Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Cover of the printed book (left) and cover of the e-book (right)

If hankering after fame makes one maddened into dishonesty, Orissa’s former Chief Secretary Subas Pani’s role in the matter of Oriya Bhagavata is an instance.

He has tampered with “Jagannatha Dasanka Srimad Bhagavata” published by Orissa Sahitya Academy and obliterated the name of its editor Pt. Nilamani Mishra while placing his own self as the sole presenter of the correct edition of the immortal work that has remained at the top of popularity unperturbedly for last 500 years in Orissa, changing, inter alia, its title to “Oriya Bhagavata”.

Inscribed in palm leaves, in thousands and thousands of copies, this great work occupy the most revered place in Oriya households where it is recited daily with utmost respect in quest of spiritual realization in individual homes before the family retires to rest in the night. Where people are illiterate, the villagers collectively keep a set in a common cottage known as Bhagavata Tungi and listen its recital by an educated person whose remuneration they collectively pay. Such importance is given to this work by the Oriyas.

But copying from palm leaves to palm leaves having brought its corollary corruption to the text, it was impossible to find out a correct copy of the work even in printed editions brought out by various publishing houses. Keeping this in mind, Mr. J.B.Pattnaik, translator of the Bhagavata Mahapurana from Sanskrit to Oriya in prose, after becoming Orissa’s Chief Minister in the 1980s, had asked the Orissa Sahitya Academy to bring out a fault-free edition of this immortal work as a result of which, Pandit Nilamani Mishra was vested with the responsibility.

Pandit Mishra dared all the difficulties to complete the work in 1889 and the Sahitya Academy published it under the caption: Jagannatha Dasanka Srimad Bhagavata.

It was a unique work, done with single-minded dedication, on juxtaposition of seven sets of palm-leaf manuscripts of different period, collected from different places as well as printed copies published by various publishers and determination of the correct version on philological matrix.

Pandit Mishra had not only focused on the background of the edition in a highly scholarly essay, but also had added the relevant lexicon to every volume, compiled by himself, sans which, typical expressions of Jaganath Das, caused by adherence to colloquialism in lucid poetic stanzas comprising two lines each in a first-of-its-kind pattern of nine-lettered-metre, would have remained difficult for correct grasping. The edition also carried a precise analysis presented by Sri J.B.Pattnaik on Jagannatha Das vis-a-vis his Bhagavata.

It was and still is regarded by one and all as the most authentic and correct edition of the original work.

Inside page of original work (left), inside page of e-book (right)

If the State Government was interested to help Oriya netizens getting the correct version of Bhagavata, it could have made an e-edition of Pt. Mishra’s compilation. But with Subas Pani as the Chief Secretary, this was not to be.

Had it been done, along with Pt. Mishra as the compiler, J.B.Pattnaik as the inspirer would have reached the global community of Oriyas. It might not have pleased Naveen Patnaik, who is marked for total intolerance to political rivals.

So, Pani, eager to keep Naveen pleased at any cost to facilitate translation of his yet unveiled promise to POSCO into reality, preferred JB’s name jettisoned from the e-edition.

But, as jettisoning JB’s name alone would have been impossible, he cooked up a conspiracy to project the e-publication as altogether a new and original work whereby it was also possible on his part to throw away into oblivion Pt. Mishra and to project himself as its sole presenter.

A hybrid organization of letters, styled as Oriya Bhasa Pratistana, created in Naveen-raj in total disregard to how it may affect the Sahitya Academy, was used as the instrument.

Under banners of this hybrid organization, the “Jagannatha Dasanka Srimad Bhagavat” edited by Pt. Nilamani Mishra and published by Orissa Sahitya Academy in 1989 was copied and published under a new name as “Oriya Bhagavata” in Orissa Government’s official website under a category captioned as “Kalajayee Srusti”, projecting the same as original fault-free edition of Jagannatha Das’s work.

In this work of nuisance, name of Sri J.B.Pattnaik, under whose orders and inspiration, the correct edition of the Bhagagavata was brought out, has been dropped in order, as apprehended supra, to please Naveen Patnaik.

But the most obnoxious outrage of Orissa’s culture grimaces at our collective conscience when we see the name of Pandit Nilamani Mishra, but for whose dedicated involvement and research the Oriya nation would never have retrieved the correct version of Jagannatha Das, has been obliterated from the copied edition with Subas Pani grabbing the opportunity to project himself as the sole presenter of the fault-free edition of “Oriya Bhagavata” before the global community of Oriyas.

Orissa has a couple of officers that are more inclined to appropriate others’ works as far cautiously as possible and/or to bask under others’ glory by somewhat managing to make their presence felt in theirs’ context, howsoever wrongly that might be; but so far, such blatant dishonesty was not resorted to by any.

So, the Government of Orissa under Naveen Patnaik, if it has an iota of probity, should withdraw its so-called ‘Oriya Bhagavata’ from the web and reload it with due notification to the effect that it is the e-copy of the set of “Jagannatha Dasanka Srimad Bhagavata” compiled and edited by Pt. Nilamani Mishra and published by Orissa Sahitya Academy.

It should further initiate action against Subas Pani for the fraud he has played so that similar offense by any other official functionary gets discouraged.

Let us remember, it is time to save our culture from vultures.

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