Role of Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo in the Odia Language Movement

The history of Odia language movement for saving it from the onslaught carried-out by Bengali Babu’s and it’s promotion and the creation of separate Odisha Province on linguistic basis is a romance in the history of Odisha. Odisha was dismembered after the British occupation in 1803 A.D. into three separate tracts known as Odisha division constituting:

  1. Balasore, Cuttack and Puri under Bengal Presidency;
  2. the Ganjam and Vizagpatenam districts became a part of Madras Presidency; and
  3. the Sambalpur tract with adjacent feudatory states was incorporated in the Central Provinces.

An emphasis was made by the three Presidencies to introduce their respective languages as official language in these divisions. By this Odisha & Odia language got a severe blow which hurt the sentiment of the then Odia nationalist leaders.They fought for the unification of different Odia speaking tracts under a single Government and the formation of new separate Odisha Province. Under the powerful leadership of Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das & other eminent Odia leaders, started the Odia language movement to achieve this goal. After a lot of painstaking efforts made by different eminent leaders, a separate province of Odisha was formed on 1st April 1936.

One of the dynamic spirits of the Odia language movement of 19th century was the 38 illustrious ruler of Mayurbhanj State Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo, whose contribution and whole-hearted support should not be forgotten. Born on 17th Dec 1871, he proved himself as a man of perfect knowledge and wisdom. Taking the cause of his minority for some years the State of Mayurbhanj was ruled under the administration of court of Wards. He assumed the direct control over the State of Mayurbhanja on 15th Aug,1892 A.D. & was felicitated with the honour of Maharaja by the British Government in 1903 A.D. He was a dynamic spirit who increased the number of schools to 410 by the year 1910 which was only 42 at the time of his accession.

Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo was a staunch devotee of learning and his appetite for knowledge was ever increasing. He felt that without advancement of Odia language the national solidarity, political stability and social upliftment of Odisha was impossible. As such he did not confine his activities to Mayurbhanj alone but also put forth his effort for a happy solution on the question of amalgamation dismembered Odia speaking tracts. His contribution to the growth of Odia literature deserves mention. When Odisha did not fully realize the value of press and papers, Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo took the initiative to reorganise the State Press established by his deceased father, which was virtually in a state of defunct. Thus he was influenced by his teacher Pundit Gobinda Chandra Mahapatra for patronizing & promoting mother-tongue &development of literary works. So in the year 1891 A.D. this encouraging news was published in newspapers:

Without proper inspiration and due to the lack of funding, the men of letters of Odisha were not becoming effective to pen-down essays and other treatises. To eradicate this difficulty a monthly Journal named as “Utkal Prava” would be published from the next month of Baishakha (April/May). This journal would definitely disseminate the knowledge on literature, science, philosophy, politics, religion and essays on morality.The writer of best essays would be rewarded.Five prose writers would have to receive Rs.120/- each in a year for their best contributions. The authors of poem, drama, parables, essays on science, and history who would publish their complete papers or part of it would be rewarded with Rs.200 and Rs.60 respectively. If the authors would like to publish their essays and books independently they would be permitted to publish 500 copies only, paying the value of papers and ink to the Mayurbhanj State Press.

This declaration of Maharaja clearly proved his love and passion for the development and growth of Odia language and literature.

Under his kind patronage two leading journals entitled “Utkal Prava(ଉତ୍କଳ ପ୍ରଭା)” and “Manorama (ମନୋରମା)” were published monthly and weekly on 1st April 1891 A.D. and 23rd Oct,1905 A.D. respectively. It is interesting to note down that the “Sammilani press ”ସମ୍ମିଳନୀ ପ୍ରେସ’’ was the handy work of the British Government where as “Utkal Prava” was published by Mayurbhanj State Press.

Maharaja emerged as a grand patron and promoter of the Odia literary world. He had taken a flaw-less attempt to encourage and inspire the authors for which he dedicated “Utkal Prava” to them.

The 1st edition was mostly enriched with the contributions of the outstanding personalities of the then Odisha.

Madhusudan Das’s , Radhanatha_Ray’s Chilika (ଚିଲିକା) and Ramasankar Ray’s Bibasinee were the excellent gems of the literary compositions. The next editions were enriched with the poetries, essays, novels, dramas etc. Radhanath Ray’s Mahajatra(ମହାଯାତ୍ରା) (2nd Edition) and ଯଯାତି କେଶରୀ are classic works of that time.

Besides Maharaja’s “ଦେଶର ଆଧ୍ୟାତ୍ମିକ ଉନ୍ନତି ରାଜଶିକ୍ଷା ସାପେକ୍ଷ” was published continuously in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd editions, that shed light on spiritual and material development of society. This book was published in an anonymous name that is “Novice” which literally means “new Preacher”. It was told by one of the literary critics Gokul Chandra Satapathy(ଗୋକୁଳ ଚନ୍ଦ୍ର ଶତପତୀ) that Maharaja wrote this essay consulting his bosom friend Sashi Bhusan Ray(ଶଶୀ ଭୂଷଣ ରାୟ).

Maharaja was also a great critic of literary writings which was discovered through the letters written by him to different authors. A letter written to Radhanath Ray on 5th Sept., 1894 with critical appreciation deserves a special mention:

I do not pretend to be a critique of poetry, but I can say that this little work was its merits.The way in which it combines divinity with aesthetics is something new.

Similarly he also wrote another letter to his friend Sashi Bhusan Ray on 11th May, 1897 regarding his travel to South India, “Your Travels in the Deccan is a delightful book. It is very well written. One do not feel tired of reading it.With my regards to yourself and your respected father”.

Other potential writings of Rudranarayan Sadhangi’s Jarasandha Badha ଜରାସନ୍ଧ ବଦ୍ଧ, Bijaya Majumdar’s “Odia Sahitya Aalochana” (ଓଡ଼ିଆ ସାହିତ୍ୟ ଆଲୋଚନା). Fakir Mohan Senapati’s Jahnamamu(ଜହ୍ନମାମୁଁ), Prathana(ପାର୍ଥନା), Joshephine, Jiban nadi(ଜୀବନ ନଦୀ). Swapna, Bibhasa Raginee, Lala Ramnarayan Ray’s Kabi Upendrabhanja and Bhanja Kabya Samalochana କାବ୍ୟ ସମାଲୋଚନା, Biswanath Kar’s Mahasrota ମହାସ୍ରୋତ, Rakhyasa-Lila ରାକ୍ଷସ ଲୀଳା, Stree-Sikhya ସ୍ତ୍ରୀ ଶିକ୍ଷା, Swadhinata ସ୍ୱାଧୀନତା & Ananta Prem ଅନନ୍ତ ପ୍ରେମ, Chandra Mohan Maharana’s Kapilash କପିଳାସ, Gangadhar’s Indumati ଇନ୍ଦୁମତି, #Gobinda_Chandra_Mohapatra’s translated Odia Mahabharat, Prachina Kabinka Brutanta and Krusibigyan କୃଷିବିଜ୍ଞାନ ଓ ପ୍ରାଚୀନ କବିଙ୍କ ବୃତ୍ତାନ୍ତ (a translation science of Agriculture)were the outstanding literary contributions of the magazine.

It emerged as a leader of Odia nationalism in one and on the other a great supporter of Odia language movement. His unblemished love for Odia nationalism & Odia literature crowned him to be nominated as the 1st President of Utkal Sammilani(ଉତ୍କଳ ସମ୍ମିଳନୀ) inaugurated at Idga Padia(ଇଦଗା୍ ପଡ଼ିଆ) at Cuttack on 30.12.1903″. The encouraging message he delivered here is worth being to be discussed. “Extending thanks to the organizers of Utkal Sammilani”, who nominated him as the President, Maharaja began his speeches describing the contributions of deceased Raja Sudhal Deba of Bamanda(ବାମଣ୍ଡା) who was a man of virtue and promoter of Odia language. He suggested some messages for the unification and integration of Odisha in the one hand and on the other for the development of Odia as a language – which is mentioned below:

  1. To develop the economic resources of the state through establishing industries;
  2. To educate the society throgh vigorous attempts &
  3. To develop language and literature in the one hand and on the other to reform the society.

Then explaining what is politics he suggests that, religion and politics should be set apart.Then he made a reminiscence on the Muslim and Mughal administration which is described in his language as autocratic, oppressive, tyrannous and corrupt.

A true patron of Odia nationalism and leader of Odia language movement he rendered valuable services like extending financial support for the remodeling the dilapidated parts of science department of Ravenshaw College by donating Rs.27,000/, Rs.7,00028 for the establishment of SCB Medical College, and also constructed buildings for “Utkal Sahitya Samaj”and Victoria Jubilee Library at Baripada – where the meetings would be permanently conducted and the books and documents could be kept safely. Though Maharaja received a premature death in 1912 A.D. but his unflinching love for Odia nationalism, his genuine effort for Odia language movement, his sincerity to build up a moral and spiritual character of Odia people worth being to be remembered. His name has already become a household word in Odisha. The Odia nation pays a great tribute to this great soul always and to be forever.


  1. Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo – A Leaflet published by Government of Odisha, Information and Public relations Department, Bhubaneswar. 17th Dec, 2008.
  2. Utkal Dipika 23rd Dec, 1882.
  3. Mayurbhanj, 1918, P.48.
  4. Odisha District Gazette, Mayurbhanj 1924.

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