Baliguda: Raghunath Rath, a reputed scholar of tribal studies, breathed his last at his residence here today. He was 77. His final rites were performed at the Swargadwar in Puri.
A self-trained anthropologist and tribal activist, his passion was the study of the history, culture and traditions of the Kondh tribals (locally called as Kandha). He spent many years of his life with the Kondh tribals and had mastered the Kui language. His research and studies were based on firsthand experience. In his lifetime, he had traveled the length and breadth, or rather the hills, forests and hamlets of Kandhamal and has written many original works. Most of his writings were empirical and path breaking, hitherto they had not been reported earlier anywhere.
Rath has written more than a dozen books. His book “The Kandhs and Kandhamal” is an important study in the history and culture of the region. He was the first scholar to translate and decipher the unique Kui Riddles. Rath had, during his lifetime guided many scholars from Delhi University (DU), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Sambalpur and Utkal Universities besides researchers from Oxford and Cambridge universities. He was conferred with many awards during his lifetime including the Sahitya Academy and the Itihas Sankalan Samity award.
According to historian Anil Dhir, Rath was the present day Verrier Elwin, whose works should be compiled and published. Although he had written most of his papers in Odia, they find references in many books and works. Dhir also said that Raghunath Rath has willed his entire library comprising, of more than 5000 rare books and journals to the National Archives of India.
Rath was a humble and down to earth man, who spent his entire lifetime working for the upliftment of the Kondhs, Dhir added.
Amiya Bhusan Tripathy, Convener of INTACH Odisha, condoled the death of Raghunath Rath and called him a true scholar who, in his lifetime, did not get the recognition that he deserved.