Pandit Raghunath Murmu (May 1905 – February 1982) was an Indian writer and educator. He was the man to lend his voice to the Santhal tribe. Until the nineteenth century, Santali people had no written language and knowledge was transmitted orally from one generation to another. Later European researchers and Christian missionaries started using Bengali, Odia, and Roman scripts to document. Pandit Raghunath Murmu developed the Ol Chiki script for the Santali language and enriched the cultural identity of the Santali society. He wrote many songs, plays, and school textbooks in Ol Chiki script. Santhals have adorned him with the title ‘Guru Gomke’, meaning ‘the great guru’.
The event started with the garlanding of statues of tribal freedom fighters like Birsa Munda, and Laxman Nayak instituted at KISS-DU. Students greeted the guests, dignitaries, and participants by singing a song in the Santali language.
Dr. Kanhu Charan Mahali, Director General, KISS-DU extended a warm welcome to all dignitaries and participants on behalf of KISS-DU and introduced the distinguished invited speakers: Shri. Udaynath Majhi, Ex-IRAS, and a noted social worker, Shri Karu Murmu, Secretary, Adim Owar Jharpa and Shri. Madan Mohan Soren, Convenor, Santali Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
Dr. Prashanta Kumar Routray, CEO, KISS, and Registrar of KISS-DU, while introducing the purpose of the event said, “We at KISS and KISS-DU always give importance to our student’s Mother Tongue; the purpose is to keep their languages, culture, and tradition alive. In the context of KISS-DU, we have two major areas for language studies, one is the School of Comparative Tribal Languages and Literatures which aims to organize programmes and carry forward research work on tribal languages and another is the Centre for Indigenous Languages and Narratives which endeavour to meet the objective of preserving, protecting and promoting the tribal cultural diversity as well as heritage in Odisha. He said, if the coming generation follows these footsteps, it will be a payback in the true sense. Our purpose for organizing such activities is to encourage our students to do research on the dying or endangered languages by documenting and mapping it properly so that it could be preserved and maintained for the future generation. While discussing two new innovative initiatives: Professors of Practice and Professor Emeriti, Dr. Routray said that there is a perfect blend of traditional intellectuals and modern intellectuals at KISS-DU. Today is when the dream of Hon’ble Founder Dr. Achyuta Samanta got translated into reality, he concluded.
In his address, Professor Deepak Kumar Behera, Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, shed light on the early life of Guru Gomke Raghunath Murmu and said that we wish to grow and develop through our language and culture. Professor Behera informed the dignitaries about the School of Comparative Tribal Languages and Literatures and the Centre for Tribal Languages and Narratives were established at KISS-DU and announced that the University will award scholarships to those research scholars who want to pursue research on indigenous languages, history, and culture. He was elated to announce the inauguration of the Santal Language Club at KISS Deemed to be University He also announced the opening of a Master’s programme in the Santali language at the University shortly.
The Chief Guest, Shri Uday Nath Majhi, a social worker working for the social development of Santhalis said with conviction that we can remember Guru Gomke Raghunath through his songs, drama and dances. He said, “The nation which sings and dances will never die.” Shri Majhi shed light on Pandit Raghunath Murmu as a Dharma Pracharak or socio-religious reformer. He mentioned how convinced Raghunath Murmu was about the distinct religion of Tribals. He was convinced that Tribals have their religion and Guru Gomke Murmu had named the religion of Santhalis Sarna Dharma. Shri Majhi informed the august gathering that in the 1951 census 3 lakh Santhals had written their religion as Sarna Dharma; the number has increased to 50 lakhs during the 2011 Census. He also informed that Odisha lags in teaching Santhal in universities whereas West Bengal has been successful in doing so and has introduced Masters courses in 9 universities. Sri Majhi urged the students not to miss any opportunity to converse among themselves in their language. While talking about the social process, he said there is a need for Santalization of the Santals, just like Sanskritization of the Dalits has been happening. In the process of inspiring the students, he said that your mission should be “Sikho aur Sikhao.”
Shri Madan Mohan Soren, Member of Sahitya Academy, said, we should not forget that we are drawing the benefits from the hard work and efforts of Pandit Raghunath Murmu. Every 15 days one indigenous language is disappearing due to a lack of propagation and promotion by the people who speak it. He shared how the Boa language disappeared with the death of the last member of the Boa Tribe. If Guru Gomke Raghunath had not worked hard, we would have lost our Santhali language, and our distinct identity would not have been possible. He quoted Samuel Johnson, “Language is a pedigree to a nation; when a language is lost, I feel sorry about it.” Shri Soren strongly suggested that language is the only means to keep the culture and traditions alive. He expressed that “We have learned a lesson from Pandit Raghunath Murmu that we need to put in hard work to keep it alive.” He informed the participants that the Santhal Advisory Board of Sahitya Academy has requested the central government to establish a National Council for the promotion of the Santhali Language as we have had one for the Sindhi language since 1994. Shri Soren expressed his happiness to learn that the students and scholars of KISS-DU will study courses in Santal and do research on the Santal language. Instituting Santali Language Club and Research Chair on tribal heroes is a welcome step towards protecting, preserving, and promoting indigenous culture and traditions.” he concluded.
One of the distinguished speakers, Shri Karu Murmu, Secretary, Adim Owar, Jharpa, said that language is everything as it makes you a human being by giving identity. Shri Murmu encouraged the students to interact in their languages and teach their languages to others. Ms Ritika Tudu, a famous Santali singer was felicitated by KISS-DU fraternity for singing maximum songs dedicated to Guru Gomke Pandit Raghunath Murmu.
Mr. Kadey Soren, Deputy Director, Academics, KISS expressed sincere thanks to the distinguished speakers and participants on behalf of the Founder of KISS-DU, Dr. Achyuta Samanta. He also expressed his gratitude to all the office staff and faculty for extending their hearty cooperation without which the event would have not been a grand success.