Coke Studio’s “Rangabati” is an insult and assault on folk music and linguistic sanctity

By Saswat Pattanayak

The “Rangabati” version that is being touted as putting Odisha on the world map is instead designed to take Orissa off the map.

Credited to Ram Sampath, Sona Mohapatra and Rituraj Mohanty, this modern incarnation of Rangabati is problematic in more ways than just one. In the guise of promoting Oriya culture, what this rendition does is undermine the history of struggles behind linguistic uniqueness of Oriya itself and promotes a bunch of profiteering corporate pawns in their self-aggrandizement.

Firstly, by titling it as “Rangabati” while remixing it with “Vande Utkala Janani”, it vulgarizes the very national anthem of the Oriyas. The team behind MTV Coke has quite possibly forgotten the relevance and sanctities attached to the state anthem that played pivotal part in freedom struggles of the Oriyas. Behind the creation of Orissa as the first linguistically formed state in India, lies the power of “Vande Utkala Janani”. What is evident in the Coke Studio version is sheer deplorable trivialization of the classicism associated with the song that eventually led to preservation of Oriya language and its distinct attainment of classical status.

When Bengal and Bihar had colonized Orissa, it was not just a geographic mass that was exploited – it was a language that was denied to the people of Orissa back then. Thanks to the Utkal Sammilani and the freedom fighters associated with it, Orissa had been able to reclaim its unique glory. When Oriya was not considered as a separate language, these stalwarts had ensured that the new province would be formed precisely based on the language that was more unique and far richer than the ones that had dominated over it employing British mischiefs.

It was in 1882, long before the first Utkal Union Conference (Utkal Sammilani) was formed that Madhusudan Das (along with Gaurishankar Ray) championed the cause of Oriya people through Utkal Sabha (the Orissa Association). As its president, Madhusudan Das fought against imposition of Hindi in the place of Oriya in the official works at Sambalpur. How ironic, that today, under the garb of promoting a Sambalpuri folk song, the struggle behind linguistic identity would be so opportunistically forgotten!

In 1903, when the first Utkal Sammilani was held in Kanika, it had representation from all over Orissa – Kanika, Keonjhar, Cuttack and Sambalpur. It was proudly declared as “the Parliament of people inhabiting Oriya speaking areas, not withstanding caste, creed, language and administrative divisions.” When Bengal Government restricted Oriya officers from attending the Conference, Madhu Babu demanded that they be allowed.

When Orissa was not a political entity and Oriya was not officially a language, it was Madhusudan Das who thundered: “According to history, people from different places came to England and settled there. This union helped in the making of the English race. The English people had great contribution to the progress in Europe. We must consider this in the context of our motherland. Now looking at the suffering of mother Utkal who amongst us would be thoughtless? Hence we all being united would share her suffering and serve her. While in this deep service we must remember a statement of the Prophet Muhammad – for the spread of love one should give up impure element from the heart and allow pious blood into it. My dear brothers and sisters who want to dedicate their lives for the service of the mother Utkal must at first give up – conceit and selfishness. The race or nation is eternal, you and myself have temporary existence. The only way to progress is to give up selfishness. It will be admitted by all that the water of the river and lake coming from different direction would enter into the ocean where it would take one shape and one colour. It would be called the water of the ocean and would take the name of the great ocean.”

In such a backdrop of relentless struggle to claim Oriyas as a distinct “race”, the classicism of Oriya language inherently remained. It is in such a context that the unique diversity of Orissa remained preserved while the language is fiercely protected. And it is in this context that Kantakabi Laxmikanta Mohapatra’s “Vande Utkala Janani” is treated inviolable – as the national anthem of a race of people who battled political, economic and cultural subjugations to retain their uniqueness.

And it is in this context that it was declared on December 19, 2002 by the Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly, Mr. Sarat Kumar Kar that whosoever shows any disrespect to “Vande Utkala Janani” shall face penal action.

In the name of artistic freedom, experimentations and fusions, “Vande Utkala Janani” rendition has been improper at the technical level in the latest YouTube sensation, while commercially exploited to suit a corporate agenda at the level of intent.

Rangabati singers

(L-R) Singers Jitendra Haripal, Krishna Patel, lyricist Mitrabhanu Gountia and music director Prabhudatt Pradhan.

Equally deplorable is the cultural misappropriation of Jitendra Haripal and Krishna Patel’s brilliant composition “Rangabati”. Haripal is a Dalit artist duly recognized by the state for his immense contribution to folk and patriotic music. A purist practitioner of folk music, Haripal once said, “The new Sambalpuri songs use crude and indecent expressions and the pure folk we used to create have taken a backseat. I want to keep folk music safe and promote it.”

Rangabati rendition by Sona Mohapatra is neither pure nor is it keeping folk music safe. It is only using Rangabati for the purpose of self-promotion. Bereft of all patriotic feel and folk quality, the electronic appropriation by privileged caste commercial artists, of a Dalit folk singer’s most monumental contribution is at once sad and derogatory. To make matters worse, the fusion of “Rangabati-Vande Utkala Janani” not only abandons folk traditions, and replaces what Haripal once told P. Sainath in The Hindu, “simple love song in pure Sambalpuri style” for a needless mash-up with “Vande Utkala Janani”, it also infuses the non-Oriya rap between the lyrics.

Finally, there is clear case of copyright violation by the MTV’s Coke Studio which has not taken any permission from original lyricist Mitrabhanu Guintia and music director Prabhudatta Pradhan. Not only has the national anthem of Orissa been taken for granted by corporate houses, but even the folk artists and song writers are not compensated before their music are widely abused.

As Oriyas, unable to combat the assaults, atrophy and neglect of our language, many things are no longer surprising to us. But the callous indifference towards commercial appropriation of “Rangabati” as well as trivialization of “Vande Utkala Janani” perhaps indicate that we may be destined to lose both our folk heritage and linguistic historical identity, much sooner than later, if this manipulative Coke Studio production is what we falsely perceive as taking Odia to the world map.

Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak’s new book on language released

Famous linguist Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak’s new book ‘Language and Cultural Diversity’ has made a hit with bibliophiles.

Release of DPP's Book

It was released on 17 September 2014 by the Chief Minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, who lauded Dr. Pattanayak’s constant emphasis on initiation of education to children in their mother tongue as that only improves children’s self confidence and leads to internal educational efficiency.

Dr. Pattanayak, already decorated with Padmashree, has been recommended by the State Government for Padma Bhusan award this year.

Son of famous freedom fighter Madhu Sudan Pattanayak, he belongs by birth to Tigiria, the famous former Princely State where the scripture of what is now known as Odissi Dance – Abhinaya Darpana Prakash – as well as India’s one of the only two noted scriptures on warfare – Veera Sarvaswa – were authored. The  palm leaf manuscripts of both the scriptures are now in Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan of West Bengal, along with hundreds of palm leaf manuscripts written by Tigiria’s people of literary excellence in the bygone princely days, which, Dr. Pattanayak had taken from the Tigiria Palace to enrich the famous Central University with its first library of ancient manuscripts.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

On June 11, 2008 my discussion on how wrong was the official attempt to change the spelling of Orissa to Odisha was captioned, “Orissa in Peril: Government Plays Havoc with Her heritage”. As the attempt has failed to succeed as yet in spite of the Bill in this regard having passed the Parliament, I urge upon every thinking mind, specifically of Orissa and amongst members of Indian Parliament where the said Bill is to be considered afresh on technical grounds, to please read again the same article, to cogitate the question raised therein and to stop the unconcerned government tampering with classicism of Orissa, which, the proposed change of its spelling to Odisha will certainly do.

To Orissa’s misfortune, she is under the grip of a man, who not only does not know Oriya, but also has no ability to know how unique is the classicism of Oriya language. He was not born and brought up in Orissa and has no natural concern for Orissa.

He heads the State Government in absence of an alternative. In fact, he came to power because of the Congress Party that acts as Opposition in Orissa. The Congress high command – remote controlled by American lobby – had paved the way for him to capture power so that foreign based mines mongers may grab Orissa’s mineral wealth, which any Congress leader, born and brought up in Orissa might never have so unconcernedly allowed. A look at the conduct of Congress high commands makes this clear.

Emergence of Naveen Patnaik

How the Congress High Command helped Naveen emerge as Orissa’s Chief Minister is discernible in how it ruined the party in this province.

An able and astute politician like J.B.Patnaik was willfully removed from power just before general elections with lightweights, one after another in quick succession replacing him by the Congress high command. Congress workers and supporters in Orissa were completely confused and under that climate of confusion, mismanagement of super-cyclone 1999 relief operation by the successors of JB having irritated the general public, Congress had lost to the new challenger BJD which was formed by shrewd sycophants of Biju Patnaik immediately after his death with Naveen Patnaik as its head.

Biju was thrown out of power because of rampant corruption in administration. The founders of BJD were his partners in corruption. They were so discredited that after Biju’s death, death of their political lives was imminent. No other political party, they were sure, would accept them. Even their own Party – the Janata Dal – was reluctant to retain them. Hence, they tried to stay united in the name of Biju. But none of them was willing to accept any of them as the chief of the new combine. Hence, strategists amongst them such as Ramakrishna Patnaik, Nalini Mohanty and Bijay Mohapatra had persuaded the rest of their colleagues to take refuge under a son of Biju, which, they had argued, may help them return to power by exploiting the sympathy of the simple-natured people of Orissa, who, by birth magnanimous, were expected to pardon him after his death.

Their expectation worked and with Congress high command having ruined the credibility of its provincial leadership, the newly formed Biju Janata Dal bagged the mandate under sympathy waves for his son, Naveen.

And, since then, Naveen has given Orissa the worst of administration in every sphere.

Yet, he is in power; because the Congress high command has always acted to demoralize the provincial leadership at the eve of every general election since then to the chagrin of Congress workers and sympathizers.

Naveen continues in power by help of Congress High Command

As for instance, Congress high command, overwhelmed by the feeling that it lost the State because it had jettisoned J.B.Patnaik (JB) in 1999, had appointed him as PCC President during Naveen’s first term in Office, following which the Party was rejuvenated to such speaking strength that the panicked Naveen had to jettison four of his cabinet colleagues including founder members of BJD, just to save his own skin and to assure the people that he stands for clean administration. Despite this comedy of cleansing, Naveen had no chance of gaining a fresh mandate as by that time Congress had regained its lost popularity and BJD had lost its credibility due to corruption and over dependance of officers in administration. When the situation was quite favorable for return of Congress to power, just before the general elections, JB was removed from the PCC stewardship and replaced by a lightweight. The Congress workers were too confused to campaign with confidence in the election and people were too shocked to support Congress candidates. In the circumstances, Naveen was not challenged and that helped him capture power for the second term. Jayadev Jena was leading the party when Naveen was set to seek mandate for the third term. There was no chance for him this time. Stench of corruption was suffocating the general public as use of state terror to suppress protests against misrule was generating public determination to oust him. Reading the public mind, his two-term ally BJP was also distancing from him. The situation was highly suggestive of end of the age of Naveen misrule. People of Orissa were waiting to show him the door. Congress high command rushed to his rescue. It changed the PCC leadership just before the elections and replaced Jayadev Jena with K.P.Singhdeo as PCC president. The appointment of Singhdeo who personifies the Dhenkanal legacy of brutal exploitation of the people and merciless oppression of freedom fighters including murder of Baji Raut for which the family has never repented, as President of the State unity of the Congress to lead the party in general election was too offensive for the general public to vote for the Congress. Naveen, as expected, was Orissa’s Hobson’s choice for the third term.

Thus Naveen is in power because the party which should have led the people to oust him has provoked the people to vote for him by demoralizing the PCC leadership at the verge of general elections. This man has no concern for Orissa. His love for POSCO and the likes has found natural ally in the Congress high command remote-controlled by deities of imperialism. Over and above the disguised help of the Congress high command, Naveen has always taken advantage of political stunts that he well equipped to play to false Oriya pride to grab power by misleading the public. Change of the spelling of Orissa to Odisha is one such stunt.

Classical aspect of Oriya language

The English spelling of Odisha stands as Orissa is an universally accepted recognition of the unique classicism of Oriya language. This was discussed in details in my article referred to supra. I insist that everybody interested in knowing the historicity of why the name of this splendid land was spelt as Orissa in English should read that article again and act to stop vandalization of classicism of Oriya which is not only the language of a “fine race” (Gandhiji in Young India) but also is a classic language, richer in vocabulary, as Linguistic Survey of India has noted, than Bengali, Hindi and Telugu.

It is not surprising that idiots are getting elected to legislatures both in state and central levels under machinations of plutocracy. For them to change the spelling of a province’s name to the detriment of her classical uniqueness is not unusual as more than patriotic conduct they depend on political acrobatics to grab and stay in power. For them change of Orissa to Odisha is no matter of qualm. But all the members of Indian Parliament are not idiots. When the Bill will go to them again, let them first try to know as to why the spelling of this State of classical heritage was Orissa in English. It is sad that before agreeing to change the spelling by way of constitutional amendment, not a single member of Parliament had tried to know as to why that spelling had evolved. By accepting and using Orissa as the English spelling of this State, its founders, who under the able leadership of Kulagaurav Madhusudan Das had made yeomen sacrifice to resurrect the motherland to her present shape and had given birth to the first linguistic State of India, have given their permanent stamp of approval to the British endeavor to honor the classical uniqueness of of this historic land. Agents of land-grabbers in power must not be allowed to tamper with this classical uniqueness.

Thanks, Tathagat Satpathy

I am happy that Parliamentarian Tathagat Satpathy has expressed support to stoppage of the spelling change through an editorial in his news daily Dharitri. He is late by almost two years from the date of my aforesaid discussion. But as the axiom says, it is better late than never.

It will be better for motherland Orissa if all her right-thinking children start protesting against the political stunt of spelling change, howsoever be they late, as this is more essentially urgent at this moment than never protesting, if safeguarding the classical uniqueness of the mother-tongue is felt to be the dearest duty of conscious human beings.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Every geographical name, particularly in India, has a heritage behind it. So also has Orissa.

But Orissa’s council of ministers is conspiring to tamper with this glorious role of heritage.

When none of his cabinet colleagues has any esteem as a person of Oriya letters, Chief Minister Navin Patnaik himself does not know Oriya. And these fellows together have decided to change Orissa to Odisha and Oriya to Odia in English and to ban Udisa and Udia in vogue in Hindi and other Indian languages!

Obviously these fellows are not aware of Orissa’s heritage and do not know why Orissa’s name in English is Orissa or in Hindi is Udisa. They also do not know that Udisa, Udisya etc are also Oriya words.

On coming to know of their agenda for the change, as a son of Orissa, proud of her heritage, I had posted mails to the CM and all the members of his council of ministers with documentary support urging upon them not to proceed with their scheme. But, they have not paid any heed to my just and proper request.

It prods me to place before you why the name “Orissa” or “Udisa” needs not to be changed but to be retained. I will begin with Udisa.

Udisa is derived from the word Udra Desa or Uddiyana. King Indrabhuti of Uddiyan of 8th century, founder of Vajrayana, the Uddiyana Tantra, was the first to have propitiated Gurudev Buddha as Jagannatha in his canon Jnana Siddhi following which the cult of Jagannatha has evolved.

In the eyes of the people of Hindi belt, whosoever sees Sri Jagannatha (Purusottama) in Udra Desa after having a deep bath in the sea overcomes death. It is said in the last section of a copper plate discovered at Maihar in Madhya Pradesh,

“Samudramajjanannunamudresu Purussottamah
Drstvatavantike bhuyah puragacchatyyam sisuh”
(Epigraphia Indica, XXXV, p171-75)

D.C.Sircar assigns this plate to middle of 10th century on paleographical ground.

The Kalika Purana shows Sri Jagannatha as the supreme deity of Udra desa (Orissa Historical Research Journal, III, 1954, No.1, p.12) According to this Tantric canon,

Udrakhyam prathama pitham dwitiyam Jalasailajam
Trutiyam Purnapithantu Kamarupam chaturthakam /43/ (Chapter 64)

It means, amongst all the Pithas or Citadels of Tantra, the first is Udra and the second is Jalasailaja, the third is Purnapitha and the fourth is Kamarupa.

According to Syamarchana Taranga there are four core centers of Tantric glory. They are Uddiyana, Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Kamrup. The verse:

Uddiyanah Purnagiri Jalandhara Tatheibacha
Kamarupa iti khyatah kaulapitham chatustayam”

When Devi Bhagavata declares that in Utkal where Biraja is linked to the naval zone (Navi Gaya) Vimala is the Maha Devi and Jagannatha the Vairaba, in Vimalakalpa, Mother Vimala is clearly mentioned as the sovereign Goddess of Uddiyana whose permission is therefore besought to propitiate Jagannatha. The relevant verse is:

“Srustibhuta mahasakti Manipura nibasini
Vimala sa parasakti Uddiyana pureswari
Anujna dehi me Devi bahirjoge mamambike
Madhabah Vairaba sakshat pranatosmi Jagatpate”

The temple of Jagannatha is known as Sri Mandira or abode of Maha Laxmi. Kubjika tantra describes the land of Sri Mandira as Uddiyana: “Mahalaxmimaya pitha Uddiyanamatahparam”.

In Puri, a tantra pitha called Dindasari Biseri, named after a sabari Goddess is situated near the holy pond Choda. The verse that depicts both these centers of Tantric excellence in Uddiyana says:

Uddiyana mahapithe Chodakhya saranirmala,
Dindasari mahachakre Aghora parama sibam
Nakulisah guru prajnah sarve bharttarakah janah
Subhadrika parasakti Kampilyapurabasini”

Tantric canons are even captioned with the word Udra like Udramareswara Mahatantra that describes Sri Jagannatha as Uddisa or lord of Udradesa.

So, derived from Udra Desa and/or Uddiyana, Orissa has assumed the name Udisa or Udisya. There is no wrong in it. Rather this word depicts Orissa’s glorious past as the fountainhead of political philosophy of matriarchy that had bloomed into Tantra.

Orissa is known as Udisa or Udisya not only in Hindi and other Indian languages, but also in Oriya language.

Purnachandra Bhashakosha, the final referral source book on our language describes Udisya as an indigenous noun (Deshaja Vishesya) of Orissa origin. When this word is a Deshaja Oriya word, developed by indigenous people of Orissa, who is Navin Patnaik and / or who are others to describe it as offensive and to insist upon its obliteration?

Any body can become chief minister or a minister in a system like that of ours. Does it mean that Orissa’s indigenous name that carries with it its glorious heritage can be allowed to be tampered with?

Anybody who loves Orissa by understanding Orissa must cogitate this question.

Now let us come to the question of changing Orissa to Odisha. Had any in the Council of Ministers any knowledge on Oriya vocabulary, a resolution seeking such a change could never have been passed.

The richness of Oriya language lies in its matchlessly vast vocabulary. It is rightly noted in Linguistic Survey of India in Vol.IV that the

“Oriya language can boast of a rich vocabulary in which respect neither Bengali nor Hindi nor Telugu can vie with it. The richness of the vocabulary is the index by which the vastness of a vernacular can be gauged”.

So, Oriya is admittedly very vast amongst Indian vernaculars. Its archaic features have made it remarkably richer than neighboring languages like Bengali and Assamese. In Indian Historical Quarterly, Vol.XXIII, at p.337, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee has stressed on this uniqueness. He says,

“Of these three languages – Oriya, Bengali and Assamese – Oriya has preserved a great many archaic features in both grammar and pronunciation and it may be said without travesty of linguistic truth that Oriya is the eldest of the three sisters, when we consider the archaic character of the language”.

So, Oriya, the very vast vernacular of India is uniquely rich and remarkable because of the archaic features preserved in its grammar and pronunciation.

Navin Patnaik and his team of sophomoric ministers have resolved to do away with this archaic uniqueness of Oriya language so far preserved in its grammar and pronunciation by adopting a resolution to change Orissa to Odisha.

The middle alphabet that they want to change in the vernacular word through this resolution is a peculiar alphabet that has two different pronunciations in two different positions in a word. When it is pronounced as “d” if placed at the beginning it is pronounced “rd” phonetically or “r” colloquially when not positioned at the beginning of a word. This is the archaic feature preserved in Oriya grammar. Navin Patnaik is unable to understand this. In my mail to him and to his cabinet colleagues I had attached excerpts from Purnachandra Bhashakosha that depicts how English transliteration projects Oriya alphabets wherein both the positions of the alphabet in question has been dealt with phonetically.

I had further attached the inner page of this Bhashakosha to show how the phonetic “Ordia” has been accepted as colloquial “Oriya” by the reigning authority on words of our vernacular. But Navin Patnaik is also not able to understand this.

I don’t blame Navin entirely in this matter. He has inherited his father in politics. His father Biju had invested money in politics and created a brigade of paid factotums who were engaged in his image building to hoodwink the people for capturing power and once elected he was corrupting the system so much that the people of Orissa were rejecting him for at least the next two consecutive terms. When out of power he was engaging his own scheming mind and his pack of sycophants to contrive and spread canards against his successors in office and to make gullible people entrapped to innuendoes that his successors were worse than him. This stratagem was helping him recapture power after suffering rejection for at least two terms. That he was using Orissa as a medium of fulfillment of his personal game plan, sans any real loyalty to her is unambiguously proved by the very fact that he had never made his children develop affinity to the State as their motherland. That is why his children do not know Oriya. So, for Navin’s not knowing Oriya, more than him, his father Biju deserves censor.

However, after demise of Biju, when his factotums well trained by him to cheat Orissa, succeeded in their tricksterism and thereby Navin replaced a decadent congress ministry that had forfeited all political credibility, he should, knowing that he may rule over Orissa for a few years, have addressed himself to learn the Oriya language. But he has not.

Either he has no ability to learn Oriya or no aptitude to learn.

But when British had occupied the country, an officer of Madras Civil Service, Mr. T.J.Malthby had authored and published “A Handbook of Uriya Language” mainly for the non-Oriya officers serving in the Oriya speaking districts of Madras Presidency. This book gone out of print, government of Orissa purchased its copyright from the daughter of Malthby and republished it with updates in 1945 under the title “A Practical Handbook of the Oriya Language”.

With the help of this book, non-Oriya officers belonging to National Civil Services are fluently speaking Oriya within a few months. Navin could have taken help of this book to know the Oriya language. But like his father, he has no real loyalty to Orissa. He is more conspicuous in reducing the Oriyas to landless condition in order to handover their lands to non-Oriya trade and industry operators.

When after endangering Orissa’s lands and natural resources he started playing mischief with the archaic uniqueness of Oriya language, in a hope against hope to show him as to why Orissa should not be Odisha, as thereby the archaic heritage preserved in Oriya grammar and pronunciation would be affected, I had attached to my mail to him the portion of this practical handbook where the peculiarity of use of “d” and “r” has been mentioned. But he did not pay any heed.

Why this?

Perhaps, after pushing Orissa into the labyrinth of chaos, he is in very much want of ways to hoodwink the people. So, he wants to create a confusing aura of Oriya nationalism in the guise of spelling of the name of the State and to use it as a camouflage to get people off their guard during elections that are not far away.

But why some others specifically amongst e-mailers are raising the chorus for change of Orissa into Odisha?

Perhaps, they may change on perusal of this posting or on further research at their respective levels. But if one is unable to understand the intricacies of Oriya language, it would be better for him or her to appreciate that motherland Orissa has many names like Odra, Udra, Uddiyana, Oddiyana, Utkal, Kalinga, Kosala, Tosala, Orissa, Udisa, Udishya etc. Call in any of these name, only she will thereby be addressed. There is no necessity to change or drop any of them.

Lord Vishu has a thousand names. So also Devi Durga. So also many of major Deities. So also mother Earth. If we have the liberty to call any of them in any of their names, we should have no problem in retaining every name of our motherland including Orissa.

What is that to us if Bombay became Mumbai or Calcutta became Kolkata or Madras became Chennai? Why should we belittle ourselves to be affected by that? Our motherland has many names with glowing history of heritage behind all of them. We have a place of pride under the Sun as an ancient nation of matchlessly creative people who are second to none in uprightness and valour.

If we have any reason to feel dejected and want to be extricated from that, we are not to imitate name changers of Bombay or Calcutta or Madras, we are to reject the name changers of Orissa, who are harping on this to divert public attention from the damage they have done to this splendid soil.