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Home > 2023 > Randipua Ananta: an Ethnographic text | Radhakanta Barik

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 52 December 23 & 30, 2023

Randipua Ananta: an Ethnographic text | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 23 December 2023, by Radhakanta Barik


It is a powerful story of Fakirmohan Senapati by bringing marginal communities into his literary world. Here the Golla Caste is a marginal community in rural Odisha. He has created an epic hero out of this story. Ananta being a fatherless child grew into a good natured human being. He turns into a self less being and works for the welfare of people. When flood enters into the village by making a breach in the embankment he turns into hero by sacrificing himself by not allowing through his imagination by stopping water to come into the village. He turns into a people’s hero. His mother stands as a feminist woman who disobeys the patriarchal behavior imposed on her by the village community.

Key words: Golla caste, pastoral community, nomadic, doing business of milk products and turning into people’s hero

Fakirmohan Senapati’s story Randipua Ananta is not a proper story as it does not carry a single theme or single character or written in analyzing a situation. There are many plots interconnected together and at the end essence of these plots connected at a higher level which can be called as a mini novel. It is a brilliant novel as many plots can be carved out. This is the story where he has given an ethnic description of two communities. One gola caste, a pastoral community whose occupation is herding the cows or buffaloes and here the story deals with the buffaloes that do not remain in the house but outside the village. Here the buffaloes are living in a jungle as those days most of the villages had village forests. There is an ethnic description of Geta Mohanty community who belongs to Karan and they do intellectual work or clerical work. Here they do teaching work in the village. As titles do not fit into a caste in Odisha which explains that a section of Mohanty belonging to Karan has been ethnocized. Mohanty title one finds in each caste or community from Brahmin, Karan, Chasa and any other castes.

Study of Golla Caste as a pastoral community :

In his story one finds the ethnographic study of Golla caste.(Singh 1992 p199) As occupation is on the basis of a caste, they keep buffaloes and cows besides the cultivation of land. It is a pastoral community who keep interest in herding buffaloes and cultivating land. They live in the village and at the same time they keep their buffaloes outside the village. It is nomadic community with a difference. The buffaloes herding is done in jungle here. They live between nomad and village. These pastoralists are engaged in multianimal work and milk products. Their permanence of dwelling depends on the degree of cultivation. Here they maintain a residence in the village. It helps them to do trading in milk products in the village. They do herding the animals outside the village. In a traditional society livestock is an important dimension of rural economy. It is interesting to note here that other castes like Brahmins to Chasa all keep cows and buffaloes but their main occupation is the cultivation of land. In a traditional society there was plenty of grazing land which helped them to keep their animals outside the village. In rains they get drenched and in winter they use to live in a small whole type of home where no wind used to come but they used to sleep there as they had to keep an eye over their animals.

Geta Mohanty: It is a sub caste within Karan caste. As Karans have various social components: such as Patnaik leader of the community and the other section used to come from the sexual relation between the Raja or Zamindar with their concubines whose children were known as ‘Geta Mohanty’ who got assimilated into the caste of Karan. They were taken inferior to Patnaik in Karan. Here in the story there is a reference to Geta Mohanty.

Caste used in conflict situation:

In a conflict situation the real face of each comes out. People know the social background of each but rarely used it but when conflict arises it gets unfolded. Here there is a conflict between Golla woman and the teacher belonging to Geta Mohanty. She abuses the teacher in vulgar words. First the teacher uses the words: “Oh Devaki Gauduni Oh Devaki Gaunduni; where is Randipua Ananta and let his long life gets reduced to a short period (Alpaisia) In response to his abuses the Devaki Mahakudi says: Oh Mohanty Golam He is Dakunikhia (let witches kill you) Naisua ( let flood water of river eat you) Let me see this Mohanty boy.”These words are not used in normal times in rural Odisha but in conflict situation these words get used. These words are not used in normal times because of the ‘fictive kinship’ prevails in the rural Odisha(Bailey F G 2010) Here age matters not caste. For instance the seniors are being addressed with respect and juniors with love. This tradition dilutes the caste consciousness of people.

Singhani (Golla woman) confronts the teacher Mohanty by holding a stick used by her husband in herding the buffaloes and the teacher Mohanty knows her physical strength as she confronted once a bull by holding the horns and pushing the bull into the river bed. After the incident bull turns into a gentle animal. The teacher felt scared of her and vanished from the village forever.

War scene gets subtle description here: “ The tiger runs behind the deer and the dear out of fear runs away. The teacher suffers from wounds by falling on the ground and starts bleeding while Singhani shows her real face of a bear by running behind by keeping the stick on her shoulder.’ This is the war scene happens in the village lane between a woman and a teacher. Nobody stops her. The caste system is non operative in the normal villages. It is wealth matters as she is rich and powerful as her husband has worked in police and she has earning from her business in selling butter milk. Caste hierarchy disappears through the window in Odisha when wealth comes in through the door. Class issue is very much important in village society.

Multi Caste village: Some seniors selected by village community for settling the disputes. As the novelist uses them ‘ Good people’ who come forward to settle disputes. Here it does not explain that they belong to high caste alone and there may be some representation from other castes. This is a multi-caste village of two hundred households and highly educated one and many of them are working in various cities from Calcutta to Cuttack. In a multi caste village the Golla caste is categorized as ‘ Hatua Barga’ or those engaged in marketing some product. Here they get involved in business of milk products.

Kinship: They belong to Hindu caste system. The way their kinship is structured indicating about a nucleus or joint family within the caste. (Dube1974) Here it is a nucleus family: husband, wife and child. Here the head of the family is the male person. In the case of Gola Caste the male person remains engaged in herding buffaloes which keep him busy outside the house located in the village. Here woman dominates. She gets involved in business of milk products. In the business she has to take decision every moment. Her freedom is much more than so called high caste woman.

Getta Mohanty caste within Karan:

They used to do gumasta work or teaching work. In the story Mohanty functions as a teacher in primary school of the village. As a teacher he exploits his students by allowing them to do all his works like massaging to cooking etc. Furthermore, the teacher teaches them to steal from their homes to bring something special for him. Furthermore, the cruelty of a teacher gets expressed in caning of students. Very often, they do harm to students. Teachers belonging to high castes use abuses against the students belonging to lower castes. “ The teacher’s work gets done by students such as massaging, washing the cloth, cleaning the plates. Even the child of a rich family does this work.” The teacher demands bribe like tobacco leaf from the rich family. The dialogue between teacher and a student: “Teacher: Hi Binod! Your father brought the Balesori tobacco leaf why did you not bring that Binod replies: What can I do, My mum has kept this in a high up place to which my hand cannot reach.” The teacher collects the butter milk freely from Ananta’s mum . Because of this bribe he does not remove the student from his class.

Teacher: When your mum goes for taking bath you stand on a stool to get it. Do not bring much which can be found by your parents. If you do not bring tomorrow morning then look at the cane .” P 96

Instead of explaining the students he uses abuses and caning of students. In one case he uses the cane which can harm the body. He beats Ananta so badly he starts bleeding. The boy wants to take revenge in another form. Ananta retorts: “ Sala Mohanty (brother in law Mohanty)will be taught a lesson by me” While the teacher goes for toilet and wants his water pot to be carried by the students and advises Ananta to get it. Ananta mixes some poisonous stuff with water to teach him a lesson. After finishing the toilet, the teacher cleans his buttock with the poisonous water which results in making his buttocks bruised.

Social Mobility:

During the colonial period there was hardly any scope for social mobility except getting a job in the state.Once social mobility happens in a family they change their name to feel as superior to others in his or her caste or community or in the village. Once the person herding buffaloes got a job in police he changed from Mahakud to Singh and his wife turned into Mrs Singh or Singhani. This is not confined to Golla caste but in each caste to some extent. Per instance Nayak turns into Patnaik, Behera turning into Roy in Chasa Khandayat caste and Das in Brahmin caste turning into Dash which explains their greedy for rise in social status. In the story of Randipua Ananta there has been a quarrel over the issue of calling Mahakud’s wife as Mrs Singh and she feels flattered if someone calls her Singhani and she feels obliged to offer him some extra butter milk. This happens in colonial period where anyone getting job in government acquires an inflated status. They dress in western way and show a different stature. In Odisha because of humidity people wear only dhoti or lungi and do not cover the body with any dress which gets violated once one gets a job in the state.

In a multi caste society where the family belonging to Golla creates problems for the teacher teaching in the school of the village belonging to karan but did not get support from the other castes or they did not create problems for the Golla caste people. In other words the caste hierarchy does not operate while the conflict between the high and low is going on in the villages. It seems that the high castes do not have hegemony where the backward and lower castes did not acquiesce to their hegemony. This does not happen in the villages where the Zamindar or Maqdam having their residence who backed their respective castes to create problems for backwards and Dalits. (Cohn 2010) This is because of strong living traditions of Buddhism prevailing in the rural odisha.

Mrs Mahakud as a feminist character:

In the story of Randipua Ananta the female character is a feminist one who makes her own choice and participates in decision making process of family and outside the family. Mrs Singh actively involves in the labour process before marriage and after marriage. Once her child is born she does not withdraw from the labour process. Her husband works as the herder of the buffaloes but she participates in supplying food and collecting milk and getting processed. Her husband Mr Mahakud consults her before taking final decision. When his buffaloes die of some unknown disease he gets puzzled but she shows bravery by bringing some buffaloes on loan from her own family. Once he joins as the manager of buffaloes folk of the Zamindar he takes each business decision after consulting her. When he gets an offer of job in police he tells that he has to consult Mrs Mahakud before taking a final decision. After he joins the police start earning extra money besides his salary Mrs Mahakud collects these money and keeps with her. “ SInghani has physical strength and she is brave in her mind, by falling into difficulties she does not feel scared of the situation and instead confront the difficulties boldly “ p92 She does not behave like ordinary women who are under the control of patriarchy and they fear questioning their husbands or male society.

Her husband’s death disturbs her but she recovers from the shock and stands on her foot. She starts wearing her ornaments after losing it as a widow for some time. She ignores her widowhood. She is a brave woman. She takes care of her four year old son and put him into the primary school. She feels that learning may empower him. She does her business in milk products. The village people perceives her as a rich woman having some money in her home and the thieves enter into her house in the middle of night, she is able to catch hold of one of them. She enjoys her status as Singhani and demands the respect from the village people.

Oedipus Complex:

Mrs Mahakud has a strong bond with her son Ananta. He uses to cajole her four year child for hours by singing lullaby: “ Hati or elephant moves in a surreptious manner to eat the Kia Kanda,

Ananta moves around her mum to drink her milk.

There is a moon surrounded by the stars
Ananta hangs around to drink mum’s milk by sitting in her lap.
Dad has gone to herding the buffaloes, mum will milk the cow
The king’s courtyard has a royal elephant which draws Ananta to ride over.” P93

This song is a highly meaningful one. It expresses the child to be ambitious and turning in to an adult by riding the elephant owned by the King.” There is limit to his ambition and he can reach the king’s palace to hold position. This prediction comes true as Ananta turns into peoples’ king.

While going on selling butter milk in the village lane she does not bother so much of public perception of her. Public caricatures her physical appearance by giving many names: Devaki Gauduni, 2- Mahakudini 3- Tadaka Asuri 4- Nandigosh rath but not in front of her. Patriarchy in the rural folk guides them to caricature her activities but she proves her point of view that she stands as an empowered woman. Judith Butler’s gender performativity by theory asserts how bodily movements and gestures are culturally interpreted as feminine and masculine.(Sara Salin 2007) Buttler uses speech and actions for explaining the feminist behavior of a woman without entering into theoretical discourse. The villagers brand her style of walking and talking as masculine rather than feminine which gets expressed her as a feminist in the story. On her back all these remarks are given by villagers. While taking butter milk people call her Singhani. She feeds her son a balanced meal consisting of milk, rice and dal and sabji. He grows into a strong and mentally alert boy.

The boy is little naughty by stealing fruits from the village gardens of others for which the villagers often make complaints against him. To keep an eye over the activities of the child she puts him into a primary school run under the Baula tree by a teacher appointed by the village.

Pedagogic system:

Her son refuses to read but develops his EQ in a meaningful manner. He learns the riding the tree and swimming and tilling the field and despite that he turns into a sensitive soul who helps people of the village. His social activism gets recognized by people of the village. His mother stands with him.

Here the author questions the learning like a parrot which harms the intellectual and emotional growth of a child. Ananta as a boy shows disinterest to learn from formal schooling but enjoys learning skills of life and enjoys it. He turns into a social activist in local society for helping people who solicits his help. Some one’s house does not get thatched and he does alone. A dead body does not get carried to the cremation ground he picks up. He rebels against the money economy and he does everything free of cost. As a naughty child he does plucking fruits from the garden of others but does not touch gold ornament lying in the house. His child hood naughtiness shapes him into a different personality who is ready to sacrifice his life for others. Once the flood threatens to enter into the village by creating breach in embankment, people do not have knowledge how to face the situation. He collects door from the temple which is a strong wooden structure and handmade rice huller to save the situation and prepares to die while people putting mud for closing the breach of the embankment and dies for others. People are ready to recognize his commitment to people like Dharmapada who sacrifices himself as a young man after completing the work in Konarka. This tradition is being carried by him further. His mother hears the story but without disturbing herself goes to flood water and dies. Here mother feels satisfied with the brave actions of her son which get recognized by the village people. Ananta turns into people’s hero. She is so close to her son which guides her to commit suicide by jumping into flood water.

Epic hero:

Fakirmohan has created many characters in his stories and novels but Ananta is the most selfless and pro people hero. Here he carries the epic tradition where heroes do die. This has influenced his writing style. He belongs to Golla caste the caste has a number and financial strength to fight the hegemony of the upper caste. They fought in Kendrapara in the early 20th century against the domination of Brahmins and Khandayata and Karans by wearing thread which resulted in clashes between them. They fought against them against the bethi system imposed by the caste system that they had to carry the Palkis where these upper caste people used to sit. They succeeded in the whole state. They are in urban and rural areas. Here the story of Ananta makes us having a progressive sensibility of a person and his mother supports his adventurous activities. It means those children lose their father in the early phase but here Ananta loses his father while he is four year old. Randipua is used against the upper caste people and their children but against backward and Dalits.

Why Tragedy in his stories:

The story of “Randipua Ananta’ turns into a tragedy where all the characters of the story face death. Death, destruction and devastation are three important characteristics of the 19th century Odisha. The Maratha rule and British rule destroyed the economic prosperity of the province which got devastated by the Permanent settlement law of colonial state. Peasantry got exploited by the rapacious Zamindars and their gumastas. Diseases like Cholera, fever etc used to kill the young people.Destruction caused by the natural calamities such as flood, cyclone and famine. Author being a sensitive person experiences the impact of three Ds and create only tragedies in his stories, novels.


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  • S Salih - Sexualities and communication in everyday life: A …, 2007
  • … Both of these texts are discussed in detail in Chapter 4 of Judith Butler, where I look at Butler’s
… , Butler implicitly draws from their linguistic theories in her formulations of gender identity
  • P. T. Robertshaw and D. P. Collett, 2010 “The Identification of Pastoral Peoples in the Archaeological Record: An Example from East Africa” in World Archaeology, Volume 15, 1983 - Issue 1: Transhumance and pastoralism pp 67-79
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