October 9, 1877 marked the birth of a remarkable leader in the soil of Odisha. Utkalmani Pandit Gopabandhu Das lead his life based on the philosophy, “Man lives in deeds and not in years.” He was committed in helping afflicted people during any sort of natural disasters and was even readily enthusiastic to serve the ones in poverty, illiteracy or other social evils. It was due to all these dedicated assistance that he got honored with the title of ‘Utkalmani’ (Gem of Odisha). Although he was qualified enough to lead a life of luxury, but instead he chose to serve humanity in every way possible!
Jotted down are few instances that showcase Gopabandhu Das’s contribution towards making Odisha a better place:
Contribution towards literature
His eminence in writing amazing poems & novels is well denoted by the fact that he penned many moving pieces which has left behind an ever lasting message for the young and old. Especially the ones that are highly celebrated are those which he wrote during the time of freedom struggle, social reforms and some symbolizing our state’s heritage. Some of his noteworthy poetry includes Bandi Ra Atma Katha, Dharmapada, Ma Ra Kabita. However the most remembered lines which can arouse people even till this day are:
“Misu mora deha ae desha matire, desabasi chali jaantu pethire
desara swarajya pathe jete gada, misu tahin padi mora mansa hada”
His struggle for freedom
His amazing zeal for the nation even stunned Mahatma Gandhi at one point, who considered Das as one of the rare freedom fighters. Gopabandhu’s political exposure began when he joined Utkal Samilani in 1903. He later took part in Swadeshi Movement, 1905 which helped him to promote the Congress Movement in Odisha. It was because of his active participation in many movements that he eventually became the first President of Congress in Odisha in 1921. One may also note that it was because of Gopabandhu Das that the Non Cooperation Movement took place in Odisha!
Contribution towards Education
Gopabandhu Das strongly believed that education of both men and women impacts the betterment of society. He personally took up women’s education very strongly and attacked social traditions that prevented women to pursue studies. All of this resulted him in establishing the famous Satyavadi Vana Vidyalaya in 1909. Further due to its huge success, the school got converted to a National school in 1921, for which Das received immense acclamation. That apart, he also initiated various campaigns, including Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (1912) to awaken people of India towards the benefit of education.
The upliftment of Journalism
Besides education, Das was even influential in making Odia (then Oriya) journalism reach common people. Odisha (then Orissa) witnessed a steady & marked progress in journalism through Das’s penchant towards this field. After having written many pamphlets and edited magazines in his young days, Gopabandhu published his own monthly magazine named Satyabadi in the year 1914. Besides, he also started a weekly newspaper, The Samaj, which is today a leading newspaper in the state!
His bonding with Mahatma Gandhi
Not just his simple living inspired commoners, but Das through his expertise also became a prime aid to Gandhiji. It was during Non Cooperation Movement that Gopabandhu bonded with Mahatma Gandhi and thereafter they shared a great time in productively discussing about the country’s freedom. It was his invitation that made Gandhi visit Odisha in 1921. Das’s devoted activities occupied a significant place in the life of Gandhi. Seeing the simplicity and zeal of Das, Gandhiji used to remark that if our country had a hundred people like Gopabandhu, we could get Swaraj within one year!