Odisha vignettes

Radhakanta Barik

The RSS and the pracharaks are active on the cultural front for almost twenty years or more. They do not respect the local cultural traditions or its variation on a sub regional plane. They prefer to attack the cultural practices of Odisha in a vigorous manner. Twenty years back a rath started moving in the areas where the fishermen live in Cuttack town pleading for the banning non- vegetarian food habits in the families. Traditionally the Jobra area of the city map is dominated by the fishermen community next to the river Mahanadi from where they do collect fishes and sell in the local market. The RSS pracharaks used to be aggressive with the fish merchants and put pressures in such a manner that they were compelled to close their shops on Tuesday as it is a day for worshiping of Hanuman in the North India. These practices have affected cultural practices of Odiyas. Let us examine their cultural practices. 20 March was celebrated as Pakhal Day where the left-over rice from the night being kept in water in a clay Pot. Next day the whole family including the rich and poor eat with fried fish and other vegetables. In practice everybody eats with three or four vegetable items plus fish. People use curd in the pakhal bhat. Yesterday being Tuesday, the fish shops were closed they had to face tough time to collect the fish. This brings conflict with the cultural practices of Odiyas with the RSS vision of culture. Their homogenization project is affecting the question of cultural diversity which is the basis of our country.

Is it a design by the Hindutva forces supported by the trading community from Rajasthan and Gujarat. They dared to build a temple inside the compound of the Sambaleswari in Sambalpur. They have built 250 temples in the Cuttack town which the district administration did not approve and found that these are illegally constructed. Many of them belong to Hanuman and Ram. The district administration took up the case which went up to the Supreme Court which allowed the administration to destroy these temples but somehow all these temples still stand on the river banks of the Kathajodi or Mahanandi. They have financed the priests who brought Hanuman idol into the temple compound of the Village Sadansa, PS - Niali Dt Cuttack. On inquiry I found they received sixty thousand rupees. Is it not bribing the village people to worship the Hanuman. Tomorrow they may construct in the temple of Jagannath and Lingaraj. Under the financial inducement if people are forced to worship the idol then the law of the land must act against them. In our village there is a temple of 14th century. A book of Odisha culture published by the government of Odisha mentions this temple details. State Archives did some work which requires further investigation. Furthermore, it is violating the Archaeological Survey Act of Indian government and state government. It violates cultural ethos of our society and common people of Odisha. It violates the heritage policy of the government of Odisha. Thirty years back they built a big statue of Hanuman on the side of national high way from Chandikhol to the industrial town of Jajpur. But nobody worshipped the statue. They have changed the plan to create small Hanuman temples such as Gadama village of Tritol block two years back. Is it a systematic plan of the Hindutva forces to change the cultural map of Odisha specifically Odisha.                                                                                     

For understanding of Jagannath Dharma the best book is written by Prof Kanhu Charan Mishra in English the Jagannath Cult which integrates various religious and spiritual trends prevailing in Odisha. Prof Kulke built his thesis and became prominent by providing the religious basis of ancient state in India basing on K C Mishra's book but without any intellectual obligation to him. Today Hindutva is bringing many trends which can threaten the Jagannath Dharma. By constructing the Ram Temple on public land illegally with the priests from Rajasthan in Bhubaneswar trying to make Ram cult popular in Odisha. Today constructing the Hanuman temples in distant villages by paying money to the priests of Odisha creates fear in the minds of us that they want to take Odisha as the laboratory of Gujarat where the temple and its priests work as the agents of Hindutva ideology by selling the books of the RSS in the temple premises. As we are going to celebrate our Odisha day on coming 1 April a question comes up: Are we going to be fooled by the Hindutva forces on April fool's day.                                                                                    

Odisha is going to celebrate its birthday on 1 April which needs to be placed in the context of today's cultural paradigm. Let us examine the way we were humiliated by others before the state got formed. The best text available to explain our humiliation is Gopal Chotaray's autobiography. A dramatist who with his hard work and intelligence became an established dramatist in the All India Radio which played an instrumental role in our renaissance movement. As a young boy he studied in the primary school of Jagatsingpur which is 7 KM away from his village Purunagarh. Coming everyday to the school and going back was a quite strenuous work. He topped the primary school board of the Bengal Presidency the events thereafter need to be noted here. His name created confusion among the Bengali officials and they renamed him as Gopal Chatterjee with the thinking that no Odiya boy could reach the top position. Then the school board examination came when he studied in a school of Cuttack town. That time the Board examination got conducted by the Bihar and Odisha Board under the supervision of Patna University. He topped the Board examination but the officials of the Patna University thought that an Odiya student could not get that position for which they looked at his name and published it as Gopal Prasad. He felt bad as he failed in the School Board but he took help of some body from Cuttack town whose relatives were working there and went with him to Patna and found that he had topped the list. This unnecessary humiliation Gopal Chotaray suffered just because we did not have a separate state. We must remember our past which can guide us for future as a collective cultural identity.

Bijayananda Patnaik as the chief minister of Odisha led the Congress Party to make Odiyas as an aspirational community. He propagated a slogan of creating a tiled roof for every hut in the context of fire and flood hazards which have been a regular phenomenon. He built technical school in subdivisions of each district which could have created technically skilled labour. The political rule which came after him closed these schools and started normal colleges here. Biju Patnaik became the leader of the opposition in Odisha but came to power only once at the fag end of his political career. But he never joined the Hindutva forces at all. His party had no base among the Dalits and lower OBCs and tribals. Naveen Patnaik has broadened the party by incorporating these social groups who are the majority of Odisha. He has redefined the development in the context of Odisha where the majority of people used to remain hungry. By implementing food security to all and providing education and health services to all Odiyas have really turned into an aspirational community.

Mar 27, 2017

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

Your Comment if any