Renowned Padma Shri Awardee Poet Jayanta Mahapatra Passes Away at 95

Cuttack, TNI Bureau: In a somber turn of events, renowned and Padma Shri Awardee poet Jayanta Mahapatra (95) passed away on Sunday evening while undergoing a treatment for pneumonia at the SCB Medical College Hospital in Cuttack.

The internationally acclaimed poet was conferred with the Padma Shri in 2009 for his contribution towards Literature. Yet, in 2015, citing rising intolerance in the country protested by returning the award, and officially joined the Award Wapsi campaign.

In 1981, he achieved a significant milestone as the first Indian poet writing in English to be honored with the Sahitya Akademi award.

His debut collection of poems, titled “Svayamvara and Other Poems” (1971), marked the beginning of a prolific literary journey. This was followed by a series of acclaimed collections, including “Close the Sky Ten by Ten” (1971), “A Father’s Hours” (1976), “A Rain of Rites” (1976), “Waiting” (1979), “Life Signs” (1983), “A Whiteness of Bone” (1992), “Shadow Space” (1997), “Bare Face” (2000), “Random Descent,” among others.

Born on October 22, 1928, into a lower middle-class family, Jayanta Mahapatra’s early education took place in the English medium at Cuttack’s Stewart School. He pursued a master’s degree in physics and embarked on his teaching career in 1949. Over the years, he taught in various Government colleges in Odisha, retiring from his teaching role in 1986.

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Initiating his poetic journey at the age of thirty-eight, Mahapatra found his voice in a field dominated by early starters. His name stands alongside two other luminaries, A.K. Ramanujan and Nissim Ezekiel, as the founders of Indian English poetry.

In his native language, Odia, Mahapatra’s poetic creations include “Bali” (1993), “Kahibi Gotii Katha” (1995), “Baya Raja” (1997), “Tikil Chhayee” (2001), “Chali” (2006), and “Jadiba Gapatiayy” (2009). Furthermore, he extended his prowess by translating works from Oriya and Bengali into English.

Among his translated works, some notable titles are “Countermeasures: Poems” (1973), “Wings of the Past: Poems” (1976), “Verticals of Life: Poems” (1996), “Discovery and the Other Poems” (2001), and “A Time of Rising” (2003).

Jayanta Mahapatra’s literary excellence garnered numerous prestigious awards, showcasing his impact on the literary realm. He received the Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award (1975), the Allen Tate Prize (2009), the SAARC Literary Award in 2009, and the Padma Shri Award in the same year. Additionally, Ravenshaw University bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate on May 2, 2009. Notably, he clinched the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1981, becoming the first Indian English Poet to achieve this esteemed honor.

Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik has condoled the demise of Padma Shri Jayanta Mahapatra and announced that he will be laid to rest with full state honors tomorrow.

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