Bhubaneswar: Utkal University has been fortunate to have some extraordinary people to bank upon from time to time. These are legends who left indelible marks on their time. They have been inspirational figures for generations of students and teachers. Here is a representative list of some such legends:
Dr PK Parija: Man who wore many hats with aplomb
The first vice chancellor of Utkal University. The description does not quite explain Dr Prana Krushna Parija, the phenomenon, fully. A botanist of repute, a respected educationist, able administrator and legislator, he wore many hats with aplomb. When the idea of the university took shape, Parija, the principal of Ravenshaw College then, was the chosen man to put everything in place. His close association with Patna University, to which Ravenshaw College was affiliated at that time, and amiable and dignified persona helped him overcome teething challenges. The Parija library at Vani Vihar is an apt tribute to a great man. The nation acknowledged his contribution by conferring upon him Padma Bhushan in 1955.
Prof Shreeram Das, a teacher and a legend
Few teachers in Political Science commanded the kind of respect that Dr Shreeram Das did. He remains a legend. His erudition and oratory left a generation of students awe-struck, and in love with the subject. A great teacher, expert on Constitution, writer of books and a rebel, he had an unceremonious exit from the university in 1975 in the wake of Emergency after taking over as the head of the post-graduate department in 1963. He made an unsuccessful bid at politics post 1977 when Emergency was lifted. In a fitting tribute to a great teacher, the department has instituted a memorial foundation in his name.
A Aiyappan, the man behind Odisha museum
Under the able stewardship of Ayinapalli Aiyappan, the Department of Anthropology was established in 1958. Museolosist, archaeologist, alumni of London School of Economics, visiting professor at Cornell University, honorary fellow at Royal Anthropological Institute, he was a man of many talents. Aiyappan is credited with reorganising the Odisha state museum. He was also the founder of Tribal Research Bureau of Odisha, which was renamed later. He also penned several books.
Prof B N Sinha: The master geographer
Few names in the field of geography in Orissa are as immediately recognisable as Prof BN Sinha. The former head of the Department of Geography was renowned for his spirit of geographical exploration, which resulted in many books including Geography of Odisha. Under his guidance the Eastern Geographical Society, a platform for facilitating research and sharing of information, was founded in 1971 inside the department. He has been an inspiration for generations of students.
UU’s debt to Prof Radhanath Rath
The popularity of Psychology as a discipline of study in Utkal University owes a lot to Professor Radhanath Rath. When the varsity was yet to shift to its present location Vani Vihar, he established the Department of Psychology as an undergraduate department at Ravenshaw College in 1953. It was upgraded to a post-graduate department in 1958. A scholar of international repute, he was the chairperson of International Cross-cultural Psychology Conference in 1981 as well as the president of the Psychology section of the Indian Science Conference.
Dr Karunasagar Behera, a beacon for generations
Few names in the Department of History trigger immediate recollection as that of Dr Karunasagar Behera. A teacher and student of the ancient history of Odisha, he was an archaeologist by training. He wore many feathers in his distinguished cap– president of Orissa History Congress, member of Central Advisory Board of Archaeology, Government of India, member of the governing body of the National Council of Science Museums being among them. He was a scholar of international repute and a writer of books too. His work on Konark earned him D.Litt from Utkal University.