Updated: May 7, 2022
At merely the age of seven, while attending Gambharia U.P school for his primary education, he found his teachers to be of odiya identity. As the medium of instruction was Odiya, and not Santali, his native language, it made him wonder why the school’s medium of instruction was not Santali. In his mind Odiya was the medium of instruction for the Odiya speaking population and hence Santali should be the medium of instruction for the Santali speaking population. Therefore, he asked his father to admit him to a school where Santali was the medium of instruction. It was then that his father told him that Santalis did not have a written script and had the tradition of oral language. So, there was no school where the medium of instruction was Santali. This had a deep impact on him.
After being admitted to Bahalda Primary School which was quite far from his native village, he stayed in a hut built on his relative’s land. He stayed there with other boys. While the others would play, he would draw different shapes and alphabets on the soil. Around this time, he must have conceptualized the script, Ol Chiki. After taking admission in the Baripada High School of Mayurbhanj, his mind was still stuck with the thoughts of having a script for his own language. He frequently used to spend his time alone roaming in a nearby jungle called Kapi-Buru at that time. It is said that he invented the Ol Chiki script in 1925 at Kapi-Buru.
During the All-India Sarna Conference in 1956, a prominent tribal leader Jaipal Singh bestowed him with the title Guru Gomke which means the great teacher. He started printing the weekly magazine Saagen Saakam to spread Santali literature and he also established Baba Tilka Majhi Library. He travelled to many santal-dominated areas in West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, and Odisha, teaching people about the use of the Ol Chiki alphabet (Au-Ote-O-Aung) in phonetics. He travelled to many santal-dominated areas in West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, and Odisha, teaching people about the use of the Ol Chiki alphabet (Au-Ote-O-Aung) in phonetics. He wrote over 150 plays, short stories, novels, and poems, in the OI Chiki script. He received numerous awards for his ground-breaking work in Santali literature and scriptwriting. Yet the greatest honour he received was the love and respect of the people for his unique contribution to his own language and community. Language is the identity of a community and it can be rightly argued that Murmu gave an identity to the Santal community, through the OI Chiki script.
Murmu once said “If you have a script, a language and a religion, you exist, your identity exists. If you lose your language, your script, your religion, you and your identity are lost as well.” He continued further, “Language and script are like a man with eyes and vision. Without the eyes, the man can’t see anything, he can’t reach his destination.” “Similarly”, he said, “if a community does not have eyes, the community will not be able to see the path on which it walks and it cannot find a way to reach its destiny.”
About the author :- Anubha is a second-year student currently pursuing her degree in Philosophy Honours at Delhi University.