The era of renaissance in Orissa was led by Madhusudan Das who was born in erstwhile landed aristocracy in Cuttack district. He was the first graduate, first post-graduate and first law graduate from Orissa. He was a distinguished lawyer, a literary figure, a celebrated politician and an intellectual 'par excellence'. Above all he was a statesman. He made profound contribution in the field of journalism. He promoted industry in Orissa. He represented Orissa in Bengal Legislative Council three times. He was a member of Imperial Council. In 1921, he became the Minister of the Bihar-Orissa Government. Madhusudan Das's life-history synchronised with the history of Orissa. He was duly conferred the title of 'Utkala Gaurava' (Pride of Orissa) and also known as 'Kula Briddha' (Grand Old Man), for his distinct contribution to Orissan public life and selfless dedication.
For a student of political theory it is a misnomer to use the adjective 'linguistic' with the term nationalism. Language itself constitutes a principal, element of nationalism. However, 'linguistic' may be added to Madhusudan's nationalism since he laid total emphasis on linguistic amalgamation of a people who were living in a state facing identity crisis. In his youth, Madhusudan witnessed the great historical incident of Italian Unification and German Unification. According to Madhusudan, language was a significant factor to bind the people cohesively. It provided basis for emotional integration. Culture developed organically with language. Madhusudan was born in distinct historical circumstances in Orissa. He had to work hard in mobilising the issue of Orissan nationalism on linguistic basis.
Diversity in Unity
Linguistic nationalism of Madhusudan was certainly parochial in Indian context since Orissa was a part and parcel of a greater and richer Aryan nationalism. However, oneness of Aryan or Indian culture did not reject the local sentiments, tradition and language. According to Madhusudan, Indian nationalism symbolised the values of every denomination. Indian culture is rich because of its potentiality to absorb and assimilate
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different heterogenous tendencies. It provided vast scope of free growth of varieties of traditions and languages. Madhusudan recalled the great contribution of the Orissans for enriching the Indian culture. Political History of Orissa
Before Punjab, Orissa was the last state to come under the spell of East India Company in the year 1803. The people of Orissa did not bow their head in cold blood. They valiantly fought against the alien misrule and tyranny of the East India Company. This was explicit in 'Paika Bidroha' under the leadership of Baxi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar and the mutiny led by Veer Surendra Sai in Sambalpur. Nineteenth century was the period of distortion and decline of Oriya speaking people. Orissa was consolidated for the first time under the strong regime of Gajapati of Puri, where empire stretched from Ganga to Godavari. Under British Rule, Orissa disintegrated to pieces. Sambalpur was included in Central Province. Ganjam was merged into Madras Province, Singhbhoomi was a part of Bihar division. There were a number of Princely States. They existed without being related to one another. The remaining part of it was known as Orissa Division comprising three coastal districts—Balasore, Cuttack and Puri. These were kept under the step-mother greater Bengal Province. According to the then Government statistics though the land called Oriya speaking people were not less than ten millions, this was so because Oriya speaking people with a common language were horizontally and vertically divided by the Company administration. Besides, the administration assaulted every aspect of Orissan life — religious, cultural, economic and so on. British government did this because in their outlook, education and the standard of living, the Oriya people were by and large medieval.
Problems of Oriya People
Madhusudan said that 'Orissa was a colony of a colony.' As compared to the rest of the country, Orissan problems were bent upon to cause extinction of the Orissa culture and language. A Bengali gentleman Bhat-tacharya went to the extent of writing a volume entitled 'Oriya Ekta Bhasa Nae' (Oriya is not a language). He argued that very small number of people used to speak in Oriya. In reply to this Madhusudan questioned if Dutch was not a recognised language of Europe. On the same ground the people of Bengal had been enjoying more advantage in the field of administration. St. William Fort was the capital of the Central Government as well as the Bengal Province. As a result Orissa was half a century back in comparison to its counterparts elsewhere in every aspect of life. Bengali apathy due to imperialism choked the imagination of the Oriya people.
Life of Linguistic Nationalism
In 1895, the then Chief Commissioner of Sambalpur division, Sir A. Fraser, ordered that in place of Oriya Hindi must become the official
language of Sambalpur division. In such a historical calamity Madhusudan came to the front to hold the beacon of linguistic nationalism in Orissa. He did not aim at fighting with the fellow Bengalis, but wanted to prevent their unwanted onslaught and to assert the claim of Oriya speaking people to respectability. He put forth a demand before the British Government for amalgamation of Oriya speaking area within the framework of a single administration.
In his objective to fight the British, Madhusudan felt it necessary to get higher education in English. Only thus he could gain confidence to dictate them with his counterparts oh equal footing. In a circumstance of financial hardship and local social intransigence against himself, he left Calcutta. Several highly educated elites' eye-brows were raised against his activities. This, however, is the experience of every person who makes a novel bid. Earlier, Ram Mohan Roy had made similar effort and suffered a lot.
However, the phrases 'militant nationalism' and 'revivalism' may not be appropriately applied in case of Madhusudan who drew inspiration out of the glorious past of Orissa. He reminded the youths about the great heritage of Kharabela, Langula, Narasingha Dev and other luminaries shining on the map of Orissan history. He advised the youths to build up the future of Orissa on the basis of the past. He was sure of the existence of rich potentiality of Orissan culture. Accordingly, his thought process was determined by his mother's frequent reference to 'Apana Mahata aperakhi' (keep your prestige yourself). At a time when the people were suffering from identity crisis, and inferiority complex, Madhusudan appealed to Orissan prestige.
Madhusudan's definition of Oriya was not parochial as it sounds. Madhusudan said, "Irrespective of Hindu, Muslim and Christian and irrespective of language one speaks, one may be an Oriya, for whom this land is cradle of his adolescence, land of duty in his youth, land of rest during old age and soil of eternal peace after death". According to him, anybody who lived in Orissa and embraced her collective life is an Orissan. Madhusudan's concept of linguistic nationalism did not exclude any minority community. In a conversation with Gauri Shankar Roy, he clarified his stand that it was better to say that Oriyas were for Orissa rather than to say 'Orissa for Oriyas.'
As the President of the 'Utkal Sabha' Madhusudan was determined to elevate the Oriya language and literature, its art and culture on one
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hand and to amalgamate the Oriya speaking tracks onthe other. Corroborating the view of Madhusudan, Lord Curzon Said in the British House of Lords that the natural entity of Orissa had been artificially disintegrated and the people were being forced to accept other languages. These arbitrary acts were criticised severely. Madhusudan believed that language was not only the means of communication, but it was the means of expression of a nation (Jaati). The voice of force of the nation is silenced by exposing the people in a state of degeneration.
Utkal Sammelan, 1903
Madhusudan made firm bid to amalgamate Orissa comprising the whole length and breadth of Oriya speaking regions. In the year 1903, the historic Utkal Sammelan was convened by Madhusudan at Rambha (Ganjam). Among others it was attended by the native princes, lawyers, intellectuals and journalists. In his address to the Conference, Madhusudan displayed strong sense of patriotism by revealing the concealed glory of Orissan race. British Orissa Policy
Madhusudan's claim was acclaimed by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy. Subsequently it found sympathetic consideration in the Montague-Chelmsford Reform (1919) and Simon Commission Report (1927). Ultimately it was materialised under the Government of India Act, 1935. With effect from 1st April 1936, a separate Governor's Province of Orissa was established. Orissa was born as the first linguistic province. This was confirmed by the State Reorganisation Commission (1956) in independent India which organised the states on the basis of language.
In the third session of Indian National Congress held at Madras in the year 1887, Madhusudan put forth the cause of amalgamation of Orissa. He narrated the plight of the people who were put under different administrative units. But the matter was turned to deaf ears. True to his Indian spirit, Madhusudan persuaded his Orissan colleague Gauri Shanker Roy to merge the Utkal Sabha in Indian National Congress in view of a broader national interest. Madhusudan's linguistic nationalism was propagated in consideration of a distinct problem Orissa was facing. His plea was not un-Indian, nor anti-Bengali, nor based on any such feeling of animosity. He wanted to save Orissan people, its language and culture. To achieve this end, he had to oppose Bengali's stand in administration, their dominance over language factor and so on. At the same time he had cordial relations with prominent Bengali personalities like Surendranath Banerjee and Gangaram Mukherjee the father of great Ashutosh Mukherjee.
No Parochial Nationalism
In 1927, Mahatma Gandhi supported Madhusudan's point when he wrote that the condition of Orissa was so much deteriorated that for him Orissa improved meant India improved.
Leaving the Congress
In 1872, Madhusudan again repeated the cause of Orissa. Now again, the same drama of Madras Congress was enacted. The vested interests were determined to put aside his move altogether as if Madhusudan was going to secede from the mainstream of Indian national life. It was argued that the provincial or regional matters ougth not to find support from the platform of the Indian National Congress. Madhusudan was disgusted with the attitude of Congress for Orissa's cause. Therefore, he decided to severe his relations from this organisation which he had nursed so lovingly in Orissa.
Madhusudan's dissociation from Congress did not detract him from the feeling of nationalism. He asked the famous poet Radhanath Roy to compose a poem for the inauguration of the Utkal Conference. During his conversation with the poet, he expressed his desire in these words : "I want the veneration of mother Orissa as if she is incarnation of Mother India. Where is Utkal apart from India ? Mother Orissa is Mother India in miniature. If we forget Mother India for the sake of Mother Utkal, it will not be conducive to our national life." Madhusudan found that there was nothing contradictory in holding the concept of Mother India simultaneously with the concept of Mother Utkal. When interrogated, he cited the example of Bankim Chandra's song 'Vande Mataram', which had created the fervour of nationalism in Bengal and simultaneously in whole India. So Madhusudan asked Radhanath Roy to compose one patriotic song in Sanskrit for the Conference, so that it could have all India appeal.
Madhusudan could not become 'Bharat Gaurav5 because of the misrepresentation of his stand, though his contemporary in Bengal Chit-taranjan Das became, 'Desh Bandhu'. His ill-luck along with Orissa's misfortune was that he had to usher in a peculiar task of amalgamation of Orissa on linguistic basis. Had he not left Congress, he could have been its national President. Viewing from the viewpoint of impartial history, he had nothing to do with provincialism in narrow sense. However, his point has been an-eye opener for every suppressed minority with distinct genius of its kind to raise the voice of self-determination. This must not be confused with fissiparus tendencies, which is obviously antinational. Thus Madhusudan should not be accused of parochial linguistic nationalism. .
Contribution to Political Thought
1. Liberalism. In nineteenth century India witnessed, a peculiar type of liberalism, which must not be interpreted in strict European sense. Liberalism in India meant liberal and obligatory attitude towards the British Empire in India. It was the realisation of the inherent values of British system. It sought reform by constitutional means. Fed on English
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system, the intellectuals by and large appreciated the British sense of 'justice and fair play* in view of improving medieval socio-economic state of India in the new light of modernism shown by the British. Madhusudan was no exception to this common trend of his time. However, 'his loyalty must not be construed as slavery'. Throughout his life time, he struggled against injustice. His method of struggle was neither extremist nor revolutionary. True to his liberal spirit, he meant justice by means of reform and constitutionalism. He was widuy criticised for his stand. When the country was preparing for non-cooperation movement under Gandhiji's leadership, Madhusudan was occupying a ministerial berth in Bihar-Orissa Government. However, the misunderstanding was perhaps due to the lack of audience at national forum to explain his stand. C.R. Das was not misunderstood on similar position in neighbouring state rather he was applauded by a very powerful section of the Congress. The charge of his cooperation with British would be dispelled if it may be recalled that Madhusudan was the pioneer of Swadeshi movement in Orissa when it had not gained momentum on national scale.
2. Secularism. Communalism had shown its heinous teeth in Indian
life by the dusk of the last century. The term 'secularism' was scarcely
used in Madhusudan's writings and speeches. However, in view of his
equal attitude towards all religions he was a seculiarist. In his definition
of 'Orissan', he did not exclude any religious denomination. Madhusudan
was upset with the Hindu orthodoxy, its rituals and rigidity. On the other
hand, he appreciated the rational and radical approach of Christianity
as a way of life, though he did not fail to condemn the 'churchism' and
monopoly of church officials. While he was accepted as a prominent
public figure soon after his study at Calcutta, the chapter of his conversion
was ignored. However, his conversion did not alienate him from the
mainstream of Orissa's religion. It became obvious in his stand on Puri
Jagannath Temple affair. In 1878, the Gajapati of Puri was imprisoned.
The next custodian of the Temple was the Maharaja of Khordha. But
he was deprived of his association with the temple later on by an order
of the Government. The administration of the holy shrine was taken over
by the Government. By this action the Government aroused the nationalists.
Madhusudan fought legal battle in the High Court of Calcutta and restored
autonomy of the Temple.
There had been sporadic clashes between Hindus and Muslims on the matter of beef-stalls. Madhusudan interfered in it by pleading that it was not desirable to install beef-stalls in Hindu localities. Unnecessary tension was then averted by lifting the beef-stalls from the sensitive area. Madhusudan was a prominent spokesman of Hindu-Muslim harmony to construct a modern Orissa.
3. Democracy. Madhusudan was not a political scientist equal to the
level of Mill or Bentharo. He had nothing to contribute to the theory
of democracy. His democratic thought may be deduced from his assigned
task. Lord Rippon introduced local self-government in 1882. Local Boards were constituted on the basis of it. Madhusudan served as Vice-Chairman of Cuttack Local Board since 1887 and continued for a decade. The Local Boards were being dominated by the officials and the nominated members. Since Madhusudan thus lacked all sense of what was called, 'self-government', he strived to convert the Local Self bodies into true representative and autonomous. Madhusudan was also working for religious equality, tolerance and freedom.
4. EmancipationofWomen.Madhusudan was a pioneer of freedom
of women and their equality with men in every sphere of life. He had
witnessed the performance of 'sati' sacrifice of his grandmother and was
averse to the system. He felt that expansion of women's education was
a positive step in the direction of emancipation of women. In1908, he
established a girl's high school at Cuttack which was the first of its kind
in Orissa. It became Shailbala Women's College later on. Madhusudan
also pleaded for the right of legal practice of women, which was banned
at that time. Women were also debarred of right to vote on 23rd November,
1921. Madhusudan introduced a resolution in the Bihar-Orissa Legislative
Council to provide franchise to women.
The democratic spirit in Madhusudan's thought may be deduced from his move to introduce in 1921, the system of 'recall' of the public representatives who failed to reflect the aspiration of the people.
5. Industrialisation.Nineteenth century was the century of in-
dustrialisation in developing countries of the world. The prestige of a
nation was assessed on the basis of its industrial progress. Maohusudan
felt it necessary to lead Orissa in that direction. Due to the alien rule
and backwardness of the people of India, Orissa had been primarily
an agricultural state. "Therefore", said Madhusudan "it was first task
to promote agriculture; simultaneously the agro-industries because agricul-
ture alone could not eradicate poverty." He reminded the people that
Orissa had the tradition in the fields of cottage industry and small-scale
industry. He was confident that the people and the potentiality to revive
the old professions to maintain a decent standard of subsistence. Therefore,
he took the following steps in the direction of industrialisation of Orissa.
(i) ProductionofSaltSalt was supposed to be an important item
which supported the livelihood of coastal people. British regime clamped
restriction on manufacturing salt and imposed levy on it. In Allahabad
Session of Congress in 1888, Madhusudan was most vocal against the
salt policy of the Government. In his speech in the Bengal Legislative
Council in 1896, he described salt manufacture as an industry manned
by the common people. He urged for a sympathetic attitude of the Govern-
(ii) ArchitectureandotherArts.Madhusudan's scheme of industry
included stone art and architecture, the kind of which is found in great
temples of Orissa, golden and silver filigree, embroidery and hundreds
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of other items. In his London visit, Madhusudan had carried the Cuttack filigrees to draw the attention of foreigners on Orissa's calibre in the field.
(iii) Art Wares. In ninth decade of the last century, Madhusudan
established one 'Orissa Art Wares'. In 1902, he invited the Lt. Governor
of Bengal Sir John to visit the institution and extend cooperation of the
(iv) Weavers' Society. Madhusudan also formed one Cooperative
Weavers' Society to promote a large number of poor but talented
(v) Tannery. Orissa Tannery was Madhusudan's another contribution
where leatherwares were carried on.
(VI) Utkal Shilponnati Sabha. Madhusudan also formed one 'Utkal Shilponnati Sabha' to accelerate the growth of industries in Orissa and to look after their grievances collectively. He was responsible to advance Orissa in the race of industrial revolution in small scale. While visiting the Institute of Madhusudan, the Industry Inspector of Bihar-Orissa Government, Mr. B. M. Das commented that Mr. Madhusudan was the first person in the entire Bengal division to make positive attempt on industrialisation. In subsequent period Gandhiji also admired the service of Madhusudan in the field of indigeneous industrialisation.