As the nation is celebrating the Independence Day, the people of Odisha remember Mahatma Gandhi's historic foot march that he undertook nine decades ago covering many parts of the state including the coastal district of Kendrapara.
Spreading a message against untouchability, the Father of the Nation allowed Dalits to enter temples in some villages during that march in 1934, said Dr Basudeb Das, a researcher of Kendrapara.
"The padayatra by Gandhiji was one of the most momentous events in the country's freedom struggle," Das said.
During the march, Gandhi spent four days in Kendrapara district and toured different places.
"Meera Ben, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Rajkrushna Bose, Rama Devi, a German youth named K Kuto, Uma Bajaj, Binod Kanungo, Surendranath Pattnayak and many other followers accompanied him," said Das (78) said quoting historical records preserved by him.
Gandhi reached Kakatia village on May 26 and spent the night in Salar Muth. He addressed meetings at Bhagabatpur and Tinukuhani Chhak the next day. He stayed for a couple of days at Garapur bungalow on the outskirts of Kendrapara town. Later, he visited Barimula and spent the night on May 30 in Dhumat village.
Gandhi took a bath while sitting on a stone at Dhumat village on May 30, 1934. Villagers carried water from the nearby river in buckets for him. That stone, now known as Gandhi Sila', has been preserved at the same spot and a bust of him was built there.
"Neither I nor my father saw Mahatma Gandhi. But we worship the Gandhi Sila. My grandfather used to tell us how Gandhiji came to our area and infused the spirit of Independence among the local people," said Anuradha Mohanty, a college student from Dhumat village.
The History of Orissa' authored by former chief minister the Late Harekrushna Mahtab throws elaborate details on Gandhi's march in the state.
"Those who took part in the yatra or were eyewitnesses to it are not alive to recall Bapu's persona. But the fact that the great man had put his steps in Kendrapara makes us proud," said 30-year-old sales executive, Manabesh Rout, of Kendrapara town.
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi along with other freedom fighters was unveiled recently at Tinimuhani Chhack in Kendrapara township to commemorate the historic Padayatra of Father of the Nation in 1934.
A special cover of Gandhi s Padayatra in Kendrapara was also released by the Indian Department of Post as a mark of tribute to the Father of the Nation.