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A Tribute To Dr.R.P. Mohapatra

By

Dr. H. C. Das

(A Professional Colleague of Dr.R.P. Mohapatra)

Orissan Archaeology, Art, History, Culture and Religion

Just Click on above it will take you to an excellent web site on Dr. Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra (Dr. R.P. Mohapatra) and his unstinting dedication for enriching and popularising Orissan Art, Archaeology, History, Culture, and Religion. His Collection of Antiquities and rare archaeological artefacts proudly displayed in Orissa State Museum is an eye opener for outsiders as well as insiders. His Magnificent volumes, rather better be acknowledged as magnum opus, on Orissan Art, Archaeology, Cultural History, Military History, History and religion based on creative and pain staking research regarded as pioneering effort in poularising true Orissan grandeour.....

Our beloved colleague Dr. Ramesh Prasad Mohapatra, an eminent historian and archaeologist of international fame, a man of unusual character marked for his honesty, dignity, integrity, suavity and discipline, a sincere but silent scholar in the field of history and archaeology, passed away unexpectedly at 11.40 A.M. 0n the 14th January 1989 leaving the bereaved family members in a wave of grief and creating a vaccum in the scholarly world. His untimely death is great loss to the Orissa State Museum and to Orissan History and Archaeology. Born in 1939 in an orthodox Brahmin family of Bhapur in the district of Dhenkanal he imbibed a typical individualistic conservative character of the Brahmins especially attached to Royal family of Dhenkanal. With the feudalistic character he was in the habit of prevailing upon others at home, in the Office and dealing with friends and relatives also. Being a disciplined man he always remained firm in his opinion and decision rarely yielding himself to the view-point of others. In a sense his strong but stubborn attitude devoid of emotionalism but replete with scholasticism was reflected in his behavior and writings. I also personally believe that scholasticism and accentricism vie with each other failing which a true and serious scholar cannot thrive amidst odds particularly in the Indian elite society.

The curatorial job in a Museum is of specialized in nature. A scholar with strong acumen and capability of diving into unknown, retrieving the hidden treasures and flashing for the prosperity as the primary source materials, can virtually be true Museum man. In western countries, particularly in England, Man of Letters with thorough knowledge on cultural aspects is selected as the Director of the Museum. Curator’s work based on the original cultural materials forms a source book for the researchers. In India the Museum Directors or Keepers have qualities, qualifications and capabilities but their recognition is far remote. As ill luck would have it, he was not recognized in Orissa though he acclaimed wide celebrity outside as a genuine scholar. Such is the ill fate of Orissan scholars.

A true scholar may be judged by the quality of his research works and elucidation of facts. Dr. Mohapatra in this account produced masterpieces based mainly on his survey an explorations of archaeological sites. He did not like to touch upon anything that is not supported by basic data and corroborative evidences. The best example is his ‘Jaina monuments’, a stupendous work grounded on his first hand field survey of the Jain sites in full coverage of the state. In this context I must dare say that before publication of this volume Jainism in Orissa was considered to be a sectarian religion spread sparsely in the past in this State was as significant as the mainstream of Indian religions like Buddhism, Saivism, Saktism, Vaishnavism etc. The survey and discovery of Jaina sites and iconographic identification of Jaina images are his greatest contribution to the Orissan culture.

In the field of iconography, art, history, archaeology and cultural history he had numerous achievements to his credit and he was our most knowledgeable Scholar. During the long period of over two decades of his curatorship his invaluable services to the cause of archaeological exploration was so deep that one can not think of Orissan archaeology without him. The momentous and eventful career of Dr. R. P. Mohapatra was one of the continuous and devoted service to Orissan history and archaeology covering a period of only 25 years. An author of numerous research papers covering a wide range of subjects like Archaeology, Political and Cultural history, literature many of which on the topics shrouded in oblivion. Ramesh Babu specialized in everything bringing about a blend of all the subjects, of course, in the context of history. Some of his important books entitled ‘Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves’, ‘Jaina Monuments of Orissa’, ‘Military History of Orissa’, ‘Archaeology in Orissa (Sites and Monuments) in II vol.’, ‘Index Volume to Orissa Historical Research Journal’, ‘Temple Legends of Orissa’, ‘Fashion Styles of Ancient India - A study of Kalinga from Earliest time to 16th Century A.D.’, ‘ Decorative Art of Parasurameswar Temple in Bhubaneswar’, ‘Ornaments of Orissa’ and several volumes i n manuscript forms are not only his unique contributions to indological study but a permanent testimony to his scholarly brilliance and erudition. His interdisciplinary approach to history and archaeology in accountability of details of facts made him great Historian and Archaeologist. Each of his papers and each of his books replete with facts in detail indicate his thoroughness, deep insight and command over the subject. The list of his research papers on various aspects of culture cannot possibly be enumerated in this small article. The vast research materials he enmeshed could not be exhausted during his short span of life, but his numerous files heaped with the connected data indicate that he had several plans in mind. Alas the untimely death put a fullstop to his planning.

He commenced his personal career in the Orissa State Museum, which is essentially the treasure house of cultural materials. These materials and the eminent scholars like P. Acharya, K. C. Panigrahi, K. N. Mahapatra, S. N. Rajaguru, Nilamani Mishra and others gave him a rare opportunity to gain first hand familiarity with Indian art, iconography and archaeology. I am sure he mark had he not been engaged in the Museum, though in professional front he could not have risen to such a high water was not given due recognition and commendation for his contributions.

The Museum Curator is the custodian of cultural objects keeping watch over them like Yaksa. In the true sense of the term he was the first-rate custodian of the archaeological treasures keeping a close watch over them and simultaneously warning others to be serious in safe-keeping of valuable cultural objects.

I must clearly confess that he could rouse a competition in the scholarly work. He had a close watch over my scholarly performance so also I had. The result was the creation of several stupendous volumes. He was my guiding spirit at the back. On the other hand, my indirect contribution to his scholarly work lay in providing him the necessary facilities in the Museum. Now I feel, as if my scholasticism is gone with his disappearance. For this small article I attempted but my emotions are choked and feelings remain unrevealed.

Of all of his colleagues I am the most unfortunate, as I could not have his last darshan on the 14th January 1989 on account of my absence from headquarters on leave. His death news to me on arrival at 4 A. M. on 17th January was like a thunderstorm.

The publication of his unpublished works (books or research papers) and research on his enormous collections of data will, I feel, be a fitting tribute to the departed soul.