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Gopabandhu Das was popular known as “Utkalmani” or Gem of Utkal. He was a great Karmayogi and the proverb “Man lives in deeds, not in years” was the basic philosophy of his life. His life was dedicated to the cause of the suffering humanity. It was entirely devoted to service and sacrifice.

Although by dint of his qualification and intelligence, he could have easily earned a fabulous income and led a life of luxury and happiness, he lived plainly but actively throughout to redeem the sufferings of his people on account of constant natural calamities like flood, cyclone and famine as well as social evils like illiteracy, poverty and disease.

He was an immortal poet and philosopher as well as a social reformer. His patriotism, fellow-feeling, love and kindness know no bounds. He was a great follower of Gndhijee and was a great fighter of freedom. He was born on 9th October, 1877, in a small village called Suando near Sakhigopal in the district of Puri and breathed his last on 17th June, 1928.

Principles and aims of Gopabandhu’s Education

Gopabandhu was a great nationalist and considered education to be the potential instrument of national development. He wanted to prepare the youths of our country as citizens of tomorrow with sterling qualities of head, heart and hand.

These young citizenry should be self-dependent, self-willed, self-sacrificing and self-conscious of their country’s problems and potentialities. He fully well realized that the rest while system of English education would not serve these purpose at all as its objectives were narrow and limited to produce “servants” of an alien Government.

Gopabandhu, therefore, desired to impart a kind of education with broader aims and lofty principles to build “good life” and bring about national revival. His main objective was to inculcate nationalism and patriotism in young people through education. He felt that youths could not improve the society without a deep sense of pride and love for the country Education of his desire must be congenial and conductive to the creating of these desired qualities.

The second aim of his education was to eradicate social evils and inertia. Gopabandhu was aware of the then social maladies like casteism, superstitions, untouchability and lethargy. He strongly felt to remove these for making the society progressive and humanitarian.

The third aim of Gopabandhu’s education was to develop vocational efficiency and promote dignity of labour in the young generation. The English system of education was preparing them only for white-collar jobs in the Government.

There was hatred for manual labour and love for easy life. Consequently, technical education was discouraged and general education was lop-sided. Gopabandhu wanted to inspire the educated youths with importance of physical labour and love for work as well as initiative which would enable them to face the world with self-dependence and confidence.

Fourthly, according to Gopabandhu education should aim at developing a deep love for Indian civilization in general and Orissan culture in particular. British system of education was developing a sense of hatred and aversion towards national life and culture on the one hand and a strong attraction for alien life and civilization.

The national leaders like Gopabandhu realized that this tendency among the educated youths would be extremely harmful for the development of the country in all directions. Therefore, they tried to revive Indian culture and develop love for the motherland and for her cultural values through education.

Fifthly, as a corollary to above, Gopabandhu made an attempt to provide education in an open-air and natural surrounding without much physical luxury and comforts. He was a supporter of the ancient Gurukul system of education with modern features of citizenship training, self-government and other curricular activities.

He believed that only expensive equipment, buildings and teaching aids would not ensure good “quality” education. Gopabandhu, therefore, was in favour of an education system which is congenial to the ideal of “Plain living and high thinking”.

Satyavadi Educational Experiment

Gopabandhu established his famous Satyavadi Vana Vidyalaya in the year 1909, at Sakshi Gopal, a place of pilgrimage near Puri, the world-famous abode of Lord Jagannath and the great centre of Hindu pilgrimage. He started this institution getting inspiration from Shanti Niketan which was set up earlier by Kabindra Rabindranath.

The Satyavadi Vana Vidyalaya made laudable experiments in diversified curriculum, community approach in living and learning, student Govt, community work and social service. These innovations were subsequently tried out by John Dewey in America and were popularized throughout the world.

Tapovan Atmosphere

Gopabandhu laid stress of environment and organization of his experimental school. He was by nature a high priest of natural beauty and lover of freedom. He was like Rousseau, an advocate of man’s communion with Nature and believed that in this process the child’s physical, intellectual as well as emotional growth could be promoted adequately.

The place he selected for his school was a “Tapovan” in a sylvan natural surrounding of the shady Bakul Chhurian groves with profuse fragrant flowers. The school was also integrated into the rural community and there was close communication between the daily life of school children and the pulsating life of Nature around them. Therefore everyday life of children was invigorating and inspiring Immortal Teachers.

Utkalmani also believed that the standard of the school could not rise higher than its teachers. He understood that teachers are the school. Therefore the teachers he selected for his school were a team of devoted workers with high intellectual calibre and spirit of dedication, patriotism and sacrifice. Among them were the famous “Big Five” popularly known as Panchasakhal i.e. Gopabadhu Das, Nilakantha Das, Godavarish Mishra, Krupasindhu Mishra and Acharya Harihar Das. They were the forerunners of socio-cultural renaissance and pioneers of the national education in the state.

These immortal teachers of Satyavadi school like Socrates presided over the birth of new ideas and innovations and prepared batches of students who after their education occupied important places in the different walks of life.

All these teachers were highly qualified having brilliant academic careers and had they desired, they could have adorned high posts with great prestige and immense power in the Government of their times. Surprisingly again, most of them hailed from poor families and had their education through hardship and suffering only.

Moreover, almost all of them were distinguished poets, scholars, writers and historians. But they decided to lead a life of poverty, suffering and scrifice for the sake of their motherland, her freedom, prosperity and progress.

Truly Residential

Satyavadi Vanavidyalaya was residential school providing close affinity between teachers and taught, training of character, citizenship education. During 1917 the school had attracted an eminent personality like Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee who commented” The promoters of this school have set a laudable example to the country.

Their ideals are high, they understood the value of discipline and culture, mental, moral and physical…One cannot but wish that every village in Bengal should possess a genuine place of instruction like the Satyavadi School ?”

Active Interaction

Satyavadi Vanavidyalaya was a residential school in the true nature and spirit and it was compulsory for all teachers and students to remain in the campus. The teachers were participating in all curricular and co-curricular programmes and practices of the school and there was active interaction between the teachers and pupils as inmates or members of a family.

There was mutual exchange of ideas, intercommunication of sympathy, understanding and fellow-feeling. They were sharing the same life of joy and sorrows, ambition and aspiration, struggle and suffering, adventure and discovery. The student community was inspired and motivated by the worthy teachers to heights of glory and achievements, both personal and social.

Methods of Teaching and Curriculum

The methods of teaching followed in the school were dynamic and were free from the tyranny of routine and verbalism. Different methods of teaching were adopted for preparing patriotic citizens who would be able to build a new social order based on co-operation, compassion, liberty, equality and fraternity.

The emerging society of Gopabandhu’s dreams would be realized through these methods and would stand for non-violence against violence, cooperation against exploitation. This school aimed at a social structure which would remove the barriers between theory and practice, school and community, learning and doing, work and leisure.

As Prof. G.B. Kanungo rightly observed, “The Satyavadi School became a centre of multi-purpose education where in addition to the teaching of curricular subjects, the students were exposed to work-experience through various agricultural and industrial crafts. Debates, recitations, seminars, workshops, excursions and social service camps were some of the prominent features of the Satyavadi system.”

The curriculum designed by Gopabandhu was as broad as life itself. It consists of subjects ranging from the ancient literature to the modern English language, from arts and crafts to debates and discussion, from agriculture to adventure, from social services to beautification of the environment. All kinds of programmes and practices touching different aspects and walks of life were included in the curriculum.

School Organization

Teacher-taught relationship in the school was extremely close, cordial and congenial, so much so that the teachers wept at the sorrow and suffering of their students and the pupils brust to tears at the time of their farewell. They used to read together, eat together, play together and discuss together. The greatmen at the provincial as well as national level like Madhusudan, Fakir Mohan, Ashutosh Mukherjee often used to pay visits to this organization and talk to students.

All these associations with celebrated personalities were educative as well as inspiring. Everybody was highly impressed with the student of discipline, dutifulness, sincerity, character and spirit of sacrifice prevalent in the school atmosphere. Once Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan in course of visiting the school remarked, ‘Oh God, really you (Gopabandhu) have built up a Nalanda!’

The open-air system of school organization was strongly advocated by Gopabandhu in view of the climatic conditions, hygienics needs and financial constraints. He was of the opinion that expansion of education could be possible if less importance was given on costly buildings, equipment and other requirement for recognition of schools. In this context, the views expressed by the Governor on the occasion of His school visit are worth- mentioning. he remarked, “I was greatly impressed by the system of teaching in open-air instead of the crowded class-rooms.

It is to be hoped that the boys would thus learn to appreciate the advantages of the fresh air and will do their best to discourage among their relatives the pernicious practice of shutting out air from their houses which in many parts in causing a terrible spread of tubercular disease.”

The school was the significant training ground for self- discipline and self-government. Even the students were made responsible for maintaining discipline in the class room. With a view to ensuring proper discipline and decorum even in the hostels, the hostels were divided into various blocks, each block being entrusted to a block teacher assisted by three student-monitors.

These monitors were in charge of studies, accounts and other facilities of the boarders. The student-Government in the school was conducted with proper discipline and dignity and was called “Boys’ own court”. This was the original form of Pupils’ Cabinet and proctorial form that is emphasized for democratization at present. Hall-mark of Distinction

The name Satyavadi Vanavidyalaya carried a hall-mark of distinction and the indelible imprint of the Master Craftsmen on the personality of their students were clearly evident. In spite of the official antagonism, students were entering this institution from far and wide. Reputation of the school reached every corner of Orissa and many parts of India.

The school was converted into a National Educational Centre in 1921 and a National College in 1923. But in the upheaval of Non-Cooperation Movement such an ambitious experiment could not be supported adequately and gradually it confronted very rough weather of economic distress and psychological confusion.

Many students and teachers left and school and all the ambitions were dashed to dusts. Gopabandhu turned the school to an Asharam and spent most of his last time there under the serene and tranquil groves of Bakul and Chhuriana. Now the Vana Vidyalaya is dead and gone, but its beauty and sweet fragrance live luminously in the memories of the nation.

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