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Language Of: Orissa
Main Language : Oriya
Tribal Language : Munda

Indo-Aryan language of the eastern group spoken mainly in the state of Orissa, India. Oriya is one of the 14 regional languages recognized by the Indian constitution. A direct descendant of the "Ardhamagadhi Prakrit" spoken in the ancient kingdom of 'Magadha', it is now most closely related to 'Maithili', Assamese, and Bangla.

Oriya has not changed greatly since the 14th century, the time of the earliest known inscriptions in the language. It shows less foreign influence i.e. of Muslims and British than most Indo-Aryan languages because its speakers were among the last to be conquered. Oriya's literary style borrows heavily from Sanskrit. In grammar, Oriya distinguishes between rational and non-rational beings and objects. Like Bangla, it uses the plural verb forms instead of the singular to show respect to a rational being.

The history of Oriya language is divided into Old Oriya (10th century-1300), Early Middle Oriya (1300-1500), Middle Oriya (1500-1700), Late Middle Oriya (1700-1850) and Modern Oriya (1850 till present day). Oriya literature upto 1500 AD mainly covers poems and proses with religion, gods and goddesses as the main theme.

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 Usabhilasa' of "Sisu Sankara Dasa", the "Rahasya-Manjari" of "Deva-Durlabha Dasa" and the "Rukmini-Bibha" of "Kartika 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 Oriya. However, from the turn of the 18th century, verbally tricky Oriya 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). Family chronicles in prose and literature relating religious festivals and rituals also covered a large portion of this period.

The Christian missionaries cast the first Oriya printing typeset in 1836. The actual Oriya script closely resembled Bangla and Assamese scripts but the one adopted for the printed typesets were completely different, leaning more towards the Tamil script.

Three great poets and prose writers, 'Rai Bahadur Radhanatha Ray' (1849-1908), 'Madhusudana Rao' (1853-1912) and 'Phakiramohana Senapati' (1843-1918) settled in Orisa and made Oriya their own. They brought in a modern outlook and spirit into Oriya literature. Around the same time the modern drama took birth in the works of 'Rama Sankara Ray' beginning with "Kanci-Kaveri" (1880).

Criticism, essays and history also became major lines of writing in the Oriya language. Esteemed writers in this field were Professor 'Girija Shankar Ray', 'Pandit Vinayaka Misra', 'Professor Gauri Kumara Brahma', 'Jagabandhu Simha' and 'Hare Krishna Mahatab'. Oriya literature mirrors the industrious, peaceful and artistic image of the Oriya people who have offered and gifted much to the Indian civilization in the field of art and literature.'Chaitanya' whose Vaishnava influence brought in a new evolution in Oriya literature. Balarama Dasa, Jagannatha Dasa, Yasovanta, Ananta and Acyutananda were the main exponents in religious works in Oriya. The composers of this period mainly translated, adapted, or imitated Sanskrit literature.


There are several more or less distinct tribal groups inhabiting a broad belt in central and eastern India, speaking various Munda languages of the Austro-Asiatic stock. They were numbered approximately 9,000,000 in the late 20th century. In the Chota Nagpur Plateau in southern Bihar, adjacent parts of West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, and the hill districts of Orisa, they form a numerically important part of the population.

Munda history and origins are matters of conjecture. The territory they now occupy was until recently difficult to reach and remote from the great centres of Indian civilization; it is hilly, forested, and relatively poor for agriculture. It is believed that the Munda were once more widely distributed but retreated to their present homelands with the advance and spread of peoples having a more elaborate culture.

Nevertheless, they have not lived in complete isolation and even if there are some tribal variations, still they share many culture traits with other Indian peoples. Most Munda peoples are agriculturists. Along with their languages, the Munda have tended to preserve their own culture, although the government of India encourages their assimilation to the larger Indian society.

The Vaishnava Influence
The Adivasi languages belong to three main language groups, namely Dravidian Austric/Munda and Indo-Aryan. Under the Dravidian group are: 'Gondi', 'Konda', 'Kui', 'Kuvi-Kondh', 'Kisan', 'Koya', 'Kolami', 'Naiki', 'Draon', 'Ollar', 'Gadabaj', 'Pcngo' and 'Parji'.

The 'Austric-Munda' group includes 'Bhurmij', 'Birhor', 'Bonda', 'Didayi', 'Gadaba', 'Juang', 'Ho', 'Kharia', 'Korku', 'Koda', 'Parenga' and 'Mundari'. To the Indo-Aryan group belong 'Bathudi', 'Bhatri', 'Bhuyan', 'Jharia', 'Desia', 'Kurmali', 'Halbi', 'Sadri' and 'Saonti'.

Recent linguistic research has established that these are languages, not dialects. They have been used orally but writing systems have been devised for Santali, Saora, Ho and Kui, in which school textbooks have been prepared to facilitate learning through the mother tongue.

Tribal literature is by and large folk literature of the oral tradition comprising songs, tales, myths, proverbs, riddles and invocations. The tribal community has a song for almost every occasion conveying their changing group emotions and sentiments and describing community life situations and the seasonal changes. Though oral free from conscious efforts, the songs may at times embody some noble sentiment too, for example:
"Abare manbe"
"Baeare manbe"
Meaning - "Let all be happy: let all live in peace"

This Kondh song embodies the sentiment of the 'Upanishadic' hymn, "Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah": Let all be happy. Santali has some written literature. Dr Sitakanta Malapalra who has also translated the "Santal Bahens" or invocation songs into English for the interested readers has brought this to the knowledge of the modern reader in several volumes of written presentations.

Pandit Raghunath Murmu, who invented the 'Chiki' script for Santali, through two of his major plays 'Kherwal Bir" ant "Bidu Chandan" has well interpreted the Santal tradition and culture.

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