Friday Review

The lighthouse for Odiya culture

Dinanath Pathy.  

True to his name Dinanath (the Sun), he was the most prominent and versatile personality shinning in the sky of Odisha’s contemporary culture. And he was a lighthouse for the art and artists of the State as well. He was Dinanath Pathy who passed away in his home city of Bhubaneswar on August 29 at the age of 74.

Humble moorings

He was a rare personality in the field of culture who was the classic combination of an artist, writer, editor, scholar and art historian- critic-curator-promoter-archivist-administrator. With an enviable inter-disciplinary study of Odisha’s visual art, performing arts, literature, history and heritage, Pathy’s voice was of a commander and of a father figure on Odisha’s cultural affairs. From the humble beginning of a nondescript village boy engaged in painting screens for the village theatre troupe in pre-independent India, he rose to the position of an internationally known art personality who crowned the coveted positions at state and national art academies apart from heading or collaborating with great art institutions in India and abroad.

Pathy was born into an artistically-inclined family in Digapahandi village of southern Odisha’s Ganjam region that is known for a wide variety of art traditions. While his father composed poems, his older brother - whom he revered as his first guru – had set up a small institute namely Shilpa Kala Mandir where Pathy learnt how to paint screens for the village theatre troupe. Like a duck takes to water, his natural choice was joining the then Odisha’s only art school at Khallikote in his district where his vision of art education was enriched by his teachers like Ajit Keshari Ray , Bipra Charan Mohanty and Ananta Charan Panda who are the legends of Odishan art today. Later on he studied in Bhubaneswar, Tagore’s Shantiniketran and Zurich.


He was the recipient of two Ph.Ds and one honorary D.Litt. His doctoral research was on ‘History of Orissan Painting’ and ‘Art and Regional Traditions’ which brought to light the least exposed art traditions of Odisha. He was also the recipient of Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship, Japan Foundation Fellowship, Nehru Trust Victoria and Albert Museum London Research Fellowship and British Council London Visiting Fellowship besides the Senior National Fellowship from the Ministry of Culture of Government of India.

Some of his prestigious assignments included founder-principal of the well-known B.K.College of Art and Craft in Bhubaneswar; Curator of Art and Craft at Odisha State Museum; Director of Alice Boner Institute, Varanasi, collaborator for Museum Rietberg, Zurich, Switzerland; Secretary of National Lalit Kala Akademi and President of Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi. His art works have got a place of pride in exhibitions and collections in Switzerland, London; Japan; China and Malayasia besides in a number of art events in India like The National Gallery of Modern Art, Parliament House, Lalit Kala Akademi, British Council Gallery, India International Centre, New Delhi, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai; Union Public Service Commission and Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi.

As a prolific writer, he has penned and published around 60 books in Odia and English that cover poetry, short stories, novels, travelogues, art history-research-criticism, performing arts besides his most popular four-volume autobiography. He was the pioneer of the genre of art-fiction in Odia language. Angarag, the journal on visual and performing arts in English that he brought out speak volumes of his vision and capacity as an editor.

‘Think globally, act locally’ was his often repeated reminders for his friends and followers. And he lived the statement. Despite being a globally connected and well-established cultural personality, he preferred to be based in Bhubaneswar while working for extended years in Switzerland, Varanasi, Kuala Lumpur or New Delhi. Despite the great demand for his books in English – his Rethinking Odissi is selling like hot cakes across the world – he loved to write and publish a number of books in his mother-tongue of Odia language despite being aware of the lukewarm response from his own people! And till the end, he acted as a missionary for the propagation of the culture of Ganjam, the region where he was born.

Fond memory

As the chairperson of recently founded Ila Panda Centre of Art, he had convened the first ever two-day Odisha Art Conclave in Bhubaneswar inviting and involving artists, writers, scholars, researchers, art connoisseurs, promoters, intellectuals and even Odisha’s Chief Minister. And he passed away just a day before it happened.

The Conclave happened, as he had planned. Jnanpith awardee poet Sitakant Mohapatra came to address the inaugural session. He couldn’t speak with tears in his eyes and a chocked voice and left halfway – for his friend. Many in the hall were in tears.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, an artist and writer himself, stated, “A vacuum was created in the field of culture”. All of them aptly felt the void – the darkness in absence of the Sun. That was Dinanath.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 2:14:54 AM |

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