Prayers, rituals, drums and dance – Droupadi Murmu's village in Odisha eagerly awaits the results of the Presidential Election

Celebrations haven't stopped at Uparbeda village in Odisha, ever since Droupadi Murmu was nominated as a candidate for the post of the President of India. Gaon Connection visited Murmu's native village Uparbeda in Odisha and met its inhabitants who have prepared a wishlist in case she should become President.

Manoj ChoudharyManoj Choudhary   19 July 2022 7:18 AM GMT

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Prayers, rituals, drums and dance – Droupadi Murmus village in Odisha eagerly awaits the results of the Presidential Election

Tribal residents of Uparbeda village performing a ritual for Draupadi Murmu. All photos by Manoj Chaudhary 

Uparbeda (Mayurbhanj), Odisha

There is extra fervour in the prayers of the inhabitants of the tribal village of Uparbeda. They are eagerly awaiting the results of the Presidential Election 2022 which will be declared on July 21 after which the new President of India will take oath on July 25.

Droupadi Murmu is contesting the election against Yashwant Sinha. Uparbeda village in Mayurbhanj district of Odisha is where Murmu was born on June 20, 1958. The tribal inhabitants are seeking the blessings for their daughter's victory from their God, Singhbonga.

Assembled at the jahersthan or sacred grove of trees, the Santhal tribals from the village performed rituals. There was music too as the men played the drums and the women danced to the rhythm. Similar prayers were being undertaken in the nearby village of Hatnabera too.

Uparbeda residents are hopeful that Murmu will become president. She successfully completed her term as governor of Jharkhand between May 18, 2015 and July 12, 2021.

Draupadi Murmu's birthplace in Uparbeda village.

"She loves to help out in the kitchen, and enjoys eating pakhal (day old cooked rice that is soaked in water overnight, and eaten with relish across Odisha) with greens," Dulari Tudu, a resident of Uparbeda, told Gaon Connection. Dulari is the daughter-in-law of Droupadi Murmu's older brother Bhagat Chandra, and she lives in the same home where Murmu grew up.

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According to Khelaram Hansda, another village resident, celebrations have begun in full swing at Uparbeda ever since the announcement of Murmu's candidature for the post of the President of India. "The village inhabitants also had a happy surprise when the local administration supplied electricity in Dumbrisai, a part of Uparbeda village, within 24 hours of the announcement of her candidature by the National Democratic Alliance," Hansda added.

This is not the first time that a tribal inhabitant from Uparbeda has held high office. In 1962, Droupadi Murmu's uncle from the same village, Kartik Chandra Murmu was the first tribal finance minister in the government of Odisha. Another resident of Uparbeda, Salkhan Murmu was elected as Member of Parliament from Mayurbhanj twice, in 1998 and again in 1999. Droupadi's father and grandfather were mukhiya of Uparbeda panchayat in their time.

Droupadi Murmu's early years at Uparbeda village

"Droupadi Murmu studied till the seventh in the Government Upgraded Primary School in the village, after which she continued her education at the Gope Girls High School in Bhubaneswar," Khelaram Hansda, a resident of Uparbeda, told Gaon Connection. There, she stayed in a hostel with the help of a scholarship for tribal children, he added.

According to Nathu Ram Hembrom, a village elder, Droupadi Murmu's parents were farmers and they could not afford her higher education. "Her teacher, Basudev Behra convinced her uncle, the former finance minister, Kartik Chandra Tudu, to get her admission in college at the Ramadevi Mahavidyalaya in Bhubaneswar," Hembrom told Gaon Connection. Poverty came in the way of her post-graduate studies, he said.

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Nathu Ram Hembrom

Droupadi Murmu worked as a clerk and a teacher

After completing her graduation, Murmu worked as a clerk in the agriculture department of the Odisha government from 1979 to 1983. She got married to Shyam Charan Murmu, a resident of Paharpur in Mayurbhanj, in 1981.

She quit her government job in 1983 and went on to have two sons and a daughter. Though she left her job, Murmu soon began to teach at Sri Aurobindo Integral Education and Research Centre about a kilometre away from her home in Rairangpur where she had shifted after her marriage. She taught free of cost between 1994 and 1997.

"She wanted the children to have a good education," recalled Dilip Kumar Giri, a school staffer, as he showed Gaon Connection the classroom, where she taught primary students.

When she became the councillor for ward number 2 of Rairangpur civic body in 1997, and its vice chairperson in the same year, she did not stop her visits to the school. She continued to advise the management on the best practices that could improve the school further, Giri said.

Village residents performing a ritual for Draupadi Murmu's good fortune.

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"Being a member of the legislative assembly from Rairangpur twice (2000 and 2004), she donated a spiritual centre and a couple of classrooms to the school from her fund," he added.

Murmu's life was not just hard. She had to live through the deaths of both her sons. Her older son Laxman Murmu who was only 25 years old in 2010, died in a road accident, and her younger son Sipun Murmu died in another road accident three years later in 2013. She lost her husband in 2014 to a heart attack. They were difficult years.

Droupadi Murmu's political journey

Droupadi joined politics as an active member of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1997. She became a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Rairangpur in 2000 and remained on the post for two terms till 2009. She served as transport and commerce minister as well as a minister in the fishery and animal husbandry department in 2004. She received the Nilkanth Award in 2007, and became the vice president of the BJP Schedule Tribe Committee in Odisha in 2009.

Droupadi suffered a political setback when she lost the contest for Member of Parliament in 2009 from Mayurbhanj, and for MLA from Rairangpur in 2014.

But, the tide turned in 2015 when she became Governor of Jharkhand in 2015 and continued to be so till 2021. It was in 2022 that she got an offer to contest the elections for the president of India.

Draupadi Murmu's granddaughter at her residence.

"After becoming free from the post of Jharkhand governor, she had expressed to work as an active member of the BJP. She had asked party members to give her responsibility. She is proud of Odisha, especially the tribal women," Fagu Ram Mandi, a resident of Rairangpur and senior BJP leader, told Gaon Connection.

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Uparbeda's Wishlist

Uparbeda residents are now hopeful of change, if Droupadi Murmu were to become President. They dream of basic health facilities and improved educational infrastructure.

The wishlist of the villagers is growing every day. Besides more doctors for their health centre, they dream of education facilities, which they have lacked all these years.

"We want a degree college in the village in order to ensure best higher education to tribal students," Vishwambhar Giri, another elder in the village, told Gaon Connection. They are also hoping for a better road that will decrease the time and distance villagers now travel to get to Rourkela (about 200 kms) .

"We need a dam," said Nathuram Hembrom, from the village. "It will ensure irrigation facilities to around 20 villages in Kusumi of Mayurbhanj district," he told Gaon Connection.

"I will request my mother-in-law to ensure water supply to each home through a water tank to help the women," Dulari Tudu concluded.

For now, all eyes are set on July 21 when results of the Presidential Election will be declared.

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