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Gopabandhu Das Bust

Utkala Mani Gopabandhu : A Friend in Need

When you have very little food to satisfy your hunger after a hard work, and someone approaches you asking for some food, would you give him your’s ? Certainly not!  Very less about one in a thousand people, think of others before themselves. One such great soul was born on the soil of Odisha, who took much pleasure when he could do anything for the needy, for the poor. He is popularly known as Utkal Mani Gopabandhu Das. He was in line the creator of our state,  the Modern Utkal, an educationer, a nationalist, the pioneer of truth spotting Odia daily Samaj and the founder of Satyabadi education system, the saviour of the poor. 

No one else, we are talking of the the jewel of Odisha, Utkala Mani Gopabandhu Das, who has written his name in the history of Odisha forever with his sacrified life dedicated to the development of the state and serving the mother land with great pleasure and devotion. 

Early Life

Gopabandhu Das was born in Suando Village of Puri district when it was a province of British India. He was born on 9 October 1877  to Daitari Das and Swarnamayee Devi.

His mother Swarnamayee Devi, the third wife of his father, left him soon after his birth and he was brought up by his paternal aunt. His childhood was full of struggles and adversities. Fighting against all the odds completed his matriculation in 1899 from Puri zilla school.

Gopabandhu married Apti at the age of 12 only. He had also joined Puri Seva Samiti, a voluntarily working NGO in the district which served the needy people. It also cremated the dead bodies whose relatives were not known. 

Later he graduated in Arts from Ravenshaw College. He also completed his Law Degree in 1906 but found himself less interested in the matter and did not choose the path. 

Utkalamani Pandit Gopabandhu Das bust in Odisha State Museum
Utkalamani Pandit Gopabandhu Das bust in Odisha State Museum (courtesy Wikipedia)

While studying at Ravenshaw College,  Gopabandhu Das started a discussion group, called Kartavya Bodhini Samiti (Duty Awakening Society), in which he and his friends focused on the solutions of social, economic and political problems.

While he was at Ravenshaw he was informed that his son was critically ill and he was about to die. But Gopabandhu was then busy in reaching the flood affected people and serving them. So he denied to visit his son,  prioritising the flood affected people first he said,  “There are so many to look after my son. What more can I do? But there are so many people crying for help in the affected areas and it is my duty to go there. Lord Jagannath is there to take care of the boy”. Really,  it is hard to find such a kind hearted person in this world of selfishness. 

First Job

Gopabandhu was appointed as a teacher in a school at Nilagiri in Balasore district of Orissa. With his earned degree of Law, he then chose to become a lawyer, variously described as being based in Puri and in Cuttack. He was appointed by Madhusudan Das as the State Pleader for the princely state of Mayurbhanj in 1909. 

Satyabadi Bana Vidyalaya Establishment

As soon as he realized the plight and grief of Utkal people in every aspects of their lives, he tied his waste in order to  solve the myriad problems from the roots. He found his state people uneducated and the base problem lied there. So, with a great motto of educating the people in a righteous and truthful way, he established a School at Satyabadi, in Puri sistrict on 12th August, 1909. This institution was named as Satyabadi System of education or Vana Vidyalya and still serves as a best Odia medium school today. 

Gopabandhu Das stamp 1968

Satyabadi Bana Bidyalaya is a unique and outstanding contribution of Gopabandhu Das in the realm of educational thought and practice. According to Gopabandhu, 

“The Satyabadi School is not a local, communal or sectarian institution in respect of its ideals, form and management, its basic idea is to impart liberal education to the community at large. This is the beginning of a comprehensive educational drive for which we have been preparing for a long time. Our idea is to build up a series of institutions of this type and it is only one of the series. In course of time schools of this type will raise their heads all over the province. In these institutions there will be a union of wealth, education and character and to implement this scheme the Universal Education League has been established.”

Gopabandhu’s Quote on Education

Gopabandhu emphasizes on an education system which is free from any type of commercial and influential motive. He states “By education, I do not mean the teaching in school; education is what was imparted in the ancient Indian institutions and centers of religion throughout the province.”

In simpler words, he wanted the pupils to be self relaible, employed worth manners, knowledge of religion and societal reforms. 

Gopabandhu As A Social Worker

“A life lived for others is worth living”, the quote with in itself contains a great message and Gopabandhu has written his name in the Golden letters of Odisha history by doing so. 

He dedicated whole of his life for the needy and poor. He walked door to door to serve the poor, destitute and deserved during natural calamities like flood, famine and fire. 

Satyabadi Bana Bidyalaya
Satyabadi Bana Bidyalaya (courtesy Wikipedia)

Being a social worker, he always minded upon his deeds, never minded on speeches. To feed a hunger is more important than giving moral speeches to him. Gopabandhu led the independence struggle and had to stay behind the bars for several times. 

Gopabandhu’s Contribution to Utkal

Utkal, our motherland Odisha, was then in the hands of the British Government. Some of the brave Odia sons, who came forward to save the identity and dignity of Utkal were Madhusudan Das, Fakir Mohan Senapati and Gopabandhu Das. 

Gopabandhu was the main face behind Utkal Sammelan, which was established on April 1 -1936. It is because of the deadliest efforts of Gopabandhu Das as he was an educationist and tried hard to emerge Odisha out as a separate state. 

Late Life and Death

The Lok Sevak Mandal offered Gopabandhu Das the post of All India Vice President and he joined so in April 1928. 

On 17 June 1928, while attendimg a society meeting in Lahore, he suddenly became ill and took his last breath. He left he world and went on to the heaven. 

Utkala Mani Gopabandhu Das, in true sense, is no less than a pearl for Odisha. He was a man who cared for all. He never thought of his own comfort, he fed the hungry when himself slept empty stomach. His major steps to eradicate untouchability, advocacy of widow remarriage, campaign for literacy, new model of education, stress on both rights and duties, emphasis on women education, particularly vocational training and above all a deep commitment and compassion for poor and destitutes will make him  immortalized forever. As long as the state Odisha remains in the continent, Gopabandhu Das will be remembered. 

Bande Utkal Janani… 

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