Almost three months have passed this year and April is approaching. The first day of April , as many know is celebrated as ‘Fool’s Day’. This day is even more significant for the people of Odisha as for us it is ‘Utkal Diwas’(Odisha Day); and every year this day brings a lot of joy and brims out hearts with pride. It is the day that gave us our self-hood and identity. This year Odisha is turning 83 but the integrity of the civilization has been there since aeons. The journey has not been smooth though. This land has been though a lot of tough days and many days of glory, seeping in all the events that occurred and thus, speaks a thousand tales. It speaks of the secrets of the ancient scriptures carved in the caves, it speaks of Ashoka, it speaks of Lord Jagannath, it speaks of the struggles of the people, it speaks of the many unheard stories that light up the ‘Addas’. Oft-times the relics get shadowed by the statistics of Odisha as being very poor and many other gross generalisations. There are multiple reasons for this sitch like historic negligence, meagre eduction, poor healthcare and insufficient skilled manpower. There are two major tales which determined how the state of Odisha would be governed.
On 17th of December 1803, the treaty of Deogarh was signed in which the province of Cuttack was given up by Raghoji II Bhosle of Nagpur. Jaya Krushna Rajguru Mahapatra a.k.a Jayi Rajguru, who was the head of the Paika knights mobilised the warriors and revolted against the British in 1804, but with the help of some natives, the Britishers were able to suppress the revolution. Both Jayi Rajguru and the king were jailed. Later Jayi Rajguru took all the blame and thus he was the only one to be convicted. On 6th of December 1806, in Midnapore, he was iniquitously hanged by his legs tied to two different branches of a Banyan tree and released to be torn to two parts. His failure was never a deterring factor and his sacrifice did not go in vain, rather it laid the foundation of a significant uprising 13 years later.
By 1803 the Britishers had acquired Odisha without any hassle, but the new land revenue system which were inculcated made it very difficult for the Britishers to consolidate power. The Paikas were in possesion of their ancestral willed lands by their earlier roles in the military. The administration renounced those lands and ripped the Paikas of their economic life. Buxi Jagabandhu, who was a former general of the armed forces of Khordha had also lost his wealth. He tapped on the discontent among the people and led a revolt against the Brits. Over the due course of time, government institutions, police stations, and treasuries were looted and vandalized. This encouraged revolt in other parts of Odisha as well. Jagabandhu surrendered himself in 1825 and was imprisoned and later he died in 1829.
The Paika Rebellion was a push-back for the British government. The reorientation was a mammoth task and policies required a lot of modifications. Keeping the difficulties of consolidating power in the region in mind, the Britishers used the costal belt of Odisha as only a gateway between the presidencies of Bengal and Madras. The government paid exiguous attention to the hardship of the people. In fact, the populace of the princely sates were left to suffer in isolation without considering the province as worthy of development. After that Odisha went through a lot of natural calamities and the indifferent administration did not even bat an eye. The case for education and health care was the worst with only three high schools in all of Odisha; all of them concentrated in one place and no full fledged medical college, which led to Odisha being poor in human capital. The transport facilities were way behind any other state at that point of time which made even difficult for people to acquire even their basic needs.
After the famine there was a growing consciousness among the people of Odisha. Considering the scale of the famine, the government was compelled to pay attention to the development of the are a s conservative estimate.
In 1867, government raised the status of Cuttack Zilla school to that of a high school which was affiliated to Calcutta University. It became a college in 1876. With the improvements in education, intellectuals like Madhusudan Das, Biswanath Kar, Ramasankar Ray, Gangadhar Meher and Nanda Kishore Bala emerged. When Utkal Sabha was formed in 1887 by intellectuals like Madhusudan Das, Fakirmohan Senapati, and Radhanath Ray, the idea of a greater Odisha started taking shape. In 1882, Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das formed the Orissa Association which started to draw the attention of the government towards the problems of Odia people. The famous ‘Utkal Union Conference’ which banded for the cause of a united Odisha was founded in 1903 under the leadership of Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das. Since then, things started to change gradually. In 1911 Odisha and Bihar got separated from Bengal province to form a new province. In 1920, Indian National Congress embraced the idea of reorganizing provinces on the basis of language. This led to the formation of Odisha Congress Committee. On 1st of April 1936, Odisha was given the status of a separate province, which is marked by the celebration of ‘Utkal Diwas’.
In the struggle for the self rule by the Odia people, everyone contributed in their own way. Some contributed with the sword, like that of Buxi Jagabandhu and some contributed with the pen ,like that of Madhusudan Das. All of their contributions have built up to form a self-governing state in an independent nation. This celebration of Utkal Diwas, every year gives people of to retrospect on their glorious past and take steps to make Odisha prosperous.
Sayantan Mitra writes about society with touches of polity and politics. His main focus is on providing informative content with a unique perspective, but never at the cost of providing just mere entertainment.