The History of Sanskrit literature in Orissa has been divided into three broad periods, such as: (a) Early period (c. 300-1100AD), (b) Mediaeval period (1100-1500 AD), and © post Independence period (1568-1948 AD).
The subject namely the Sanskrit poets and scholars of Orissa flourished in the reign of the Suryavamsi Gajapati Period (1435-1568 A.D.) comes under the last phase of the medieval period and early phase of the third period. The published epigraphic records, treated to be the primary sources of the history prior to the period under discussion are mainly written in Sanskrit language. It is known that the Sanskrit verses composed in various metres are incorporated in the inscriptions of Orissa from the 7th century A. D. and onwards, though in earlier epigraphic records, Sanskrit prose is seen predominant.
The Inscriptions of Orissa, published so far not only throw light on the study of various branches of learning and development of Sanskrit literature in Orissa but unfold the forgotten names of many poets and scholars and their works which have like other parts of the country enriched the Sanskrit literature of India through the ages. Hence it will not be out place to mention the name of reputed scholars of Orissa who flourished prior to the reign of Suryavamsi Gajapatis of Orissa. They are as follows:
1. Visnu Sarma – 450 A. D. – Panchatantra in five parts containing 75 stories on various problems of the society and Culture
2. Murari – 850 A. D. – Anargharaghava Nataka in seven acts based on Ramayana with depiction of Orissan Culture. It was staged at Puri district car festival.
3. Purusottama Deva – 850 A. D. – Trikandasesa, a book of Lexicon on Orissan Culture and Oriya words.
4. Krisna Mishra – 1050 A. D. – Prabodhachandrodaya Nataka, an allegorical drama in 6 acts, based on Indian philosophy.
5. Satananda acharya – 1099 A. D. – Bhasvati of Astronomy and Satanandasamgraha on Smrti.
6. Sriharsa – 1100 A. D. – Naisadhacharita in 22 cantos 2790 verses, Khandanakhandakhadya on philosophy and other works.
7. Govardhana Acharya – 1125 A. D. – Aryasaptasati containing 702 verses on Sringara sentiment.
8. Jayadeva – 1147 A. D. – Gita-govinda in 12 cantos, 24 songs 72 or 77 verses on secret sports of Radha-Krishna.
9. Vidyadhara – 1245 A. D. – Ekavali in 8 unmesa or chapters contains 314 verses on Narasigha Deva I (1238- 1264 A. D.)
10. Bhubanananda – 1275 A. D. – Aryapadesataka in 100 verses composed on various metres on various issues.
11. Vajapeyi SambhukaraMishra – 1275 A. D. – Sambhukara Paddhati on Srauta sacrifices. His other works are on smrit.
12. Sankhadhara – 1275 A. D. – Smrtisamucchaya and Natakamelaka-Natika.
13. Sridhara Svami – 1278 A. D. – Bhavarthadipika tika on Srimad-Bhagavata, Subodhinitika on Srimad Bhagavad-gita and other works.
14. Vajapeyi Vidyakara Mishra – 1330 A. D. – Nityachara Paddhati and Vidyakarapaddhati on Smrti.
15. Ramadasa Vajapeyi – 1375 A. D. – Kunda-Mandapa Laksana and other works.
16. Krsnananda Sandhivigrahika – 1365 A. D. – Sahrdyananda in 15 cantos, 935 verses.
17. Visvanatha Kaviraja – 1435 A. D. – Sahitya Darpana in 10 chapters on rhetorics, Chandrakala Natika and other works.
Among the other works some were known from the various sources and some have been noticed in other parts of the country but many have been lost forever. However the poets and scholars of later period have been highly influenced by the rich tradition of Sanskrit literature and Culture in Orissa.
The reign of Suryavamsi Gajapati dynasty begins with the advent the Emperor Gajapati Kapilendra Deva (1435-1466 A. D.) and ends with his grandson Gajapati Prataprudra Deva (1497-1535 A. D.). But the period however continues till to the death of Mukunda Deva-I who remained on the throne of Orissa from 1559-1568 A. D.
During the period under discussion a National movement grew up in the Cultural life of the Oriya as a result of which various aspects of the religion and society propagated through literary works composed in Sanskrit as well as in Oriya language. To glorify the religious places, Gods and Goddesses and the places of tourist interest some Puranic literature was developed and composed or compiled. Among such works the names of Purusottama Mahatmya, Kapila Samhita, Niladrimahodaya, Ekamra Purana, Ekamra Chandrika, Prachi Mahatmya and Viraja Mahatmya are worth mentioning. Now the names of the poets and scholars flourished during this period are noted below for general information of the scholars.
1. Gajapati Kapilendra Deva was a great hero as well as a Patroniser of scholars and himself a writer too. The authorship of a vyayoga type of uparupaka (Minor drama) named Parasurama Vijaya is attributed to him. There are five benedictory verses in the beginning of this Uparupaka in which Lord Visnu (verses I), Lord Jagannatha (verses 2, 3) Rukmini and Sri Krsna (verse) and God Siva (verse 5) have been prayed. In the following words the work eulogises Gajapati Kapilendra Deva who was like an incarnation of Parasurama.
It is known from the work that it was written and staged in the Jagannatha temple at the time of a festival prior to 1458 A. D. The work conveys the religious liberality of this great monarch.
2. Nrsingha Misra Vajapeyi, a profound scholar and a justice of the celebrated Gajapati Kapilendra Deva (1435-1446 A. D.) revived the Advaitavada of Sri Sankara and wrote Samksepasariraka vartika, a commentary on Samksepasarira of Jagadguru Sankaracharya. He spent some years of his life at Kasi and wrote there a work called Kasimimansa. But unfortunately the manuscripts of the above works have not yet been noticed. His grandfather Mrtyanjaya wrote Suddhimuktaval i, a work on Dharmasastra and father Jalesvara composed Jalesevarapaddhati on various Vedic sacrifices.
3. Kalidasa Chayani (1450 A.D.) was famous for his work Suddhichandrika a very popular work on Dharmasastra which has many Sanskrit and Oriya commentaries. The work contains only 25 verses written in Sardulavikridita metre and deals on purificatory rites at death impurity.
4. Gajapati Purusottama Deva (1497 A. D.) the son of Gajapati Kapilendra Deva, was a great conqueror and a reputed scholar like his father.
It is known that the authorship of the works, namely Muktichintamani, Gopalarchana vidhi, Nama Malika, Durogotsava and Bhubaneswari Pujapallava, have been attributed to Gajapati Purusottama Deva.
From the works noted above the (a) Muktichintamani is a smrti work in which have been discussed in 6 prakranas. The work is based mainly on the Puranas and tantras of early period and the available palm leaf manuscript of this work is dated to 22-2- 1767 A. D. The work starts with the following prayer.
This is an important work as it gives the names of a lot of Puranic and Tantric works dealing about the antiquity, importance and sanctity of Purusottama that were being used before the middle of the 15th century.
Gopalarchanavidhi also called Niladrimahodaya. Pujavidhi and Gopalapujapaddhati is a work which deals on the procedure of worship of Lord Jagannatha at Puri. The conception of Jagannatha as Gopal Krsna is recognised and proclaimed by this work, which is a landmark in the religious history of Orissa.
The work called Namamalika noticed in the Descriptive catalog of Sanskrit manuscripts published by the Asiatic society of Bengal may be a work of Purusottama Deva, the lexicographer of Orissa. The work Durgotsava referred in later smrti works of Orissa has not been noticed as yet. His other work called Bhubaneswaripujapallava is a Tantra of Sakta cult. This is a small but historically important work as it gives authentic information about the accession of Purusottama Deva on the throne of Orissa by the mercy of Gajapati Kapilendrs Deva who died in a fort on the Krsna river in 1466 A. D. in spite of the fact that he was minor and not the eldest son of his father. Unfortunately this has not been published for various reasons, Another work, Abhinavavenisamhara, a minor drama attributed to Gajapati Purusottama Deva, has also not yet been published.
5. Rajaguru Balabhadra Misra, son of Nrusingha Mishra was the royal preceptor of Gajapati Purusottama Deva. He was proficient in Bhatta Tantra. He wrote three works named Advita Chintamani, Sarirakasara-Purusottama-smrti and Balabhadra Samgraha which have been quoted in later smrti works of Orissa.
6. Gajapati Prataprudra Deva (147-1535 A.D.), the son of Gajapati Purusottama Deva, was a highly cultured king and a great patroniser of Sanskrit learning and Sanskrit poets and scholars of the time. The authorship of Sarasvativilasa, Pratapamartanda or Praudhapratapamartanda, Nirnayasamgraha and Kautukachintamani is attributed to him.
Out of the above the second work was compiled by Ramakrssna Bhattas of Kasi under the patronage of Gajapati Prataprudra Deva and he received the title of ‘Panditasiromani’ from Rajaguru Balabhadra Misra who examinrd the work ‘Pratapamartanda’
The famous work (a) Sarasvativilasa in 5 ullasas was compiled by Laksmidhara Bhatta of Andhra country, who remained in the court of Prataprudra Deva for some years prior to 1520 A. D.
(b) The work Pratapamartanda or Praudhapratamartanda in 5 prakasas on Dharmasastra, the authorship of which has been attributed to Gajapati Prataparudra Deva, was compiled by Ramakrsna son of Madhava Bhatta.
© Kautkachintamani, another work attributed in the name of Gajapati Prataparudra Deva, was written in 1520 A. D. It is divided in diptis which deal with Chitrabandha, composition of Kavy and black magic, respectively.
(d) The work Nirnaya Samgraha of the above author has not yet been noticed.
7. Rajaguru Godavar Misra, the son of Balabhadra Misra was the royal preceptor and the prime Minister of Gajapati Prataparudra Deva after his father some time after 1510 A.D. he was a great scholar, a poet of repute and proficient in Tantra as is known from the titles viz Godavari Vardhana, Kavipungava, Panditaraja, etc. used with him according to the citations of Jaya Chintamani and Achara Chintamani written by him. Information about works of Godavara is obtained from his Harihara Chaturang a, a treaties on the art of warfare. They are Tantra Chintamani, Advaitadarpana, Adhikaranadarpana, Nitichintamani, Achara Chintamani, Nitikalpalata, etc. But except the published book no manuscripts of other works have so far have been discovered.
8. Kavidindima Jivadeva Acharya (1475 A. D.) the son of Rajaguru Trilochana and Ratnavati was a commander-in-chief of the Gajapati Army, a great scholar and a great poet. He was also a royal preceptor of Gajapati Prataparudra Deva. He wrote Bhaktibhagavatamahakavya based on the 10th Skandha of Srimanbhagavata. The work has been divided into 32 cannot which contain more than 3,000 verses composed in different metres. He was the author of an allegorical drama called Bhaktivaibhavanataka in nine acts in which the excellence of devotion to Lord Krsna has been proved. It was in the Jagannatha temple at the time of Dolayatra festival. His other work called Utsahavati, based on the episode of Mahabharata, is a minor Rupaka staged in a pillared hall near Jagannatha temple in the spring seasons. He got the titles Mahamahopadhyaya, Kavidinidi, Kaviraja, Srimad Bhagavata, Paramacharya, etc. for his outstanding literary works.
It is known from his Bhaktivaibhava Nataka that he was honoured by Gajapati Prataparudra Deva with eight gold-handed chamaras, one gold-stafed umbrella and a resowding drawn in appreciation of his poetic attainments.
9. Kavichandraraya Divakara Misra (1464 A. D.), the son of Vaidyesvara and Mukta Devi, was one of the great Sanskrit poets of India. It is known from his Bharata that his family members were noted for their scholarship, poetic talent, mastery over six Vedangas and six Darsanas. From the Manimalanatika of Anadi Misra we come to know that the descendants of Divakara named Mukanda Misra, Satanjiva and Anadi Misra (1660 A. D.) were also famous for their contributions to Sanskrit literature. The poet Divakara has composed nine works as noted below:
(a) Bharatamrta-mahakavya is a work on Mahabharata, the manuscript of which is available now up to 93 verses of the 40th canto where it ends abruptly with the description of Salyavadha episode. Hence this is an incomplete work which must have been ended in 48 or 50 cantos. The available manuscript contains 3,338 verses composed in different metres. This is an important work which, like Naisadhiyacharita of Sriharsa, narrates the family history of the poet and mentions his works in the concluding stanzas of some of the cantos of Bharatamrta.
(b) Laksanadarsa-mahakavya is a notable work of the poet composed on following the footprints of the Bhatikavya of the poet Bhatti. The work is available up to 14th cantos only. It is based on the Pandava Charit episode of the Mahabharata, beginning from the exile of Pandavas.
(c) Abhinavagitagovinda attributed in the name of the patron Gajapati Purusottama Deva, is a real composition the poet Divakara according to the mention made in the last verse of canto XXVII of Bharatamrita. It is also known from the last stanza of the sixth canto of Bharatamrta that the poet Divakara adorned the court of Krsnadeva Raya, the king of Vijayanagar (1509-1529 A. D.) for some years. It is presumed that his Laksanadarsa was written while he was at Vijayanagar as no manuscript of this work has been discovered in Orissa. According to Orissan tradition the poet Divakara left the court of Vijayanagar when the fight between the two states Orissa and Vijayanagara became very intense.
The Abhinavagitagovinda in 10 cantos is an imitation of Gita-govinda. It contains 72 chatuspadi songs and 150 verses composed in different Ragas and metres respectively. This was published by the Directorate of Culture, Orissa in 1977. It is known from the Bharatmata Mahakavya that he has written some other works, namely Dhurtacharita Bhana, Devisataka, Rasamanjari, Haricharitachampu and Prabhatinaka, out of which Rasamanjari has been perhaps attributed to Krisnadeva Raya of Vijayanagar. But unfortunately the manuscripts of other works have not been discovered as yet.
10. Jagannatha Dasa (1491-1550 A. D.), the son of Bhagabandasa and Padmanavati of Kapoleswarapur Sasan, Puri was a famous scholar in Sanskrit as well as in Oriya literature. He is worshipped in every home for his Oriya Bhagabata which is treated as a religious scripture throughout Orissa. According to the scholars he has composed 8 works in Sanskrit and 12 works in Oriya language. Among the Sanskrit works, Niladrisataka, Upasana Sataka, Srikrsnabhakti Kalpalataphala and Nityagupta Chludamani are worth mentioning.
11. Murari Misra (1550 A.D.) the son of Kahnu Misra, was a famous Smrti writer of Orissa. His work Prayaschittamanohara on expiation rites of Dharmasastra was very popular.
12. Kavindra Markandeya Misra, the son of Mangaladeva was a contemporary of Gajapati Prataparudra Deva (1497-1535 A.D.) and Mukunda Deva (1559-1568 A.D.). His first work called Dasagrivavadha mahakavya in 20 cantos, based on Ramayana, was completed in 1500 A. D., and his second work, Prakrtasarvasva, was completed before 1565A.D. In the colophone of the Mahakavya he has introduced himself as Kacirajachakrvarti, but in the second work he has used the epithet Kavindra. According to the scholars both names were Brahmana by caste and flourished in the same period in Puri area. So they may be taken as identical.
13. Ganga Dasa (1525 AD.) was the son of Santasa Deva, Gopala Dasa, the writer of Parijataharana Nataka and his preceptor, Purusottama Bhalla was the author’ Chhandogovinda. The work Chhandomanjari of Ganga Dasa has been quoted at several places of the Vanmaya Viveka of Chintamani Misra (145-1575 AD) of Puri. This work is also quoted in Krsnakarnamrta commentary by Gopala Bhatta (1541-AD) and Ujjvalanilamani of Rupa Gosvami (1525-AD). From the concluding verse of Chhandomanjari it is known that Ganga Dasa was also the author of Achyutacharita, Kamsarisataka and Dinesasataka.
14. Raya Ramananda Pattanayak, son of Bhavananda Ray of Banntapur, Pur was a master of Vaisnava Philosophy. He propagated the dual Radha-Krsna worship prior to visit of Sri Chaitanya to Orissa in 1509 A.D. He was the Governor at Rajamahendry under the Gajapati Prataparuda Deva. He wrote a drama in 5 acts called Sri Jagannatha Vallabha Nataka. It is also known by name Ramananda Sangitanataka. It is written in the style of Gita-govinda and contains 21 songs and 68 verses composed in different Ragas and metres respectively. The name of his other work is Tikapanchaka, the manuscript of which is not noticed as yet.
15. Madhavi Dasi the cousin sister of Raya Ramananda also wrote a drama called Sri Purusottamadeva Nataka, which has not been noticed as yet.
16. Jayadeva Achrya, the son of Kavidindima Jivadeva Acharya, is the author of a minor drama (Uparupaka) named Piyusa Lahari, which was edited and published with a Sanskrit Commentary and English translation by Dr. K. K. Kar. It is based on the sportive dance of Radha-Krishna in the spring season (Rasalila). This drama was staged in the compound of the Jagannatha temple at Puri by an opera party organised by the poet himself. The poet concludes this work with a prayer to Lord Jagannath. His other work, Vaisnavalilamritam, is also based on the depiction of Rasalila. These two works were composed in between 1525-1535AD.
17. Bharatibhusana Vardhana Mohapatra, the son of Kavidindima Jivadeva Achary and younger brother of Jayadeva Acharya, was a great Scholar. According to the colophon he was the author of Durgotsavachandrika, a work on the autumnal worship of Goddess Durga which is observed for 16 days in Orissa. It is regarded as an authority like Sarada Saradarchana Paddhati of Godavara Misra throughout Orissa. But the authorship of this work has been attributed to King Ramachandra Deva-I (1568-1600 A. D.), the patron of the scholar.
18. Paramananda dasa Kavikarnapura, illustrious son of Sivananda Sena of Bengal who stayed at Puri under the patronage of Gajapati Prataparudra deva, wrote the famous drama Chaitanya Chandrodaya Nataka in 8 acts, which was staged at the time of the car-festival at the bidding of his patron.
19. Mahamahopadhyaya Govinda, or Kavisekhara Govinda, is well known for his Kavya Pradumnasambhava, written in 19 cantos. His other work, Gaurakrsnodayamahakavya in 18 cantos, depicts the life history of Sri Chaitanya and his activities in Orissa. It is a historical work written in Kavya form like other historical Sanskrit works namely Bhaktibhagavata, Kosalananda, Gangavamsanucharitachampur etc. of Orissa.
20. Chintamani Misra was the grandson of Harihara Misra Vajapeyi, a court poet of Govinda Vidyadhara (1542-1559Ad.) Mrtyunjaya Misra and Sri Devi who lived near Nilachala (Puri) were the parents of the poet Chintamani, who was a great poet of Orissa. His famous work on rhetorics and prosody is Vanmaya Viveka divided into 6 chapters and 3,200 verses was composed in Puri in Kali year 4675 or 1574 AD. It is known from the above work that the poet Chintamani was also the author of Sambararicharita, Trisirovadha Vyayoga, Kadambarisara, Sabhapromoda, Paksavali, Kamsavadha, Krtyapuspavali and Samiti Varnana. But unfortunately, except Vanmaya Viveka and Trisirovadha Vyayoga, no other works been noticed as yet.
21. Krsnadasa Vddajena Mohapatra is the author of Gitaprakasa, a treatise on music in 7 ullasas or chapters.
It is known from the Gitaprakasa that the poet Krisnadasa was a court poet of Gajapati Mukunda Deva (1559-1568 AD.) with whom Akbar, the great Mughal Emperor of Delhi (1557-1605 AD.), entered into an alliance.
22. Narasingha Misra Vajapeyi (1520-1580 AD.) the son of Murari Misra the grandson of Dharadhara Misra, the cansion brother of Godavar Mishra, was a great smrti-writer of Orissa. It is known from a work called Simhavajapeyi Vamsavali that Narasingha was a brilliant man. Through the help of the Goddess Siddhesvari he acquired mastery over the six philosophies. He defeated a famous logical of Ganda (Bengal) by argument in the royal court. He visited the court of Akbar some time between 1565-1568 AD with musician Mahapatra (Krsnadasa) and Ray Paramanda the ambassodor of Mukunda Deva.
It is known that Narasingha wrote 18 digests, each of which is called pradipa. Besides famous Nityachara pradipa, the first part of which was published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1907 and the second part in 1928, he wrote other works, namely Samayavarsa-Bhakti-Prayaschitta-Sraddha-Pratistha-Sankarabhasya-Chayana-Vyavastha pradipa, etc.
The study of Nityacharapradipa throws some light on the social and religious history of Orissa in the 16th Century.
23. Visnu Sarma (1550-AD) a smrti writer composed his work called Smrti saroja kalika in 8 chapters.
24. Visvanatha Sena, the son of Tapana Mohapatra, the royal Doctor of Gajapati Mukunda Deva, was a reputed physician. His works namely, Ayuravedasarasamgraha, Visvanatha Chikitsa and Pathyapathya Vinischaya were very popular in Orissa.
25. Narayana Bhanja Deva (1525-AD), the King of Baud, composed his Gitakavya Rukminiparinaya in the style of Gita-govinda. The work is divided into 6 cantos and contains 12 songs and 40 verses.
The study of the other branches of Sanskrit literature like Jyotisa, Tantra, Darsana, etc. with writing of commentaries on older scriptures and literatures, were also taken up under the patronage of the Gajapati monarchs. This created a vast field for development of Sanskrit as well as Priya literature in the centuries to follow.