It was the 19th century, and India was still under British administration struggling for freedom. During that time, there was another struggle going on in Odisha, the effort to save Odia language. On 9th of August 1862, Swabhaba Kabi Gangadhar Meher took birth in Barapali Village of Bargarh district, Odisha. He went on to become one of the most creative and fundamental contributors to Odia literature.
His father, Chaitanya Meher, was an Ayurvedic doctor in the village beside his family profession of weaving. As a child, he used to help his father due to the family’s miserable financial condition.
But his urge for reading and gaining knowledge never took a back seat. As a young boy, he read Odia Ramayana and Odia Mahabharat. He also read and learned a lot of Sanskrit books like ‘Raghuvamsham’. Also “Tulasi Ramayana” in Awadhi was very close to his heart.
The poet could only get education till the Middle Vernacular Standard, i.e. till class five due to disadvantages. Still, his keen devotion for literature ultimately paved the way for writing poems and several literary works.
He not only wrote in Odia but also he had an excellent command over Bengali and Hindi. He used to read Bengali magazines. He also had a notion that education can solve the plight of the people, so he started a school in the Village.
However, he, later on, became Judicial Moharir or Accountant by profession due to his rich command over the language. He first married to Shanti Devi at the age of 10, and after her death, he remarried Champa Devi.
Gangadhar Meher is still now considered as the rarest gem in Odia literature. He was very known as “Swabhab Kabi” and “Prakruti Kabi” due to his delicate writing which reflected the feelings of human beings.
His poem “Bhakti” puts up the change in religious outlook. Also, Tapaswini became one of his best contribution to literature. He had a poetry collections to comprising Kavitakallola, Krusaka Sangita, Arghyathali, Kavitamala.
He took his last breath on 4th April 1924, to commemorate his 25th death anniversary, Sambalpur College was renamed as Gangadhar Meher College, which is now known as Gangadhar Meher University.
Also, a prestigious award known as Gangadhar Meher National Award for Poetry is bestowed annually on the foundation day of Sambalpur University. This year it was conferred to Viswanath Prasad Tiwari.
Meher was very liberal and had a progressive thought socially. During the final days of his life, he organised “All Odisha Social Conference of Mehers”. He had a willingness to uplift the entire weaver community.
More than three thousand Mehers from several parts of Odisha gathered in the Conference. Meyer had twelve proposals for the reform of the community, and all were approved unanimously. He is considered as the “shining star” of Western Odisha.
Written by – Shilpa Dey
Image source – Google