The last phase of the 19th century and the first phase of the 20th century witnessed a great awakening in Odisha. It was the phase of New Odisha- in-making. The Odias during this phase got an identity consciousness. This identity needed to be asserted. Many persons and institutions were responsible for this resurgent trend in Odisha. Among them Madhusudan Das was very significant. His career in Odisha at least from the 1880s till his death was entirely dedicated to the making of modern Odisha.

He took a very prominent role in the amalgamation of different Odia speaking tracts lying scattered in different neighbouring provinces into a great political entity. At the same time he attempted socioeconomic and cultural progress of the Odias which would stabilise his political Odisha. He articulated manifold problems of Odisha and asserted the identity of the Odias in that crucial phase. In order to establish the identity of the Odias he closely connected himself with many elites and associations which demanded the Madhusudan Das and the Articulation of Odia Identity reconstruction of Odisha. The activities of Madhusudan were found to be expressed through the powerful national bodies like Utkal Sabha and Utkala Sammilani. In many respects he was the prophet of Odia nationalism.

Madhusudan Das while studying in Calcutta took a very prominent role in educating many Odia labourers there in the 1870s which was his primary attempt to establish the Odias in Calcutta.(Das 1971/1988:43-44) In Calcutta his intense love for Odia language was intact as it is evident from his demand to write the answers of Sanskrit questions in Odia(his mother language) to the authorities of Calcutta University in 1869-70.(Ibid:44) In Calcutta Madhusudan was converted into a Christian. But it did not deter his plan for the re-invention of Odisha in the 1880s after his return from Calcutta to Cuttack and his practice as a lawyer. The Puri Jagannath temple affairs of this phase provided him an opportunity to enter into the movement for a regenerated Odisha.(Mohanty 1982:44-45) In 1878 Raja Divyasimha Deb was convicted of murder and was sentenced to transportation for life. The British Government found an opportunity to intervene in the temple management. But the dowager mother of Divyasimha Deb immediately called in the Royal Court and priests of the temple and announced the ascent to the throne of her five year old grandson Jagannath Jenamani and proclaimed him as Raja Mukunda Deb of Puri. The queen began to manage the affairs of the temple on behalf of the minor Raja. The management was naturally not to the liking of the Government. It was decided that the control and the endowments of the temple were to be vested in a committee of management.

Accordingly the Puri Temple Act of 1880 was announced. The legislation was objected by the priests of the temple and the queen submitted her petition to the Government. Her representation went unheeded. On the other hand the local Government instituted a suit in the Court seeking authority to appoint a Receiver for the temple.

The Court decided in favour of the Government and the queen was denied the management of the temple. The announcement of the Court’s decision was looked upon as a humiliation to the age-old Odishan tradition. The queen wanted to appeal to the Calcutta High Court but she lacked resources. She made a personal request to Madhusudan Das to fight her case.(Mohanty 1972:39) Madhusudan shouldered the responsibility though everybody thought it was a lost case. As a lawyer he would have been very happy to find better cases; but he concentrated his attention on this issue because he accepted Jagannath as a marker of Odia identity. He considered the decision as an attempt to disrupt Odia national sentiment and he therefore directed his attention to it. He went through the royal records and prepared the case meticulously. He tried to focus attention through articles in the press against the unjust interference of the Government in the matter. He published two interesting letters in the name of Lunatic in Utkala Dipika critically presenting his arguments against the suit for the management of the Jagannath temple.(Utkala Dipika, March 26 and April 9 of 1887, Dash 1978:367-368) After prolonged deliberations at Calcutta High Court the lower court’s order to appoint a Government Receiver was set aside. Raja Mukunda Deb was reinstated to his authority. This was a victory of Madhusudan Das.

Utkal Dipika in an interesting focus had thanked Madhusudan for this noble contribution. He had by this great national activity justified the adage Bipatte Madhusudanam (Lord Madhusudan helps in the time of distress). His perseverance and skilful handling of the case promoted him to be the greatest Odia nationalist.(Ibid; April 30,1887) By preserving the prestige of Thakur Raja of Puri Madhusudan earned the enormous confidence of the people. Madhusudan accepted Jagannath as the central part of Odia culture. In order to make this conviction firm in the minds of the Odias he recited a poem in the public meeting in the Town Hall of Cuttack in 1928. A part of the poem runs like this -

“Kotie Odia gotie kanthare daka trahi Jagannatha

Andhara ghunchiba nischaya dekhibe Jatira unnati patha

Sudarsana Chakra garaji uthiba Baliara bahutale

Matanka Srianga purbabata heba satru palaibe dare”.

(Utkala Dipika, November 17, 1928; Dash 1978:374)
Madhusudan Das started to articulate his feelings of Odia identity in the great Odia nationalist forums- Utkala Sabha and Utkala Sammilani. These two were the most significant forums to present diverse problems of the Odias from the last phase of the 19th century to the first four decades of the 20th century A.D. He was an important part of the Utkala Sabha in the 1880s and 1890s. His voice was very powerful in the Utkala Sabha in the first decade of the 20th century.(Dash 2001:11-19) As a member and president of the Association Madhusudan took interest on the pressing problems of the union of the different Odia-speaking tracts under the Bengal Government and in this connection his discussion with the missionary Howell was very remarkable. In the letter of 26th/28th January 1904 to Howell Madhusudan as a member of the Association demanded the unification of Odiaspeaking tracts under Bengal and not with the Central Provinces or Bihar.(Ibid.) Gokulananda Choudhury, an ardent Odia nationalist, had then developed an opinion to the effect that it was to the advantage of Odisha to be under Central Province administration.(Ibid.) He was also supported by some Odias, but they changed their views and accepted the stand of Madhusudan. Madhusudan’s potent arguments on behalf of the Orissa Association reflected the intense activities of it to highlight Odia problems. He had his own opinion about the people of Odisha. By people of Odisha he did not mean a few pleaders or a few aspirants for titles and honours or a few condidates for employment in the higher grades of Government service. He meant it as Odia nation which included all who were permanent residents of Odisha, whatever their race, nationality or religion. This indicates the nature of Odia identity he was articulating then. Throughout

the movement for the reservation of Odia language in Sambalpur during the phase of Utkala Sabha ascendancy Madhusudan was the moving spirit.(Mishra 1979:70) His efforts were crowned with success when the Government of the Central provinces restored Odia as the Court language of Sambalpur with effect from 1 January 1902.(Ibid.) Utkala Sabha was a very limited body. It had no wider link. Madhusudan must have felt that a wider body representing many sections rural and urban-in Odisha would help in the proper solution of the Odia problems. This led to the birth of Utkala Sammilani(Utkala Union Conference).

The Utkala Sammilani which had its first session in the month of December 1903 came into existence after one year effort in which Madhusudan had a significant role.As presented by Professor G.N. Dash in his recent focus on Madhusudan before the formation of Utakal Sammilani in an institutional form he had prepared a stage for the origin of Odia identity consciousness in different ways not through the national Organisation called Indian National Congress, but my some indirect ways from the beginning of 1903 which were very significant for the formation of Utkala Sammilani. (Dash, Gaganendra Nath 2010:785-788) Lastly on 25th October 1903 Madhusudan called a meeting at Kanika palace. About twentyfive to thirty people of Cuttack were present on that occasion. As proposed by the Raja of Kanika the Raja of Keonjhar became the president of the meeting.

(Utkala Dipika, 31st October, 1903; Dash 2002:22-30)) Madhusudan presented the purpose of the meeting in the beginning. He said that recently there was a meeting for the formation of Odia Jatiya Samiti(Odia national organisation) at Berhampur and that some people of Cuttack and Sambalpur including himself had participatedin it. He proposed in the meeting at Kanika palace that in 1903 there would be a session at Cuttack in which both people from Ganjam and other places in Odisha would participate. In the meeting he also proposed that every year people of different places of Odisha should make sessions at different places where they would discuss their common problems. Gaurishankar Ray, the Editor of Utkala Dipika, had also accepted the proposal of Madhusudan for holding conferences at different places in Odisha to discuss issues affecting the national life and progress. It was Odisha Review April – 2013 decided on that day that on 30th and 31st December of that year (1903) the proposed session would be held at Cuttack. It was accepted as a national organisation by the Odias. This organisation would discuss problems on the progress of the society, education and industry. It would not take up issues on politics and religion. At the end of the meeting an executive committee was formed for the session. The President of that committeee was the Raja of Kanika. Madhusudan became its Secretary. Jayram Das, Samson Rout, Gopal Chandra Praharaj and Abhiram Bhanja became the Joint Secretaries of the committee.

(Ibid.) The executive committee had eight sessions from 15th November 1903 to 24th December 1903 for a spectacular success of the first session of the Conference. In the beginning it was decided by the committee that the august session would be presided by Sir Sudhal Deb, the Maharaja of Bamanda. But as he died shortly the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj was invited to be the president of the session. The site of the session was Idga Padia of Cuttack which the Jamindar of the area Nagendranath Ray Choudhury left without rent for three months. The committee decided that the delegates would put on red turbans as symbol of their nationalism. All the arrangements were made by the committee which was actually guided by Madhusudan Das. Madhusudan came to know that by the order of the Government some officers would not participate in the session. Immediately he sent a telegram to the Bengal Government about this problem. The Bengal Government sent a reply that the Government officers would not be forbidden to take part in the conference if it promised not to discuss problems of political agitation. For the successful working of the session student volunteers were employed and this was due to Madhusudan who wanted the young men of Odisha to be active for the service of the motherland.

In the first day of the session after the resolutions were passed Madhusudan stood up to deliver a very interesting speech which formed a part of the nationalist discourse.(Ibid.) He stated that “in the fixed ocean there is one image of the moon, but when it flows with waves, many images appear. As I see my brothers my heart is filled with the waves of love and I am very glad to see them. Hindus believe that the eight metals when united become such a metallic substance which does many useful works. Hence this brotherly love would animate the newly created Utkala Sammilani to such an extent that it would undertake many useful and auspicious works.

According to History people from different places came to England and settled there. This union helped in the making of the English race. The English people had great contribution to the progress in Europe. We must consider this in the context of our motherland. Now looking at the suffering of mother Utkala who amongst us would not be serious ? Hence we all being united would share her suffering and serve her. While in this deep service my brothers must remember a statement of the prophet Muhammad - for the spread of brotherly love one should give up impure element from the heart and allow pure and pious blood into it. My brothers who want to dedicate their lives for the service of the mother Utkala must at first give up self conceit and selfishness.

The race or nation is eternal; you and myself have temporary existence. The only way to progress is to give up selfishness. It will be admitted by all that the water of the river and lake coming from different directions will enter into the ocean where it will take one shape and one colour. It will be called the water of the ocean and will take the name of the great ocean (Mahasagara)”.(Ibid.)

This speech of Madhusudan in the first session of the Utkala Sammilani animated the Odias to go ahead with the mission.

Madhusudan was the Secretary of the reception committee for the second session of the Utkala Sammilani. In order to activise the young men of Odisha in the direction of the making of New Odisha he formed a body called Young Utkala Association which rendered great service to the Sammilani of the second year. It became a part of the Sammilani from that session.

(Mohanty 1982:55) Madhusudan’s efforts in the organisation of the Utkala Sammilani led to a great awakening in Odisha. The Sammilani became the most important nationalist forum which united the Rajas of different Garjat states in Odisha with the rural landlords and elites. Odias got a forum to represent the long standing problem - the amalgamation of different Odia speaking tracts. Existence of all Odias within one boundary would help in articulating their identity.

The Conference had also another notable object, the economic and industrial regeneration of Odisha and for that Madhusudan was more serious. Madhusudan himself presided over the 9th session of the Conference which was held at the field near Ramachandi Sahi at Puri on the 29th and 30th December of 1913. (Utkala Dipika, January 3, 1914) As Madhusudan entered into the meeting pendal all the delegates stood up with the slogans— Jai Utkala Janani. There he presented his discourse which animated the delegates present. In his address he said- “If we accept the Conference as a stage of the progress of Utkala we must understand the meaning of the Conference. Like the union of the lifeless objects and animals, human beings have their union. The carpenter unites two pieces of woods. The animals are united due to fear for the enemy. Vapour and wind in union produce water. But vapour goes upward and water goes downward. The individual life of the Conference must perish for the formation of national life. The Conference belongs to the Utkaliyas. Like German and English Utkala is a race. Those who want to glorify by the glory of the past of Utkala and want her prosperity they should have self-examination. Self-examination is very difficult. National objectives cannot be accomplished within one day, one month and one year. It demands time.

Life is meant for service to others and the development of the nation. It is of two kinds individual life and national life. The first is related        to the body and worldly events and the second is related to the soul. If someone taunts me for being  an Odia, thousands of Odias associated with me         will be shocked and wounded. It is called the       national life. Like an individual a race has defects.

At one time Japanese like the Chinese used to keep pigtails and the English identified them as Chinese. This wounded the national sentiment of the Japanese and for that they stopped the practice. A small dog does not fear a powerful tiger at the first sight. He advances towards the tiger. He has no power to kill a tiger. If he tries he has to accept death. Then why does he advance towards the tiger? He will die, but his group will not be humiliated. Hence in Utkala everybody should look to the prosperity of the national life.

Many people say that India will not have progress without industrial advancement, but such people at first should be industrialist. Individual education and national education are quite different. The national products are more valuable than the handmade products. The Germans have good ears and so they are expert in music. The French have good eyes and so they produce luxurious objects which are very valuable in the world market. Different parts of the body need improvement for the advancement of the nation.

The artistic works of Bhubaneswar constitute the glorious heritage of Utkala. The successors of these artists and sculptors of Utkala will get a continuity of the old tradition by continuing the stone work. But now they are living by cutting stones or by making minor stone objects for household purpose. They need to jump into their glorious past. Of course for that they need time and patience.

This Conference does not belong to one section. We must take up that work by which all Utkaliyas would be benefitted. Whosoever is born in Utkala, Odia, Bengali or Muslim, high or low should try for the development of the nation.

Man’s life is for the service of others. This can be learnt from the nourishment of the child by a mother. She wants that like herself the children should dedicate their lives for the cause of others.

The unity demonstrated by the predecessors is now present in Jagannatha. Think about the problems of the national life for ten minutes, it will begin national life. The motherland Utkala is fragmented. For the sake of the race self-sacrifice is necessary. The youngmen of Satyabadi School are ready to sacrifice their lives for the cause of the motherland Utkala. You have all been united at the opening gate of Utkala-Jagannatha Puri with great enthusiasm. Hence this Conference is the indicator of future prosperity.”

By presenting this address Madhusudan made the Utkala Sammilani the great nationalist platform of the Odias. His speech served to fan the flame of nationlism throughout the natural Odisha. At an extra-ordinary meeting of the Utkala Union Committee held in the month of September 1917 at Madhusudan’s place it was decided that the Utkala Sammilani should have a paper of its own to represent its views and its aims and objects.(Ibid.September 22,1917) The Conference had not been able to possess an organ of its own. Madhusudan had long wished for it, but for various reasons he was not able to do anything in the way to give a start. The name of the paper which was to focus the activities of the Utkala Sammilani was “The Oriya”. Madhusudan became its editor. It continued till 1919 as the mouthpiece of Utkala Sammilani. For many years Madhusudan by his active participation in the Utkala Sammilani and by asserting the Odia issues in the paper “The Oriya” really articulated Odia identity.
Prof. Kailash Chandra Dash
Former Reader in History,


April - 2013 Odisha Review

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