SALEPUR: Every year on July 13, ministers and political leaders queue up to pay their tribute to Gourishankar Ray, torchbearer of Odia language, to mark his birth anniversary.
Thursday was no different. Health and Family Welfare Minister Pratap Jena and other BJD leaders offered their homage to Ray’s statue near the PMG Square in Bhubaneswar.
However, Dikhitpada, the legendary social reformer’s birthplace, saw no buzz. Ray’s ancestral home, a double-storey building where he was born in 1838, was a sight of forlorn. The village, which is Nischintakoili panchayat comes under Mahanga, the Assembly constituency Jena represents.
The house remains closed all through the year. The colour of the building has worn out and the structure appears to be crumbling day by day due to lack of maintenance.
Sources said, it was mortgaged by his kin for loan to raise a dairy farm. Due to non-payment of the loan, the Cuttack Central Cooperative Bank had filed a case and is now planning to attach the property. The bank has already filed an execution proceeding.
If no action is initiated to preserve the birthplace of Ray, it will soon turn into rubbles and be confined to the pages of Odisha history, said a villager.
Meanwhile, historians have demanded publication of a full-fledged life history of Ray, his ancestral home declared as a national memorial building for its preservation and revival of “Utkal Dipika” to commemorate the father of Odia Journalism who was given the title “Karmaveer” for his dedication to Odia language.
Though born in a Bengali Zamindar family, Ray had started a crusade against the discriminatory policy of the British regime to revive the rich cultural heritage of Odisha.
Founder of Cuttack Printing Company and publisher of ‘Utkal Dipika’ in 1866 that aimed at promotion of Odia language, he had also launched the ‘Save Odia’ campaign in Cuttack. In fact, ‘Utkal Dipika’ was the first Odia journal that gave extensive coverage to the famine that ravaged the State in 1866 and it later went on to become the first Odia daily to be published in the State. A year later, he published the Odia almanac written by Pandit Chandrashekhar. He started spreading Odia literature by publishing “Puranas” and ancient Odia “Granthas”. He had built the Town Hall of Cuttack with his own money.