Gopabandhu Das

Gopabandhu Das

Gopabandhu Dash (1877–1928) known as Utkal Mani (Gem of Orissa) was a defining social worker who excelled in the field of politics as well as literature.

Early life : The revolutionary student

Born on 9 October, 1877, to mother Swarnamayee Devi & father Shree Daitari Dash in Suando Village, near Puri, Orissa, Gopabandhu was a legend on the Indian culture, spiritualism & service to mankind. He was an innate leader to serve people even at the cost of his family. At the age of twelve, he married a young girl Apti. The marriage did not stand in the way of 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. They used to sit together and compare between eastern and western education. It was the place where nationalistic thoughts were incepted into his mind. The poor and inactive response of authorities for the victims of cholera after car festival provoked him to start a voluntary corps Puri Seva Samiti. This movement later led to establishment of a separate hospital for cholera patients at Puri. Gopabandhu's handling of the situation spread information about his disaster management abilities and love for the nation.

Literary Excellence and Social Movements

Infobox writer
name = Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das

caption = Creator of Satyabadi Age
birthdate = birth date|1877|10|09|df=y
occupation = Freedom Fighter , poet, Philosopher, Social Activist
nationality = British Indian
period = Twentieth Century

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". But Gopabandhu was a great balancer. He 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 past heritage. He also wrote a satirical poem in "The Indradhanu". This led to an ugly incident and also punishment meted out by the angry Inspector of schools for such satirical poem. He refused to apologize for such writing in lieu of punishment.Later he joined Ravenshaw College, Cuttack to pursue graduation. He lost his father before joining college. During this period, he started "Kartavya Bodhini Samiti" (Duty Awakening Society) to encourage his friends to take on social, economic and political problems to make them responsible citizens. He was leading a team to serve the flood victims, when he heard the serious illness of his son. But he preferred to save the “"sons of the soil"” rather than his son. Because of his heavy involvement in social service this genius who always stood first in class, failed in BA. But later he cleared BL, LLB with distinction at Calcutta University.In Kolkata, he started a labor union and took steps to start night schools for Oriya labors and cooks. He used to teach the children of Oriya coolies there. There he came in contact with "Vande Mataram" group. This imbibed Swadeshi spirit in him. His new mission was to reform the society and to develop education. Through these activities he had the vision of social service. When he was only twenty-eight, he lost his wife. By that time he had lost all his three sons and he had two daughters whom he left with his elder brother along with the share of his property in the village. This proved that he had no love for leading a family life and for that he refused to remarry even at a marriageable age.

Educational Reforms

After coming back from Kolkata, he worked as a government lawyer for some time in Mayurbhanj court. Law profession did not interest him much, so he gave up his practice and worked for the welfare of the people. His strong belief was that only education can improve and develop the society. So he established a school in 12 August 1909 beginning with only 19 students in a place called "Satyabadi Bana Vidyalay", near Puri. The objective of the institution was to spread idealism, patriotism, nationalism and intellectual pursuits among its clientels in a Gurukul environment. This experiment also received opposition from orthodox Brahmins, who were not prepared to accept their children sitting and eating along with children of other castes. Several problems were created. But it did not affect the spirit of Gopabandhu and his associates. The efforts of Gopabandhu Dash brought development to the education and society of Orissa. In 1921 this school was changed to "National School". Several other individuals also started institutions, framed in the same manner influenced by this school. 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.

Political career

Gopabandhu's political exposure began with Utkal Samillani in 1903. But he persuaded others to merge this with National Congress to make Oriya movement a part of Indian National Movement. Thus he became the founder president of Congress in Orissa. He was imprisoned several times for participating in freedom movements. He suggested Gandhiji to adapt language based state policy. Later he quit Congress marred by the infighting among the leaders for power and to serve people better. Then he became the national vice president of "Lok Sevak Mandal" till his death.

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 transforming Oriya journalism to reach the common man. He published a monthly magazine called Satyabadi in 1914. Later on 4th October 1919, the auspicious day of "Vijayadsahami" he first started the weekly newspaper "The Samaj", which later became the most popular daily news paper of Orissa. Till death he used to write the editorial of “Samaj” without any break. Later he donated "The Samaja" to "Lok Sevak Mandal" after his death.Gopabandhu was a nationalistic warrior by heart. He has written 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 is afraid of 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||”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.

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