MANAV DHARMA: THE LEGACY OF FAKIR MOHAN SENAPATI

It is necessary to re-define and reiterate the far-sightedness and comprehensiveness of Fakir Mohan Senapati ‘s work today after nearly 200 years since he was born. Fakir Mohan, the very name is symbolic, and append Senapati to it and it adds another dimension which describes him and all that he stood for. He apart from being secular was in the truest sense a crusader- a war chief –a Senapati. He made out a case for society’s less privileged and the marginalized through his bold portrayals in his writings and fought to save the Odiya language.

His very name Fakir Mohan has a story behind it. He was named Braja Mohan after his birth. His parents died early & he was nurtured by his grand- mother Kuchila Debi. Fakir Mohan Senapati as child used to fall sick very often and so his grand mother decided that he be dedicated to the Muslim Fakirs with the belief that he would get well & be healthy thereafter. So every year he used to go begging from door to door & the alms that he collected were given to the fakirs. His grandmother changed his name to Fakir Mohan. So Braja Mohan turned Fakir Mohan. A humanist was born.

He stood for religious unity and he practised what he preached. He embraced Christianity and Brahmoism, his strong beliefs in Hinduism notwithstanding. He along with Madhusudan Das & Radhanath Ray decided to adopt Christianity. He had a liberal outlook so much so that he chose a Brahmo Bengali girl (Hiran Prabha) as a daughter-in-law for his only son Mohini Mohan Senapati. An illustrious man in his own right, Mohini Mohan Senapati was a district collector & then later a professor and head of the department of philosophy in Ravenshaw College. Mohini Mohan Senapati was also the author of the celebrated book ‘Vividha Prasanga’, prescribed for the MA course at the University. He was the first to get his father’s autobiography the ‘Atma Jeevan Charit’ published.

The ‘Sarva Dharma Samanya Sthambh’ with representations of all religions, Hinduism, Islam and the rest, built by Fakir Mohan stands tall even to this day at his native place in Balasore in the garden called ‘Shanti kanan.’ In fact this is the need of the hour. There should be a clarion call for Manav Dharma- the religion of Humanism. Praised be Fakir Mohan, who professed it long back maybe with the thought that some day we would need it for sheer survival.

Reflection of Fakir Mohan’s Secular Identity:

• During the ‘Naanka Durbhiksha’ (the great famine of Odisha) he upheld the sprit of the Christians in helping the poor the dying & the destitute and in the process invited the wrath of the Hindus but remained undeterred.

• His ‘Boudhavatar Kavya’ is something with is soul stirring & again has contemporary relevance in view of the increasing fan following of the Buddhist philosophy in recent times.

• His ‘Utkal Bhramana’ is a longish poem has where he has criticized certain religious practices without hurting religious sentiments.