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The forgotten Oriya hero
This article is about a great Oriya hero who had laid the foundation for the struggle of the formation of Orissa and dreamt for oriya language and oriya people. This is a reminder about the unsung hero of the musical Orissa history.
LIKE ALL self respecting people, Oriyas too take pride in their glorious past. We speak and write about our rich culture, tradition and art. But do we really and honestly remember and honour our forefathers, who sacrificed their lives or all the pleasures of life, just to see that their next generation could have a better life, live with dignity and self-respect.
 
We have, but all forgotten Pandit Nilamani Vidyaratna. He was a fiercely proud Oriya. He was born on 14 December at Banki, in a poor Brahmin family in Cuttack district. Handicapped with poverty and starvation, he completed his studies up to seventh standard. Hunger didn’t stop Nilamani Vidyaratna’s thirst for knowledge. At the age of only twenty three, he took the able leadership of editing Sambalpur Hitesini and was bestowed the prestigious tile of “Vidya Ratna” by Basudev Subdhal Dev.
 
He campaigned relentlessly against the government for replacing Oriya with Hindi as the official language. That was the point in his life when he dreamt for Orissa---Orissa as a separate province for his Oriya people. His only aim, the creation of Orissa and Oriya language, drove him mad. He worked tirelessly and gave vent to his passion for the creation of Orissa, through his literary works. The self imposed disciplined man of vision never compromised with his morals. He carried his struggle in the pages of his literary works which comprises of Indradhanu, Utkal Madhupa, Guna Darpan, Utkala Dipika etc. The man who shaped the destiny of Orissa is unfortunately lost in the pages of history.
 
Today, in the 21st century his identity is sinking in the ocean of modernization. Today he is only remembered on his birth anniversary and dealth anniversary and most of the time his memories just rest in old library shelves. On 14 December, 2009, the 142nd anniversary of Panditji was observed at Jaydev Bhawan, where the auditorium was packed. Many esteemed audiences were introduced to Panditji and his contribution to Orissa--- on the spot. But still they are proud to be Oriyas. Tears must have been rolled down from the spiritual soul in the heaven, when the announcer told that they struggled to find a photograph, that too a torn one, of Panditji, for the event which they later edited.
 
Now, Panditji must be questioning himself in the heaven? Who am I? Does Nilamani Vidyaratna only deserve an annual tribute by ministers on his anniversaries? Is it not the duty of all Oriyas to carry out his struggle for the development of Orissa --in a time when Orissa has been awarded the first prestigious position in poverty? We all celebrate first of April as Utkal Dibas, but do we really know that this Utkal was possible for “Utkal samilhani” formed by these selfless fighters. We have burned Panditji’s identity in the ashes of time, generation gap concepts and we all have become anomalies in the lap of change. Alas! We have all forgotten that ‘We are, because they were’.
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