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Odisha tribals keep up legendary freedom fighter’s tradition to save wildlife

The Hirakud Wildlife Division has made a memorial depicting the war stories of the legendary freedom fighter Veer Suendra Sai (January 23, 1809- February 28 1884 (Pics. Courtesy Twitter/@HirakudDFO)

Veer Surendra Sai, hailing from Odisha’s Sambalpur carved a name for himself when he was merely 18 as he vociferously protested against the colonial rulers, British in 1827. And today, nearly 200 years later, his name continues to spell magic and has made conservation the buzz word for villagers and tribals of his area.

It is this respect, regard and reverence for this brave freedom fighter, that has sustained love for the wildlife among the villagers under seven gram panchayats in Bargarh’s Debrigarh sanctuary. These forests and its animals played a key role in Sai’s life.

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The memorial showcases 12 major instances of Veer Surendra Sai’s heroism

To celebrate his memory, the Hirakud Wildlife Division has put up a memorial at Barabakhra on the outskirts of the sanctuary. Barabakhara is a huge cave with a waterfall. Apart from pictorial representation of the major incidents connected with Sai’s life, the memorial depicts the war stories of this legendary fighter through sculptures.

Spread over five acres, the memorial showcases 12 major instances of Sai’s heroism during the struggle. To provide a fillip to women, five of their self-help groups have been engaged to manage the memorial. The members of these groups will be trained in eco-tourism every month for one full year, informed Anshu Pragyan Das, Divisional Forest Officer, HWD.

Leading the movement against the colonial rulers and some high castes, Sai promoted the culture and language of the downtrodden tribal communities. During his armed struggle Debrigarh played a crucial part as he built a chain of hill forts made of stone and mud at the top of the hills. These were lined along the main roads connecting Sambalpur with Raipur, Ranchi and Cuttack.

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The memorial attracts visitors from near and far

These forts were made in Barapahada hill range from western Odisha to Singhoda in Chhattisgarh.

Villagers in this entire region worship Sai and convinced by his principles to safeguard the sanctuary and its wildlife even today and have never taken to poaching.

Also read: Odisha setting up memorial for legendary freedom fighter Veer Surendra Sai