Dr. Kingshuk Chakraborty

Assam is the treasure of folk culture. In different parts of Assam we get different folk cultural aspects of different ethnic groups such as Bodo, Rabha, Tiywa, Mising, Koch etc. Undivided Goalpara District was an important regional part of Assam History. It is special because only in this part there was Zamindari system like Bengal. There are different types of Zamindari dynasty such as Bijni Zaminders, Chapar Zaminders, Gauripur Zaminders, Lakhipur Zaminder and many more. Among those Zaminder families Gauripur Baruah Zaminder family is worth mentionable. Baruah Zaminders were the chief patronages of the rich Goalparia Folk culture. They always gave tremendous patronage to this cultural aspect of western Assam. In this family we get several culturally famous personalities such as Pramathes Chandra Baruah, Nilima Baruah, Nihar Bala Baruah, Pratima Baruah and Parbathi Baruah. During the first part of the 20th century Nihar Bala Baruah, the elder daughter of Raja Prabhat Baruah and sister of pioneer film actor and director Pramathesh Chandra Baruah, practiced the folk cultural aspects of this locality. At that time this folk culture was considered as the culture of the low cast people of the society (such as farmers, fisherman, Mahut elephant keeper, boatmen etc.) and hence they were neglected as “Chotoloker Sanskriti” or the culture of the low cast people. But the Royal Princess Nihar Bala recognized that these cultural aspects were the true identity of the local people. The local people may belong to low cast or they are illiterate but they are not uneducated. They are empowered by the vibrant folk culture. She picked up her pen and note down the cultural aspects of the locality. She wore about people talking, singing, dancing, food habits, clothing, rite and rituals. In her young age she met several scholars at Santinikatan and discussed the matters of folk culture. The eminent scholars were Rabindranath Tagore, Sukumer Sen, Khaled Chaudary etc. and they suggested Niharbala to write the features of folk culture to the literary magazine. Niharbal wrote a numbers of scholar articles about Goalpariya folk culture in the elite magazines of that time such as Desh, Biswabharati Patrika, Parichay etc.  At present several research scholars are writing scholar articles about the Goalparia folk culture in the journal and magazine but Niharbala perhaps the pioneer person who for the first time gave a literate look to the folk elements. Later on her writing were covered in to one folder and named it “Prantobasir Jhuli”. Originally it was written in Bengali language. Recently Dr Pratima Neogi, associated professor of Chilarai College, Golakganj (under Dhubri district) translated the same book into Assamese language. This effort of Dr. Neogi has been considered as the most significant contribution in the field of Research works in folk culture.

This book contains eight published articles and five unpublished articles. The eight published articles are “Sonarai”, this paper explains the worship of folk God Sonarai by the young boys during the month of Puh (between December and January). It contained the nature of worship, their rituals and songs. Some times Sonarai is called as Lord Krishna and sometimes Tiger God who save the folk people and their cows from the sudden attract of wild tiger. Another article name is “Nomla Kati”. In the undivided Goalpara district Kati Puja is an important women centric worship. Kati is the son of Mahadev and Parbati and Kati is the symbol of reproductively. Women worship Kati to become mother of son. This ritual is performed during the month of Kati. The especially of this worship is the women dance and songs. The women perform the dance and songs of Kati whole night and in this ritual the entrance of men is prohibited. The book contains another good article of “Megha Pujat Nagna Nritya”. It is commonly known as Hudum Puja. It is also a women centric ritual. Village women arrange the Hudum Puja to satisfy the God of Rain or clouds. In a farm field during mid night the women perform the Hudum puja . Nude women attract the God of Rain by dancing and singing. Most of the songs and dance are erotic. Similarly the unpublished article also throws light on the folk elements such as Bamboo Puja, Women position in the society and other related essays.  The book also contains Preface written by the Chandra Mukhapadhay (She is the editor of the Bengali version of Prantobasir Jhuli) and a brief description of the life history of Nihar bala Baruah.  The book name is Prantobasir Jhuli , where the word “Pranto” denotes the marginal , “Basir” means the resident and “Jhuli” denotes the bag. The undivided Goalpara district is the marginal district of Assam (now Dhubri district becomes the marginal district or the last district of Assam) and the citizens of this locality are neglected in all respects. But their culture is very rich like the other parts of the country. So the name implies the Marginal Citizen’s treasures. The book is undoubtedly excellent intellectual wealth especially those whore are engaging themselves in the folklore and sociological research works. General readers may also find it interesting because it satisfies their quest of knowledge regarding the local culture and their nature.

About the reviewer: The writer is serving as a Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Bilasipara College (under Gauhati University), Dhubri district. He is columnist of Assamese Daily, such as Dainik Assam, Asom Bani, Asomiya Pratidin, Assam Tribune, Gorioshi, Yojana, Batikram, uttar banga sanbad and many more. He has published above hundred short stories in Assamese, Bengali and Khoch kamatapuri languages. He won literary award from Rajdhani Sahitya Tirtha, Guwahati for his creative writing. He published a number of scholar articles and research paper in regional, national and international publications. He is associated with a number of institutions including Axom Sahitya Savha, ACTA, Red Cross and many more. 

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