Fakir Mohan Senapati was born to Lakhmana Charana Senapati and Tulasi Devi Senapati, on 13th January 1843, in a middle-class Khandayat Family. He is referred to as Utkala Byasa Kabi which means Odisha’s Vyasa. He was a poet, writer, philosopher and social reformer. He is also regarded as the father of Odia nationalism and Modern Odia Literature.
Fakir Mohan Senapati’s father passed away when he was one and a half years old. After 14 months, his mother died as well. He has been taken care of by his grandmother since childhood. Fakir Mohan’s uncle was jealous of the young Fakir Mohan, and his education was not allowed. His poor health also led him to be a late learner. By working as a child labourer, he provided for his college expenses.
When he was thirteen years old, Senapati married Leelavati Devi in 1856. When he was 29, she died. He married Krushna Kumari Devi in the summer of 1871, and she died in 1894, leaving behind a son and a daughter. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fakir Mohan devoted his life to the development of the language of Odia. He is called the father of fiction by Odia. In his native place, including Fakir Mohan College and Fakir Mohan University, schools, colleges and universities are established in his memory.
Senapati was identified by Mayadhar Mansingh as Odisha’s Thomas Hardy. While he translated from Sanskrit, wrote poetry, and tried many types of literature, he is now primarily recognised as the father of modern Odia prose fiction. As the first Odia short tale, his “Rebati” (1898) is widely remembered.
His four novels, published between 1897 and 1915, are a representation of Odisha’s socio-cultural conditions during the 18th and 19th centuries. While the three books, Chha maana Atha Guntha, Mamu and Prayaschita discuss in their different dimensions the realities of social life,’ Lachhama’ is a historical romance dealing with Odisha’s anarchical conditions in the aftermath of the Maratha invasions.
Chha Maana Atha Guntha is the first Indian novel to discuss the Feudal Lord’s persecution of landless peasants. It was published long before Russia’s October Revolution, or long before the rise in India of Marxist ideas. The writer of the first autobiography in Odia, “Atma Jeebana Charita” is also Fakir Mohan. Fakir Mohan Senapati translated the whole of the ‘Ramayana’ and the ‘Mahabharat’ single-handedly. He is popularly known in Odisha as ‘Vyasakabi’ for having translated both the ‘Ramayan’ and the ‘Mahabharat’ single-handed and his wide versatility in the world of letters.
The title ‘Saraswati’ was also granted to him by the king of Bamra, the then feudal state. The founder of an organisation called ‘Utkala Bhasa Unnati Bidhani Sabha’ was a great lover and maker of a new era in Odia literature, which was started in 1867 to establish a new consciousness among the people of Odisha and to propagate the language of Odia. Fakir Mohan Senapati died on the 14th of June 1918, but will always stay in the hearts of the people, for his great contribution to Odia language and literature.