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Tribute – Stalwarts of Balasore Brahmo Samaj

By B.R.Panda

Jogi Padmalochan Das is one of the four pillars of Balasore, Brahmo Samaj. His immense contribution towards founding of Balasore Brahmo Samaj will always be appreciated and cherished.

Belonging to an orthodox Brahmin family Jogi Padmalochan Das followed all the customs and traditions of a Hindu family. He used to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors and performed all rituals, including ‘puja’ and ‘aarti’ in the Radha – Krishna temple in his village. But deep down in his mind he never felt the completeness and peace with his work and did not have much faith in the blind beliefs abided by the society. He always craved for the inner peace and truth.

As he went to the temple one day to perform the rituals as usual, suddenly lightening struck the temple and he fell unconscious. We he regained his senses he was astounded to see that the idols had fallen apart! He was disturbed by the realisation that if God in the shape of idol could not protect Himself, how would He protect the universe? This incident completely changed his mind and he lost faith in idolatry. He started his journey to find truth and peace.

He met Bhakta Bhagwan Chandra Das, another pillar of Balasore Brahmo Samaj. They discussed about the Brahmo Dharma and after lots of arguments and discussions, he was convinced with the doctrines of Brahmoism and decided to adopt Brahmo Dharma. He went to Kolkata and took diksha or vows of the Brahmo way of life, from Brahmananada Kesab Chandra Sen.

In the later stage of his life, he dedicated himself completely with missionary zeal to preach Brahmoism. He transformed his house to an ashram, where in the mornings he read the Vedas and the Upanishad and in the evenings offered prayers or Upasanas following the Brahmo faith.

By profession Jogi Padmalochan Das was an Ayurvedic doctor. One of the rooms in the ashram was used as an Ayurvedic nursing home. He treated many people for free. His wife always supported him in his noble cause and helped him by taking care of patients and even cooking for them.

Jogi Padmalochan Das wrote many devotional poems and one of his creations is the “Bhakta Ranjan” in the Odiya language. His songs are sung during the prayers in Balasore Brahmo mandir.

Late Govinda Chandra Panda was another prominent Brahmo leader of Balasore. He used to learn Sanskrit from Jogi Padmalochan Dash who converted his house near the bank of river Buddhabalam to a Jogashram and practiced a life of simplicity and renunciation. In the ashram Govinda Chandra Panda learnt about Brahmoism and was enlightened to adopt the Brahmo dharma. He along with his friends travelled to Kolkata, to get initiated (diksha) to Bharatbarsiya Brahmo Samaj. This helped him to learn more about the religion and differentiate between blind faith and belief.

Givinda Chandra did not worry about the consequences of joining the Brahmo Samaj and discarding his sacred thread right away. But this act of his did not go well with the other orthodox Hindus, as a result of which he was socially ostracised and evicted from his home. This did not end here. He was threatened to be killed. But his strong will power and determination helped him to overcome the adversities. He decided to spend the days and nights on a tree in a nearby forest than returning to his village. During this rough phase of his life his wife Suniti Devi stood by him lending him her utmost support instead of asking him to compromise with the situation. When the villagers tried to prevent him from entering his home, he used to visit his wife at the dead of night and she would greet him and feed him. She bore all the taunt of villagers but was unwavering in her support to her husband. She in her turn nursed the ill in the village and helped lower caste women to deliver babies when medical facilities were scarce and caste-ism was at its peak. As per the Indian traditions, Suniti Devi was a true ‘sahadharmini’ and it was pretty evident that without her unflinching support it would have been nearly impossible for Govinda Chandra Panda to fight against society and adopt the Brahmo way of life. Their true dependence on each other and unwavering support for the cause helped Govinda Chandra Panda devote his life to preach Brahmoism.

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