Bhubaneswar: Legendary author and Indian English poet Padma Shree Jayanta Mahapatra, the first Indian poet to win a Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry, passed away due to old age at SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack on Sunday night.
The author of poems such as “Indian Summer” and “Hunger”, which are regarded as classics in modern Indian English, the 95-year-old Jayant Mahapatra, was admitted to the hospital on August 4 due to old age-related ailments. He breathed his last while undergoing treatment, despite the best efforts of the treating doctors.
He was awarded a Padma Shri in 2009 but returned the award in 2015 to protest against rising intolerance in India. Mahapatra was part of a trio of poets who laid the foundations of Indian English poetry, which included A. K. Ramanujan and R. Parthasarathy.
Born into a prominent Odia Christian family on October 22, 1928, Mahapatra went to Stewart School in Cuttack, Odisha,completed his M. Sc. in Physics from Patna University, started his career as a lecturer in physics in 1949, and taught at various government colleges in Odisha.
He superannuated at Ravenshaw College, Cuttack (now Ravenshaw University), and retired from his government job as the Reader in Physics in 1986.
Mahapatra began his writing career in the late sixties and has authored 27 books of poems, of which seven are in Odia and the rest in English.
His poetry volumes include Relationship, Bare Face, and Shadow Space.
Besides poetry, he has experimented widely with myriad forms of prose. His published books of prose include Green Gardener, an anthology of short stories, and Door of Paper: Essays and Memoirs. Mahapatra is also a distinguished editor and has been bringing out the literary magazine Chandrabhaga.
His poems have appeared in prestigious poetry anthologies like The Dance of the Peacock. An Anthology of English Poetry from India, publish ed by Hidden Brook Press,Canada.
Mahapatra had also translated from Odia into English, and some of his translations were published in the bi-monthly literary magazine Indian Literature.
In 1981, Jayanta Mahapatra won the Sahitya Akademi Award for his poetry book, Relationships. He became the first writer in the English language to win the Sahitya Akademi Award.
He was also awarded the Allen Tate Poetry Prize for 2009 from The Sewanee Review. He received the SAARC Literary Award, New Delhi, 2009, the Tata Literature Lifetime Achievement Award, was conferred with a Padma Shri in 2009, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Ravenshaw University in 2009.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has expressed deep grief and sorrow over the passing of renowned author and poet Padmashree Jayanta Mahapatra.
In a message, Patnaik described him as a legendary author and poet who was a genius in both English and Odia literature.
The Chief Minister said Mahapatra had successfully elevated the reach of Odia literature to a wider circle. His intellect and knowledge were a guiding spirit for many youngsters to write in English literature.
Patnaik further said Jayanta Mahapatra’s mellifluous words will continue to weave their magic, reminding us of the power of human expression. The vivid imagery of his writings about daily life, particularly drawn from Cuttack, will always remain a rich encapsulation of Odia life, he said.
The Chief Minister has announced that the late poet will be laid to rest with full state honours and has wished peace and tranquilly for the departed soul. Patnaik expressed his deep sympathies for the bereaved family members.