Odia is spoken by 87% of the population of Odisha. It became a literary language in the 14th century. Odia, Bengali and Assamese all come from the same Eastern Magadhi Apabhramsa and are considered to be sister languages. In the 16th and 17th century Oriya fell under the spell of Sanskrit. However, during the 17th and 18th centuries it followed a new line of approach. Oriya has its origins in the 10th century.
The Language History
The history of Odia language is divided into Old Odia (10th century-1300), Early Middle Odia (1300-1500), Middle Odia (1500-1700), Late Middle Odia (1700-1850) and Modern Odia (1850 till present day). Odia literature upto 1500AD mainly covers poems and proses with religion, gods and goddesses as the main theme.
The earliest use of prose can be found in the Madala Panji or the Palm-leaf Chronicles of the Jagannatha temple at Puri, which date back to the 12th century.
The first great poet of Odisha is the famous Sarala-dasa who wrote the Chandi Purana and the Vilanka Ramayana, both praising the goddess Durga. Rama-bibha, written by Arjuna-dasa, is the first long poem in Odia language.
Jagannatha Dasa Period
The next era is more commonly called the Jagannatha Dasa Period and stretches till the year 1700. The period begins with the writings of Shri Chaitanya whose Vaishnava influence brought in a new evolution in Odia literature.
Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Acyutananda were the main exponents in religious works in Odia.
The composers of this period mainly translated, adapted, or imitated Sanskrit literature. A few prominent works of this 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, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa composed another form called Kavyas or long poems based on themes from Puranas. The language used by them was plain and simple Odia.
However, from the turn of the 18th century, verbally tricky Odia became the order of the day. Verbal jugglery, obscenity and eroticism became the trend of the period between 1700-1850, the most notable poet being Upendra Bhanja (1670-1720). Other poets turned up in hordes to imitate him but none could fit into his shoes, with the exceptions of Bhima-Bhoi and Arakshita Dasa. Family chronicles in prose and literature relating religious festivals and rituals also covered a large portion of this period.
The first Odia printing typeset was cast in 1836 by the Christian missionaries. The actual Odia script closely resembled Bengali and Assamese scripts but the one adopted for the printed typesets were completely different, leaning more towards the Tamil script.