Pradeep Pattanayak

Today, Odias staying in and outside the State are celebrating Utkal Dibasa with great pomp and gaiety. At the same time, they remember the role and sacrifice of our legendary personalities for whom today we are feeling proud to have a classical language. 

There was a time when our language was passing through a difficult phase. It was the 19th Century. The State once stretched from the Ganga to Godavari and basking in the pride of being a land of excellent arts was struggling hard for its survival. 

The State had to face a double whammy in 1803. While the British set their lustful eyes on the State, Bengali-speaking officers conspired to eliminate the Odia language. Then, while the Odia language was not allowed to be one of the medium of government works, Kanti Chandra Bhattacharya went one step ahead and published a book titled ‘Udiya Ekti Swatantray Bhasha Noi (Odia not an independent language). 

“It was during 1870 when a Bengali teacher (Kanti Chandra Bhattacharya) published a book titled ‘Udiya Ekti Swatantray Bhasha Noi’. Then he was strongly opposed. Following this, Radhanath (Radhanath Ray), Madhusudan (Madhusudan Das), Fakir Mohan (Fakir Mohan Senapati) and Gangadhara (Gangadhara Meher) went out of their way to save the Odia language,” said litterateur Asit Mohanty. 

During the time of severe famine Na’nka Durbhikshya in 1866 when people were dying like flies in Odisha, the first Odia journal ‘Utkala Deepika’ was published by Gourishankar Ray. Subsequently, several journals and magazines were born to save the Odia language from being extinct. After ‘Utkal Deepika’, the first Odia literary magazine ‘Ukala Darpana’ was published. Later on, ‘Sambada Bahika’, ‘Utkala Putra’, ‘Sambalpur Hiteishini’, ‘Bodha Dayini’ etc were published with the same intention of protecting the Odia language. 

“Then, they like Sudhal Deb of Bamanda (Raja Sir Basudeb Sudhal Deb) all wanted to see Odisha as a state on the basis of a language,” observed Dr Debashis Mahapatra. 

Not only the newspapers and magazines but also the personalities like Vyasakabi Fakir Mohan Senapati, Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das, Utkal Gorab Madhusudan Das etc continued their fight to save the Odia language. 

It was Utkal Gourab Madhusudan Das who laid the foundation for the formation of an independent State based on language. If Utkala Sammilani came into existence, it was due to his tireless efforts. And from here, a kind of perception emerged to get the Odia people united. Consequently, Odisha was declared the independent State on the basis of language on April 1, 1936. 

“When he (Kanti Chandra Bhattacharya) said ‘Udiya Ekti Swatantray Bhasha Noi’, it hurt Odia people to the core of their hearts. It gave rise to a revolution, which was spearheaded by Radhanath Ray, Madhusudan Das, Madhusudan Rao, Gangadhar Meher and Fakir Mohan Senapati and many others,” said litterateur Das Benhur.