Unsung Heroes | History Corner | Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, Ministry of Culture, Government of India

Unsung Heroes Detail

Unsung Heroes Detail

Acharya Harihar Das

Puri, Odisha

August 05, 2022

Acharya Harihara was one of the five pillars of Satyabadi, once the hotbed of freedom struggle in Odisha where many freedom fighters were groomed. He was born on 8 March 1879 in village Srirampur, a Brahmin Sasan village in Puri district. At the age of five he lost his mother Sradha Debi but was nurtured and educated by his father Mahadev Brahma whose personality, wisdom, purity of character, and truthfulness had a deep impact on his character.

After completing his primary education in village school he took admitted to Puri District school. While studying in Puri he evinced his interest in social service. On a number of occasions, he moved from door to door to treat cholera patients. He completed his matriculation in 1901 and did his F. A. in Ravenshaw College. Though he went to Calcutta to study Law, but couldn’t complete it.

He started his professional career as a temporary teacher at Puri District School. Though the school authority wanted him to regularise his service, he rejected the offer in view of his earlier promise to Gopabandhu Das not to accept any government job. He, therefore, joined as an Assistant teacher in a school in Nilagiri where he inspired all teachers to express their views independently. Sensing its adverse impact on British Raj, the English Political Agent advised the Raja of Nilagiri to abolish the school. Thereafter he joined Pyarimohan Academy at Cuttack and finally in 1912 came to join the national school at Satyabadi started by Gopabandhu Das.

As a teacher, he became exemplary with his action before his students who developed the traits of self-dependency, self-sacrifice, patriotism, and compassion for others. When Satyabadi was plunged into national politics and became a platform for spearheading the freedom movement, the contribution of its teachers in character-building of their students to make a mark in the movement cannot be denied.

After the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement Harihar was busy educating the people about khadi and charkha. He also managed and looked after a Widows Home in Puri founded by Gopabandhu Das whose objective was to rescue the widow by training them up to a life of service and sacrifice on lines of celibacy and if possible to get them remarried. But the Widow's home could not last long and after its decline, he organized a 'SevaSamiti' to which people like freedom fighters and social workers became a member. Apart from serving the diseased, other works like Khadi, prohibition of liquor and social reform, etc. were carried out. It also helped the poor to earn something. In 1928, he joined ‘Swaraj Ashram’ in Cuttack to train many volunteers ready for self-sacrifice.

In 1930, he led the Salt satyagraha in Inchudi along with Gopabandhu Choudhury and was arrested. He spent six months in Hazaribag jail where also he educated his fellow inmates about the evils of British rule.

In the thirties responding to Gandhi’s call for mass contact programs with the untouchables he spent hours together in Harijan houses sharing cold-watered rice with them, sometimes spinning thread with the girls, collecting contributory funds from the people and instructing them to dig the latrines in their homestead lands.

During Quit India Movement he was arrested along with Gopabandhu Choudhry and Krupasindhu Hota and was lodged in Berhampur jail where the trio impressed others with their exemplary lifestyle and activities. After his release in 1944, he remained aloof from active politics and devoted himself to social service. In 1955, he joined Vinoba Bhave’s Bhudan Movement and moved with him from village to village to accelerate the movement. He presided over the Sarvoday Conference in Sevagram on 26 March 1960 and appealed to work all together to translate into practice Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj.

He died on 12 February 1971.