Wednesday marks the 211th birth anniversary of Sri Sri Harichand Tagore, the founder of the Matua community. Harichand Tagore was born about 200 years ago in the village of Saflidanga near Orakandi. At present, not only West Bengal and Bangladesh, but also millions of people of Matua religion live all over the world. Over the past few years, there has been a growing interest in the Matua community. There is political pressure where opportunistic political parties are eyeing the so-called ‘Matua Vote Bank’ in the hope of getting votes. Many members of the present Matua family are politically divided, representing different political parties. Whatever the present, in reality, the achievement of Harichand Tagore, the savior of the oppressed and backward people and the fight against Brahmanism, is very important in the religious and social history of Bengal.
Harichand, the son of Vaishnava devotees Yasobanta Tagore and Annapurna Devi, belonging to the Namahsudra community, was born on a special Mahendrakshan. Many consider him to be the incarnation of Gautama Buddha and Chaitanyadev. Harichand, accustomed to a simple life, did not get the opportunity of formal education, he had to rely on the process of becoming self-educated. He gained experience in a number of subjects including Hinduism, Buddhism, Indigenous medicine, and land management. He made his debut as an avatar man and soon his fan base grew. Haribhaktas are known as Matua and Orakandi became popular in a wide area. This Orakandi has now become a place of pilgrimage where millions of devotees gather every year.
One of the reasons for the popularity of the Matua community was the philosophy of Harichand Tagore. One of the goals was to provide a way to liberate the fallen. Criticizing the conventional religion system, he said that the practice of superfluous religion was useless. Accompanied by the motto ‘Hand in hand with name’ – he spent his life striving for the immediate improvement of the socio-economic status of the backward people of the society. He has inspired people to create unity among the diversity till the last day of life. Before he died at the age of 6, he nominated his eldest son Guruchand Tagore as his successor.
Later, Guruchand Tagore gathered the neglected members of the society in the way shown by his father. Needless to say, Harichand Tagore and his son did not confine themselves to the Namashudras of Hindu society. Instead, he has worked for all communities including Teli, Mali and Mahishya. Matua played a special role in spreading education along with propagating ideology. Fulfilling his father’s dream of becoming a member of the Dalit community, Guruchand Tagore established the first school for caste Hindus in Orakandi in 180 and in 1906 it was converted into an English medium school with government assistance.
Harichand Tagore, the lifeblood of the Matua community, could not see the political empowerment of the caste Hindus or Namahsudras in his time. But times have changed, opportunities have come. Today, Matua is represented in the Lok Sabha, the seat of Indian democracy. This is where the greater significance of the Harichand Tagore and Matua communities lies.