The common people of India may not know the name of Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das as well as they know the names of Mahatma Gandhi, Babu Rajendra Prasad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Netaji Subhas Bose, etc. But he is well-known all over Orissa, the land of his birth. He was a great son of Orissa.
Birth, parentage, education etc.
Gopabandhu Das was born on the 9th October, 1877 at Suando, a village in the district of Puri. The name of his father was Daityari Das and his mothers name was Swarnamayee Devi. She died when Gopabandhu was quite young.
Gopabandhu received his early education in the village primary school. He was a brilliant boy. He obtained the Middle Vernacular Scholarship. Then he was sent to the Zilla School at Puri. After his graduation he studied law and became a lawyer. His career as a student was always brilliant.
Gopabandhu Das did not hanker after money. He took active part in politics. He came in contact with many illustrious sons of Orissa, like Madhusudan Das, Madhusudan Rao and others. He was greatly influenced by them. He joined the Swadeshi movement which was started after the partition of Bengal in 1905. He worked heart and soul for the uplift of his countrymen. Everyone admired him for his selfless work.
The people of Orissa were mostly poor. Gopabandhu’s main work was to improve their lot. education did not spread among them. So he started Satyabadi School at Sakshigopal. The newspaper is a medium of spreading education among the masses. So he published a daily newspaper called ‘Samaja’. Sutyubadi School produced many ideal men of Orissa. Thus this school and the newspaper ‘Samiya’ will make his name ever memorable to his countrymen.
In 1917, he became a member of the Bihar and Orissa Legislative Council. Then appeared Mahatma Gandhi in the political field of India. He started the Non-co-operation Movement for the freedom of India. Gopabandhu joined this movement. He courted prison like other leaders. He was a sincere worker and worked for the common people of Orissa with a firm determination and untiring zeal. Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, the eminent scientist of Bengal, was a great social worker. He was very much pleased with Gopabandhu for his ardent and sincere social work. He has been called Utkalmani (i.e. the gem of Utkal) Gopabandhu Das by his countrymen.
Lala Lajpat Rai of the Punjab founded the Loka Sevaka Sangha. Gopabandhu became its President. He gave away all his property to the Sangha for the welfare of the people of Orissa. Thus Gopabandhu was really a great friend of the poor people of Orissa. He started the newspaper Samaja. So he had to spend a part of his time for this. He had a taste for writing poems. His literary contributions enriched Oriya literature.
Unfortunately this great son of Orissa died early at the age of 51. It was a premature death. Thus Orissa was deprived of further service from Gopabandhu. But his life will be a lesson to his countrymen. He will never be forgotten by them.