Gopabandhu Das
: Suando Village
District: Puri
Category : Literature
Born : 9 October 1877
Died : 17 June 1928
Details : Gopabandhu Dash (1877–1928) known as Utkalamani (Gem of Odisha) was a social worker, reformer, political activist, journalist, poet and essayist. He was born on 9 October 1877 to Swarnamayee Devi and Shree Daitari Dash in Suando Village, near Puri, Odisha. Gopabandhu was a legend in the Indian culture. He served his people even at the cost of his family. At the age of twelve, he married Apti, but continued his education. After completion of primary education, he joined Puri Zilla School in 1893, where he met his teacher Mukhtiar Ramachandra Dash, who was not only a genius but also a nationalist. It was at this school and with this teacher that Gopabandhu learned many nationalistic values. The inadequate response of authorities for the victims of cholera prompted him to start a voluntary corps Puri Seva Samiti. This movement later led to establishment of a separate hospital for cholera patients at Puri, and made Gopabandhu's name in society.

During his youth, the Oriya literary world was divided between the ancient, The Indradhanu and the modernists, The Bijuli. Gopabandhu realized that a nation as well as its literature live by their tradition. He believed that a national superstructure of the present can endure only if it is based upon the solid foundations of the national heritage. His satirical poem in The Indradhanu led to an ugly incident and punishment meted out by the Inspector of schools. Gopabandhu refused to apologize for such writing in lieu of punishment. The satire was on the ongoing controversy as to the greatness of Upendra Bhanja and Radhanath Rai in 1893, for which he was censured. He launched a monthly literary magazine in 1915, ‘Satyabadi’. He attended Ravenshaw College, Cuttack despite his father's recent death. During this period, he started Kartavya Bodhini Samiti (Duty Awakening Society) to encourage his friends to do their duty as citizens and take on social, economic and political problems. He was leading a team to aid flood victims, when he heard of his son's serious illness but remained to serve the locals rather than return home to his son. His social services as a young man prevented this brilliant student from completing his undergraduate degree, although he later earned his BL, LLB with distinction at Calcutta University.

While pursuing his study in the Ravenshaw College, he along with his friends like Brajasunder Das and Acharya Harihar Das made a commitment to serve the poor and the destitutes. While his son was seriously ill, he got the report of flood in the interior area of the district. He ignored the serious illness of his son and went to the flood affected people to provide them relief. During his absence, his son died. 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 here to take care of the boy." Further, the day he got the news of his success in Law Examination, Calcutta, his wife died.

In Kolkata, he started a labor union and set up night schools for Oriya laborers and cooks. He came in contact with the Vande Mataram group which infused him with the Swadeshi spirit. His new mission was to reform society through improving the educational system. His wife died when he was only twenty-eight, and his three sons had already died. He left his daughters with his elder brother, and gave his brother his share of the family property in the village to support them.

After coming back from Kolkata, he worked as a government lawyer in Mayurbhanj court. Law did not interest him, so he gave up his practice and worked for the welfare of the people. He believed that only education can improve and develop society so in August 1909, he established a school in Satyabadi Bana Vidyalay, near Puri. Gopabandhu established his famous Satyavadi Vana Vidyalaya in the year 1909, at Sakshi Gopal, a place of pilgrimage near Puri, the world-famous abode of Lord Jagannath and the great centre of Hindu pilgrimage. He started this institution getting inspiration from Shanti Niketan which was set up earlier by Kabindra Rabindranath.

Pandit Gopabandhu Das arrived at his first job as a teacher in Nilagiri in Puri district of Odisha but afterward he left the assignment to become a lawyer. Graduating in law from Calcutta University, he set up his practice at his home district of Puri. Later he moved to the High court in Cuttack. During this period he was also appointed as a Government lawyer in Mayurbhanj court. It was Madhusudan Das, the leading Oriya statesman and lawyer, appointed him as the State pleader of the State of Mayurbhanj in 1909. Maharaja Shri Rama Chandra Bhanja Deo of Mayurbhanj held him with high esteem. After had a consummate legal practice Pundit Gopabandhu Das decided to quit the profession for social work and mass education. He strongly believed that education had a huge role to play for the upliftment of the society.

Pundit Gopabandhu Das was a member of Utkal Samilani from 1903 to 1921 for which he was elected President in the year of 1919. Pundit Gopabandhu Das was truly versatile personality. He was an eminent writer and poet. Some of his poems like "Kara Kabita ", "Dharmapada", "Bandi Ra Atma Katha" are testimony of his evident skills of a great poet.

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