Padma Bhushan Pratibha Ray: Illuminating Odia Literature with Empowerment and Social Justice


Padma Bhushan Pratibha Ray, a distinguished and revered figure in the literary world, stands as a beacon of inspiration and enlightenment in Odia literature. Hailing from the vibrant state of Odisha, India, her indomitable spirit and unyielding dedication to the written word have immensely enriched modern Odia literature. Throughout her prolific career, Dr Pratibha Ray has crafted a diverse repertoire of captivating short stories and compelling novels, delving into the intricacies of urban life while shedding a poignant light on the lives of marginalized tribal communities. Interview Times delved into a delightful conversation, navigating the labyrinth of her literary journey.


Q: The aroma of books fills this room! What was your first encounter with the world of literature?

A: My tryst with literature began at a young age. As a little girl, I would often lose myself in the lush verses of Tagore and the mesmerizing stories of folklore. My father, a Gandhian at heart, encouraged me to read and learn. Those early literary encounters nurtured the seeds of storytelling within me.


Ex-President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, presents Padma Bhushan to Dr Pratibha Ray for Literature and Education.


Q: You’ve often explored themes of empowerment and social justice in your works. What inspired you to embark on this path?

A: Injustice has always troubled my soul. My father’s teachings instilled in me a sense of compassion and empathy. When I witnessed the struggles of the oppressed, I knew my pen could be a potent weapon against injustice. I wanted my words to echo the cries of the marginalized and spark change in society.


Q: And spark change, they did! Your novel “Yagnaseni” received widespread acclaim. Can you share your thoughts on that experience?

A: “Yagnaseni,” also known as “Draupadi,” was a journey of rediscovering the iconic character from the Mahabharata. I wanted to showcase Draupadi’s strength and resilience, and the book resonated with readers beyond my expectations. It was an overwhelming experience, and the appreciation I received reinforced my belief in the power of literature to bridge cultures and generations.


Q: Your works delve into the lives of tribal communities. How did you manage to explore these diverse cultures so vividly?

A: My passion for understanding different cultures led me to travel extensively through Odisha’s tribal regions. I immersed myself in their lives, customs, and struggles. Their stories fascinated me, and I felt a sense of responsibility to give voice to their experiences through my writings. These experiences enriched me as a person and as a writer.


Q: Your writing journey has been a seamless blend of family, work, and literature. How did you manage to strike this balance?

A: Balancing multiple roles was indeed challenging, but I believe in the resilience of women. My family, especially my husband and children, supported and encouraged me every step of the way. They understood my passion for writing and contributed to my journey with love and understanding.


Q: Do you believe the status of women in society has evolved since you began your literary journey?

A: Progress has undoubtedly been made, but there is still much to accomplish. Women today have more opportunities and platforms to voice their thoughts, but gender bias and inequality persist. We need to continue working towards a society where women are empowered, respected, and free from discrimination.

An internationally acclaimed Indian writer, Dr Pratibha Ray has immensely enriched the modern Odia literature by her pioneering short stories and novels, travelogues and essays.


Q: Your writing has been deeply rooted in the essence of Odisha. How important is it for writers to stay connected to their cultural roots?

A: A writer’s roots are the foundation of their creativity. Our culture, traditions, and language shape our perceptions and expressions. Writers have a unique responsibility to preserve and promote their cultural heritage through their work. Literature becomes a bridge between the past and the future, connecting readers to their roots.


Q: As a seasoned author, what advice would you give to young and aspiring writers?

A: Passion is the key! Writing should flow from the heart. Believe in your voice and keep honing your skills. Read extensively, explore diverse genres, and observe the world around you. There’s a story in every corner of life, waiting to be told. Embrace the power of your words to inspire and instigate change.


As we bid adieu to the literary doyenne, we carried with us a treasure trove of wisdom and inspiration. Dr Pratibha Ray’s words, like sparkling jewels, illuminated the path for aspiring writers to embark on their literary odyssey. Her unwavering dedication to social justice and empowerment through literature left us pondering the profound impact a single pen can have on society.


Padma Bhushan Pratibha Ray, the quintessential storyteller, continues to illuminate Odia literature with her powerful narratives. Her words, like constellations, will guide generations of readers through the vast cosmos of human emotions, cultures, and social change. The legacy of this literary maven will forever shine brightly in the hearts of those who seek solace and inspiration in the written word.




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