Kalinga Literary Festival names ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award after Manoj Das

Paying tribute to the legendary Odia and English writer Manoj Das, who passed away on April 27 in Puducherry due to age-related ailments, the Kalinga Literary Festival has named its Mystic Kalinga Award and Mystic India Festival Lifetime Achievement Award after him.

The 87-year-old bilingual writer and a Padma Bhushan recipient was honoured with the Mystic Kalinga Literary Award – Indian and Global Languages in 2020. Last year, the writer had given a speech at the festival on ‘Divine Madness: Knowledge, Ecstasy, and Transformation’, the central theme of the festival. He had discussed aspects of mysticism and explained narrating tales and citing historical events that mysticism is not always linked to religion.

“The greatest storyteller of the era, Manoj Das, has departed for heavenly abode. Das made rich contributions to Odia and English literature,” said Kalinga Literary Festival Founder and Director, Rashmi Ranjan Parida. Parida also announced that the Mystic Kalinga Award and Mystic India Festival Lifetime Achievement Award will be named after Manoj Das.

Eminent English writer Graham Greene once said, “He will certainly take a place on my shelves beside the stories of Narayan. I imagine Odisha is far from Malgudi, but there is the same quality in his stories with perhaps an added mystery.”

His writings were mainly about human suffering in the villages of his state but he layered them with such fantasy and satire that it left an indelible impression on the mind of readers. His short stories, novels, essays and poems presented a perfect combination of social realism and understanding of human psyche.

Born in 1934 in a small village in Balasore district in Odisha, his first collection of poems was published when he was just 14. Even as he wrote in Odia, he started writing in English in 1968 and some of his well-known works are ‘A Tiger at Twilight’, ‘The Submerged Valley’, ‘The Bridge in the Moonlit Night’, ‘Cyclones’, ‘Mystery of the Missing Cap’, ‘Myths, Legends, Concepts and Literary Antiquities of India’.

Some of his Odia works include ‘Tandralokara Prahari’, ‘Aakashra Isara’ and ‘Amruta Phala’.

A Marxist turned into a mystic, Das made Puducherry his home for several decades as he moved to Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry in 1963 in search of his inner quest. Most of his writings were penned in Puducherry. His writings in Odia and English are noted for magnificent style and coinage of words and choice of subjects. He was also a recipient of Sri Aurobindo Puraskar, Sahitya Akademi Award (1972), Orissa Sahitya Akademi Award, Sarala Award, the Sahitya Bharati Award and BAPASI (Book-sellers And Publishers Association of South India) and Saraswati Samman in 2000. His cremation will take place later on Wednesday following all Covid-19 protocols.