On the broader canvass of 19th century renaissant India, Orissa emerges into eminence with an ethos of its own. The urban elite of Orissa were influenced by Brahmo faith as a reaction to the propaganda of Christian missionaries. “Mahima Cult” an indigenous cult attracted a large number of uneducated rural people into its fold and in the process countered the growing influence of Christianity.

With the passage of time the cult also had its influence in the neighboring states like Bengal, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Mahima cult had its own philosophical foundation and in a very simple manner expounded the critical spiritual thought. The cult symbolised the voice of depressed and downtrodden class against the tyranny of traditional brahmanical faith. Mahima Gosain was the founder of the cult and it became popular through the effort of Bhima Bhoi, Biswanath Baba, Baman Chandra Bala and Ananta Charan Bala.

The profounders of Mahima cult were shy of publicity and naturally their activities were shrouded in obscurity for a long time. They were even misunderstood as the followers of modern Buddhism. Subsequently the erroneous belief was changed and the Mahima cult was understood in proper prospective.

Founder of the Cult – Mahima Gosain


The early life of Mahima Gosain is still shrouded in obscurity. It is learnt that after a life of wanderer Mahima Gosain for the first time appeared at Puri in A.D.1826.From that year Mahimabda started. At that time he was identifies as “Dhulia Gosain” because he used to sleep in the sand on the jagannath road.

He was keeping silence most of the time, had only one saffron-coloured small garment or Kaupina in his loins. He also used to have knot in his hair-Mahima Gosain had fierce intellectual discussion on pure Adwaita with Priests of Mukti Mandap and vehemently opposed idolatry. From Puri he travelled to nearby places like Udaigiri, Khandagiri, Dhauligiri passing through Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, he finally reached the Kapilash Hill in 1838.

During the long twelve years Mahima never took food and lived on water and that is why he as know as “Nirahari Baba”or “jatahari Baba”. In kapilas Mahima gave upon cloths and began to put on the bulk of kumbhi tree which later on, became the only garment of his trusted disciples. For first twelve years he engaged himself in serious penances and yogic practices and used to live on taking fruits only.

He was known as “Phalahari Gosain” by the people. After twelve years of meditation, for the next twelve years he committed himself to attain perfection and continued to live by drinking milk. He was known as “Kshirahari Gosain.” It is learnt that the Raja of Dhenkanal Bhagirath Mahendra Bahadur used to provide milk everyday to Mahima.


The first convert and disciple of Mahima Gosain, Siddha Govinda Baba, met him on that hill and were initiated into the cult. He is regarded as the Adi Siddha of the new Mahima cult. Bhagirath Bahadur, the then Raja of Dhenkanal became his devotee and patronized the cult. The Raja constructed one hermitage for the Swami who spent about twenty four years on the hill for the completion of his yogic practice.

In 1862 Mahima Gosain descended from Kapilas and propagated his new cult on the plains. His philosophy attracted band of adherents who became his disciples and were known as Abdhuts. Joranda of Dhenkanal district became the center of Mahima activities. The famous poet Bhima Bhoi also became his disciple. After long life of dedication to his beloved cause and spreading the message in the nook and corner of Orissa, Mahima Gosain breathed his last in 1876. His mortal remains were buried at Joranda in Dhenkanal, not far from Kapilas and it became the principal seat of the movement.

After the death of Mahima Gosain, Baba Bishwanatha, Baman Charan, Anadi Charan left no stone unturned to spread the message of Guru. Bhima Bhoi a popular poet of Orissa came in contact with Mahima and was deeply influenced by his philosophy.

Through devotional songs Bhima Bhoi made popular the message of Mahima. Bhima Bhoi’s work Stuti Chintamani, Sruti Nisidha Geeta, Brahma Nirupana Geeta, Adyanta Geeta, Astaka Behari Geeta, Choustisa Madhuchakra, and Nirveda Sadhana gave exposition to Mahima philosophy.


One prominent Ashram of the cult in Western Orissa was established in 1877 by the philosopher-poet Bhima Bhoi at Khaliapali on the bank of the Anga River. Bhima Bhoi died in 1895 only at the age of forty and during his short span of life Mahima philosophy became popular in the villages of Orissa.