SAHITYARATHI LAKSHMINATH BEZBAROA: THE CHARIOTEER OF LITERATURE OF ASSAM

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Lakshminath Bezbaroa was one of the great Assamese multifaceted personality scholars and a pioneer in modern Assamese literature. He was one of the brightest luminaries of the 19th – 20th century Assam who excelled in all branches of Assamese literature. He was one of the literary stalwarts of the ‘Jonaki Era’, the age of romanticism when through his essays, plays, fiction, poetry and satires; he occupies a unique place in the Assamese literary world. As a sensitive artist, he responded to the prevailing social environment through his beautiful satirical works to bring and sustain positive changes to the former. His creative literature reflected the deeper urges of the people of Assam. Bezbarua was able to identify the nuances and intimate features of the Assamese language with which he could develop a new style of creative literature where emotion merged with the intellect.

Lakshminath Bezbarua (1864-1938) was born on a Boat, as it stood moored in a sand bank of the river Brahmaputra at Ahatguri in undivided district of Nagaon on ‘Lakshmi Purnima’ night on 14th October 1864. It needs to be mentioned here that it is, in fact, a controversial matter about his date of birth. Presently the Assam SahityaSabha has accepted the 14th October, 1864, that was a full-moon night of Lakshmi Puja in India, for his date of birth. His father Dinanath Bezbaroa, a senior official with the British Government, was in the process of moving to Barpeta due to official transfer. As his father’s job was transferable in nature, hence Bezbaroa spent his childhood in various places of Assam. His father brought his family with him from Barpeta to Tezpur. From Tezpur they shifted to North Lakhimpur and followed by Guwahati for a short while and finally they settled in Sivasagar.

Lakshminath Bezbaroa received his early education at Sivasagar Govt. High School. Thereafter he studied F.A. at City College and subsequently graduated (B.A.) from the General Assembly Institution in Calcutta. Then he studied M.A. and B.L. degrees at the University of Calcutta, but he left without completion. Bezbaroa married Pragyasundari Devi in 1891; she is a niece of the Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore. In fact Pragyasundari Devi was the second daughter of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore’s third son Hemendranath Tagore. She was the first to write a cookbook in Bangla entitled ‘Aamish O Niramish Aahar’ in three volumes which became immensely popular.

Lakshminath Bezbaroa began his literary journey with a light, but good-humoured play named ‘Litikai’ (The aide) in 1890 which was serialized from the first issue of Jonaki magazine. He began to show his deft hand in all branches of literature. His proficiency surfaced as an able novelist, poet, lyricist, playwright, essayist, biographer, translator and editor. He wrote 7 dramas, 4 farces, 3 historical works, 1 one act play, 3 biographies and 1 autograph. He also collected and compiled many folk tales for children and also wrote a few tales to the benefit of nurturing parents and baby-sitters. Bezbaroa was the pioneer short story writer in Assam, covering the different features from the Assamese society but with humorous sentiment. The works of Lakshminath Bezbaroa consists of –
  • Composer: O Mur Apunar Dex – a patriotic song composed by him is the state anthem of Assam. It is noteworthy to be mentioned here that an edited version of his lyrics, Mor desh (My motherland) has been accepted unanimously as the anthem of Assam.
  • Novel: Padum Kunwari (Lotus princes), 1905.
  • Poetry Collection: Kadam Kali (Kadam buds) 1913 and Padum Kali (Lotus buds) 1968.
  • Short Story Collection: Surabhi (1909), Xadhukathaar Kuki (1912), Jonbiri (1913) and Kehokali.
  • Collection of Satire Essays: Kripabor Baruar Kaakotor Topola (1904), Kripabor Barbaruar Ubhatani (1909), Barbaruar Bhabar Burburani and Barbaruar Bulani.
  • Comic Plays: Litikai, Nomal, Paachani and ChikarpatiNikarpati.
  • Plays: (a) Historical – Joymati Konwari (1915), Chakradhwaj Singha (1915) and Belimaar (1915) and (b) Others-Litikai (1815), Chikarpati-Nikarpati (1913), Nomal (1913) and Pachoni (1913).
  • Children’s Literature: Junuka (Folk tales, 1910), Burhi Aair Xadhu (Granny’s tales, 1911), Baakhar and Kokadeuta AaruNati Lora (Grandpa and grandson, 1912).
  • Biographies: Dinanath Bezbaruar Xankshipta Jiban Charit (1909), Sri Sri Shankardeva(1911) and Mahapurush Sri Sankardeva Aru Madhabdev (1914).
  • Autobiographical work: Mor Jiban Sowaran (Reminiscences of my life), 1941.
  • Miscellaneous:  (a) Works in English- History of Vaishnavism in India, Rasa Lila of Sri Krishna (1934) and The Religion of Love and Devotion (1969) and (b) Other works in Assamese language- Tatwa Katha, Sri Krishnakatha, Bhagawat Katha, Kaamt Kritatwa Labhibar Xanket (1903), Axomiya Bhaxa Aru Xahitya, Patralekha, Dinalekha (Dairy), Bare Motora and Ha-Ya-Va-Ra-La.
  • Editor: Bahi (1909- 1929).

Lakshminath Bezbaroa was honoured by a unique title, ‘Rasaraj’ by Assam Sahitya Sabha on 29 December, 1931 at Sivasagar session. The word ‘Rasaraj’ means the King of Humour in Assamese literature for his satirical writings under the pen-name ‘Kripabor Borbaruah’. It needs to be mentioned that he was also known as ‘Sahityarathi’, the word used for the first time for Bezbaroa in the felicitation letter of Assam Sahitya Sabha which means ‘Charioteer of Literature’. So to sayhe showed his expertness in all branches of literature. He presided over the 7th Annual Session of Assam Sahitya Sabha held at Guwahati in 1924 and his speech was a valuable contribution to Assamese literature. He also presided over the All Assam Students’ Conference at Guwahati in 1921. He also delivered a memorable speech on the philosophy of Vaishnavism at Baroda in 1933 on being invited by the Maharajah of Baroda. The speech was published in book-form in 1969 as ‘The Religion of Love and Devotion’.

Lakshminath Bezbaruawas a powerful representative of the creative and intellectual resurgence of modern India.  Dominating the literary world of Assam for more than a quarter of a century, Bezbarua died on  March 26, 1938 at Dibrugarhat the age of 70 only after a few months’ he went back to live in Assam permanently. His death marked the end of an epoch. We all mourn on sad and untimely demise of such a fine person who brought kudos to the Assamese literary world as well as India. It is a tribute to Lakshminath Bezbarua that Assam Sahitya Sabha observes his death anniversary as Sahitya Divas.

References:
  • Datta, A. (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A Devo. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi.
  • Neog, M. (1972).Lakshminath Bezbaroa: the Sahityarathi of Assam. Guwahati: Deptt. of Publication, Gauhati University.
  • Sarma, Dr. S. (2013). Asomia Sahityar Samikshatmok Itibritta. Guwahati: Sowmar Prakash

About the Author: Ms.Archana Konwar is serving as Assistant Professor (Grade-II) in C.K.B. College, Teok, Jorhat, Assam. [Read more]
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