Bhubaneswar: The country is currently in doldrums if national anthem should be played before every show in cinema halls across India. Apart from Jana Gana Mana, every state in India has an official or unofficial state anthem in its regional language. Odisha’s unofficial state anthem Bande Utkala Janani was penned by Kanta Kabi Laxmikant Mohapatra, a reputed nationalist poet.
In 1936, when Odisha became independent, Bande Utkala Janani was made the song of the state. In 1990, the state government made it compulsory to be sung at the beginning of school prayers in government schools and at the end of any Legislative Assembly session. Moreover, it is mandatory to stand when this song is sung/played.
On the occasion of the poet’s 129th birth anniversary today, Odisha Sun Times pays tribute to him and remembers his life and times in a nutshell:
He was born on Dec 9, 1888 in Cuttack to into a zamindar’s family. He spent his childhood in his maternal uncle’s house and studied in Balasore. He was attracted to fine arts like music and dance from a tender age.
He spent his days singing songs in the backyard of his college hostel as a student in Cuttack. He then married Labanga Lata, the daughter of zamindar Lalmohan Das. After passing his intermediate exams, he left for Kolkata’s Pion College for higher education. However, in 1913, he returned to Ravenshaw and completed his Bachelor of Arts degree. In the meantime, he begun to be known as writer.
A leprosy attack compelled him to look for remedies everywhere but to no avail. On the advice of his mentor Babaji Ramdas, he begun composing music for his clan deity Gopinath and established Gopinath Sangeet Samaj in 1921. He was a poet who wrote patriotic songs in praise of his motherland.
Laxmikant is known for his literary works seeped in devotion and spiritualism, such as Basanta Bilasa, Baruna Bijaya, Kaliadalana, Brajabarjana, Besabadala, etc, along with historical and mythological plays like Karna, Kalapahada, Chandraahasa, etc.
Chidiakhana, Dharma Sangeeta, Balachara, Sunapua, Mo Desa, etc. were his children’s stories. His essays include Keisora Swapna, Joubana Pathe, Nibhruta Nisithe, Jibanta Maran, among others.
Amidst land disputes over paternal property, his father instituted a the Gopinath Press and handed him the reins. His expertise began expanding to children’s literature and comedy. This is when he also penned Bande Utkala Jananiin 1912 and was first sung in the Utkala Sammilani held in Balasore the same year. He was conferred with the Kanta Kabi title at a felicitation ceremony in Bhadrak high school in 1933.
Life of struggle
Laxmikant also released a journal called Dagara, for which he had to labour in the insufficient earnings of the press. Dagara had a wide array of articles in it such as satire, children’s stories, writings that exposed the hypocrisy of politics and society, etc. His sons were active freedom fighters. He worked for his press and journal till his last breath on Feb 24, 1953.