Sakhigopal is well known for its beautiful ancient temple of Lord Satyabadi Gopinath. Pilgrimage to Lord Jagannath temple in Puri is considered incomplete without darshan here. The temple and its lore is deeply intertwined with Lord Jagannath culture.
Sakhigopal was a focal point of Odisha's Swadeshi movement and modern social, cultural and education reforms. Utkalmani Pandit Gopabandhu Das along with his friends Pandit Nilakantha Das, Pandit Godabarish Mishra, Acharya Harihar Das and Pandit Krupasindhu Mishra, are known as the Pancha Sakha of modern Odisha. In 1909, Pandit Gopabandhu established an ideal school, Satyabadi Vana Vidyalaya at Sakhigopal. This was a catalyst in spreading national consciousness, in Odisha. Learned and progressive teachers like Pandit Nilakantha Das, Acharya Harihar Das, Pandit Godabarish Mishra along with Gopabandhu introduced a new pattern of education. This path-breaking school was inspired by the Deccan Education Society and modeled on the guru kula tradition. Pandit Gopabandhu felt that education was vital in making children realize their full potential. They needed personal freedom to understand and freely explore different subjects and ideas. They also needed to have a strong spiritual grounding and understand their duties and responsibilities.
The school was a bold and pathbreaking concept for those times. Children from all castes and social backgrounds stayed, studied and ate together. The teachers focused upon developing the students into ideal citizens. They also devoted themselves to spreading social reforms. They strove to spread education to all, irrespective of gender or caste. The teachers encouraged the students to have a free and easy relationship with them. They taught the children nationalistic sentiments and the value of serving humanity.
The school was aptly started in the Bakula Bana of Sakhigopal with its ancient spiritual heritage. The Satyabadi Movement also took its name from this holy place, named after Prabhu Satyabadi Gopinath.
Long before Prabhu Sakhi Gopal or Satyabadi Gopinath arrived here from Brindavan, the Bakula Bana was sanctified as the pleasure garden of Prabhu Jagannath. His visit to this garden with Prabhu Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra were recorded by Bhakta Balaram Das in his Odiya Ramayana. Bakula Bana was also mentioned in the Panasatola Upakhyana. It was known as the home of Prabhu Jagannath’s maternal grandparents. Wood from the bakula trees of this holy forest is sent every year for Prabhu Jagannath’s ratha jatra. The fragrant bakula flowers are sent for the puja to the temple of Prabhu Jagannath in Puri and to Sakhigopal temple.
In ancient times, the kings established villages for learned Brahmins around the holy bakulabana. They lived here under royal protection, and maintained ancient systems of learning. Pandit Gopabandhu Das and his learned friends grew up from these same Sholaha Shasana villages and joined hands to promote new learning and reforms.
In 1919, Pandit Gopabandhu Das started Samaja as a weekly publication from Sakhigopal. It began with the idea of supporting India’s freedom struggle, and to support the Odiya language. Today Samaja continues to be published as a daily newspaper from Cuttack. It is one of the oldest newspapers of India.
The Satyabadi Vana Vidyalaya with its bold and liberal values, faced strong opposition from orthodox people. Acharya Harihar's library was burnt by protesters. The Pancha Sakhas continued to pursue their ideals despite these hurdles.
It is time people like us try to learn more and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Odisha. Unless we understand and strengthen our roots, we cannot grow to be our best. We often ignore our wonderful culture, when we pursue only material growth. We want more business and profits. So we think restaurants, shopping malls and hotels will draw more money to our state. But malls or hotels are ordinary things found everywhere. Our cultural treasures are rare and unique wealth. When we as a society understand and proudly promote this rich heritage, tourists, business and profits will automatically follow.
(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. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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