Of Utkal University’s Beginning & More

When Utkal University came into being in 1943, the makers could possibly not have imagined how things would shape up and how the varsity would fare. In its 76-year-long journey, the university has contributed immensely in building the intellectual capital of Odisha. Many of the illustrious achievers of the state owe it to this institution. Here we take snapshots of how it began…

Hands that built a university

Pride, aspiration, expectation and enthusiasm. All these combined in ample measure to shape the idea of Odisha’s own university around 85 years ago. It was only logical that the state, born in 1936 and bubbling with the energy of the new, would seek an educational institution to build its future. Utkal University came into being in 1943. But preceding its birth was the long struggle of a few men with a steely determination. As alumni celebrate its 75th birth anniversary, they must remember the contribution of the likes of Biswanath Das, Pandit Nilakantha Das, Maharaja Krushna Chandra Gajapati and Pandit Nilkantha Mishra in the making of the institution in the pre-independence times. Without them, Utkal University would have taken longer to materialise.

Such a long journey!

From separation from the jurisdictional authority of Bihar and Andhra universities to first base in Ravenshaw College in Cuttack to the shift to the sprawling campus in Vani Vihar in the 1960s to the present state of majesty, it has been an eventful journey for Utkal University. Not many would be aware of the many leaps it took through time. The seat of learning sprawled over 399 acres in the heart of the capital city is now ready for more. Perhaps these would follow as new challenges present themselves from time to time. At 75, it is still a work in progress.

Ravenshaw, the hand that rocked the cradle

Bhubaneswar may pride itself on Utkal University but it is Cuttack which served as the varsity’s cradle, nursing it during its early years and placing it in a position of strength. Few would know, for 20 years after the foundation of the varsity following the passage of the Utkal University Act, Ravenshaw college was its nerve centre. It operated from the building of the department of Zoology those days. The shift to the present campus, Vani Vihar, took place in 1963. Ravenshaw is a separate university now.

More power to truth and divinity

Satyam param dhimahi — let truth and divinity dawn in my intellect — is the motto of Utkal University. Derived from the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, it calls upon students to meditate upon the supreme truth. An important part of Sri Sri Ravishankar’s teaching, it can be explained in his words this way: truth and divinity of the transcendental I uphold in my awareness. May my intellect get soaked in that truth of transcendental reality. This has been guiding force of the university since its inception. It continues to lead all through the motto.

Varsity that shaped a state

The contribution of Utkal University to the making of modern Odisha needs no overstating. It was a role the institution was entrusted with at its inception in 1943. It had to produce quality intellect to run the state, be its torch-bearer and brand ambassador outside the state. The 17th oldest university in the country and its biggest affiliating one has not disappointed the state. Before other varsities, carved out if its body came into being, it produced heroes in all spheres, from politics to culture and everything in between. To name them would be a futile exercise; there are just so many. It continues the good work.

Melodious tribute to a great institution

The theme song of the university — tunga shikhara chula kuncha kanana mala punya jaladhi jala kheli uthe… — is a tribute to the founder member of the institution Pandit Godabarisha Mishra as well as to the state. The lines come from the first three stanzas of a song written by Godabarisha Mishra. He was the education minister of the state who had introduced the Utkal University Bill. Adopted at the 47th convocation of the university in 2016, it has to be song in 2.36 minutes. What took the varsity so long to have a theme song? We won’t know. But the song, lyrical and melodious, is certainly worth the wait.

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