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Top 20 Most Inspirational personalities of Odisha

Gajendra Sahu

Top 20 Most Inspirational personalities of Odisha: Recreating Odisha’s Heritage”

The Republic Day Parade brought cheers for the state this year when the Odisha tableau secured the creditable second position. A team of Odia artists led by eminent artist Gajendra Sahu had prepared the tableau that had the structure of Rukuna Rath and the 11th century Lingaraj Temple and grabbed everybody’s attention. Sahu, who currently holds the position of Secretary of Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi, has been preparing the Odisha tableaux over the years and bringing laurels for the state.  

Born in a nondescript village in Balasore district, Sahu was drawn to painting right in his childhood by watching his mother create attractive Rangolis at home especially during festivals. “My mother was very good at creating Rangolis. I got attracted to the bright colors and design patterns used in making Rangolis and often tried my hands at it. Later, I took part in several painting competitions in the school. By the time I reached school, I was already convinced to be a painter in the future. In fact, once our teacher in school asked all the students to share about their ambitions in life. And my answer was that I want to be an artist,” Sahu reminisces.

Sahu completed the pre-degree course from a local college in Balasore district but he soon joined an art college at Khalikote in Ganjam district from where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He then began his professional career in the advertisement department of a local daily and subsequently joined as a faculty member in the Department of Graphic Art in BK College of Art and Crafts in Bhubaneswar.

The turning point in Sahu’s life, however, came in 2009 when the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs decided to re-design the trophy for the popular and most sought-after Arjuna Award for sporting icons and invited applications from artists across the country. Sahu responded and sent the sketches of his design which was approved by the Union ministry. Once the preliminary sketches were okayed, he was called to New Delhi to submit his final design, which, too, was approved and he was assigned the job of making the trophies for the prestigious sports awards every year. Sahu is a proud person when he sees the sporting personalities carry the awards made by him in their hands every year. Not only Arjuna Awards, Sahu is also the creator of Dronacharya, Dhyanchand and Tenzing Norgay trophies that are presented every year by the Union Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry.

The same year, he was also entrusted to prepare the Odisha tableau to be showcased at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2009. He had prepared the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves that year followed by Boita Bandana and Dola Yatra in 2016 and 2017 respectively. And this year, he and his team had prepared the structure of Rukuna Rath reflecting the heritage of Lingaraj Temple. “By God’s grace, I got the opportunity of making the tableau of the state for the fourth time this year. It is an honour to showcase the state’s rich culture and heritage at such a prestigious platform,” he said.  

In addition to that, he has also been making trophies for the Odisha government’s prestigious award functions. Sahu’s design found a place in the special postal stamp that was released by the state government on the eve of Nabakalebara. Sahu’s design on the coin that was released by Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi to commemorate the Paika rebellion of 1817 in Odisha was hugely appreciated.  

Currently serving in the capacity of Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi Secretary, Sahu is aiming to aggressively promote the artistic activities across the length and breadth of the state apart from encouraging the art associations and artists of the state in all possible ways.

Sahu has a string of solo and group painting exhibitions to his credit. He is often invited to moderate art exhibitions and workshops across the country. Currently, he is busy in completing a painting themed on Buddhist Heritage in Odisha. The painting, measuring 20ftx8ft, is being made using different coloured pens only.

Apart from being a highly-accomplished painter and sculptor, Sahu is a phenomenal singer. He has composed and sung few songs in the past that have been widely appreciated by the music lovers. He is often seen actively participating in devotional talk shows on regional TV channels.  

Sahu has a long-cherished dream of opening a nursing home in his village where he plans to spend the rest of his life after retiring from his profession. “I will continue to paint my emotions on canvas till my last breath,” he concluded.  

Sahu, who has been feted with numerous prestigious awards for his artistic contributions, has a piece of advice for young budding artists of the state. “Opportunities don’t happen. You have to create them. Instead of blaming your luck or fretting over missed chances, work hard and focus on your goals and create your own destiny. Rest everything else will fall into place,” he said.

Written By: Subhojit Panda

Image: Google


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