By Sambeet Dash

Pandit Nilakantha Das vividly describe the big hiatus between the rich and poor of the time. Once he took out the students of Satyavadi School to the famous Nilamadhab temple at Kantilo, near Nayagarh. It is located on the bank of river Mahanadi, surrounded by twin hills and dense foliage.

The local King (more like a Vassal) of Khandapada made massive BANDOBAST (arrangements) for the entourage from Satyavadi. He sent luxurious bullock carts to fetch the guests with soft beds to sit on, personally receiving them and supervising the JALAJOGA (light refreshments) being served upon their arrival. The new- comers were pleasantly surprised at the excellent accommodations provided – every room furnished with gas lights, accompanied by high quality food which included varieties of dishes made out of freshly caught fish from MAHANADI and a huge conference hall at their disposal.

They were baffled by such opulence in a state where the overwhelming majority were poor, yet reinforcing the notion of huge gap between few “haves” and the vast “have- nots” of the time. The VIDYARTHEEs (students) of Satyavadi by virtue of their education earned a reputation impressive enough to be pampered by the rich and famous of the time. However, Nilakantha Das strictly informed the hosts not to serve any tobacco products to the students (alcohol was beyond their dream).

The excited, inquisitive folks went around the Royal Palace. Later they visited the surrounding twin hills and enclosing forest, where Nilakantha Das remembers hearing roar of Tiger from a distance around twilight. Everyone had a great time before bidding adieu from Kantilo, rich with experience and parting gifts from the local King.

Satyavadi School continued functioning unabated until internal contradictions, debts and scarcity of money due to chronic back- to- back droughts led to its downfall. Beginning October, 1918 it was never the same. The friends went their own way, with Pandit Nilakantha leaving on a teaching assignment in Calcutta, followed by a stint in Sambalpur serving the locals. When he returned to Satyavadi, he noticed that during his long absence, ‘discipline’ was missing which used to be the cornerstone of the institution.

Gopabandhu, another pillar of Satyavadi School fell sick frequently and was increasingly dependent on Nilakantha Das, both physically and emotionally.  Godabarisha, inspired by Gopabandhu toured Chakradharpur to campaign for merger of Singh hum in Odisha. Krupasindhu Mishra went all the way to Midnapore to build a High School there.

As the founders went far and beyond Satyavadi towards a bigger goal of establishing a greater Odisha, it shook the foundation of the school. The ‘Gang of Five’ was now gearing up for another phase of life, ‘politics.’

(This is the 8th in series of recapitulation in the writer’s own words portions of Pandit Nilakantha Das’s Biography in Odia.)

Sambeet Dash is an Odia technocrat living in Georgia US.