by Ranjan Banerjee
The present Brahmo mandir at Baripada Odisha was inaugurated on 26th July 1925. However the Brahmo movement started and took its momemntum in early 1900 when Bhai Nandalal Bandopadhyaya a Brahmo Pracharak started coming to Baripada to spread the message of Raja Rammohan Roy and Brahmananda Keshab Chandra Sen.
Sriramchandra Bhanjdeo, the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj State, lost his father Maharaja Krushna Chandra at a very early age of 12. Since Sriramchandra was not an adult, he was guided by a team of advisors and continued studying in Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. At his attaining 18 years of age, he took charge of the state. He married Laxmi kumari, who died early. After that he was inspired by the started to attend the prayers on Sundays at the ‘Brahmo mandir’. He supported the establishment of Balasore and Baripada Brahmo Mandirs.
Bhai Nandalal Bandopadhya came to odisha in 1888 to preach the ideals of the Brahmo Samaj at Cuttack, Balasore and many other places in Orissa (Odisha). He was instrumental in the construction of the Balasore Brahmo mandir. His simple way of life and bhajans attracted many people to the brahmo way of life. Some of the notable persons were Fakir Mohan Senapati, Madhusudan Rao and others. Nandalal penned many songs and compiled in a book called “Jiban Sangeet”. Many songs are available in the Brahmo Sangeet of Sadharan and Nababidhan Brahmo samajes. Nandal the support of the Royal family of Mayurbhanj and many other Brahmo sympathisers of Baripada and nearby places. Regular Utsabs were celebrated in January and July when many Brahmo Pracharaks and Acharjyas like Sri Mani Sen, Sri Prafulla Bardhan, Sri Mahendranath Kar, Sri Mofi Ahmed conducted prayers in the mandir. Nagendranath published an Odiya Version of the Naba Sanhita, (translation of the New Dispensation by Keshab Chandra Sen).
Presently, Baripada Brahmo Samaj is still active. Surendranath, the second son of carry on regular sunday prayers and utsavs in the mandir. Sri Laxminarayan Panda and Sri Manoranjan Panda of Balasore, the Bhajan Mandali of Sindhia village, participated in the kirtans (devotional songs). They were accompanied by Kamalakanta, Madhu, Jadu babu and especially Kishori Babu in Mridanga (khol). Sitaram Babu of Baripada played Khol for the sunday prayers. In 1979 a Brahmo Conference was held at Baripada which was attended by 200 delegates from all over the country. Bansidhar Bakshi was the chairman and Surendranath Bandopadhya was the secretary of the organising committee while Smt Sudha Banerjee endeavoured to make the conference successful.
Sri Binoy Banerjee became the secretary of Baripada Brahmo Samaj in 1980. As the Mandir became dilapidated with age, late Dr. Parag Rakshit (Son in law of Binoy Banerjee) renovated it back to its past glory in 1998. Sri Nishikanta Kunar, his wife Usha and daughters Sita, Rita, Dr. Purnima, Pratima were active workers and a music school was run by Pratima Kunar to teach Brahmo Sangeet. She published a book of Brahmo Sangeets in Odiya. Smt. Manoj Banerjee, wife of Binoy Banerjee, succeeded him as secretary and invited Acharyas like Shi Pranab Ray, Dr. Parag Rakshit, Sri Tapobrata Brahmachary, Sri Rajkumar Barman, Sri Suprasanna Das, Sri Amarendra Kar to conducted the prayers during the Utsab in July. Thereafter, Sri Chandan Banerjee became the Secretary and late Dr. Parag Rakshit the President. The Samaj conducted many programmes for children and lectures were arranged in various important subjects. Sunday prayers are presently conducted following the COVID guidelines including the Annual Utsab of 2020 through digital medium. Smt Sudipta Rakshit offered prayer and Smt. Dwipanita Ganguly recited, Secretary read a report on the history of mandir and hymns were sang by a team from Kolkata. The programme was hosted by Sri Parichay Rakshit. The Samaj arranged to feed the poor people during the COVID times.
Now a development plan of the mandir has been drawn up where the local youth have taken responsibility to develop the garden and grow organic vegetables to fund the maintenance of the mandir. The Rotary club Baripada will collaborate for plantation programme in the Mandir premises.
Suniti Devi, the elder sister of Sucharu Devi, was married to the Maharaja of Coochbehar. Their grandson Pavlov Bartholomew has visited the Baripada mandir and along with the present Maharaja of Mayurbhanj, Praveen Chandra Bhanjdeo. They have met with Sri Ranjan Banerjee to discuss the renovation of the mandir.