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Harekrushna Mahtab and Freedom Struggle 1920-9147 (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: HAW169
Author: Soma Chand
Publisher: Firma KLM Private Limited, Calcutta
Language: English
Edition: 1997
ISBN: 8171020704
Pages: 206
Other Details 9.00x6.00 inch
Weight 290 gm
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Book Description
About The Author

Soma Chand (b. 1959) graduated with History Honours from Bhadrak College, Bhadrak, Orissa, with first rank in Utkal University. Throughout a brilliant student, she was awarded Ph.D. degree in 1994. At present she is teaching History at her alma mater. She is currently engaged in D.Litt work. Her other interests are writing poems in Oriya, published in several journals.


In keeping with the fascinating story that the Indian National Movement is, the history of the Freedom Struggle in Orissa is no less absorbing. It offers wide scope to both casual and serious readers of the history of Modern Orissa. Although the term, 'Modern Orissa', has been interpreted by different scholars to suit different needs, I have strictly confined it, like many others, to the last two and a half decades of the British Rule, i. e. from 1920 to 1947, to be precise. Indeed, the history of this short period is equally interesting, if not more, like its preceding chain of events narrated in the annals of Orissa.

The period from Non-Cooperation Movement (1920) to Independence (1947) records a fascinating saga of martyrs and heroes, great and small, common men and women, fabulously rich Maharajas and petty zemindars of tiny estates, powerful bureaucrats and village chowkidars of the omniscient British Raj, the fear-invoking White and native guardians of law, and, above all, the Whadi-clad Congress and non-Congress freedom fighters and politicians, many of whom exhibited exemplary sacrifices of life and wealth, but some of whom also excelled in their murky ambitions of doubtful integrity.

Attempts have already been made to bring out the details of Freedom Struggle in Orissa in its various aspects and on a few of its prominent fighters but none so far on Dr. Harekrushna Mahtab. Widely acclaimed as the 'Maker of Modern Orissa', nay the 'Maker of Greater Orissa', he had dedicated interest in the feudatory States of Orissa both in the pre-Independence and post-Independence days. Although this doyen of Orissan politics died at grand old age of 88 in 1987, this thesis attempts to portray only his quintessential contributions to the Freedom Struggle from the beginning of his political career after leaving College education midway in 1920 till Independence and its immediate after- math, the amalgamation of the Princely States with the Orissa Province in late 1947.

This was precisely the period when the seething cauldron of nearly 300 million Indians rose with volcanic fury to tear apart the shackles of British subjugation at the call of Mahatma Gandhi with his new found weapon of ahimsa. Gandhi mesmerised the countless freedom fighters of India and a greenhorn Mahtab was drawn to Gandhi and Gandhism like moth to fire. Ultimately, this unflinching faith of his saved him in good stead against several political storms during these two and a half decades and helped him occupy the 'centre stage' in the chess board of Orissa politics.


Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Oriya culture is usually puzzled at the non-Oriyaness of the surname, Mahtab, one of the most illustrious sons of Orissa. Although it is not a typical Oriya surname, Mahtab has become a house- hold name throughout Orissa for his unmistakable contributions to the State and even after his death, Harekrushna Mahtab continues to loom large as a legendary figure.

During the Moghul period, Punjabi Kshatriyas’ working in the army received some tracts of land from their Ruler as 'Jagir' in the Garsingdi village of Anandapur sub-division of Keonjhar district of Orissa and they formed a "State" there. Later on they had some conflicts with the Keonjhar Raja and came to settle at nearby Agarpara in the Bonth thana of Balasore district and came to be known as Rajas. The elder brother, Raja Harinam Singh, became owner of a big portion of a zemindari by purchasing it from a Calcuttan Bengali zemindar named Buddhilal Dutta. The issueless Harinam Singh adopted Khelawan Singh as his heir who became the owner of the estate following the demise of Harinam, whose wife committed 'sari" by jumping into the funeral fire of her dead husband. To commemorate the exemplary sacrifice of his mother, Khelawan constructed a sori temple at Agarpara that remains even today.

Khelawan's son had a premature death. So he divided his estate between the two grandsons of his eldest brother, Ramachandra Singh and Man Singh. But even these two did not have a single child. So they, in their turn, handed over their entire estate and property to their maternal uncle's son, Jagannath Mahtab, who too did not have any son. So he adopted his daughter Tohfa Bibi's son, Harekrushna Mahtab, as his own.

Junior to Mahatma Gandhi by thirty years and to Jawaharlal Nehru by ten, Harekrushna Mahtab was born on 21 November, 1899. At the time of his birth, Jagannath was inspecting his zemindari at Patpur village. On hearing the news, he rushed back to Agarpara on elephant and immediately adopted the new-born baby along with his umbilical cord. When the baby was merely ten months old, Jagannath breathed his last and delivered in a will all his property and estate to the minor baby, who virtually became the owner of the estate that paid nearly ten thousand rupees annually to the British government in those days and came to be known as the Raja of Agarpara from that day.

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