The Poet Statesman

Gopabandhu Das (1877-1928) who is one of the founders of the modern Orissa state, is also remembered for his patriotic lyrical poems and lucid, thought provoking prose writings.

After graduation, he obtained his Law degree and joined the Bar. But soon he left his legal profession and devoted himself completely to the service of the people of Orissa. Along with his illustrious friends, Nilakantha Das, Godavarish Mishra, Acharya Harihar Das and Krupasindhu Misra, he started a school at Satyabadi (Presently - Sakhigopal) near Puri, which became the most important center of cultural activities of Orissa for decades. He championed the cause of the formation of the Orissa state for the Oriya speaking people, started the Satyabadi (a literary monthly) and the Samaja (a weekly which later became the most widely circulated daily newspaper of Orissa) and joined the Freedom Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Gopabandhu Das was a great orator and his speeches made at the Bihar-Orissa legislature of which he was a member, shows his excellent style of oratory as well as clarity of thought and concern for the poor. One may point at him as the father of modern Oriya journalism. His essays on education easily prove that he was an educationist of great insight and understanding.

His ambition from childhood was to be a poet. Absorbed in social activities he had little time for literary endeavours, yet while imprisoned in the Hazaribagh Jail (1922-1924) for participating in the Indian Freedom Movement, he wrote Bandira Atmakatha (The soliloquy of a Prisoner) and Dharmapada. Bandira Atmakatha is the expression of his deep love for the people of Orissa and Dharmapada is the story of the twelve-year-old artisan boy who, after completing the Konark temple, drowned himself in the sea to save the lives and prestige of the twelve hundred artisans of Orissa. Though not a poetic genius, his sincerity of feelings and simple diction touches the heart of the reader. Educated Oriyas are often found quoting a line or two from his verses such as Mishu Mora Deha E Desha Matire (Let this body of mine merge with the soil of this country), Pachha Ghuncha Nahin Birara Jatake (The valiant never retreats), or Raha Raha Kshyane Vaspiya Sakata, Dekhibi Chilika Charu Chitrapata (A poem dedicated to the beauty of Chilika Lake).

Gopabandhu Das was born in Swando village of Puri district in Orissa. He is often refered to as the Father of Modern Orissa. He was conferred the honorary title of Utkalamani (The jewel of Utkal/Orissa) by the people of Orissa.

Source :Journal of the Orissa Society of the Americas, Souvenir Issue 1996. Author: Ganeswar Mishra
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