Who is Chakhi Khuntia, the Panda of Sepoys

Briti Roy Barman

New Delhi, Jan 21: India is remembering Chakhi Khuntia, the Jagannath Temple priest, who later became a freedom fighter, on his birth anniversary, which was celebrated on January 20 in Odisha.

When the country was blazing by the flames of Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, Chakhi Khuntia or Chandan Hajuri was the one who dedicated his life for the well being of common people.

Remembering freedom fighters of Odisha the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had described Khuntia saying, "A 'panda' at Puri, Chakhi Khuntia was drawn towards freeing India from colonialism. He worked closely with the army of Rani Laxmibai".

Chakhi khuntia played a crucial role in the fight of Rani Laxmibai, or Jhansi Ki Rani against the British.

Childhood

Chakhi Khuntia was born on the year 1827 in the eve of the sacred Shamba Dasami in Puri. Raghunath Khuntia, his father was a servant of the Lord Jagannath. He named his son Chandan Hajuri as he was dressing the Lord with sandal-paste (Chandan) at the time of birth.

Khuntia was taught Oriya language and literature in a Chatasali. He learnt Hindi to communicate with the pilgrims of Lord Jagannath.

Chakhi Khuntia went through rigorous physical exercises in the traditional Akhada of Puri and also learnt wrestling and indigenous military feats and skills which made him building a very well-built and muscular body.

Relationship with Rani Laxmibai

Chakhi Khuntia belonged to the family of the priest or religious guide called Panda of Meropanth who was the father of Manubai who was renamed as Laxmibai after her marriage to Gangadhar Rao, the King of Jhansi.

Chakhi often paid visit to Laxmibai and the royal family for religious trips.

The Revolutionary

The British were trying to establish their empire in India through hook or crook. They were bitterly criticising Hindu Gods and demeaning the culture and religious practices. Chakhi Khuntia strongly opposed to the deprecation of the British.

By that time Gangadhar Rao, the King of Jhansi died and Laxmibai lost her only son. The British were prohibiting the queen to adopt a son to inherit the throne of Jhansi and subsequently they took away all the powers and Rani Laxmibai was left powerless. But she revolted against the British rule and sought the assistance of Chakhi Khuntia and Khuntia extended all possible help to her.

Rani Laxmibai increased her army and developed the war tactics on his advice.

Khuntia fomented resentment among the Indian soldiers called 'Sepoys' and organised a mutiny that turned to a violent shape. He then was called by 'Panda of Sepoys'.

Chakhi Khuntia went to Bithur and consulted Nanasaheb to join Laxmibai and raise their swords against the British.

He advised the queen that she should try to uphold the dignity of her land and inspired the brave lady and she fought a bloodshed battle against the enemy.

Khuntia was arrested and kept in jail many times on account of his rebellion.

The other side of the fighter

Chakhi Khuntia returned to Puri and spent the last leg of his life there. He devoted himself to the towards Odia literature and religious rites of Lord Jagannath. He has composed a lot of poems and devotional songs which expressed his great displeasure and deep indignation at the inhuman and suppressive measures of the British Government.

On 1870, on the day of Baisakh Shukla Ashtami, the valiant fighter breathed his last.

He will be always remembered by us for love and passion for his land, his supreme leadership quality and dedication towards Odia literature.

Images Courtesy: Twitter

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