New Login   

Retrieving an Iconic Text

Sumanyu Satpathy

By Fakir Mohan Senapati Translated by Ravi Sankar Mishra
Penguin India, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 222, Rs. 250.00


By far the best-known novel by the most loved Oriya writer, Fakir Mohan Senapati (1843-1918), Chha Mana Atha Guntha (Six Acres and a Third) has lost none of its century-old popularity in Orissa. It first made its serialized appearance in the magazine Utkal Sahitya between 1897 and 1899, and was published in book form in 1902. Since then it has never been out of print. Recognized as the first novel of social realism in Oriya, it has been rendered into four translations in English, apart from those in several other Indian languages, one dramatized version (entitled Champa by Basanta Kumar Satpathy), and a film version. It has been the subject of endless critical debates, seminars, and symposia, and has always been part of school and university curricula. However, there seems to be a discrepancy between its unassailable status in Orissa and its neglect at the hands of scholars outside, especially by Indian comparatists, except for a couple of references by S.K. Das in his Sahitya Akademi volumes, stray lectures by the redoubtable Namwar Singh, as also an important essay by Amiya Dev. Another measure of its neglect is that even a thoroughgoing scholar of Das’s calibre has called Chha Mana Fakir Mohan’s second novel, and Lachhama the first.   In sharp contrast, novels like Bankimchandra Chatterjee’s Anandmath and Premchand’s Godaan, are household names, and are widely discussed, if only because of the high standard of research and close reading carried out by social scientists like Partha Chatterjee, Sudipta Kaviraj, Gyanendra Pandey and Vasudha Dalmia. Shifts in historiography have driven historians to look into non-objective discourses, and, foraying into interdisciplinarity, they have used these texts for imaginative reconstructions. One reason could be the unavailability of standard/well-edited translations of Chha Mana. In this sense, the simultaneous, high profile and hyped publication of the novel in India and the US augurs well for Fakir Mohan enthusiasts.   Chha Mana Atha Guntha is the story of how a cunning and mean zamindar, Ramachandra Mangaraj (Saanta) hoodwinks an innocent weaver couple of their precious plot of land (measuring six acres and thirty-two decimals, to be exact), and eventually meets his karma. Mangaraj, his mistress-maid, Champa, and her accomplice and eventual murderer, Gobinda representing the cunning and unscrupulous set, Mangaraj’s pious but silent, nameless wife, simply called Saantani, the weaver couple, Bhagia, and Saria representing the innocent victims constitute the Manichaean cast of characters, ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.