Every Independence Day and Republic Day, the nation remembers eminent Indian leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh and others. But there are many who laid down their lives for the sake of their motherland but rarely find a mention in history books. One such hero is the stormy petrel Pindiki Bahubalendra who led the Paika Rebellion of Khurda in 1817. Because of his patriotism, sacrifice, honesty, tenacity and dedication, he is considered the second most celebrated martyr of Odisha after Jayee Rajguru. On the occasion of Republic Day, Sunday POST visits his birthplace Daruthenga and meets Prafulla Bahubalendra, a descendant of the legendary Pindiki who was shot down while escaping from a British jail in 1821.
Prafulla says, “The names of some freedom fighters are missing from the annals of history and my forefather Pindiki Bahubalendra is one of them. He was a gallant and illustrious fighter who laid down his life in India’s freedom struggle. I have heard from my grandparents that Pindiki, born to Jayadev and Yoshobantee in 1768 AD, was known for his fearlessness. From his childhood, he was fond of horse riding and wrestling.”
Recalling what led Pindiki to raise his voice against colonial rule, Prafulla says, “After the demise of king Mukunda Dev in 1568, Gajapati Ramachandra Dev who established the Bhoi dynasty established the Khurda kingdom with its capital at the foot of the Barunei Hill. The kings of Bhoi dynasty ruled for 200 years, after which Odisha came under the British rule in 1803. During the British Raj, Pindiki jumped into the Renaissance movement. Pindiki had earned the epithet of ‘Dalei’ — as his ancestors were serving the King of Khurda in the respected post of Dalei— from the Gajapati and enjoyed tax free lands. After the occupation of Khurda by the British, the administration imposed tax on his lands. They also heavily taxed the people of Khurda. This apart, the salt law enforced by the British hit the rural economy. This persuaded Pindiki to wage a war against the administration. Armed with traditional weapons like bow, arrow, sword and knife, he started a guerrilla war organising the skilled youths and torched British offices and police stations at several places. He looted the British treasury and used the money to fuel the revolt. Sadhu Chanran Mangraj, Bishnu Paikray, Narayan Paramguru, Karunakar Paramguru and Bamadev Pattajoshi were his close associates.”
In 1812, British administration convicted Pindiki and his associates in arson and robbery cases and send them to Cellular jail.
Operating from an area spanning Mundamuhana of Cuttack to Pitapalli of Khurda, Pindiki organised an army named Bahubalendra Bahini. The members of the Bahini used to hide on a huge banyan tree at Mendhasala on the side of Trunk Road and attacked and looted the vehicles carrying cash from the government treasury. That tree came to be known as Khajana Maru Bara Gachha (Tax looting Banyan Tree). The British administration failed to suppress the Paika Rebellion till 1820. To subdue the same, Major Fletcher imposed military rule in Khurda. But that did not deter the Bahubalendra Bahini. Soon after introduction of military rule, the Bahini attacked the collector of Cuttack at Gangapada of Khurda. The collector sent 550 gunmen to suppress the Bahini, but facing fierce resistance, they had to flee. After the government failed to capture Pindiki despite repeated attempts, the British government came to know about Dhruba Jaya Harichandan, Jagiridar of Malipada village, who was a close friend of Pindiki. Pindiki used to visit his residence in camouflage. The government warned Harichandan that if he did not help the government in catching Pindiki, his entire Jagiri would be forfeited and severe penalty would be imposed. If he helped the government, he would be given Rs 1,000 as cash prize apart from other facilities. Harichandan succumbed to the tempting offer and got Pindiki arrested by the British police by adding intoxicant to his drink.”
“Pindiki was first confined in Barabati fort. He was forced to clean weapons even as his hands and legs were chained. But the skilled Pindiki cut the chains using a sword and escaped, swimming across the river Kathajodi. However, British soldiers followed him in a boat and shot him dead. It’s sad that Pindiki’s sacrifice and contribution has not got any recognition,” says Prafulla who was felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Raj Bhavan on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Paika Rebellion for his great grandfather Pindiki Bahubalendra’s contribution to the freedom struggle.
Kabiraj Bidhar, President of Saheed Pindiki Bahubalendra Smruti Committee, says, “In 1817, Pindiki joined Buxi Jagabandhu in his fight against the British. He torched the police station at Gopa, Banpur, and Khurda and killed Charan Patnaik, the traitor who had conspired with the British to capture Jayee Rajguru. He also killed the British Army officer Lt. Paris and Fricdos. But he has not been honoured for his sacrifice for the motherland.”
He adds: “Paika Rebellion was not just a rebellion by the Paikas, it was a national war waged by ordinary people at the grassroots level to get back their sovereignty. We celebrated 200 years of the Paika Rebellion by paying respect to our great heroes like Buxi Jagabandhu, Dinabandhu Samantray Mohapatra, Dama Subudhi Manjaraj, Samanta Madhaba Chandra Routray (Dalbehera of Tapanga), Pindiki Bahubalendra, Krutibas Patsani and many more heroes of Paika Bidroha. Unfortunately, the state government did not commemorate the occasion.”
The vice-president of the organisation Amarendra Mahapatra says, “The Paikas’ freedom struggle is an important chapter in Odisha history. Pindiki Bahubalendra ranks next to Saheed Jayee Rajaguru, the first martyr of Odisha. Charged with intense nationalistic feeling, he inspired the people to fight the British in 1817 along with Buxi Jagabandhu. This took place nearly 40 years before the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, wrongly adjudged as the first war of India’s independence. Pindiki is known as the second martyr of India and it is shameful that we are yet to recognise his bravery. We plan to request the Prime Minister to name the road connecting Pitapalli Square to Baranga, one of the lifelines of Bhubaneswar city, passing through our area, after Pindki Bahubalendra.”
As per the records in the Odisha state archives, Pindiki Bahubalendra, a Paika warrior, was born in 1763 in ‘Gada Daruthenga,’ a fort surrounded by a dense forest with wild and ferocious animals. He was decorated with the epithet of ‘Dalai’ by Gajapati Dibyasingha, son of Birakishore Dev. After the demise of Gajapati Dibyasingha in 1798 A.D., his minor son Mukunda Dev-II ascended the throne but his astute minister Jayee Rajaguru became his mentor and guardian. Pinkdi was Jayee’s close associate.
Historian Kamalakant Mohanty quoting “Board of Revenue Vol-10” says, “Mukunda Dev’s mother was given Rs.10,000 as advance and promised that she would be compensated with one lakh for laying of a highway connecting Calcutta and Madras by the British government. The highway was to go through Khurda state. But the government didn’t honour the treaty. Enraged, Jayee, the mentor of the minor king, ordered collection of tax from the British occupied territory of Khurda. As the British didn’t pay heed, Jayee’s trusted lieutenant Pindiki started torching government offices, plundered the government treasury, and terrorised and killed British officials. Pindiki’s terror was such that the British were thrown out of the territories from Mendhasal to Gada Daruthenga. But the British government managed to arrest Jayee and hanged him in Medinapur prison January 3, 1805. Later, the administration caught Pindiki and shot him dead during an escape attempt.
This is the time the government should publish material on the heroism of Pindiki who laid down his life for his motherland and document his martyrdom in a proper manner, says the historian.
RASHMI REKHA DAS, OP