Gopabandhu Das image
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Born in October 9, 1877 / Died in June 17, 1928 / India / Hindi


Gopabandhu Dash known as Utkalamani (Gem of Orissa) was a defining social worker who excelled in the field of politics as well as literature.

The Revolutionary Student

Born on 9 October 1877 to Swarnamayee Devi and Shree Daitari Dash in Suando Village, near Puri, Orissa, 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.

As a student Gopabandhu's literary fervor was excellent. During those days 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.

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.

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.

Educational Reforms

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.[6]
The Satyavadi Vana Vidyalaya made laudable experiments in diversified curriculum, community approach in living and learning, student Govt, community work and social service. These innovations were subsequently tried out by John Dewey in America and were popularized throughout the world.

Gopabandhu laid stress of environment and organization of his experimental school. He was by nature a high priest of natural beauty and lover of freedom. He was like Rousseau, an advocate of man's communion with Nature and believed that in this process the child's physical, intellectual as well as emotional growth could be promoted adequately.

The place he selected for his school was a "Tapovan" in a sylvan natural surrounding of the shady Bakul Chhurian groves with profuse fragrant flowers. The school was also integrated into the rural community and there was close communication between the daily life of school children and the pulsating life of Nature around them. Therefore everyday life of children was invigorating and inspiring Immortal Teachers.

Utkalmani also believed that the standard of the school could not rise higher than its teachers. He understood that teachers are the school. Therefore the teachers he selected for his school were a team of devoted workers with high intellectual calibre and spirit of dedication, patriotism and sacrifice. Among them were the famous "Big Five" popularly known as Panchasakhal i.e. Gopabadhu Das, Nilakantha Das, Godavarish Mishra, Krupasindhu Mishra and Acharya Harihar Das. They were the forerunners of socio-cultural renaissance and pioneers of the national education in the state.
These immortal teachers of Satyavadi school like Socrates presided over the birth of new ideas and innovations and prepared batches of students who after their education occupied important places in the different walks of life. All these teachers were highly qualified having brilliant academic careers and had they desired, they could have adorned high posts with great prestige and immense power in the Government of their times. Surprisingly again, most of them hailed from poor families and had their education through hardship and suffering only. Moreover, almost all of them were distinguished poets, scholars, writers and historians. But they decided to lead a life of poverty, suffering and scrifice for the sake of their motherland, her freedom, prosperity and progress.

Satyavadi Vanavidyalaya was residential school providing close affinity between teachers and taught, training of character, citizenship education. During 1917 the school had attracted an eminent personality like Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee who commented" The promoters of this school have set a laudable example to the country. Their ideals are high, they understood the value of discipline and culture, mental, moral and physical...One cannot but wish that every village in Bengal should possess a genuine place of instruction like the Satyavadi School ?"

The methods of teaching followed in the school were dynamic and were free from the tyranny of routine and verbalism. Different methods of teaching were adopted for preparing patriotic citizens who would be able to build a new social order based on co-operation, compassion, liberty, equality and fraternity.

The emerging society of Gopabandhu's dreams would be realized through these methods and would stand for non-violence against violence, cooperation against exploitation. This school aimed at a social structure which would remove the barriers between theory and practice, school and community, learning and doing, work and leisure.

As Prof. G.B. Kanungo rightly observed, "The Satyavadi School became a centre of multi-purpose education where in addition to the teaching of curricular subjects, the students were exposed to work-experience through various agricultural and industrial crafts. Debates, recitations, seminars, workshops, excursions and social service camps were some of the prominent features of the Satyavadi system."

The curriculum designed by Gopabandhu was as broad as life itself. It consists of subjects ranging from the ancient literature to the modern English language, from arts and crafts to debates and discussion, from agriculture to adventure, from social services to beautification of the environment. All kinds of programmes and practices touching different aspects and walks of life were included in the curriculum.

Teacher-taught relationship in the school was extremely close, cordial and congenial, so much so that the teachers wept at the sorrow and suffering of their students and the pupils brust to tears at the time of their farewell. They used to read together, eat together, play together and discuss together. The greatmen at the provincial as well as national level like Madhusudan, Fakir Mohan, Ashutosh Mukherjee often used to pay visits to this organization and talk to students.

All these associations with celebrated personalities were educative as well as inspiring. Everybody was highly impressed with the student of discipline, dutifulness, sincerity, character and spirit of sacrifice prevalent in the school atmosphere. Once Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan in course of visiting the school remarked, 'Oh God, really you (Gopabandhu) have built up a Nalanda!'

The open-air system of school organization was strongly advocated by Gopabandhu in view of the climatic conditions, hygienics needs and financial constraints. He was of the opinion that expansion of education could be possible if less importance was given on costly buildings, equipment and other requirement for recognition of schools. In this context, the views expressed by the Governor on the occasion of His school visit are worth- mentioning. he remarked, "I was greatly impressed by the system of teaching in open-air instead of the crowded class-rooms.

It is to be hoped that the boys would thus learn to appreciate the advantages of the fresh air and will do their best to discourage among their relatives the pernicious practice of shutting out air from their houses which in many parts in causing a terrible spread of tubercular disease."
The school was the significant training ground for self- discipline and self-government. Even the students were made responsible for maintaining discipline in the class room. With a view to ensuring proper discipline and decorum even in the hostels, the hostels were divided into various blocks, each block being entrusted to a block teacher assisted by three student-monitors.

These monitors were in charge of studies, accounts and other facilities of the boarders. The student-Government in the school was conducted with proper discipline and dignity and was called "Boys' own court". This was the original form of Pupils' Cabinet and proctorial form that is emphasized for democratization at present. Hall-mark of Distinction

The name Satyavadi Vanavidyalaya carried a hall-mark of distinction and the indelible imprint of the Master Craftsmen on the personality of their students were clearly evident. In spite of the official antagonism, students were entering this institution from far and wide. Reputation of the school reached every corner of Orissa and many parts of India.

The school was converted into a National Educational Centre in 1921 and a National College in 1923. But in the upheaval of Non-Cooperation Movement such an ambitious experiment could not be supported adequately and gradually it confronted very rough weather of economic distress and psychological confusion. Many students and teachers left and school and all the ambitions were dashed to dusts. Gopabandhu turned the school to an Asharam and spent most of his last time there under the serene and tranquil groves of Bakul and Chhuriana. Now the Vana Vidyalaya is dead and gone, but its beauty and sweet fragrance live luminously in the memories of the nation.

The objective of the institution was to spread idealism, patriotism, nationalism and intellectual pursuits among its students in a Gurukul environment. This experiment was opposed by orthodox Brahmins, who did not wish their children consorting with children of other castes, but the school remained.

Gopabandhu Dash was instrumental in developing the education and society of Orissa. In 1921 this school was renamed National School. Several other individuals started similar institutions. His initiative in inviting public saw a remarkable transformation in Ravenshaw College, which was under financial crisis. Because of his affection for Indian culture, he established a Sanskrit college at the holy city of Puri.

Professional Career

Pundit Gopabandhu Das arrived at his first job as a teacher in Nilagiri 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. 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. In his mission to work for a better society and welfare of the common masses he established a school at a place called Satyabadi in 1909. This effort of Pundit Gopabandhu Das played a key role to improve the education and social welfare of Orissa. Hugely motivated by the positive response he received from the people of Orissa the school was converted into a high school the following year. The school secured affiliation from the Calcutta University and for the first time matriculation exam was held in the year of 1914. The school further secured an affiliation from Patna University in 1917. Due to soaring success the school was converted to a National school in the year 1921. Unfortunately the school was closed in 1927. Though the school was restarted a few years after it failed to emulate its hoary past.

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 "Ma Ra Kabita ", "Dharmapada", "Bandi Ra Atma Katha" are testimony of his evident skills of a great poet. Pundit Gopabandhu Das had a miserable family life. He lost both of his parents in his childhood days. Pundit Gopabandhu Das who completed his education as an orphan went on to lose his wife son and younger brother when he was a young man. Even after so many personal setbacks we have to salute the spirit of this great man to work with complete dedication to ensure that poor people of Orissa lead a better life. He was certainly shining gem for state of Orissa and a great son of the state.

Political Career

Gopabandhu's political exposure began with Utkala Sammilani in 1903, but he persuaded others to merge this with the National Congress to make the Oriya movement a part of the Indian National Movement. Thus he became the founder president of Congress in Orissa. He was imprisoned several times for participating in the freedom movement. He quit Congress, disillusioned by the infighting among the leaders in their search for power and returned to serving the people directly. Then he became the national vice president of Lok Sevak Mandal till his death.

He was an active sentinel of Oriya Movement, freedom fighter and a great social reformer. As an educationist he was responsible for establishment of Satyabadi School at Satyabadi in the Puri District. Imbued with patriotic fervour the students of Satyabadi School were known as indefatigable fighters against British Imperialism. Gopabandhu regarded politics as an instrument of service to the people. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, Gopabandhu was one of the Noblest Sons of Orissa. His spirit of service and sacrifice finds an apt echo in his following lines. ?Let my body mingle in the dust of my motherland and let my countrymen walk across it; and let my flesh and bones fill in the potholes of my country's self-independence ?.

Influence on Gandhiji

Gopabandhu's simple living style often influenced others and made the people come closer to him. He used to wear a dhoti only. Once after completion of a state level meeting of Congress workers Gandhiji & Gopabandhu were sitting together for lunch along with other workers. Special arrangements were made for both of them to sit on a table as per congress tradition. But Gopabandhu opted to sit with others on the ground. When different items were served, Gandhiji wanted special items made only for him to be shared with Gopabandhu also. But in return Gopabandhu replied, he can take only those items that are prepared for all. He then advised Gandhiji to take steps to make Congress a party of upper & middle class people to a party of mass including the poor. After which Gandhiji started wearing dhoti so as to come closer to the poor. Gopanabdhu's heart was always eager to listen to the poor. One day after visiting a flood hit area he was taking food along with others, when a poor hungry man was crying out side the house for food. All were tired. So were joking among each other to avoid pain. It was he who could listen the cry amidst so much disturbances. He hurriedly went to the poor man, called him inside and shared his food.

Contribution to Journalism

He was instrumental in making Oriya journalism suitable for the common man. He published a monthly magazine called Satyabadi in 1914. Later on 4 October 1919, the auspicious day of Vijayadsahami he started the weekly newspaper The Samaj, which became the most popular daily news paper of Orissa. He served as editor ?Samaj? continuously until his death. Later he donated The Samaja to Lok Sevak Mandal after his death. Handed over to the Lok Sevak Mandal, New Delhi through the will of Pandit Gopabandhu Das, the Samaja is today managed by Servants of the People Society. About 80 percent of the net profit of The Samaja is spent for the welfare activities of the people of Orissa by way of extending stipend to students in need, aiding patients and victims of natural calamities and through miscellaneous charities and donations. A large sum goes to the Gopabandhu Institute of Medical Science and Research at Athgarh, Orissa.

Gopabandhu was a nationalistic warrior by heart. He wrote many poems & novels encouraging the younger generation to serve for national integration. He once said, ?Pachha ghuncha nahin veerara jatake, na mare se kebe parana atanke?, meaning a yodha never flees, nor fears death. While in Hazaribagh Jail from 1922-1924, he wrote a heart touching novel called ?Bandira Atmakatha? (The Biography of a Prisoner) expressing his love for people of Orissa. There he has written
?Misu mora deha e desha matire, desabasi chali jaantu pethire |
desara swarajya pathe jete gada, misu tahin padi mora mansa hada||?

(?Let my body mingle in the dust of my motherland and let my countrymen walk across it; and let my flesh and bones fill in the potholes of my country's self-independence) whose meaning is, let my body merge in the soil of the nation and help my country men walk on me, let each hole in the path of development of the nation be filled with my flesh & bone.


Gopabandhu fell ill while attending a fund raiser ceremony in Lahore for the flood victims of Orissa, of which he never recovered. He died of prolonged illness on 17 June 1928. But his sacrifice still ignites many hearts to dedicate their soul & body for the nation. ..