‘Bihar Vibhuti’ (The Jewel of Bihar), this sobriquet was given to Dr Anugrah Narayan Sinha, as the chronicle of modern Bihar right from its origin to its independence and beyond, is intricately interwoven with the life, works, and times of this great man. Dr Anugrah Sinha was a statesman and a follower of Gandhiji who firmly believed in Gandhian policies. He is often referred to as the “mason of modern Bihar and its politics”, as his political journey is said to have shaped Bihar’s political history. He was also given the moniker the ‘Sardar Patel of Bihar’, for he not only strived and worked towards bringing the communities together, but also successfully spearheaded and supervised the Satyagrahas that were helmed by Gandhiji.
Anugrah Narayan Sinha was born on 18 June 1887 in the Poiwan Village of the erstwhile Gaya district (present-day Aurangabad) in Bihar. A bright student, he obtained his primary education from a local village school. It is said that right through graduation, he won all the top honours in academics. After securing a Masters in History from the prestigious University of Calcutta, he went on to become the Secretary of the Bihar Students Conference founded by Dr Rajendra Prasad and the Chanakya Society of the Patna College. His students found in him an ‘ideal teacher’ while he served as the Professor of History at the T.N.B. College in Bhagalpur in 1915. The noble soul that he was, he never restricted his activities to academia and was always involved with the community at large. When Bhagalpur was ravaged by floods, he took the lead to organize relief work.
It is said that Anugrah Sinha’s love for his motherland was very evident from his childhood. In 1917, he left his flourishing law practice to join the Champaran Satyagraha movement initiated by Gandhiji. This Champaran episode not just propelled Dr Sinha to the national stage, it also heralded a decisive shift towards the adoption of the Gandhian method of protests and agitations in India. In 1930, he was one of the driving forces behind the Civil Disobedience Movement, considered a milestone in the history of Indian nationalism. His patriotic fervour and active participation in the freedom struggle got him imprisoned for 15 months between 1933 to 1934. Reports say that he was the first freedom fighter to respond to Gandhiji's Satyagraha call (1940–41). In 1942, he was arrested by the British authorities and imprisoned in the Hazaribagh Central Jail. He served the epidemic-ridden people after being released in 1944.
From the first Congress Ministry in 1937 till his death on 5 July 1957, Dr Anugrah Narayan Sinha served the state ceaselessly, barring the period of the Second World War 1939–1945 period. Additionally, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly of India, which was responsible for drafting the Constitution of India and also served in the first Parliament of Independent India. During his tenure as Finance Minister and Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar (post-Independence), he dedicated himself to developing Bihar on all fronts.
Today, his work and untiring efforts in modernising Bihar have been hailed across the nation. The esteemed Anugrah Memorial College located in Gaya (Bihar), is named after this visionary statesman and eminent educationist. In Loknayak Jay Prakash Narayan’s words, “In modern times, there are only a rare few people who have been owed to Bihar as much as our Anugrah Babu. The people of this state are indebted to this great son of Bihar's land".