Sarala-dasa (Sidheswar Panda) of the 14th century was the first great poet of Oriya, who wrote the ‘Chandi Purana’ and the ‘Vilanka Ramayana’. ‘Rama-bibha’, written by Arjuna-dasa, is the first long poem in Oriya language. The Oriya literature was distinctly religious in nature up to 1500 A.D. The next era, more commonly called the Jagannatha Dasa Period, stretches till the 1700 A.D. and was markedly influenced by the Vaishnava movement, typified by the compositions of Sri Chaitanya. The five friends or ‘Pancha Sakha’ – Balarama Das, Jaganath Das and Ananta Das, Yesowanta Das and Achutananda Das – were the main composers of this period, who mainly emphasised on translation and adaptation of Sanskrit texts.
Ramachandra Pattanayaka’s ‘Haravali’ set the trend for the emergence of a new form of novel in verse during the beginning of the 17th century. In contrast, poets like Madhusudana, Bhima, Dhivara, Sadasiva and Sisu Isvara-dasa composed ‘Kavyas’ or long poems based on themes from the ‘Puranas’. During 1700-1850, the language became more complex and the usage of words more tricky. The leaders of the Vaishnava poetry were Upendra Bhanja Das, Baladeva Rath, Devi Krishna Das, Bhakta Charan Das, Abhimanyu, Samanta Sinhar, Bhima-Bhoi, Arakshita Dasa and Gopal Krushna. ‘Samar Tarang’ by Brij Natha Badjena (1730-1800), is the only historical poem in the Oriya literature.
Rai Bahadur Radhanatha Ray (1849-1908), Madhusudana Rao (1853-1912) and Phakiramohana Senapati (1843-1918) were three great poets who brought in a modern outlook and spirit into Oriya literature in the middle of the 19th century. Modern Oriya poets include Sachi Kanta Rauta Ray, Godavarisa Mahapatra, Dr Mayadhara Manasimha, Nityananda Mahapatra, Prabhasa Chandra Satpati, Kalindi Charan Panigrahi, Mayadhar Mansinha, Sitakant Mohapatra and Gopinath Mohanty.
The modern Oriya prose was born during the British period. Fakir Mohan Senapathi (1843-1918) was a prolific poet and novelist, who translated the ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ into Oriya. His novel ‘Chaman Atha Gunta’ deals with the exploitation of village folks by ‘zamindars’. Nanda-Kisora Bala, Gopala Chandra Praharaja, Gangadhara Mehera, Chintamani Mahanti, Niladri Dasa and Gopabandhu Dasa were notable Oriya writers of the 20th century. The most notable Oriya novelists were Umesa Sarakara, Divyasimha Panigrahi, Gopala Praharaja and Kalindi Charana Panigrahi.