President Murmu confers Padma Shri to Binod Kumar Pasayat, Guru Gopinath Swain from Odisha

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New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: President Droupadi Murmu conferred Padma Shri to Binod Kumar Pasayat and Guru Gopinath Swain in the field of Art from Odisha during the Civil Investiture Ceremony in New Delhi today.

Shri Binod Kumar Pasayat is one of the most eminent poet and author from Odisha. His contribution to Sambalpuri / Koshli literature is priceless. He is popularly known for his simplicity in his poems and other writings. He is widely recognized in the vast region of Western Odisha for his Sambalpuri folk songs.

Born on 3rd December 1935, Pasayat is a barber by profession. When he was ten years old, he was introduced to the world of drama. He took part as a child artist in plays performed by the auspicious Ramji Drama Party which was flourishing with the patronage of the royal family of Bolangir. After that, he started his journey in the literature of Sambalpuri/ Koshli.

Pasayat came to Sambalpur in the year 1953 and opened a barber shop in Sambalpur. This was the turning point of his life because he used this shop not only for his earnings but also to write some poems and songs etc.

Pasayat is the recipient of numerous awards and honours. He is honoured with three most popular state-level honours, Sarala Puraskar in 2008, Odisha Sahitya Academy Puraskar in 2010 and Sarada Prasanna Samman by Odisha Sangit Natak Academy in 2019. He has received many district and local level honours also. Despite having earned such high fame and recognition, he has never left working as a barber which is the customary trade of his forefathers.

Guru Gopinath Swain is a teacher and performer of traditional Krishna Leela for the last nine decades. Born on 15th February 1918, Swain began learning Krishna Leela from the young age of 10 years from his father’s elder brother.

He then began singing the songs and playing the role of Krishna, learning them according to the early 20th-century practice with elaborate raga alapa (elaboration) and binyasa (improvisation) from Guru Choudhury Behera. He specialises in the Krishna Leela authored by 18th-century saint Babaji Dukhisyama Dasa in the Odia language and based on Odissi music. He has widely performed and trained hundreds of students in this form through several traditional Akhada schools. He is known for his collection of rare classical ragas, improvisation techniques and his uncompromising dedication towards maintaining the complex archaic methods of presentation. Over time he played many other roles, finally becoming the main singer-director and Guru.

In his career as a Guru, Swain observed rare old ragas and songs of the tradition gradually fading away. This realisation led him to devote himself to collecting and learning endangered parts of the repertoire from the seniormost gurus of the form alive in the 1940s-50s. He gradually mastered the entire repertoire. He continues to sing and teach rare ancient Odissi ragas such as Dakhinasri, Chinta Desakliya, Todi Bhatiari, Bhatiari, Kumbha Kamodi, Punnaga, Kedara Kamodi among others. His exceptional voice culture sadhana has allowed him to maintain a powerful voice that can move across octaves effortlessly even at the ripe age of 106. As a researcher, he has collected detailed information about the origin and history of the Dukhisyama Krishna Leela from early manuscripts, which he preserves in his collection. He has also recorded several hours of Krishna Leela for All India Radio Berhampur and been interviewed by Doordarshan Kendra, Bhubaneswar, propagating information about this rare form.

Swain has set up and taught in traditional akhadas (village schools for troupes) in a huge number of villages in Odisha and beyond. Many of his disciples are established Gurus in their own right who carry forward this rare art form.

Swain is the recipient of several awards, among them the prestigious Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 2023. For his great contribution and mastery over Krishna Leela, Shri Swain has received Swama Kundala and Khadu (Golden Earrings and Bangles) from royal patrons.

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