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Gopabandhu Das Biography, Education, Religion, Death

Gopabandhu Das, widely known as Utkalamani, was a multifaceted personality who left an indelible mark on the social, political, literary, and educational landscape of Odisha, then British India. Born on October 9, 1877, in Suando village near Puri, Odisha, he emerged as a social worker, reformer, political activist, journalist, poet, and essayist during a time of immense societal transformation.

Gopabandhu Das Biography

Gopabandhu Das was born into a modest family. His mother, Swarnamayee Devi, and father, Daitari Das, played significant roles in shaping his early life. Despite marrying at the tender age of twelve, Das continued his education, a testament to his determination and thirst for knowledge. His initial schooling took place in the village, where he displayed an early interest in education.

Gopabandhu Das Education

In 1893, when Gopabandhu Das was still a student at Puri Zilla School, a significant event occurred that would set the course for his life’s work. A cholera outbreak struck the region, exposing the inadequacies of the authorities in responding to the crisis. In response to this dire situation, Das founded a voluntary organization called Puri Sava Samiti. This group of young individuals, led by Das, tirelessly assisted the afflicted and carried out the cremation of the deceased, showcasing his commitment to public service from a young age.

Tragedy struck when Gopabandhu Das lost both his parents, leaving him orphaned. Despite these personal hardships, he continued his educational journey, enrolling at Ravenshaw College in Cuttack. It was during his time at Ravenshaw College that he began contributing to local literary magazines such as Indradhanu and Bijuli, where his literary talents began to shine.

Moreover, Das founded the Kartavya Bodhini Samiti (Duty Awakening Society), a discussion group that delved into social, economic, and political issues of the time. These early initiatives showcased his commitment to social reform and his ability to mobilize like-minded individuals for a common cause. This period also marked his attendance at the Utkal Sammilani (Utkal Union Conference) in 1903, where he voiced his dissent against the suggestion of amalgamating Odia-speaking areas with the Bengal Presidency, showing his early political activism.

While pursuing his academic studies, Gopabandhu Das’s involvement in various extra-curricular activities, including flood relief efforts, began to take precedence. This dedication to serving the needy sometimes conflicted with his academic pursuits, leading to his failure in the degree examination. Nevertheless, his resilience led him to eventually obtain a BA degree on his second attempt.

Social Work

Gopabandhu Das’s dedication to public service and social reform took him to Calcutta University, where he successfully completed an MA and LL.B while simultaneously working to improve the education of Oriya people residing in the city. He established night schools to provide education to those in need, a clear manifestation of his commitment to uplifting the underprivileged. His passion for social reform was deeply influenced by the Swadeshi movement, a movement advocating for indigenous goods and self-sufficiency.

Amidst his academic and social commitments, Gopabandhu Das experienced personal tragedy when his newborn son passed away. His decision to prioritize helping flood victims over being with his ailing son illustrated his unwavering dedication to serving the greater good. He believed that there were many to care for his son, but his duty lay with those who were suffering and needed assistance.

After completing his education, Gopabandhu Das embarked on a teaching career, initially in Nilagiri in the Balasore district of Odisha. He later transitioned into a legal profession, practising law in both Puri and Cuttack. In 1909, Madhusudan Das, a prominent figure in Odisha’s political landscape, appointed him as the State Pleader for the princely state of Mayurbhanj, marking a significant step in his burgeoning political career.

One of Gopabandhu Das’s most enduring legacies in the field of education was the establishment of Satyabadi Bana Vidyalaya (now Satyabadi High School, Sakhigopal) in 1909. This school, located near Puri, secured affiliation with Calcutta University and conducted its first matriculation examination in 1914. It further obtained affiliation from Patna University in 1917 and was designated as a National School in 1921. Despite facing financial challenges, the school became a beacon of education in the region, although it ultimately had to close its doors in 1926.

Political Career

Gopabandhu Das’s entry into the legislative arena came in 1917 when Madhusudan Das encouraged him to stand for election to the Legislative Council, established under the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. Initially hesitant, Das eventually entered politics and was elected in 1917. He had been a member of the Utkal Sammilani since 1903 and served as its president in 1919. The Utkal Sammilani’s decision to join the Non-Cooperation movement, as resolved in a conference on December 31, 1920, effectively aligned Gopabandhu Das with the Indian National Congress.

However, his political activism came at a cost. Gopabandhu Das was arrested in 1921 and subsequently again in 1922, receiving a two-year prison sentence. He was released from Hazaribagh jail on June 26, 1924, having endured hardship for his commitment to the cause of Indian independence.

After his release, Gopabandhu Das briefly accepted a role as an editor at Asha, a newspaper published in Berhampur. However, he found this position too restrictive for his expansive vision. In 1919, he decided to launch his weekly newspaper, The Samaja. This publication not only served as a platform for promoting the ideals of the Lok Sevak Mandal (Servants of the People Society) but also acted as an independent voice championing various social and political causes.

Gopabandhu Das’s literary contributions were significant, and he established himself as a prolific writer and poet. Works like “Kara Kabita,” “Chilika,” “Dharmapada,” and “Bandi Ra Atma Katha” are testaments to his literary prowess. Through his writings, he not only showcased his creativity but also conveyed important messages related to social reform, education, and patriotism.

In April 1928, Gopabandhu Das assumed the role of All India Vice-President of the Lok Sevak Mandal, a position that further solidified his commitment to public service and social reform. However, his health began to deteriorate during a society meeting in Lahore, and tragically, he passed away on June 17, 1928, at the age of 50. His untimely death marked the end of an era for Odisha and India, as he left behind a profound legacy of selfless service, political activism, educational advancement, and literary excellence.

In conclusion, Gopabandhu Das, known as Utkalamani, was a remarkable figure in the history of Odisha and India. His life journey, marked by personal sacrifices and unwavering dedication to social reform, education, and the cause of Indian independence, continues to inspire generations. His legacy lives on through the institutions he founded, the literature he penned, and the impact he had on the socio-political landscape of his time. Gopabandhu Das remains a shining jewel in the crown of Odisha, forever remembered as a true Utkalamani – the Jewel of Utkal.

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