Rama Devi (1899-1985)
The name of Rama Devi have caught the imagination of Odisha people not because she was a great writer, not because she was a political thinker but because she was a man of immnse simplicity and openness.
She was born on 3rd December 1899. Having the parentage of Basanta Kumari Devi and Gopal Ballabh Das at Cuttack. A part from that she was the nice of Utkal Gourav Madhusudan Das. From the very inception of her life, the quality of social service have made a lodgement in her temperament and such spirit was augmented after her marriage with Gopabandhu Choudhury. 3 Because there after Rama Devi along with her husband got involved with assorted social organization. Her husband Gopabandhu Choudhury not only supported but provided whole hearted co-operation in this direction.
As an adrent votary of Gandhian Philosophy, she took a swift plunge into the main streem of freedom movement in 1921. She joined to the Gaya Session of National Congress in 1922, as a deligate of Odisha.4 There after she never looked back, and was destined to create a specific place for her. From 1921, till the end of her life in 1985 the name of Rama Devi was a solace for all Odia people.
She was a great humanist and possesed immenese simpathy for the weeker and downtrodden section of the people. She opened an Ashram at Ramachandrapur and her native village Satyabhamapur to give training to rural women in self-sufficiency. A training centre was opened at Dumurigeda in Koraput for tribals. 5 She actively involved with various welfare organisations like Voodan movement, Harijan movement etc.6 Besides she worked for the upliftment of tribals. She became high office bearer of Kasturaba Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Matrumangal Kendra, Gramasevika Talim Kendra, Kanyashram, Utkal Navajivana Mandal and Sarvodaya movements and associated hereself with different relief organizations. She worked among Danganria Kandhas in Koraput. She organized inter-caste marriages in different Ashramas. She worked fearlessly with women co-workers during communal riot in Cuttack in 1968. She also worked in the drought-affected areas in Kalahandi in 1965 and Balangir in 1966.7 She collected orphans and kept them in Ashrams run by Kasturaba Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi. Rama Devi never hesitated to travel on foot for long 2000 miles throughout Odisha with her husband during Bhudan movement in 1952-55.8
After the death of her husband in 1957, she continued her activities till her death in 1985. Rama Devi was a promoter of basic education in Odisha.
Leading and eventful life of 86 years she breathed her last in July 22, 1985. Her Autobiography “Jivana Pathe” is valuable record of her life experiences and inspiration to the future generation. She was honoured with awards and titles during her life time and also after her death. As a tribute in order to commemorate to her lasting contribution for Odisha, Rama Devi women’s College has ben setup at Bhubaneswar, very furtunately such college is now converted as the first women’s University in Odisha.