Vedanta Kesari Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati (84) took the vow to develop the downtrodden class of the society and made his centre of activities at Chakapada in tribal dominated Orissa’s Kandhmal district. Janmashtami – Aug 23rd 2008 is his balidaan Divas.
Besides social and religious development of the tribal people, he tried for almost four decades to empower them economically and academically. He established a Gurukul pattern of school and a college to teach Sanskrit in Chakapada a remote place of Kandhamal.
Sankaracharya Kanyashram, a residential school at Jalespatta is another ashram of Swamiji in the district, where education is being imparted to girls with an intention to build character and inculcate cultural nationalism & service mindedness among them.
While there was a movement to ban cow slaughter in India, Swamiji came from Kailas to Orissa. After the movement of cow protection was over, Swamiji decided to return back to his Tapasya, when the then chief of RSS of Orissa Sri Bhupendra Kumar Basu narrated the sad stories of the tribal population of the State and requested him to help the suffering population. Swamiji went to Phulbani (Kandhmal) with Sri Basu, saw the life of people there and decided to serve the backward people mostly tribals and harijans, there and focussed to empower them.
In 1969 he started his first ashram at Chakapada and the ashram became a centre for brisk activities. He renovated the temples: Birupakshya, Kumareswar and Jogeswar and established a Sanskrit school and a college.
Swamijee invested his full energy to teach the youth of schedule caste and schedule tribe in Sanskrit and general education. He built the youth as disciplined citizens – well cultured, well educated, and inspired them to become spiritual.
Swamijee was well versed in Vedanta philosophy, Sanskrit grammar and was awarded with the honour as “VEDANTA KESHARI”. He not only gave philosophical thoughts to the people but taught them good cultivation, animal care, horticulture and so on. The students coming out from the Kalyan Ashram Gurukula are taking leadership of the society in economic, social and cultural fields.
Due to his selfless service to humanity, he was awarded with VIVEKANANDA SEVA PURASKAR” from Kolkotta.He stood firm in Phulbani district for a long time and struggled hard to preserve and protect the tribal culture and Dharma. The Sankaracharya of Govardhan Pitha, Puri awarded him.
Swamiji was a visionary. It has been clearly established by his activities. He worked in the entire state of Orissa, specifically in Phulbani district now known as Kandhamal. He worked in the areas of health, education, agriculture, religious teachings and teaching rituals, sanskrit, sanskriti raksha, gau raksha and swadharma seva. He also informed the tribals that they can also perform yagyas and trained them in the same. He also taught them to give pravachans. ( speeches). He started mahila sankeertan mandalis ( women groups for singing bhajans) and they used to perform the ashta prahari naam keertan.
He started a night school for adult education. He insisted them to send their children to the school by which the literacy rate amongst tribal and Harijans of that area increased. He stared a Sanskrit School named Kalyan Ashram, Sanskrit Vidyalaya at Chakapad in the year 1969 which is now promoted to a Sanskrit college.
For the education of the girls, he established ‘Sankaracharya Kanyashram’ a wholly residential school at Jalespata in the year 1988 where 250 girls’ students are studying. He also established a school at Banki and ashram at panigola in Angul district. The student of Chakapada and Jalespata taking leadership in all social sphere of their life in Kandhamal and most of them are established in the government service.
The local Harijan and tribal people of Kandhamal become more health conscious after coming to the satsangh. They started to keep their houses clean, take bath every day, take safe drinking and thousands of family of the scheduled caste community have given up taking beef which ,make them healthy and disease less.
Swamiji taught them not to take liquor or any other alcoholic drinks during Satsang. Then gradually they left the habit of taking such drinks. When they were free form alcohol they got ample time to do some work which they utilized in their field and other activities for their development. More than 500 villages in the district benefited out of Swamiji’s noble way to control liquor business as well as people on their own boycotted all intoxicants materials.
Swamiji taught grammar to the students in the class and technique of good cultivation in the field. He taught the villagers when and how to cultivate paddy vegetables etc. By which people of G.Udaygira and Raikia block area now produce the best quality and highest quantity of beans in Orissa. There also formed a vegetable cooperative society at Katingia by agricultural development the economic conditioned improved a lot. Swamiji always insisted the tribals not to be afraid of any body. He accompanied them to the govt. officer and police stations and made them fearless. They got the courage to face to the collector or SP directly.
Now we can see greenery everywhere in the Kandhmal because it has more forest cover than any other district. It is all due to Swamijis efforts to insist them to take wood only when required. He also established “Mathas on the hill tops in several parts of the district and told the villagers that the trees in the hill belong to “matha” and the village community. If emergency arises one can cut a tree and take wood only after the permission of the village committee. That worked tremendously. The joint forest management system which govt. started now has been started by Swamiji from 1970. Swamiji was very serious regarding preservation and protection of tribal culture and tradition . He has established and renovated the tribal deity place (Dharanipenu) in several places. Similarly he has started a Rathyatra through out the Gajapati and Kandhamal districts during which thousand of tribal are attracted to their own belief. This spread all across Orissa as well.
He often said that the area will not prosper where tears or blood falls. He was against the indiscriminate cow slaughter. He taught the people to protect cattle from slaughtering and taking beef. On several occasions he staged demonstration, dharanas and participated in the hunger strike in several parts of the state. He toured through out the state for this cause. He was associated with several socio-cultural and religious organizations. He established and renovated several temples in different parts of the state. He was a founder member and inspiration of VHP and Kalyana Ashram of Orissa. His also involved himself in protecting the tribals from Christian conversion. He tried his label best to reconvert the tribals to their original faith. Inspired by his personality thousand of people in different parts of the states become his disciple.
His main missions were :
1. Making the tribal youth strong, fearless, educated and financially sound.
2. Tribals should be strong in their belief and check conversion of their brethren and bring back those who have gone out of Hindu fold.
3. Protection of cows :
These made him popular thought out the states. During two big functions at Chakapad in 1986 and 2007, lakhs of people gather in that remote place.
As the reconversion got momentum Christian militants feared of losing their ground. So they attacked Swamiji several times ( 9 times). The ninth attack on him was on 24th December 2007, where he was narrowly saved being murdered by heavily armed group of 200 people, at Darsingbadi of Kandhamal. No efforts were been made by the government or administration to arrest the culprits (The Christian militants) and siege the illegal weapons kept by them. The roles of Christian NGO’s were not investigated. The attitude of the government was to protect Christians and harass Hindus. Hundreds of Hindus were arrested but only a few Christians. Lakhs of rupees were provided to the church and other Christian organizations as relief, which were not damaged during that period.
These things encouraged the Christian militants and they brutally killed Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, Bhakti Mata. Amrutananda Baba, Kishore baba and Purub Ganthi a guardian of a Kanyashram girl on the Janmastami night on 23rd August 2008 at 8 pm. They even dared to enter the kanyashram and brutally killed 5 persons in addition to Swamiji.
Source : Vishwa Samvad Kendra, Orissa;
Points to deliberate upon :
The brutal killing of Swamiji, sent a shock wave in the country. Lakhs of people attended his antyeshti and paid their respects showing that he was respected all over Orissa and not only in Kandhamal.
1. Swamiji Lakshmanand was the only Swami who had police protection due to the number of attacks on him. However, a few days before his murder, the police protection was removed by the district administration. The only gun man he had also went on leave .
2. He was involved in cow-protection and Dharma-prachaar ( spread of dharmic values ) and was a bulwark against Christian missionaries.
3. A member of World Vision – a Christian missionary organisation was on the run. Why was World Vision International not questioned ?
4. The Maoists distanced themselves from the attack giving a letter which stated ” the organization would initiate action against some of their cadres in Kandhamal district who could be hired for money by communal Christian miscreants for the murder of the VHP leader”
5. Since 2008, the case has not yet been resolved for so many years. Is the laxity of the government part of a bigger conspiracy ? This has embolden many more attacks on sadhus and sants in other parts of the country.
Involvement of World Vision employee in the murder ?
Update on 3rd Oct 2013 –
Church-Maoist Nexus gets confirmed in Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati’s murder. Watch the phrase -” The convicts said they committed the crime as, according to them, Saraswati was forcing Christians to convert to Hinduism, he said.”
Bhubaneswar, Oct 3 (IANS) A court in Odisha Thursday sentenced eight persons, including a Maoist, to life in prison for the murder of a Hindu leader and four of his aides in 2008, a lawyer said.
The special additional district sessions court at Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhamal district, about 200 km from state capital Bhubaneswar, also imposed a fine of Rs.10,000 on each of them, prosecution lawyer Ramesh Mohanty told IANS.
Those awarded the jail term and fine are Duryodhan Suna Majhi, Munda Bada Majhi, Sanatan Bada Majhi, Garnatha Chalanseth, Bijay Kumar Samseth, Bhaskar Suna Majhi and Budhadev Nayak and Pulari Rama Rao alias Uday.
Rama Rao alias Uday was a Maoist leader while others are local residents, the prosecution lawyer said. The same court pronounced Rama Rao guilty on OCT 1 while it convicted others a day earlier. The court said it would pronounce the quantum of punishment Thursday.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his four aides were killed at their ashram by then unidentified gunmen at Jaleshpata in Kandhamal district Aug 23, 2008.
Five accused, including Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, wanted for the crime, are still untraced and on the run, police said.
The convicts said they committed the crime as, according to them, Saraswati was forcing Christians to convert to Hinduism, he said.
The killing of Saraswati and his aides triggered communal violence in the state, in which at least 38 people were killed.
Update from Vishwa Samvad Kendra Orissa on Oct 3rd 2013
Sri Arun Ray, then I.G. Crime Branch in his Press conference on 6thOctober, 2008 has stated that one group has conspired and engaged another group for killing of Swami Laxmanananda. Though a few of the murders has been nabbed and convicted the main culprits like Sabyasachi Panda and Main Conspirators of church groups are still at-large, as the Govt. seems not interested for it. All though Hon’able Odisha High Court has directed the investigating agency to take a lead on the evidences supplied by the informant, no steps has been taken in that direction, which clearly indicates the Govt. pressure to protect the culprits. The investigating officer has been rewarded with promotion and police medal for safe-guarding the culprits, which is a public discussion in Khandhamal. It is an eye wash of the government in convicting some culprits hurriedly, when the main accused are not yet booked.