Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

As earlier reported, some of Orissa’s I.A.S. officers are so corrupt in character that they are furtively converting the State Government’s commercial publications in culture sector to their own benefit, the latest being former Chief secretary Sahadev Sahoo’s conduct in the matter of Sarala Mahabharata.

The epic Mahabharat, authored originally in Sanskrit by Vyasa Dev as a literature of his philosophy of class war in ancient times, was subsequently tampered with by caste-supremacists through interpolations in order to divest it of its core purpose of eliminating exploitation of the weaker section and women.

Sarala Das had studied the text as was then available and interpreted its innumerable episodes in sociological perspective and reproduced the epic in Orissa’s spoken tongue with utmost regard to what might have been Vyasa’s original purpose, spangling the same with many new episodes corresponding to Orissa of his time in a manner that made the great epic a referral point in every Oriya village. Thus being able to know the philosophy of deathlessness of life that warriors enjoy, as propounded by Vyasa in the mouth of Sri Krshna, Oriya militia became one with the military of the State in protecting Orissa from Muslim invaders that had by that time engulfed India except Orissa.

By Sarala Das’ time, Oriya Nationality was fragmented into feudal nationalities glued to geographical limits under possession of 36 quarrelsome feudal Kings of Orissa as well as invader non-Oriya dynasties.

The Kings were fighting against each other to expand their respective territories and in the process patriotism of their subjects was linked to their feudal territories only. The feudal Kings were boastful of their lineage from the Aryas and had become patrons of Vedic hegemony.

Where there was no feudal King, the land there belonged to tribal democracies silently adherent to Buddhism and its offshoots and thus under no personal possession.

Taking advantage of this, Asok of Magadh had attacked the land of tribal democracies confederated under the banner of Kalinga at Tosala, the birthplace of Buddha; while maintaining friendship with the feudal Kings and since then, till emergence of Kapilendra Dev, every empire within the Oriya speaking tract, was established and run by non-Oriyas, who had tried every nasty method to eliminate Buddhism from its soil of origin, Orissa.

When Kharavela in post Asokan era, belonging to the non-Oriya Chedi clan, endeared to people of Kalinga as the vanquisher of Magadha, had tried to sidetrack Buddhism by ushering in its nearly similar philosophy of Jainism, Jayati II of non-Oriya Somavamsa had imported ten thousand non-Oriya Brahmins to impose Vedas on people beyond feudal territories of Orissa. A King of this dynasty recorded by Iswara Das as Keshari King, had tried to extinguish Buddhism from its soil of origin by annihilating 668 Buddhist Siddhas of the Kurmapatakapur belt. But his successors being a bit reluctant to continue prosecution of Buddhists, particularly the last emperor in the dynasty Karna Dev, his Brahmin Minister Basudev Rath had resorted to subterfuge and through him, another non-Oriya invader Choda Ganga had occupied Orissa and beheaded all the members of Somavamshi royal family in a coup d’etat the like of which had never happened in Orissa. Choda Ganga tried to convert Sri Jagannath from Buddha to Vishnu and his policy of prosecuting Buddhists had led his successor Anangabhima to behead 32 eminent preachers of Buddhism.

Thus, the geographical limits of Orissa, not occupied by feudatory Kings, were under occupation of non-Oriya anti-Buddhist Emperors since the days of Asoka. Hence there was no Oriya Nationalism in existence in the Oriya speaking tract. Nationalism in Orissan context was of many fragmentations linked to geographical limits ruled over by Kings and Emperors.

All these Kings and Emperors were in prosperity by perpetually exploiting the common people of Orissa in the name of Canons. The Canons were in Sanskrit, which the people of Orissa were not versed in. Described as Devabhasa (language of the Lords), Sanskrit was a language to be studied only by the upper caste Aryas and hence the common people of Orissa, basically non-Brahmins, tribal and self-employed agro-communities, were not even allowed to know and use this language. Hence the Kings and Emperors were using Sanskrit as the official language to keep their subjects suppressed forever in the guise of rule of Canons.

Over and above this insurmountable instrument of exploitation, a new threat was looming large. That was Arabic, the language of Muslims and Moguls, who, after occupying major parts of India, had set their eyes on Orissa.

Notwithstanding fragmentations under feudal impact, people of Orissa were spiritually nearer to each other because of Buddhism. Orissa being the birthplace of Buddha, and therefore, the fountainhead of Buddhism, agents of Vedic imperialism had concentrated for centuries here to goad away peoples from its fold by imposing Brahminic Canons written in alien language Sanskrit while keeping them debarred from acquiring knowledge in it. Through out the Oriya speaking land, there was Brahminic assault on Buddhists to which the people, fragmented on feudatory geographical basis, were unable to oppose and thus spiritual brotherhood of Oriyas was in the doldrums.

Pro-people thinkers amongst them were no more to remain silent onlookers.

A revolution was planned.

It was felt that active Buddhists having been annihilated and Vedic deities having spread even to remote parts intoxicating commons with scriptural provisions, fragmented Oriya Nationality may not be brought into one on spiritual basis. Hence Mother-tongue was the only platform where Oriyas’ solidarity could be developed. So the contemplated revolution was to proceed on two fronts: politico-military campaign against non-Oriya dynasties and spread of Mother-tongue impact with availability of scriptures in Oriya.

Accordingly, Kapilendra Dev led the revolution in politico-military front and Sarala Das set the tone in the Mother-tongue sector.

His Mahabharat written in colloquial Oriya quenched the spiritual thirst of the people by telling them in their own language the tale of Sri Krshna and all other heroes and heroines and Gods and Goddesses till then monopolized by the alien language Sanskrit.

And as expected, the entire Oriya speaking tract awoke, as if from a slumber, into the embrace of its beautiful Mother-tongue and Oriya Nationalism got instantly concentrated on the basis of language.

As noted supra, Orissa was divided into various parts under occupation of feudal Kings and non-Oriya dynasties and the people were known by their respective territorial nationalities as defined by their allegiance to their rulers. Hence there was no unity amongst the Oriyas and no Oriya Nationalism as such was possible to grow on geographical platform. By writing the Mahabharata in Mother-tongue of Oriyas, Sarala revived Oriya solidarity and strengthened the nationalistic revolution that helped Kapilendra extinguish non-Oriya rule over Orissa. Sarala had deliberately chosen the Mahabharata as in this particular epic deathlessness of life was depicted in matching justification of war of exploited against the exploiters. So, rightly it acted as the instrument of emancipation and supplemented the stratagem of Kapilendra to its success.

On being successful in extinguishing non-Oriya rule, Kapilendra decided to terminate caste apartheid as that was the main factor of weakening the Oriya race and thereby tactfully revived applied Buddhism.

He declared his creed to be that of Surya, synonym of Buddha by his clan name. And as Buddha was Jagannath, he declared Jagannath as the real owner of Orissa, while promulgating an order that beginning himself all the future Emperors of Orissa would officiate only as the Raut or Representative of Sri Jagannath.

As Surya (the Sun or Konarka Dev or Buddha by His clan name) is equally available to everybody irrespective of castes, under his rule that he established under a new dynastic banner in the name of Surya, every citizen would enjoy equal right and opportunity in spiritual and professional pursuits, he ensured. He issued injunctions that there shall be no caste consideration in partaking Prasad of Sri Jagannath and also in getting recruited to and/or promotions in the military as well as in any public service. In order to save the common people from the whips of Canons in Sanskrit, he promulgated Oriya as the official language and obliterated every obstacle between administration and the subjects.

With such a person as the Emperor, sans caste discrimination, the Oriya race became so united and strong that instead of waiting to defend its territory from Muslim invaders, it went on attacking and annexing Muslim ruled estates.

This strength came from complete defragmentation of Oriya Nationality, which was processed, notwithstanding presence of feudal States, under the surge of love for Mother-tongue that Sarala Das developed through his Mahabharata, wherein Sri Jagannath was time and again shown as Buddha himself. It is to be noted that ever since Sarala Mahabharata was authored, Oriya nationalism has never gone again into fragmentations.

Therefore, it may be safely said that Sarala Mahabharata is the fountainhead of Oriya nationalism.

But written originally in palm leaves and copied from palm leaf to palm leaf by Lekhankaras that were not necessarily versed in literature but only literate enough to engrave, on wages, the alphabets on palm leaves using a pointed iron shaft usable with three fingers called Lekhani, most of the words and verses of this mega work were corrupted rendering it incomprehensible in many places. Moreover palm leaf copies of this epic being centuries old in age, it was no more possible to preserve them and therefore, existence of this unique work was severely threatened. In fact most of the copies were moth-eaten and damaged. Moreover, there was severe dearth of people who could be able to read the manuscripts if any found in readable condition.

Worried over such a threat to this unique cultural heritage of Orissa, Prof. Artta Ballav Mohanty had single-mindedly dedicated four years of his scholarly life, that too after superannuating from government service, to revive this fountainhead of Oriya nationalism, without which, the people of modern Orissa would not have any access to its text, specifically as people able to read them had become almost extinct. He had collected 22 sets of manuscripts from different parts of Orissa; but had been able to find out only eleven persons, who were able to read those manuscripts.

That there were only eleven persons available to read the palm leaf manuscripts of Sarala Mahabharata at that time is enough to indicate what would have happened to this mega work of Sarala had Prof. Mohanty not revived it in time.

However, with these eleven persons reading the manuscripts page by page before him, Prof. Mohanty was philologically analyzing the read out lines, word by word and arriving at what could have been the original verse of Sarala.

Imagine how difficult must have been this exercise. Without sheer patriotism, without total commitment to one’s Motherland and Mother-tongue, collection, correction and compilation of such a matchlessly mega but unmanageably dilapidated work, eight hundred years old in age, would never have been possible.

Prof. Mohanty not only edited the work restoring it to its original shape, but also, the words used by Sarala no more in use in modern Oriya, were provided with meanings in footnotes in every page.

Therefore, it can be aptly said that the Sarala Mahabharata edited by Prof. Mohanty is his intellectual property over which his legal heirs must have their inherited entitlement.

But Prof. Mohanty had handed over his work to the State Government of Orissa. And the Government, in the Department of Culture, had invested money from public exchequer and brought it out as a priced publication. Hence it is a commercial property of the State Government of Orissa.

Now, this commercial property of the State has been misappropriated by former Chief Secretary namely Sahadev Sahoo and his group of stooges including writer Pratibha Roy and converted to his and their benefit by bringing out a priced publication of the same under their banner: Sarala Sahitya Samsad.

Earlier, in these pages, I had exposed how Subas Pani, Chief Secretary of Orissa as then he was, had converted Srimad Bhagavat of Jagannath Das, the manuscripts of which were collected, corrected and edited by Pt. Nilamani Mishra and published commercially by the Orissa Sahitya Academy, to his own benefit through a hybrid organization of letters under Government control called the Odisha Bhasa Pratisthana. Pani of course had no eye on financial gain out of it. His sole purpose was to fetch the opportunity for spreading his own name across the world as the sole presenter of the literary marvel that has remained at top of popularity among Oriyas for last 500 years.

But culture vultures combined under the banner of Sarala Sahitya Samsad, a private trade house chaired by Sahadev Sahoo have converted a historically important public property to their commercial benefit by misappropriating and republishing Sarala Mahabharata, revived by Prof. Artta Ballav Mohanty, behind back of the State.

This is a crime against the State deliberately carried out by the former Chief Secretary Sahadev Sahoo along with a former Engineer Prabhakar Swain for their commercial profit. It is a shame that a Padmashree fetcher Prativa Roy has been an active abettor in this crime. She has not even thought it proper to acknowledge the contributions of Prof. Mohanty to survival of Sarala Mahabharata in the form that they have misappropriated. She has tried her mischievous best to obliterate the name of Prof. Mohanty and to say us that it is Sahadev Sahoo but for who the correct copy of Sarala Mahabharata would not have been available. “Sri Sahadev Sahoo’s firmness and unwearied endeavor in this respect shall remain ever unforgettable”, she has asserted. It is a shame that such a dishonest lady in matter of letters has been awarded with Padmashree for literature!

However, the crime against the State having thus been committed, it is imperative to prosecute the perpetrators of this crime in appropriate Court of Law. These perpetrators claim that former Chief Justice of India Ranganath Mishra is their advisor. If it is true, he should clarify as to whether this crime has been committed under his advice. If it is committed without his advice or in contravention of his advice, he should immediately disassociate himself from this combine of culture vultures. More important than the judicial top post he had once held, to us, is his identity as the son of Pt. Gadavarish Mishra, who personified probity in public life, honesty in personal life and sacrifice for the Motherland. His bright memory should not be eclipsed by any bad act of his son.

Pending prosecution, all the volumes of Sarala Mahabharata as presented by Sahadev Sahoo and published by the Sarala Sahitya Samsad should be banned and confiscated by the State Government without loss of time. Anarchy in Orissan culture cannot be countenanced even though politico-administrative anarchy has pushed the people into inanition.

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