Cultural paradigm of Odisha and its conflict with the cult of Ram and Hanuman: An anthropological perspective

Radhakanta Barik

(The RSS has a religious-political design for spreading the cult of Ram and Hanuman to Odisha over a period of time. It is coming in conflict with local cultural practices. In this paper we are trying to explain the violent conflict between the Ram- Hanuman cult and Jagannath Dharma in an anthropological manner.)

Odisha celebrated its birthday on 1 April,2018 which needs to be placed in the context of today's cultural paradigm of Ram-Hanuman. Cultural practices of Odiyas came directly in conflict with the celebration of the Ram navami and Hanuman jayanti.   Let us examine the way we were humiliated by others before the state got formed. The best text available to explain our humiliation by Gopal Prasad Chhotaray's autobiography. (1916-2003) Chhotaray, G(2002). A dramatist who with his hard work and intelligence became an established dramatist in the All India Radio which played an instrument in our renaissance movement. As a young boy studying in the primary school of Jagatsingpur which is 7 KM away from his village Purunagarh. Coming every day to the school and going back was a quite strenuous work. He topped the primary school board of the Bengal Presidency but things happened in such a manner needs to be noted here. His name created confusion among the Bengali officials that they renamed him as Gopal Chatterjee with the thinking that no Odiya boy could reach the top position. After some years, 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 Prasad Chhotaray suffered just because Odiyas did not have a separate state. We must remember our past which can guide us for future as a collective cultural identity.

 Odisha as a separate state got formed under the colonial rule.  The post 1866 famine created  the vernacular educated  elite who established the printing press and published the first squarely journal Utkal Deepika. This journal had a circulation to the distant corners of the state. Each region was under the rule of a separate state. Sambalpur division was under the central province ruled from Nagpur and Sourthern region was ruled from Madras as a part of Madras Presidency and the Cuttack division was being a part of the Bengal Presidency. All these regions started speaking a single voice through Utkal Deepika. It is the print culture helped in shaping a renaissance movement which got a boost from the English educated people.  There was a united struggle by common people under the leadership of vernacular intelligentsia and western intellectuals. They questioned the role of the colonial state for keeping the province poor and its land settlement was responsible for creating a great famine where millions of people died of hunger. This question of hunger related deaths pinpricked the conscience of the English intelligentsia and the British parliament. They stared having a different look at the province and its people. Colonial bureaucracy with their commitment to utilitarian philosophy gave a sympathetic hearing  to the grievances of people of Odisha. The Utkal Sammilani started articulating the demand for a separate state of Odisha. The Congress Party recognized the separate Utkal Congress in the early 1920s committee as a distinct provincial organization helped the playing as a pressure group over the Colonial bureaucracy. Interplay of these forces helped in declaring the Odisha as a separate province on 1 April, 1936.

Uniqueness of Utkal
Historical trajectory of Indian history recognized the uniqueness of the people and culture of Utkal.  While the movement for an independent Odisha was going on the leadership always cited the role of Lord Jagannath in inspiring and motivating them in their struggles. They always cited the story of Kanci-Kaveri in explaining their political architecture of Odisha. The story brings out an ancient Kalinga empire spreading from the river Ganga to river Godavari. Here the political map of modern Odisha got conceptualized by bringing various parts from different Presidencies whose leader would be no body except Lord Jagannath. In a battle against the Kanci Raja the Utkal king Kapilendra deva got the support from Jagannath and Balvadra as their military generals whose support made the king of Utkal invincible. The political map of modern Odisha got intermixed with the Jagannatha Dharma.  Here the importance of this Dharma needs to be elucidated in detail.  That Odisha does not represent the Aryan or Dravidian culture because of its uniqueness. As A L Bhasham the leading historian in his book Wonder that India says that Odisha does not represent the Aryan or Dravidian culture it has its uniqueness. (Bhasham 1954)

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. This was his Ph. D work under the supervision of Prof Suniti Chatterjee, a linguist and a scholar. (Mishra 1971) Various regions of the province gets articulated in a stream of religious thinking and in the process all these regional streams converge at a point in making the Jagannath Dharma.  Prof Hermane 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 substantive intellectual obligation to him. (Kulke 1978) This study has been conducted by Prof Kunal Chakravarty a leading ancient historian of JNU. This is a unique cult played a creative role in integrating diverse social groups by providing autonomy to each group. (Chakraborty 2018) Jagannath being a tribal god, tribals of Odisha identify with it. Dalits through a powerful saint Bhima Bhoi look at the Jagannath. The backwards and the other castes look at Jagannath Dharm as their own. This is an integrative quality of Dharma being challenged by the RSS's cultural design by which Hanuman and Ram temples have sprung up in every town for the last two decades. On the way to Shanti Stufa, Dhauli they have built a temple to disturb the Buddhist thinking of Odisha as Buddhism is the substructure on which Jagannath Dharma stands today.

Ram-Hanuman cult
Hanuman is ardent devotee of Lord Ram and are the central characters in the various versions of the epic Ramayan. Lord Ram and his devotee Hanuman being worshipped in the Northern India specifically the cow belt of India. Stories of Ram and Hanuman are prevailing in the different parts of South Asia and South East Asia. The BJP’s think tank decided to bring concept of Lord Ram from religious level to political level in response to VP Singh’s implementation of reservation for backward classes suggested by the Mandal Commission’s in the year 1989. For the first time they decided to create a political imagination centering Ram. Advani decided to take a chariot moving from Gujarat to UP.  On the route in all major towns there was eruption of riots against the Muslims. Around three thousand people died in these riots where most of the victims were Muslims.  According to Sheldon this was first time in Independent India riots got organized to create a threat to secular pyramid of Indian polity. (Sheldon 1993) The think tank belonging to the BJP  have decided to go ahead with their planning of riots against the Muslims on the celebration of Ramnavami where their local leaders were leading the procession and creating riots against the Muslims in Bengal and Bihar. They are convinced of the view point that anything related to Lord Ram can help them to win the election. Invention of tradition as “exercises in social engineering which are often deliberate and always innovative.” (Habsbawm: 1983) As they do not have any social base in Odisha they decided to create a political design for constructing the temples of Ram and Hanuman in the state.

 By constructing the Ram Temple on public land illegally with the priests from Rajasthan in Bhubaneswar gave a foundation to spread of Ram cult in Odisha. Today constructing the Hanuman temples in distant villages by paying money to the priests of Odisha creates fear in the minds that they want to take Odisha as the second laboratory of Gujarat as announced by the leaders of the RSS 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 celebrate Odisha day 1 April 2018 a question comes up: were we going to be fooled by the Hindutva forces on April fool's day.

Is it a design by the Hindutva forces supported by the trading community from Rajasthan and Gujarat who control the trading business of Odisha. 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 were 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 standing on the river bank of the Kathajodi or Mahanandi. They have financed the priests who brought the Hanuman idol into the temple compound of the Village Sadansa, PS – Niali, Dt Cuttack. On inquiry we found they have got 60-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 the village Sadansa there is a temple of 14th century. A book of Odisha Culture published by the government of Odisha contains this temple. 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 district of Jajpur, Kalingnagar. But nobody worshiped the statue. They have changed the plan to create a series of small Hanuman temples such as Gadama village of Tritol block of Jagatsinghpur district two years back. Is it a systematic plan of the Hindutva forces to change the cultural map of Odisha.

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 an aggressive manner. Twenty years back a rath started moving in the areas where the fishermen live in the Cuttack town pleading for banning non-veg food in the locality. 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 or non veg merchants and put pressures in such a manner that they were pressurized 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.

Conflict between the Ram cult and cultural practices of Odisha
On Tuesday of the current year, people of Odisha celebrated the day as Pakhal Day where the left-over rice from the night being kept in water in a Miti Pot. Next day the whole family including the rich and poor eat with fish fry and other vegetables. In practice everybody eats with three or four vegetable items plus fish fry. People use dahi in the pakhal bhat. As the day was 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. The RSS’s attempt for homogenization project is affecting the question of cultural diversity which is the basis of our country.

The day after the pakhal day, Odiyas celebrated the Basi Pakhal day. Pakhal kept for a day gets fermented a little which is being enjoyed by the working people who work under the sun. It is being eaten with fish, dry fish and saga bhaja by the lower strata of society as they used to collect the fish from the river or community pond or from the rice field during rainy season. The rich may consume the same food with curd, fish and potato fry. As potato used to be consumed by the rich at one time.  As it got introduced by the Britishers towards the end of the 19th century in Ooty of Tamilnandu. It has taken more than hundred years for entering   into the plates of rich and middle class in towns. Only gone to the villages through the local hat. Till 1980s Potato was not available in the rural Odisha. It was consumed on the festive occasion such as Ganesh Puja and Saraswati puja in the schools and colleges of Odisha not in all the houses. This food cuts across the castes, classes and communities of Odisha. Moreover, in all temples pakhal is being served in the evening after offering to God. Till today potato and tomato are not consumed in the temples. Fish is consumed in the many temples of Odisha. The strength of the Jagannath Dharma is this that Lord Jagannath consumes 66 variety of vegetarian food without interfering into popular culture of Odiyas. Non-veg food habit of people of Odisha goes well with the vegetarian food stuff of the temple of Jagannath. There is a poetic expression related to pakhal and fish fry and sag bhaja. A popular poet Surendra Sahu has written a poem on the Pakhal day as 'Pakhal Puran'. Poetry provides an emotive dimension to human reality in a much sharper language. Let me give a brief summary of his poem, -'That pakhal is a friend of pohala fish fry, ilisha fry, khanga fry and tampada sukhua fry; For Pakhala we need onion and raw mirichi, Neem flower fry with Kaincha fry, small fish fry, alu bharta, sag bhaja, aau bhadi chatani,". The poet has added an interesting image of phakhal and its water by telling it as the king and its water as queen, if it is cooked in a Mati handi and add it with dahi. In the RSS supporters refused to eat pakhal with fish outside of their houses but they consume it in their houses as women refuse to obey them.

Right to have cultural memory
Every community has right over their cultural memory. This is a part of collective consciousness. Cultural memory of a community gets preserved in their folk songs and myths and legends. This is the announcement by the UNESCO of which India is a party. Most valuable books containing folk songs of Odisha have been written by Prof Kunja Bihari Dash who was the Professor of Odiya literature in Shantinketan.  He has defined popular culture as ‘a part of family people not the monks’ (Mohapatra and Sahoo 1997) their eating of pakhal and fish and sag has been a part of their collective consciousness. Perhaps the tribals turning into a settled agricultural community carried this tradition of eating pakhal and fish. How fish is important in our food habit can be explained with an example that a friend of mine became Tamilnadu cadre and got a proposal for marriage from a Tamil IAS who belongs to his caste but he made a condition that if she would eat fish then he would marry. This explains the food habits and its culinary are a part of cultural memory of a community. In the month of Kartik, people of Odisha avoid eating fish as it is the breeding season of fishes. It ends with a day ‘Chhadaosa” and every family eats fish to celebrate the whole year with fish as the major item in their plates. That is the day we go to the fish shop in Delhi where a good number of people belonging to Odisha standing in the shop to buy the fish. Moreover, on the marriage day groom’s side offers to bride’s house with fish and dahi. That combination children eat while going to the examination hall. It is taken as auspicious symbol of Odiya culture. Nobody has right to disturb as Indian constitution recognizes cultural diversity. But the Hindutva forces are active now in celebrating the Ram Navaami in the towns of Odisha which one cannot dream of it a decade back and trying to attack cultural memory of Odiyas . While celebrating their pakhal and bashi pakhal days they feel offended with the dimensions associated with the celebration of Ram Navaami which is not a part of their cultural memory. Moreover those who sale non-veg are  a scared  lot because of the  attacks by the goonds. The Sahi chief is being bribed by the traders who want to celebrate the Ram Navaami with the support from the Modi government. Let us fight these attacks on our cultural memory by the Hindutva forces.

The symbolic importance of fish in Odiya culture got a recognition by Chaitanya Dev a 16th century saint who brought a spiritual enlightenment to Odisha. While he was busy in campaigning he found that people of the state were not ready to leave their food of pakhal and fish which amazed him. In the process he created a couplet which prevails till today. “Bolo Bolo Hari Nam aau khaa Magur machhar jhol”. Then he pleaded with his followers not to pressurize people to change their food habit to vegetarianism.  Non vegetarianism can work with spiritualism. His verson of Vaisanism spreaded to different corners of the province as they did not impose the rituals of certain food specifically vegetarian. Moreover people of Odisha celebrate the Raja festival in the month of July just before the cultivation gets started.  These three days people consume meat preferably and sometimes fish and meat. In the marriage festival people offer fish mixed with dalama which is a tasty food.

Role of teachers in attacking local culture
As a student of Ravenshaw College in the early 1970s I heard the attacks on pakhal and fish by Professor Basanta Behura in annual function of the New Hostel. He being a conservative raised a point regarding the Pakhal and fish as a part of 'apasanskriti'. Sanskriti the concept is a part of sam plus kriti means the collective works of people which got branded by Behura as apasanskriti. Collective memory of people of Odisha got attacks by the conservative intellectuals such as Behura and Sriram Dash who started the movement from Das to Dash for the Brahmins and Behura from Behera to Behura for the Khandayats. This has been done with the westernization cum sanskritisation process by which the caste and community get differentiated and marked. Brahmins used to keep ‘Das’ prior to this movement and to differentiate from other communities with the title ‘Das’ they add ‘Dash’.  Khandayat has originated from Chaasa and to differentiate them they have added ‘Behura’ from ‘Behera’. Both of them were the part of Swatantra Party, a politically conservative one but today these people are the guardians of the Hindutva forces. In the early 1980s the academia of Sambalpur university and Berhampur university started opposing the pakhal and fish and accepted eating vegetarianism by observing the Tuesday as the day for Hanuman and Friday for the Santoshi Ma. These are the people as the leaders of the Hindutva politics of Odisha. Today the local rich and the priest have been bribed by them to start a Hanuman temple in the villages. A doctor with this money supported by the Marwaris started a Ram temple in Niali market of Cuttack District just facing the Muslim community of Niali. It is ironical that doctor was so unpopular that people boycotted the temple. Nearby Niali the village Barimunda where the Ram Navaami has got celebrated for twenty years now by a trader from Bhubaneswar with the help of Hindutva forces. They use money power and muscle power to spread the words of Ram and Hanuman. They want to spread to the rural hinterland with the help of the Ram and Hanuman which is a violent cult aiming to create riots in rural society of Odisha.

Spread of vegetarianism
The way the RSS has organised its attacks on the cultural map of Odisha it will be difficult to find it after some time. The RSS workers came in the saffron dress to villages in mobilizing the elite of villages to change their food habits. At least some villages of Talcher colliery town area have turned into vegetarian. This is the Constituency of the BJP MP Shri Pradhan who is a minister in the Modi cabinet. They used persuasion for the local elite who forced the common people to accept their dictates by accepting the vegetarian food. These two big villages located on the bank of river Brahmani from where they collect the fish and hide it in fear they may get the attacks from the local RSS pracharaks. Many of them eat in their homes but as if they have committed crimes. The RSS monks went to Kandhamal district where they forced the tribals to attack the houses of the Christians. First the tribals turned into vegetarian and they were forced to attack the Dalits who used to be their brothers in the same village in the name of non-veg eaten by the Christians. These people went to Mayurbhanj where Steins family got killed while they were sleeping with their children in an open jeep. Such a brutalized killing happened on the plea that the Christian missionaries were bribing the poor to change their religion. The RSS people are doing the same today to common people with the combination of bribe and force to change their food habits and forcing them to worship Hanuman and Ram but no action is being taken by the state.

In the year 1975 the Ram Mandir got constructed in Bhubaneswar it took twenty years to take a group of pilgrims to Ayodhya in the year 1995. On the backdrop of destruction of the Babri Masjid the town of Ayodhya came to public view. Advani's Rath did not come to Odisha as they knew nobody knew of Lord Ram. But everybody knows of the story of Ram from Ramayana and the story telling of Ramakatha. In the process the Ram has turned into Lord Ram in public imagination. The first group went from Talcher area organised by a RSS pracharak who used to work in the nearby town Kamakshanagar as a businessman. Around 100 clan members belonging to Senapati family went together carrying their servants and cooks to Ayodhya. It is interesting to note down that no woman was present in this first batch of pilgrims. Today they have taken Ram and Hanuman to rural Odisha and are organising the discussion on Hanuman chautisha. On the day of the Ramnavami thousand babus are standing in the queue for making a darshan of Lord Ram and this year Ramnavami fell on Sunday the Odiya babu group eat non-veg in their homes. They do not suffer from the pains of taking fasting for all these days of the Ramnavami but came to the temple. This contradiction is the living one where memory of pakhal and fish haunt them. Collective consciousness cannot be easily wiped out with the story of Lord Ram. But the green coverage of its land already has got a brush of saffron colour. It is a conflict of popular culture of Odisha with the cult of Ram and Hanuman coming from the North India.

Politics of the Ramnavami
West Bengal experienced for handling the armed rallies on the occasion of the Ram Navami gives a warning to the Odisha government. (Sen, AK (2018) By reading the letter one feels little disturbed regarding the spread of the Ram- Hanuman cult. It is spreading to different towns and rural hinterland threatens social harmony and culture of Odisha. It is a political project designed by the Hindutva forces who want to make Odisha the second laboratory of Hindutva after Gujarat. They tried with a large scale communal conflict between Christians and Tribals of Kandhamal which did not produce the desired result. They are pumping their money and muscle power to build the Hanuman temple in the towns and villages. This agenda can be called religious cum political agenda. They do not believe in religion or culture of a society otherwise they could have done a second reading of Jagannath Das' Bhagavat which is a text with multiple meanings. Balaram Das's Ramayan which creates a different meaning which has not being approved by the Hindutva forces. They have gone for importing the Ram- Hanuman cult to Odisha dominated by Jagannath Dharma. They are bribing the local leaders and priests with money for construction of the Hanuman temples. Hanuman is not a part of religious outlook of Odisha. It is a political design of the BJP who wants to use people of Odisha as fodder to create riots across the State for dividing the society. We have fifty percentages of people belonging to Dalits and tribals. Adding the lower OBC such as Kumbar, Badhei and Kambar etc then they will touch around 70 percentage of people. But in Odisha no body looks at anybody being a part of a caste but bhai, bahin, Mausa or Mousi . This is the strength of the Bhaichara tradition prevailing in Odisha. A leading anthropologist Prof L K Mahapatra has written extensively on Culture of Odisha where he looks at intangible characteristics of our culture and finds the richness of this bhaichara tradition. (Mahapatra2012) This is the cultural capital of a society. Being poor one can be rich tomorrow but cultural capital sustains our unity of purpose that being identified as an Odiya eating pakhal- fish and wearing dhoti and gamacha and talking to the other as bhai or bahin without inquiring his or her caste. This is the strength of our society having trust among diverse caste groups we should not allow to get destroyed by the spread of Ram- Hanuman cult a violent cult.

 Everybody recognizes the point that construction of temples related to Ram and Hanuman has got the backing of a political party like the BJP which is interested to have an entry into politics of Odisha. Ramanavaami is the occasion for the Hindutva forces to initiate the lumpen youths into violent politics. They brought hundreds on the occasion of the Ramnavami in various towns of Odisha. It is reported that in Sambalpur a Rambhakta carried a sword last year. It seems that all these people participating in the procession will carry swords and trishuls. On the way they find the clusters of houses owned by Muslims and Dalits will be burned. Their politics of hatred will spread all over Odisha and disturb the peaceful state into a violent state.

The state has come out of poverty trap and planned to go for the next stage of creating productive capital where the state will confront the specter of violence which will create fear in the minds of businessmen who will fly away. This has happened in the case of UP as the state today has experienced negative growth because of the Ram Mandir issue. The only industrial town of UP was Kanpur which experienced the large scale riots which pushed the plight of capital to other states such as MP or Delhi. Moreover, the cultural map of Odisha is going to be changed completely. Two years back I was Visiting Professor to Ravenshaw university, Cuttack where I found that students would not prefer the Chandi mandir but to illegal Hanuman temples in the city. The gods and goddesses of Odisha are peace loving. If you look at the eyes of Cuttack Chandi or Sambaleswari both emit love whereas Hanuman or Ram has been created in such a manner which emits violence. Instead of Ram with a smiling face they have created Ram with an arrow targeting to an imaginary enemy carrying a violent look. Instead of Hanuman as a bhakta of Ram has been created with a violent image. Language of violence is the language of Hindutva which is not accepted by the people of Odisha.

Here the state must step in and see that no more temples in the name of Hanuman or Ram get created with the finances from the Hindutva forces. To convert people to another religion is a criminal act if money is involved. Here there are enough proofs that they use money and muscle to create temples of Hanuman. Let us stop these illegal activities of the Hindutva forces in the state of Odisha.

Worshipping of Hanuman
Twenty years back I met Shri Basudeva Mahapatra Congress MP from Odisha who told me that the day he reached Delhi the first thing he did to go to the Hanuman temple. He grumbled about absence of Hanuman temple in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack. In the last two decades Hanuman temples have come up in every street of the twin cities fitting in the political design of the BJP. Their supporters use the Facebook and twitter in a tactful manner. They sent a Hanuman picture or militant image of Ram by writing Jay Jagannath below.  After some time they will argue that the Jagannath as a version of the Lord Ram and worshipping both the same.  It is a tactful ploy of these people by impressing the young minds. They want to capture public imagination with the Hanuman Ram cult which will slowly overshadow the Jagannath Dharma. They plead for Sankararchary to take over the Jagannath temple. Some years back with the help of the priests they installed Sankarachary in the Chariat of Jagannath but because of public outcry he was withdrawn as Sankarachary has no legitimacy in the Odiya cosmology.

Role of political leaders and their association with the Hindu Mahasabha
Cultural map of Odisha has got disfigured by the RSS think tank. As they found it is a difficult for an easy entry into Odisha politics. Despite some of the leading lights of the Congress Party had a close association with the RSS. Mahatab and Gopabandhu Das both got associated with the organisation. H K Mahatab, in his autobiography 'Sadhanara Pathe' admits regarding his involvement in the Organisational politics of the RSS. Gopabandhu Das the founder of Utkal Congress and founded the Hindu Mahasabha in 1928 before his death. He was supported by Neelkantha Das as both remained as the Congress members and worked for the Hindu Mahasabha.  Both of them were intellectual stalwarts and political leaders of the province but could not give a concrete foundation to either Jan Sangh or the Hindu Mahasabha. In Naveen Babu's first two terms the BJP became an alliance partner in both the government and political alliance. Today they are ruling in the centre but hardly any base in Odisha. This explains the strength of a society and cultural vibrancy of our people. They function as a rootless 'dala' in the ponds of Odisha. They have plucked the lotus flower from the pond but the character of the party is like the rootless ‘dala’ of the ponds. With an intelligent political design they want to attack the cultural map of Odisha. This needs to be exposed by us. Every community has right to have their cultural memory.

 Celebration of Mahavir Jayanti fell in current year while celebration of the Ramnavami was going on. Kalinga king Kharavela got inspired by Jainism and built 16 caves in honour of the saints of Jainism. These caves are the historical sites for tourists and scholars. But it ironical that a local landlord under the aegis of the RSS built a Hindu temple next to it. Some of the enlightened villagers protested against the construction of a temple. The Archaeological Survey of India protested against the construction of the temple. The case went to the Supreme Court where the local landlord lost the case. But Jainism is a part of psyche of Odiya people who are peace loving people. But the RSS wants to disfigure this beautifully carved caves representing the Jainism. The RSS does not tolerate pluralism of Hinduism where many thinking trends live side by side. They believe in the violent cult of Ram- Hanuman and worked hard in making this violent cult to spread different corners of Odisha. Prior to these events, in an address by Modi as the PM addressed the MPs belonging to his party and suggested them to go back to their constituencies and took up the public issues. These MPs understood the indication given by Modi and Amit Shah in the Parliamentary Board meeting that they would organise the riots against the minorities and Dalits for polarizing people.

In the case of UP the Dalits and backwards joined the hands in 1993 for the first time as both of them do not use Jai Shri Ram. Today the BSP and SP are joining hands to defeat the BJP with the same message. (HT,29 March,16) But in the case of Odisha, Jagannath cult integrates diverse social groups of a society. Moreover a new massive temple has been built with the patronage of Ram Deva on the way from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack high way. We should look our past and question of the plethora of Ram and Hanuman temples in different parts of Odisha.

In the morning prayers coming from the ramparts of the Jagannath temple a popular song written by Salabeg a Muslim saint whose dead body buried in the city of Puri. This brings a composite culture of Odisha where each community shares the same cultural space. Such a vibrant cultural memory is under the attacks from the Ram- Hanuman cult from the Northern India with a political agenda. As we celebrated the Utkal Diwas we should thwart the political design of the Hindutva forces in Odisha. Our language and literature are getting threatened by the Hindi speaking people. Two years back I was teaching the Ravenshaw University where student leaders use to Hindi songs, dances and even the announcements in Hindi in both college and hostel functions. There are people within Odiya writers who speak for Sankritisation of Odiya language. A leading poet Hara Prasad Das spoke that 90 percentage our vocabulary come from Sanskrit. On the contrary it comes from desi bashas such as sambalpuri, santhali and kui etc. Sarala Das's Mahabharat, Fakirmohan's novels, Kalindi Panigrahi's novel and stories and Gopi Mohanty's Paraja speak out these words from diverse sources. Odiya language and literature will grow only with the growth of Sambalpur sahity, santhali and Kui sahity grow simultaneously where the hidden wealth in cultural sense still unexplored.

Reconstruction of cultural map of Odisha
The RSS and BJP slogan that Bharatbarsa as our motherland and Sanskrit is our mother tounge needs to be challenged by us. A BJP MLA from Nilgiri took oath on the floor of the assembly in Sanskrit and some years back there was a poster in the Ravenshaw College regarding this. We protested the then Principal and who took action against the posters. There is a threat to our language, culture and religion from the Hindutva forces under the leadership of the RSS and the BJP. Jagannath Dharma perhaps the most pluralistic and inclusive in nature where all castes and communities have an access to the temple. British rule violated in the case of the Jagannath temple at Puri. After learning from other Hindu temples from the other parts of India they started imposing the restrictions on the Dalits and tribals with the help of the priest community of the temple. It is written in English at the entry of the temple that these communities cannot enter into the premises of the temple. This angered the Dalits of Odisha and tribals. As the Bauries are having land among these communities and a literate community and went on a protest against this prohibition imposed by the British rule. It was a long march led by the Bauris on 1 March 1881 when they went to the temple and demanded an entry into the temple but it is interesting to note here that there was no attack on them by the other castes but at the gate the police of colonial state fired at them. It seems that the other castes implicitly supported their action. The police action charged 15 of them on the issue that they wanted to destroy the deities in the temple and they were punished for a period of three months’ imprisonment. We request the Chief Minister of Odisha to remove the plate where it is written all these restrictions and recruit the temple priests from the qualified people belonging to all castes to bring back the glory of the temple prior to 1881. (Barik, RK (1988)

 Jagannath Dharma perhaps the most pluralistic and inclusive in nature where all castes and communities have an access to the temple. Disfiguring of Odiya culture started by the Britishers and getting done by the RSS and the BJP who used to work with the colonial state before the independence. They use their money and muscle power to disfigure the cultural map of Odiyas. This violates the constitutional right of people of Odisha to practice their cultural values with their rituals associated with their food habits.  As Odisha is a stable society with a low economic inequality among diverse social groups it is difficult to locate the fault lines for the RSS who want to exploit every situation to grow and support the BJP to rule over the State.

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Prof. Radhakanta Barik, Retired Professor in Political science and a story writer in Odiya.

Nov 5, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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