Vishakhapatnam, Hyderabad, Pondicherry, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa, Mumbai, Raipur, Jamshedpur, Baroda, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Kolkata, Kharagpur, Guwahati, Shillong, Pune, and Silvassa in India.
Foreign countries: The Odia diaspora constitute a sizeable number in several countries around the world. They are significant in number in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, mainly carried by sadhaba, the ancient traders from Odisha who carried the language along with the culture during the old-day trading,and in western countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and England. Odia speakers are regarded as one of the 'Transnational Ethnic Indian Groups'. In India, the language is spoken by over 31 million people, and globally over 45 million speak Odia. It is one of the official languages of India and the major language of Odisha. Odia language has spread also to Burma, Malaysia, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Standard Odia: Mughalbandi Odia is considered as proper or Standard Odia due to literary traditions. Mughalbandi Odia is spoken in Puri, Khurdha, Cuttack, Jajpur, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapada, Dhenkanal, Angul and Nayagarh district with little variance.
A detailed chart depicting evolution of the Odia script as displayed in a museum at Ratnagiri, Odisha
Odia is an Eastern Indo-Aryan language belonging to the Indo-Aryan language family. It is thought to be directly descended from a Magadhi Prakrit similar to Ardha Magadhi, which was spoken in eastern India over 1500 years ago, and is the primary language used in early Jain texts.Odia appears to have had relatively little influence from Persian and Arabic, compared to other major North Indian languages.
Old Odia (3rd century BC): The earliest evidence of old Odia is found in the 3rd century BC Ashoka edit of Dhauli and 1st century BC Hathigumpha inscription.The old colloquial literature is the Charyapada, poetry written in an Apabhra?sa ancestral to Odia, Bengali, Assamese and Maithili.
Early Middle Odia (1200 - 1400): The earliest use of prose can be found in the Madala Panji of the Jagannath Temple, Puri, which date back to the 12th century. Shishu Veda, Amara Kosha, Gorakha Samhita, Kalasha Chautisha, Saptanga etc. composed.
Middle Odia (1400 - 1700): Sarala Das writes the Vilanka Ramayana.Towards the 16th century, poets emerged around the Vaishnava leader Acyutananda, These five poets are Balaram Das, Jagannatha Dasa, Acyutananda, Ananta Das and Jasobanta Das.
Late Middle Odia (1700 - 1850): Usabhilasa of Sisu Sankara Das, the Rahasya-manjari of Deva-durlabha Dasa and the Rukmini-bibha of Kartikka Das were written. A new form of novels in verse evolved during the beginning of the 17th century when Ramachandra Pattanayaka wrote Haravali. Upendra Bhanja took a leading role in this period, his creations were Baidehisha Bilasa, Koti Brahmanda Sundari, Lavanyabati were proved landmark in Odia Literature. Dinakrushna Das's Rasokallola and Abhimanyu samanta Simhara's Bidagdha Chintamani are prominent Kavyas of this time. Four major poets emerged in the end of the era are Baladev Rath, Santha Kabi or Andha Muni Bhima Bhoi, Brajanath Badajena and Gopal Krushna Pattanaik.
Modern Odia (1850 till present day): The first Odia printing typeset was cast in 1836 by the Christian missionaries which made a great revolution in Odia literature and language.
The beginnings of Odia poetry coincide with the development of charya sahitya, the literature started by Vajrayana Buddhist poets such as in the Charyapada. This literature was written in a specific metaphor called twilight language and prominent poets included Luipa, Tilopa and Kanha.
Poet Jayadeva's literary contribution: Jayadeva was a Sanskrit poet. He was born in an Utkala Brahmin family of Puri in circa 1200 AD. He is most known for his composition, the epic poem Gita Govinda, which depicts the divine love of the Hindu deity Krishna and his consort, Radha, and is considered an important text in the Bhakti movement of Hinduism. About the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, the influence of Jayadeva's literary contribution changed the pattern of versification in Odia.
John Beames, a British author and civil servant in British India who stayed for a considerable time in Odisha and worked for the survival of Odia language quotes:
At a period when Odia was already a fixed and settled language, Bengali did not exist. The Bengalis spoke a vast variety of corrupt forms of Eastern Hindi. It is not till quite recent times that we find anything that can with propriety be called a Bengali language.
We may place the Hindi with its subsidiary forms Gujurati and Punjabi first fixing their rise and establishment as a modern languages distinct from their previous existence as Prakrit till the 12th or 13th century. Odia must have quite completed its transformation by the end of the 14th century. Bengali was no separate independent language but a maze of dialects without a distinct national or provincial type till the 17th or beginning of the 18th century. It was not till the gradual decay of the central Mohammedan power of Delhi enabled the provincial governors to assume an independent position that Bengali severed itself from Hindi and assumed characteristics which now vindicate for its right to be called a separate language.
The earliest literature in Oriya language can be traced to the Charyapadas composed in the 7th to 9th centuries.Before Sarala Das, the most important works in Odia literature are the Shishu Veda, Saptanga, Amara Kosha, Rudrasudhanidhi, Kesaba Koili, Kalasha Chautisha etc.In the 14th century, the poet Sarala Dasa's wrote the Sarala Mahabharata, Chandi Purana, and Vilanka Ramayana, in praise of the goddess Durga. Rama-bibaha, written by Arjuna Dasa, was the first long poem written in the Odia language.
The following era is termed the Panchasakha Age and stretches until the year 1700. The period begins with the writings of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu whose Vaishnava influence brought in a new evolution in Odia literature. Notable religious works of the Panchasakha Age include those of Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Acyutananda. The authors of this period mainly translated, adapted, or imitated Sanskrit literature. Other prominent works of the period include the Usabhilasa of Sisu Sankara Dasa, the Rahasya-manjari of Deva-durlabha Dasa and the Rukmini-bibha of Kartikka Dasa. A new form of novels in verse evolved during the beginning of the 17th century when Ramachandra Pattanayaka wrote Haravali. Other poets like Madhusudana, Bhima Bhoi, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa composed another form called kavyas (long poems) based on themes from Puranas, with an emphasis on plain, simple language.
However, during the Bhanja Age (also known as the Age of Riti Yuga) beginning with turn of the 18th century, verbally tricky Odia became the order of the day. Verbal jugglery, obscenity and eroticism characterise the period between 1700 and 1850, particularly in the works of the era's eponymous poet Upendra Bhanja (1670 - 1720). Bhanja's work inspired many imitators of which the most notable is Arakshita Das. Family chronicles in prose relating religious festivals and rituals are also characteristic of the period.
The first Odia printing typeset was cast in 1836 by Christian missionaries. Although the handwritten Odia script of the time closely resembled the Bengali and Assamese scripts, the one adopted for the printed typesets was significantly different, leaning more towards the Tamil script and Telugu script. Amos Sutton produced an Oriya Bible (1840), Oriya Dictionary (1841 - 43) and An Introductory Grammar of Oriya (1844).
Odia has a rich literary heritage dating back to the thirteenth century. Sarala Dasa who lived in the fourteenth century is known as the Vyasa of Odisha. He translated the Mahabharata into Odia. In fact, the language was initially standardised through a process of translating classical Sanskrit texts such as the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Srimad Bhagabatam. The translation of the Srimad Bhagabatam by Jagannatha Das was particularly influential on the written form of the language. Odia has had a strong tradition of poetry, especially devotional poetry.
Other eminent Odia poets include Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja and Kabisurya Baladev Ratha.
Prose in the language has had a late development.
Three great poets and prose writers, Kabibar Radhanath Ray (1849 - 1908), Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843 - 1918) and Madhusudan Rao (1853 - 1912) made Odia their own. They brought in a modern outlook and spirit into Odia literature. Around the same time the modern drama took birth in the works of Rama Sankara Ray beginning with Kanci-Kaveri (1880).
Among the contemporaries of Fakir Mohan, four novelists deserve special mention:Aparna Panda, Mrutyunjay Rath, Ram Chandra Acharya and Brajabandhu Mishra. Aparna Panda's Kalavati and Brajabandhu Mishra's Basanta Malati were both published in 1902, the year in which Chha Mana Atha Guntha came out in the book form. Brajabandhu Mishra's Basanta Malati, which came out from Bamanda, depicts the conflict between a poor but highly educated young man and a wealthy and highly egoistic young woman whose conjugal life is seriously affected by ego clashes. Through a story of union, separation and reunion, the novelist delineates the psychological state of a young woman in separation from her husband and examines the significance of marriage as a social institution in traditional Indian society. Ram Chandra Acharya wrote about seven novels during 1924-1936. Interestingly all his novels are historical romances based on the historical events in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Odisha. Mrutyunjay Rath's novel, Adbhuta Parinama, published in 1915, centres round a young Hindu who gets converted to Christianity to marry a Christian girl.
One of the great writers in the 19th century was Pandit Krushna Chandra Kar (1907-1995) from Cuttack, who wrote many books for children like Pari Raija, Kuhuka Raija, Panchatantra, Adi Jugara Galpa Mala, etc. He was last felicitated by the Sahitya Academy in the year 1971-72 for his contributions to Odia literature, development of children fictions, and biographies.
One of the prominent writers of the 19th and 20th centuries was Muralidhar Mallick (1927 - 2002). His contribution to Historical novels is beyond words. He was last felicitated by the Sahitya Academy in the year 1998 for his contributions to Odia literature. His son Khagendranath Mallick (born 1951) is also a well-known writer. His contribution towards poetry, criticism, essays, story and novels is commendable. He was the former President of Utkal Kala Parishad and also former President of Odisha Geeti Kabi Samaj. Presently he is a member of the Executive Committee of Utkal Sahitya Samaj. Another illustrious writer of the 20th century was Mr. Chintamani Das. A noted academician, he was written more than 40 books on fiction, short stories, biographies, storybooks for children. Born in 1903 in Sriramachandrapur village under Satyabadi block, Chintamani Das is the only writer who has written biographies on all the five 'Pancha Sakhas' of Satyabadi namely Pandit Gopabandhu Das, Acharya Harihara, Nilakantha Das, Krupasindhu Mishra and Pandit Godabarisha. Having served as the Head of the Odia department of Khallikote College, Berhampur, Chintamani Das was felicitated with the Sahitya Akademi Samman in 1970 for his outstanding contribution to Odia literature in general and Satyabadi Yuga literature in particular. Some of his well-known literary creations are 'Bhala Manisha Hua', 'Manishi Nilakantha', 'Kabi Godabarisha', 'Byasakabi Fakiramohan', 'Usha', 'Barabati'.
20th century writers in Odia include Pallikabi Nanda Kishore Bal (1875 - 1928), Gangadhar Meher (1862 - 1924), Chintamani Mahanti and Kuntala-Kumari Sabat Utkala-Bharati, besides Niladri Dasa and Gopabandhu Das (1877 - 1928). The most notable novelists were Umesa Sarakara, Divyasimha Panigrahi, Gopala Praharaja and Kalindi Charan Panigrahi. Sachi Kanta Rauta Ray is the great introducer of the ultra-modern style in modern Odia poetry. Others who took up this form were Godabarisha Mohapatra, Mayadhara Manasimha, Nityananda Mahapatra and Kunjabihari Dasa. Prabhasa Chandra Satpathi is known for his translations of some western classics apart from Udayanatha Shadangi, Sunanda Kara and Surendranatha Dwivedi. Criticism, essays and history also became major lines of writing in the Odia language. Esteemed writers in this field were Professor Girija Shankar Ray, Pandit Vinayaka Misra, Professor Gauri Kumara Brahma, Jagabandhu Simha and Harekrushna Mahatab. Odia literature mirrors the industrious, peaceful and artistic image of the Odia people who have offered and gifted much to the Indian civilization in the field of art and literature. Now Writers Manoj Das's creations motivated & inspired people towards a possitive lifestyle .Distinguished prose writers of the modern period include Fakir Mohan Senapati, Madhusudan Das, Godabarisha Mohapatra, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Surendra Mohanty, Manoj Das, Kishori Charan Das, Gopinath Mohanty, Rabi Patnaik, Chandrasekhar Rath, Binapani Mohanty, Bhikari Rath, Jagadish Mohanty, Sarojini Sahoo, Yashodhara Mishra, Ramchandra Behera, Padmaja Pal. But it is poetry that makes modern Odia literature a force to reckon with. Poets like Kabibar Radhanath Ray, Sachidananda Routray, Guruprasad Mohanty, Soubhagya Misra, Ramakanta Rath, Sitakanta Mohapatra, Rajendra Kishore Panda, Pratibha Satpathy have made significant contributions towards Indian poetry.
Anita Desai's novella, Translator Translated, from her collection The Art of Disappearance, features a translator of a fictive Odian short story writer; the novella contains a discussion of the perils of moving works composed in regional Indian languages into English.
Four writers in Odia - Gopinath Mohanty, Sachidananda Routray, Sitakant Mahapatra and Pratibha Ray - have been awarded the Jnanpith, a prestigious Indian literary award.