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Special Content

Issue No 35, 27 November-3 December 2021

Parbati Giri - Mother Teresa Of Western Odisha

Tamanna Mohapatra

As India celebrates 75 years of Independence from the British rule, it is pertinent to remember that men and women contributed equally to the struggle that forms the bedrock of the freedom we enjoy today. While great patriots have rightfully gained the status of Heroes of Freedom Struggle, there are many Unsung Heroes whose contributions to the freedom struggle remain buried in the past. One such Unsung Hero is Parbati Giri from Odisha.

Parbati Giri was born on 19th January 1926 in Samaleipadar village of Bargarh, Odisha, to a family of freedom fighters. Her uncle Ramachandra Giri was one of the famous freedom fighters from Sambalpur Area. She grew up in an enabling environment. She had the unique opportunity of meeting/interacting with great leaders, which paved the way for transforming her mindset and outlook towards life. She dropped out of school at a very tender age to become a soldier of the freedom movement and took responsibility for campaigning in nearby villages. Laxmi Narayan Mishra, Durga Prasad Guru, Bhagirathi Pattnaik, and Jambobati Pattnaik inspired and mentored her in her early soldiering days.

The revolutionary speeches of Malati Devi and Nabakrushna Choudhury inspired the 12-year-old Parbati Giri to join the national freedom movement. In 1938, Parbati Giri started the arduous journey to Bari Ashram, as advised by Malati Devi, despite significant objections and no support from her family. Rama Devi trained Parbati Giri during her stay at Bari Ashram, helping her zealously participate in various socio-political initiatives. The guidance she received in Bari Ashram for two years transformed Parbati Giri into a freedom fighter and a social reformer. She passionately followed Gandhian principles; hence she contributed immensely in popularizing the Khadi and Swadeshi Movement after returning to Sambalpur.

During the Quit India Movement in 1942, Parbati Giri mobilized many people to raise their voices against colonial rule and oppression. She went to prison along with other leaders for sloganeering against British rule. She was shortly released as she was a minor then. This did not dampen Parbati Giri's spirit. She geared up for a more vigorous fight, mobilizing the locals against British rule. As a result, she was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Despite this, she stood like a rock, initiating a spectrum of social reforms in strengthening local communities, against all kinds of discrimination, especially against women and untouchability.

In the post-independence period, Parbati Giri dedicated her life to serving the weaker sections of society. Her compassion and kindness won hearts when she worked tirelessly during the Odisha famine providing relief to people in need. Parbati Giri founded the Kasturba Gandhi Matruniketan, providing shelter and other assistance to orphans and the destitute. She also worked for jail improvement, leprosy eradication, rural education, and women empowerment, and all kinds of social evils.

Despite offers by political parties to be made Rajya Sabha MP or a seat in the state assembly, Parbati Devi consciously chose to remain a social reformer until she took her last breath in 1995. It is no surprise that she is lovingly referred to as 'Mother Teresa of Western Odisha' for her significant contribution to motherland India.

 (The author is a writer based in Dhenkanal, Odisha, e-mail: iamtamma 125@gmail.com)