Gopabandhu Das (Pride of Orissa)

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Gopabandhu Das (Pride of Orissa)

Gopabandhu Das

Pandit Gopabandhu Das pioneered Modern politics in Orissa. He was primarily a social service-oriented man. He entered politics for social service. He was a product of the movement of amalgamation of Orissa. He was a member of Congress organization in India. While a student of Calcutta University in Law faculty, he was moved with the misery of the Oriya people who were earning their livelihood by working primarily as porter (kulis). When Cuttack district was affected by flood havoc, Gopabandhu Das collected money and materials to rescue the flood-affected people.

After completion of his education, Gopabandhu returned to Orissa. Now he associated himself with Barrister Madhu Babu, the veteran leader of the then Orissa. After the death of his parents, wife and son, he detached himself completely from the family life and resolved to dedicate himself for the cause of service to the society. His two young daughters were left under the care of his elder brother. Gopabandhu performed two types of social service:

  1. Constructive, like helping the distressed people, and,
  2. Reformatory such as reform by means of education.

In the year 1906, Gopabandhu Das established a High School at Nilgiri and became its Headmaster. In the due course under certain circumstances, he shifted over to the practice of Law at the court of Cuttack under Madhusudan Das. In 1919, he started Satyabadi National School in Puri district with only nineteen students. He organized ‘Visvasiksha Parishad” to spread education throughout Orissa.

Political Activities

‘Amalgamation of Oriya Speaking Areas” Movement started in 1903 under the stewardship of Madhusudan Das by Utkal Sammilani. In 1909, British Parliament passed Indian councils Act. It started the cleavage of Morley-Minto reform. According to this Act, some members were to be elected indirectly into the Provincial councils by the people. Bihar-Orissa was constituted as a separate province in 1912. In it Orissa was to be represented by one member who was to be elected by the local bodies of the Orissa division. For this membership Madhu Babu persuaded Gopabandhu Das to stand for the election in 1917. Gopabandhu was elected and continued in the Council till 1921.

In 1919, Puri district was affected by draught. Under the leadership of Gopabandhu, Satyabadi School turned into a relief centre.

On October 4, 1919, the day of Vijaya Dasami, ‘The Samaja”, an Oriya weekly was inaugurated under the editorship of Gopabandhu himself. In his first editorial, Gopabandhu appealed for communal peace and harmony and to mark the day as national day. He ventilated people’s grievances and exposed the lapses of the government though ‘Samaj’. He was very much successful in his mission.

Welfare State and Education

Gopabandhu Das was a protagonist of Welfare State in Orissa. Instead of theorizing upon it he duly translated it into practice. His first love was education. He considered it as the major instrument of social transformation. He professed it in Legislative Council, and made tangible effort in the direction. The Satyabadi School was his significant and concrete formulation of this objective. His concept of education was to build up an ‘integral man”. He found that ‘open air school” was best suited for the purpose.

Famine Relief

Due to Gopabandhu’s efforts, a flood Inquiry committee was appointed in 1922. Another flood Relief committee was appointed in 1928, whose report led to the formation of expert committees which led to the construction of Hirakud Dam after independence.

Abolition of Permit on Salt Manufacture

Since time immemorial, Salt manufacture had been an established industry in the coastal district of Orissa. The East India Company prohibited salt manufacture by the people of Orissa. The British Government imposed excise duty on it. Manufacture of salt was not permitted without the permission of the government. Gopabandhu protested against this restriction and made a forceful issue for free manufacture of a salt. Sir Edward Gait visited the Chilka Lake areas. He gave assurance to restore the right of free manufacture of salt in Orissa coast.


He maintained that India is a nation in every possible definition. She has a definite territory with natural boundaries. She has a definite history of her own. She is inhabited by people with common sentiment for sorrow and pleasure. Orissa is a part of Indian nationhood. Orissa cannot be cut off from the national mainstream since that would subvert the cause of national liberty. Orissa could not progress without the rest of India. Hence Gopabandhu merged Orissa politics into the national movement.


All religions find place in Gopabandhu’s concept of nationalism. Thus he professed a kind of nationalism which was both militant and secular. Like Mahatma Gandhi, he was staunch Hindu. He endeavored to preserve the values, ideals and point of honor of Hindus. He pleased for the protection of cows. However, he strove for communal harmony. He contemplated united India, irrespective of cast, creed, color and religion. He preached religious tolerance and embraced all sects for national resurgence.

Critical Evaluation

Gopabandhu Das was a celebrated social leader. Earlier than Gandhiji’s Salt Satyagraha he made the ‘salt’ a main movement. He stands as the greatest among personalities in Orissa. Therefore the appellation ‘Utkalmani seems somewhat local and narrow for him. He was a political leader, a social worker, a veteran legislator, a powerful journalist, a poet, a lawyer, a teacher and an educationist. His services to the flood affected people which cost the life of his only son is yet a household legend in Orissa.

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