Odissa is going to celebrate its 75th anniversary of its formation as a state. I also feel like reminding to all of us certain histrionics that has been beaconing light to the future.
Few days back there has been a good and healthy debate on the background of civil societies in Orissa on this forum. According to me the first major civil society was Utkala Sabha under the leadership of Bichitrananda Patnaik and king of Balasore Baikunthanath De who
attempted to save the 900 year old Oriya language from going into oblivion in 1875.
They were later joined by Barrister Madhusudan Das. Radhanath Rai, Fakira Mohan Senapati, Gangadhar Meher, Bamanda King Sudhal Deb and Mayurbhanj Maharaja Srirama Chandra Bhanjadeo who transformed the Utkala Sabha to Utkala Sammilani and had their historic gathering at Cuttack in 1903.
Any civil society has to have to an objective that is relevant to the common man. When people were still struggling to overcome the impact of the great famine, these were the leaders who came up with conviction not only to save the language but contributed their might to the development of the entire Odiya community. Yet these leaders were not narrow in their mindset. They represented true Indian sentiment and in 1907 Utkal Sammilani at Puri, Radhanath Rai came with his famous Sanskrit patriotic number --
Sarvensaam no janani Bharat, dharani kalpalateyam,
janani vatshala tanaya ganeistat soumyaka sarma vidheyam.
Himagiri Seemantita mastakamidaamambudhiparigata parswam
Asmada janmada mannada manisham srouta puratanamarsham”.
This stanza gives a contour to Bharata as a geographical entity with Himalays as a crown in the north and the rest of the land being surrounded by sea. I consider it as another national anthem and great work.
Utkala Sammilani was not only fighting for Odiya language, it had also taken up various other issues. For example, Utkala Sammilani had played a great role in putting pressure on the government for construction of Sambalpur-Cuttack Railway line at its Budharaja meeting in Sambalpur. It did talk of spread of education and road communication in the entire state. It created great leaders including Gopabandhu Dash for the future. But in the absence of media and
abysmal low literacy rate, how was the message spreading?
You will be amazed to know, in most villages there were Bhagabata Tungi (platform in a village to discuss about Atibadi Jagannatha Das’s Bhagabata and literature) where there also used to be discourses on literature and spirituality. People used to gather in the name of Bhagavata and it used to be a central point of meeting for people and sharing their wisdom.
Utkala Sammilani, which saved the Oriya language, had a great contribution in formation of Odisha as a separate state and therefore it performed the true role of a civil society. The main purpose of any civil society is to act as a change agent in the process of development. Today is the day of introspection. When I read A P J Abdul kalam’s concept of Providing Urban Facilities in Rural Areas (PURA), in Orissa there already existed a Bhagabat Tungi as the true knowledge centre for moral and spiritual uplift of people.
Understanding the value of such congregations, Dr Harekrishna Mahatab had conceptualized Vishuba Milan as platform for discussing and promoting literature.
Today Bhagavata Tungi is no more there. But with the same spirit, there could be village knowledge centers (Grama Gyana Kendra) which can truly act as a change agent. Now in most villages there are educated and retired people. These people should enjoy sharing knowledge with the newer generation and make them ready for a better tomorrow. How long can we keep on blaming the system, scolding the politicians and screaming for any thing and every thing going wrong?
We need to change our attitude, spread education, inculcate a sense of love for the soil in each individual and making the philosophy of collaboration and sharing of experience work. This can happen only when we will have village knowledge centre in all villages. Village knowledge centre means, a place of open learning for all and it should be equipped with a TV, a computer with net facility, a local daily newspaper in the vernacular language and a library for spreading information, awareness and entertainment which would ultimately lead to empowerment.