With alarming spread of COVID pandemic across the world countries have paid tributes to those who are in the forefront to save lives, treat corona infected patients and extend other essential services for implementing measures to break the chain of infection. While in some countries fighter planes flew in formations as a mark of respect to the COVID warriors in some others bells were rung and candles were lighted to pay tributes to them. In India people clapped and lighted traditional lamps and even switched mobile lights to laud the people in the frontline of COVID battle. Even in our country military helicopters showered flower petals on hospitals treating COVID patients.
Bande Utkal Janani an ode to Odia Nationalism
On 28th May 2020 Odisha Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik made an appeal to Odias across the world to sing Bande Utkal Janani, the ode to nationalism of Odisha, on 30th May at 5.30 PM in honour of corona warriors. The response was indeed overwhelming. People of Odisha and Odias living in the length and breadth of India and world sang in unison the lyrical song at the appointed time to express solidarity with frontline COVID warriors and respect them for their relentless struggle and services to safeguard health, human, and economic security of people, society and nation. Chief Minister Shri Patnaik, Governor of Odisha Shri Ganeshi Lal and leaders cutting across political parties and ideological barriers sang the melodious song maintaining social distance.
Bande Utkala Janani composed by Kantakabi Laksmikanta Mahapatra and sung in the Balasoroe session of the Utkala Sammilani in 1912 has been summoning patriotic feelings among people and deeply moving them to affirm their affinity with the larger and expansive stream of Odia nationalism which is an essential component of Indian nationalism. It has inspired and continue to inspire generations of Odias by its poetic excellence and diction which through its rhythm and harmony brings out the beauty and aesthetics of landscape of Odisha and underline its glorious tradition and heritage rooted, among others, in science and Yoga.
When it was first recited in the Balasore Utkal Sammilani Conference in 1912 Utkalmani Gopabandhu, who graced that event, was moved to tears and admired the poet's superb composition which indeed constitutes a master piece in Odia literature. The other stalwart figure who attended that historic Sammilani was Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan Das. He was the founder of Utkala Sammilani and the pioneer leader and moving force behind the unification of Odisha. He was deeply impacted by the lyrics and recitation of Bande Utkala Janani and said to have showered appreciation on the masterful composer of the wonderful anthem.
Appeal to sing Bande Utkala Janani redefines patriotism from health perspective
The recitation of Bande Utkala Janani evokes tremendous sense of patriotism and fires imagination to embrace the vast and expansive dimensions of Odia identity which is so integral to the idea of India. In the COVID ridden world patriotism is being relooked at beyond military terms. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made a historic announcement on April 21, 2020 that if doctors and healthcare professionals of both public and private medical facilities in the state would lose their lives in the fights against COVID-19, they would be hailed as martyrs and would get a State funeral with full State honours. That announcement indeed redefined patriotism in a wholesome manner. In a COVID stricken world and in the post COVID architecture of human society, the idea of security and patriotism is increasingly spelt out from the point of view of health and well being. In this context, doctors, nurses and hospital staff, who are relentlessly fighting against coronavirus are equated with patriots, warriors and guardians of the safety, security and well being of human beings.
Lawrence Schrad, associate professor of political science at Villanova University, insightfully wrote:" Those on the frontlines against coronavirus are not conscripts, mercenaries or enlisted men; they are our doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers, care givers..... When all is said and done, perhaps we will recognise their sacrifices as true patriotism, saluting our doctors, and nurses, genuflecting and saying, "Thank you for your service"", as we now do for military veterans... Perhaps, too, we will finally start to understand patriotism more as cultivating the health of your community."
The earnest appeal of Naveen Patnaik to people to sing and recite Bande Utkala Janani, the lyrical anthem of Odisha, in honour of COVID warriors reaffirms his creative patriotism. Such finer understanding of patriotism has deeper significance for health and wellness of people and their safety and security from infections caused by viruses which are increasingly posing danger to human beings because of continuing degradations of environment, global warming and climate change and voluptuous consumption throwing all reason and restraint.
Bande Utkala Janani Reaffirms Constructive Patriotism
Meaning of Bande Utkala Janani and its lofty contents celebrating the splendor, glory and esteem of Odisha assume deeper significance to unify people and channelise their feelings and energy in this fight against COVID which often is used by some divisive leaders to take advantage of cleavages prevailing in society and to see the alarming spread of corona infections from a polarised perspective. The constructive, creative and inclusive patriotism flowing from the recitation of Bande Utkala Janani is need of the hour to express our solidarity with COVID warriors and stand by them in these times of trials and tribulations.
Biju Patnaik and Bande Utkala Janani
It is instructive to refer to an article "The Story of Vande Utkal Janani : The National Song of Orissa" authored by Shri Gurukalyan Mahapatra, grandson of Kantakabi Laksmikanta Mahapatra, and published in the Orissa Review of April 2005. It is stated in that article that in 1990 the legendary Biju Patnaik had taken up with the then Speaker of Odisha Assembly Shri Yudhistir Das to play Bande Utkal Janani at the conclusion of each Assembly session and since then the reverberations of this ode to Odia nationalism is charging the atmosphere of the House when curtains are drawn to announce the end of the legislative session.
People's Response to Recite Bande Utkal Janani Forges Fraternity and Solidarity
Now when the State of Odisha and the whole humanity is caught in a battle against COVID 19, his son, Shri Naveen Patnaik, serving his fifth term as Chief Minister, has appealed people to recite it for expressing solidarity with frontline workers to save us from corona menace. The whole of Odisha and Odias in rest of the world responded and sang it and revived and reaffirmed the undying spirit of Odia nationalism which once united Odias to fight for unifying Odisha and establish a separate State on the basis of language. The replay of that spirit in these trying times is indeed uplifting and instructive. During freedom struggle Mahatma Gandhi defined music in terms of rhythm, harmony and order and said that without music Indians could not get swaraj. The rhythm, harmony and order of the musical composition of Bande Utkala Janani and its recitation is evocative of Swaraj or liberation. We need liberation from corona menace. The massive response to Shri Patnaik's appeal augurs well for forging solidarity and fraternity which are indispensable for victory over COVID 19.