The socio-economic condition of the tribal populace in India has remained at the forefront of government policies since Independence. The tribal areas have always lacked basic amenities and livelihood. Such development-deprived areas have also remained the feasting ground for Naxals and missionaries, Odisha's Kandhamal district being one of them.
One Sanyasi who dedicated his life for uplifting the lives of poor banavasis in this area was Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. He was born in 1924 in Angul district of Odisha. Later, he went to the Himalayas and became a Sanyasi.
On his return to Odisha, he went to Kandhamal which was a remote and economically backward district where foreign missionaries were alleged to have been carrying out mass religious conversion among tribals by alluring poor people.
Lakshmanananda took a vow to fight the menace by working for the development of the downtrodden classes of Kandhamal. He established an Ashram at Chakapada which became a source of social and religious development of tribal people. Moreover, it took shape of a major movement among the people as it made them economically sound and academically proficient.
Lakshmanananda established co-ed school and Kanyashram for children and women education of the tribal populace who used to stay away from the mainstream. He also undertook organic farming as a means of farming for tribal people. In addition, he became a key source of Hindu spiritualism.
Due to his multi-dimensional activity for the development of Hindu tradition as well as upliftment of economic condition of the poor mass, Swami Lakshmanananda eventually became a trendsetter in entire Odisha.
People used to admire him a lot, which became a botheration for anti-social elements in the region. As a result, he was killed by group of miscreants on the occasion of Janmashtami in 2008. This incident happened 13 years ago. People and the society seem to have almost forgotten his sacrifice. It is time to honour the reformer and teacher.
Story By: Debiprasad Pati
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)