Champu or Champu-Kavya (ଚମ୍ପୂ) is a genre in Indian Literature originated from Sanskrit. It consists of a mixture of prose (Gadya-Kavya ଗଦ୍ୟକାବ୍ୟ) and poetry passages (Padya-Kavya ପଦ୍ୟକାବ୍ୟ) with verses interspersed among prose sections.

In simple words, a typical and unusual form of words, which is partly prosaic and partly poetic is known as Champu. In the Odia Champu composition, a song is written for every letter of the alphabet, and every stanza in the song starts with the same letter of the alphabet. Thus, tremendous literary expertise is required for every single composition. The play with the alphabet does not take away the lyrical charm from the song and the rhythm of verse. The wordplay and the delicate lyrical sense give rise to unusual sound effects of the champu (such as Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, etc.) when sung or recited.

There are many writings of the champu genre in Sanskrit. The Sanskrit champu composed by King Bhoja is well known. Many poets, in the medieval period till this date, were and still are composing champus of numerous titles.

Odia literature is also rich with champu compositions.

However, amidst them all, Kabisurjya Baladeba Ratha is the unchallenged master of this genre. His epithet ‘Kabisurjya’, meaning ‘Sun Among Poets’ establishes his literary skill. So famous is his Kishorachandrananda champu that the word champu itself means to a layman in Odisha his work. Kishora-chandrananda Champu is an anthology consisting of individual champus from Ka to Khya- the 34 consonants of the Odia Alphabet, that is, there is one song for each of the 34 consonants in the Oriya alphabet. As mentioned before, a champu has part-prose and part-poetry. In the Kisora-chandrananda Champu, the prose part is in Sanskrit, while the poetry is in Odia. Each Line of the poetry starts with the same letter. For example, in the Bha Champu (‘ଭ’ ଚମ୍ପୂ )-

ଙ୍ଗୀ ଚାହାଁ, ଭୂରୁନୀଳଭୁଜଙ୍ଗୀ-ଭ୍ରମର ଜୀବସଙ୍ଗୀ ॥ ପଦ॥
ଭାଗ୍ୟ ଏ ଜନ ଆଖି, ଜନନରଟି ସଖି ଜାଣ ରେ,
ରମି ନ ଯା ତୁ ମନ୍ମଥ ବାଣରେ, ଭୁଜପାଶିକୁ ଛନ୍ଦି ମୋ ଗଳେ…………..

Did you note the repeated use of the letter ‘Bha’ at the beginning of each line ?

The main theme of the songs is the love of Radha and Krishna. The songs are composed as dialogues, as conversations between the characters, that is, one character speaks through a song, the other one responds through another song. These are composed strictly on traditional ragas and talas of Odissi Classical music. Champu verses are used for solo singing and for rendering Odissi abhinaya. The Odissi dancer depicts the emotion – bhava, which brings out the various moods of the nayaka (hero) and nayika (heroine).

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