By Surendra Mohanty
Nila Saila (The Blue Mountain) is contextualized in a crucial period of Odisha’s history—the troubled era of the eighteenth century. The title has been taken from the opening line of an impassioned janana (prayer) by Salbeg, a sixteenth-century Muslim poet who, at the insistence of his Brahmin mother, touched Lord Jagannath and was miraculously cured of a disease. The events of the novel take place between the years 1727 and 1736 and recounts the tragic struggle of Rama Chandra Dev II, the king of Khurda, who is revered by the people of Odisha as the representative of Jagannath – the presiding deity of the Odia race – converts himself into Islam and marries the daughter of the Muslim ruler of Cuttack, Rizia Bibi alias Jaba. But when Taki Khan, the then-Naib Nazim of Cuttack and Rama Chandra Dev’s own brother-in-law, tries to invade Khurda and destroy the idol of Lord Jagannath, Rama Chandra Dev fights bravely to protect the idol which symbolizes Odia identity and sentiment. With suitable flashbacks, observations, symbolism and interspersed with the local dialect, Mohanty unravels the past. This novel, which is an embodiment of secularism, amity and brotherhood, gives a truthful account of contemporary Odisha, but it is more than history. It is an intense portrayal of the religious and cultural tradition of Odisha which is still an integral part of Odia racial consciousness. It received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969.
About the Author
Surendra Mohanty (21 June 1922- 21 December 1990) was a Sahitya Akademi Award-winning Odia author. He has written short stories, novels, travelogues, criticism and biographies. He wrote around 50 books belonging to different genres. Apart from being a litterateur, he was also a politician and a member of parliament in 1957.