Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee

Odisha gratefully remembers Binod Kanungo for the monumental Odia encyclopedia Jnanmandal that he started compiling single handedly in 1954. The first volume was released on 2 December 1960. It was the first of its kind encyclopedia in Odia. He also established the Jnanmandal Foundation, which presently is carrying out the works that he dreamt of. Today 6 June is his 110th birth anniversary.

Born on 6 June 1912 at Mallipur (Kishannagar) in Cuttack district He had his primary education at Naganpur village and secondary school education at the Ranihat Highschool, Cuttack. Later he got a scholarship to study at Ravenshaw Collegiate School.

However, in 1930, he left his studies to join the freedom movement inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s call to shun foreign education. He was in Class-X then.

In 1934, he was engaged by the Samaja to cover Mahatama Gandhi’s Harijan Padayatra from Puri to Bhadrak. During this period he got the opportunity to interact with Gandhiji, who shaped his values and world view. Later he worked with the eminent Gandhian Gopabandhu Choudhury and joined The Samaja as an Assistant Editor. He was jailed for his participation in the freedom struggle.

After Independence he fought the first general elections in 1952. He lost, which in retrospect was good for Odisha as from 1954 he started working on Gyanmandal with single minded devotion. It was a repository of basic knowledge on practically everything in simple and lucid Odia.

Although Jnanmandal was his magnum opus, he wrote numerous popular books in Odia including travelogues, biographies, children’s books and also more than a hundred books on science and technology.

He was conferred Odisha Sahitya Akademi Award in 1984 for his semi-autobiographical travelogue Runa Parishodha (Paying back the debt). He was honored with Padmashree title in 1983. He died on 22 June 1990.

(The author is Prof Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee is the Regional Director and Head of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) Dhenkanal, Odisha. Views are personal.)

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