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Attempts on to revive Odia Wikipedia

Renuka Phadnis

MANGALORE: Some people who edit the Odia Wikipedia say that getting a Wikipedia in the language is an important tool to keep the language alive. At present, an attempt is on to revive Odia Wikipedia (or.wikipedia.org), one of the earliest Indian language Wikipedias to be created.

Interestingly, the guidance to stoke the Odia Wikipedia is led by Bangalorean Shiju Alex, who edits the Malayalam Wikipedia, while another Bangalorean, Subhashish Panigrahi, translates and creates templates for the language.

While Mr. Panigrahi has spoken about the Odia Wikipedia to 6,000 students across six schools in Bhubaneswar, Mr. Alex, who is passionate about growing Indian language Wikipedia and writes for the Malayalam Wikipedia, noticed the low content in Odia Wikipedia. He scouted for Odia editors in Bangalore and finding no response initially, he took the initiative to Orissa. On April 3, he helped organise the second Odia Wikipedia Academy in Bhubaneswar, to bring an awareness of the Odia Wikipedia among people.

The Odia Wikipedia was one of the first few Indian language Wikipedias to be created. Although started in 2002, along with Wikipedias in Assamese, Punjabi, Nepali, Oriya and Malayalam, prior even to the Hindi Wikipedia in 2003 July, the Odia Wikipedia never grew. It has, to date, only 700 articles.

“We have to save Odiya. We have to take the movement online and Odiya Wikipedia is a vital part of it,” says Sambidhan Mohanty, a Cuttack-based businessman from a family of Odiya writers who studied in Bangalore.

Mr. Mohanty says he appreciates Shiju and Subhashish as they got Odia speakers involved in Odia. “We came together because of them,” he says.

Mr. Mohanty says the main aim is to get people attracted to Odia Wikipedia, to get more people to speak the language and write in it. Next is to get the State Government's attention so that Odiya Wikipedia can be made part of school curricula.

A big challenge he sees is the number of Odia dialects. Although the language has a script, it has six dialects, including Sambalpuri (or Kosali), Kalahandia and Berhampuri. So even within a small group of editors, there is a difference of opinion of how a word should be written (for example, “dharm” or “dharma”).

Mr. Alex says the reasons for the low interest in Odia Wikipedia might be many including the number of people who speak the language, the number of people with access to a computer, availability of required fonts and browsers.

A major challenge was the inability, till now, to type in Odiya within Wikipedia, and the large dependence upon an external tool to add content. However, now a typing solution has been developed.

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