Harekrushna Mahatab was born at Agarpada village in Bhadrak district of Odisha. He was born to Krushna Charan Das and Tohapha Debi. After passing his matriculation examination from Bhadrak High School, he joined Ravenshaw College, Cuttack but left his studies in 1921 to join the independence movement.
Harekrushna Mahtab was a leader of the Indian National Congress, a notable figure in the Indian independence movement and the Chief Minister of Odisha from 1946 to 1950 and again from 1956 to 1961. He was popularly known by the sobriquet Utkal Keshari.
He joined the Salt Satyagraha movement and was imprisoned again in 1930. He was elected as the General Officer Commanding of Congress Sevadal for the AICC session at Puri in 1932 and he was arrested when the party was banned. He participated in the movement against untouchability in 1934 and opened his ancestral temple to all for the first time in Odisha.
Later, he started Gandhi Karma Mandir at Agarpada. He was the President of Utkal Pradesh Congress Committee from 1930 to 1931 and again in 1937. He was nominated to the Congress Working Committee by Subhas Chandra Bose in 1938 and continued till 1946 and again from 1946 to 1950.