Kendrapara, Oct 2 (LocalWire): Every year on the occasion of Gandhiji’s birth and death anniversary, several people visit Dhumat village in Kendrapara district to pay their respect to a stone which Gandhiji used as a sitting stool while taking bath on 30th May 1934 during his famous Padayatra.
This stone is preserved in the place where the Mahatma took bath. A pedestal and half busts of Gandhiji and Gopabandhu Das are built around the bathing stone.
‘We are lucky that the Father of Nation visited our riverside nondescript village. Many villagers consider the stone sacred and worship the bathing stone (Gandhi Sila) and the pedestal,’ said 83-year-old Mahavev Das of Dhumat.
‘People of Dhumat, Indupur and nearby areas joined the freedom struggle in droves in response to a call given by Gandhiji after visiting the villages. In memory of Bapu, an Ashram was also built in 1938 but it was completely damaged during the super cyclone of 1999,’ said Dr Basudev Das, a researcher and member of Odisha Sahitya Academy.
Mahatma Gandhi in 1934 also visited the Barimula village in the district during his Padayatra. Villagers had built a Gandhi temple and statue of Gandhiji in 1949 near the bank of the river Govari to remember him.
‘The temple was submerged in the river around five years back while the statue is on the verge of getting lost in the river Govari.
We urged the government umpteen number of times to stone-pack the river embankment to save Gandhiji’s statue. But the authorities are yet to pay heed,’ said Nakula Das, a freedom fighter from Kendrapara.
‘Gandhiji had stayed a night in the primary school at Barimula when the school was functioning from four thatched houses. Later, in the ‘60s, the government built a pucca building and renamed the school as Bapuji Upper Primary school but two months back, officials erased the name of Gandhiji by changing the name of the school as Radhmohanjew Upper Primary School. It was unfortunate that successive governments have neglected this school,’ said Biswanath Behera of Barimula.
‘The padayatra by Gandhiji was one of the most important events in the country’s freedom struggle. Gandhiji allowed Dalits to enter temples in some villages in 1934. He addressed a public meeting at Garapurand spent five days in Kendrapara district while touring the state. Among those who accompanied Gandhiji were Meeraben, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Rajkrushna Bose, Rama Devi, a German youth K Kuto, Uma Bajaj, Binod Kanungo, Surendranath Pattnayak, Manmohan Choudhury, Jadumani Mangaraj and others,’ said Nandakishor Parida, the former principal of Kendrapara Autonomous College.
Samarth Verma, the district Collector of Kendrapara said, ‘The district administration will stone-pack the river Govari at Barimula to save the statue of Gandhiji. We will also build a park at Barimula where Gandhi addressed the meeting.’