Biography of Lachit Barphukan, (লাচিত বৰফুকনৰ জীৱনী)great man of Assam by Jitu Das biography
JITU DAS April 24, 2013 ASSAM, ASSAMESE, BIOGRAPHY, HISTORY OF ASSAM
Lachit Borphukan (Assamese: লাচিত বৰফুকন ) was a commander and Borphukan in the Ahom kingdom known for his leadership in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat that thwarted a drawn-out attempt by Mughal forces under the command of Ramsingh
The above quote means- The maternal uncle can not bigger than the country.
Lachit Barphukan said that in the consequence, when his maternal uncle was appointed to make a dam of soil in one night, to protect Guwahati from Mughal in 1669.But his uncle was lazy and was unaware of the gravity of the situation that Mughal armies is about to attack Guwahati in the morning, so being lazy and irresponsible, he was sleeping instead of tearing sweats in making the dam, when Lachit Barphukan, the commander of Ahom, came to see the progress of the dam, he found his uncle was sleeping and other workers were also sleeping.Then , Lachit did something that I do not know if anywhere something like that is done.Lachit was very patriotic, he loved Assam passionately and to protect Assam, he slayed his uncle, and said that a maternal uncle can not be bigger than my country.So, when the workers saw this, they feared Lachit and realized their irresponsibility, so they started working with patriotic passion to protect Assam, and
built a bigger dam in just one one night.And next day Lachit Barpukan and his armies fought with Mughal armies and won over Mughal armies. Lachit Barphukan is a great man of Assam ,India.His passion and true love for Assam is a ideal to every Assamese who love Assam,Assamese language and Assamese culture. Lachit Barphukan teach us to love our country, our mother land. Lachit Barphukan is a great man of courage. He inspires us to fight for our Assam,for our languge and culture. There is not much people borned in the world so courageous and patriotic. So be proud to be Assamese just like Lachit did. Let the blood of Lachit Barphukan flow in our veins. Lets shine as assamese in the world with our great culture.
ASSAMESE VERSION :-
লাচিত বৰফুকন (ইংৰাজী: Lachit Borphukan) আছিল অসমৰ আহোম সাম্ৰাজ্য এজন সেনাপতি। ১৬৬৯ চনত তেখেতে অসমীয়া সেনাৰ দ্বাৰা বিশাল মোগল সৈন্য-বাহিনী পৰাজিত কৰি অসমৰপৰা আঁতৰাই পঠিয়াইছিল। শৰাইঘাটৰ যুদ্ধত লাচিতে দেখুওৱা বিক্ৰমৰ ফল স্বৰূপে অসমৰ বুৰঞ্জীত তেখেতৰ নাম জিলিকি আছে।
"দেশতকৈ মোমাই ডাঙৰ নহয়"
প্ৰবাদ আছে যে মোগলৰ বিৰুদ্ধে যুদ্ধৰ প্ৰ্স্তুতি হোৱাৰ সময়ত তেওঁ মোগলক ভেটা দিবৰ বাবে একে ৰাতিৰ ভিতৰতে গড় (ওখ মাটিৰ দেৱাল) বান্ধিবলৈ সৈন্যসকলক আদেশ দিছিল আৰু সেই কামটো তত্বাবধানৰ দায়িত্ব তেওঁৰ মোমায়েকৰ হাতত অৰ্পন কৰিছিল। শেহ ৰাতি তেওঁ চাবলৈ আহি দেখে যে কামবোৰ আগবঢ়া নাই। মোমায়েকক তাৰ উত্তৰ বিচৰাত সৈন্যসকল ভাগৰুৱা হৈ পৰিছে বুলি অজুহাত দেখুৱালে। নিজৰ কৰ্তব্য পিছ কৰা দেখি লাচিতে খঙত একো নাই হৈ ঠিতাতে হেংদাঙেৰে “দেশতকৈ মোমাই ডাঙৰ নহয়” বুলি মোমায়েকৰ শিৰশ্চেদ কৰিলে। তাৰ পিছত ৰাতিৰ ভিতৰতে গড়ৰ কাম সম্পূৰ্ণ হৈছিল। লাচিতৰ দেশপ্ৰেম, কৰ্তব্যনিষ্ঠাৰ এইটো এটা বিৰল উদাহৰণ।
সাহসৰ অন্তিম নিদৰ্শন
শৰাইঘাট যুদ্ধৰ শেষৰ ফালে মোগলৰ বিৰাট সৈন্য বাহিনী আগত আহোমৰ সৈন্যই জয়ৰ আশা বাদ দি পিছহুঁহুকিবলৈ আৰম্ভ কৰিছিল। সেইসময়ত লাচিতৰ অতিপাত জ্বৰ উঠি আছিল । সেই নৰিয়া গাৰে এখন নৌকাত উঠি মোগলৰ বিৰুদ্ধে যুঁজ দিবলৈ আগবাঢ়ি আহিছিল আৰু সৈন্যসকলক উদ্দেশি কৈছিল-“ যদি তোমালোক উভতি যাব খুজিছা, যোৱা, কিন্তু স্বৰ্গদেৱে মোক এই দায়িত্ব দিছে, গতিকে মই শেষ মুহুৰ্তলৈ যুঁজ দিম। মোগলে মোক লৈ যাবলৈ দিয়া। তোমালোকে মাত্ৰ স্বৰ্গদেৱক মই তেওঁৰ আজ্ঞা পালন কৰি শেষ মুহুৰ্তলৈ যুঁজ দিছো বুলি কবা।” এইকথাখিনিয়ে সৈন্যসকলক উৎসাহ দিলে আৰু দুগুণ সাহসেৰে যুঁজি মোগলক পৰাস্ত কৰিলে।
প্ৰতিবছৰে ২৪ নৱেম্বৰৰ দিনটো গোটেই অসমতে লাচিত বৰফুকনৰ বীৰত্ব আৰু শৰাইঘাটৰ যুদ্ধত অসমীয়া সেনাৰ বিজয়ৰ স্মৃতিত লাচিত দিৱস হিচাপে পালন কৰা হয়
Lachit Borphukan was a commander and Borphukan in the Ahom kingdom known in particular for his successful leadership in the 1671Battle of Saraighat that thwarted a strong attempt by Mughal forces under the command of Ramsingh I to take back Kamrup. His heroism during the last and decisive battle, when he inspired a dispirited and retreating Ahom naval force to fight back in spite of an illness, has made him into a national hero. He died about a year later due to causes unrelated to that particular illness.
Lachit Borphukan, was the son of Momai Tamuli Borbarua who, starting from humble beginnings, had risen to become the first Borbarua (Governor of upper Assam and Commander-in-Chief of the Ahom army) under Prataap Singha. Thus Lachit Borphukan had the benefit of the upbringing the children of nobility of his times. His father arranged for his education in humanities, scriptures and military skills; as he grew up he was given positions of responsibility. It is also recorded that Lachit was made the scarf-bearer (Soladhara Barua) of the Ahom Swargadeo, a position equivalent to a Private Secretaryship, which was regarded as the first step in career of an ambitious diplomat and politician. The various other offices held by Lachit before his appointment as the Commander of the army included was the Superintendent of the Royal Horses (Ghora Barua), Commander of the strategic Simulgarh Fort and Superintendent of the Royal Household Guards or (Dolakaxaria Barua) to the Ahom king, Chakradhwaj Singha.
At the time of his appointment as commander-in-chief Lachit held the office of Dolakasharia Barua. The king summoned him to his presence when he was sitting on his royal sedan; and in order to test the efficiency of the general-elect, he asked Lachit to instruct the Dulias or sedan-bearers about the performance of their duties. Lachit stood the ordeal well; and the king broached the subject to Lachit, saying-"The enemies are in our immediate neighbourhood. How will it be possible to capture their leaders Syed Firoz and Syed Sana? The man whom I am going to appoint as general must be endowed with unusual grit, stamina and depth of judgement." To this Lachit replied, "Could it be that there is no man fit enough in Your Majesty's realm? What are the enemies? They are after all ordinary mortals. Shall we not find similar men in our country? Your Majesty should only confer the dust of your feet, and the man equal to the occasion will be readily found". The king immediately resolved to put Lachit at the head of the expedition. The king's selection was confirmed by his ministers and advisers.
The King Chakradhwaj Singha presented Lachit a gold-hafted sword (Hengdang) and the customary paraphernalia of distinction and appointed him commander in chief of the Ahom army raised specifically to drive out the imperial Mughal rulers. Lachit actively participated in raising the army and the preparation were completed by summer of 1667. Lachit at first recovered Guwahati from the Mughals and successfully defended it against the Mughal forces during the Battle of Saraighat. He died about a year later.
About the physiognomy and features of Lachit Barphukan there were no evidence of contemporary portrait. There was, however, preserved in an old chronicle a megre pen-picture of the general along with the other commanders of the expedition. The chronicler points out the distinctive features and says : "At the foot of Itakhuli was Lachit Phukan. His face is broad, and resembles the moon in its full phase. No one is capable of staring at his face."
There are a number of incidents displaying Lachit's patriotism and devotion to duty and to his nation.
During the preparations for the Battle of Saraighat he ordered an earthen wall to be constructed within one night and employed his maternal uncle as the supervisor. Late night when Lachit came for inspection, he found that work was not progressing satisfactorily. When asked for an explanation, uncle tried to cite tiredness, to which Lachit became so furious in this negligence of duty that he beheaded his uncle on the spot, saying "My uncle is not greater than my country"("Desotkoi Momai Dangor Nohoi" in Assamese). The barrier was completed within that night. This episode is still cited in Assam as the ultimate example of Lachit's sincerity and patriotism.
Failed attempt by Ram Singh to prove Lachit traitor
When Ram Singh, the Mughal commander in chief once resorted to spreading misunderstanding in the Ahom camp when he failed to make any advance against the Assamese army during the first phase of the Battle of Saraighat. An arrow carrying a letter by Ram Singh telling that Lachit have been paid rupees one lakh & he should evacuate Guwahati was driven into the Ahom camp, which eventually reached the Ahom king, Chakradhwaj Singha. Although the king started to doubt Lachit's sincerity and patriotism, his prime minister Atan Buragohain made him understand that this was just a trick against Lachit.
Last display of courage
During the last stage of the Battle of Saraighat, when the Mughals attacked by the river in Saraighat, at the sight of the massive Mughal fleet, the Assamese soldiers began to lose their will to fight. Some elements commenced retreat. Lachit was seriously ill & was observing this development from his sickbed. He had himself carried on a lotto a boat and with seven boats advanced headlong against the Mughal fleet. He said "If you (the soldiers) want to flee, flee. The king has given me a task here and I will do it well. Let the Mughals take me away. You report to the king that his general fought well following his orders". This had an electrifying effect on his soldiers. They rallied behind him and a desperate battle ensured on the Brahmaputra. The Ahoms in their small boats cut circles round the bigger but less maneuverable Mughal boats. The river got littered with clashing boats and drowning soldiers.
In this furious engagement, Lachit Barphukan managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The Mughals were decisively defeated and they retreated from Guwahati. Thus ended the battle of Saraighat in a decisive Ahom victory (despite all odds) and giving Lachit legendary fame in Assam. In his hour of triumph, Lachit Barphukan died of the illness that he had been suffering from.
The Mughal Commander-in-Chief acknowledging his defeat had a special word of praise for the Ahom soldiers and the Ahom Commander-in-chief. About Lachit Barphukan he wrote, "Glory to the king! Glory to the counsellors! Glory to the commanders!Glory to the country! One single individual leads all the forces! Even I Ram Singh, being personally on the spot, have not been able to find any loophole and an opportunity!"
Death of Lachit Borphukan
The joy of victory in the Battle of Saraighat was marred by the death of Lachit Barphukan soon after the battle. He was in high fever when he led the attack against the Mughals. It is his indomitable sprit that goaded him to action though his frame was incapable of bearing such a tremendous burden. But for his timely intervention the failing enthusiasm of the Assamese soldiers would have purchased an ignoble defeat. Lachit Barphukan, like Lord Nelson, died in the lap of victory; and the battle of Saraighat was Assam's Trafalgar.
This hero's last remains lies in rest at the Lachit Maidam built in 1672 by Swargadeo Udayaditya Singha at Hoolungapara 16 km from Jorhat.
On 24th November each year Lachit Divas, it is a state holiday, is celebrated statewide in Assam to commemorate the heroism of the great general Lachit Borphukan and the victory of the Assamese army at the battle of Saraighat.
-------------------much revered bravery from the son of the soil------------------------
How the Ahom (Assamese) General Lachit Borphukan annihilated the Muslim Mughal army at the battle of Saraighat on the Banks of the Bramhaputra river
The Muslims had made many attempts from the time of Mohammed Bin Tughlak to swallow Assam. But the Ahom kings of Assam stoutly and shrewdly defeated each Muslim incursion in to Assam. Finally the Mughals during the reign of Aurangzeb attacked Assam with a huge force. The shrewd Assamese king laid a trap for the Muslim army at a place named Sariaghat on the Bramhaputra river.
The Battle of Saraighat was fought in 1671 between the Mughals (led by the renegade Rajput Hindu traitor Kachwaha king Raja Ramsingh I), and the Ahoms (led by Lachit Borphukan, the Ahom governor of Guwahati) on the Brahmaputra river at Saraighat near Guwahati. Although considered to be the weaker force, the Ahom army defeated the Mughal by using a combination of guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare and military intelligence.
In a surprise night attack, Lachit Barphukan dramatically captured the Mughal post in north Guwahati and, later, their fort in south Guwahati. The present day Kamrup Deputy Commissioner's bungalow is now situated on this site. The greatest threat to Lachit's army were the many Mughal cannons. In another secret mission executed the night before battle the cannons were disabled by Bagh Hazarika, a subordinate of Lachit's, During the night, Hazarika poured water into the cannons' barrels, soaking their gunpowder. With the Mughal cannons disabled, the Ahoms bombarded the Guwahati fort with their cannons. After a heavy cannonade and then a determined charge, the Mughals were defeated and the fort captured. After this the Mughals abandoned Guwahati.
Now Lachit Barphukan anticipated a larger retaliatory attack by the Mughals and he started arranging defenses, obstacles and garhs (earthen walls) around Guwahati, relying upon the hillocks around Guwahati and the Brahmaputra River as natural barriers against an invading army. Lachit was thorough and ruthless in preparing for the defense. He even beheaded his own uncle for neglecting his duty. When Lachit asked his uncle why the work was not progressing as expected, his uncle complained of boredom. Lachit in a fit of fury cut off his uncle's head and said "my uncle is not greater than my country."
The Mughals struck back in March 1679. The Mughal commander-in-chief of the advancing Mughal army had at his disposal 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18,000 Turkish cavalry, 5,000 gunners, more than 1000 cannons and a large flotilla of boats. Portuguese and other European sailors were employed to man the fleet. These forces moved up the Brahmaputra from Dhaka to Guwahati. Lachit's spies kept him informed of the progress of the Muslim advance. The Mughals laid siege to Guwahati that lasted for more than a year.
Lachit fought from within the barriers knowing that his small cavalry would not stand against the Mughal cavalry on open ground. His guerrilla attacks against the Mughal caused them to suffer many casualties. Although the Mughals made many efforts, including one attempt to bribe Lachit with power position and money, as they had done successfully with some Rajputs, but with Lachit the Mughals failed to tempt him to betray his country. Every attempt to bribe him was replied with scorn. In spite of repeated desperate attempts they failed to defeat Lachit and capture Guwahati.
But now the Ahom king, however, became impatient and ordered Lachit to attack the Mughals on open ground. Lachit reluctantly obeyed this command, and attacked the Mughal army in Allaboi. After some initial success, in which the Ahoms captured the local Mughal Commander, Mir Nawab, the Ahoms drew the full force of Mughal cavalry.
The Ahom army was decimated by the Mughal cavalry on the open plain losing some 10,000 troops. Lachit had taken the precaution of digging a line of defense at the rear of his advancing columns, to which they could fall back to if forced to do so. In doing so, he managed to save the remainder of his forces and retreat into his prepared defenses.
The Mughal could not penetrate these defenses and ultimately launched a massive naval assault on the river at Saraighat. They had large boats, some carrying as many as sixteen cannons. The Ahom soldiers were demoralised after their losses at Allaboi and their commander-in-chief, Lachit Borphukan, was seriously ill. At the sight of the massive Mughal fleet, they began to lose their will to fight, and some units commenced retreat.
Lachit had been observing this development from his deathbed. Despite having a high fever, he had himself carried to a boat and, along with seven other boats, advanced headlong against the Mughal fleet. His bold advance inspired his retreating army to rally behind him. A desperate battle ensued on the Brahmaputra. The Ahoms in their small boats outmaneuvered the larger, more sluggish Mughal boats, and the river became littered with clashing boats and drowning soldiers.
The Mughals were decisively defeated and they were finally forced to retreat from Guwahati, and also from other Ahom territory, up to Manas River. Thus ended the Battle of Saraighat, giving Lachit Barphukan the legendary fame in Assam. This battle is remembered as a glorious Ahom victory, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Lachit Borphukan, like Lord Nelson, died in the lap of victory; and the battle of Saraighat was Assam's Trafalgar.
-----------------------from historian perspective-----------------------------
Lachit Borphukon, the Ahom general under whose command the Assamese forces gave such a resounding defeat to the invading Moghul army sent by Emperor Aurangzeb under the leadership of Raja Ram Singh of Amber, must be counted as one of history's greatest generals if one takes into account the vast superiority, both in man and material of the opposing forces. Then his personal courage always leading from the front, even when in poor health and ordering his men to carry him to the front of the ranks on his sick bed. And finally his superb strategy and memorable sayings both in war and in peace. Lachit was the younger son of another Ahom nobleman of great wisdom and administrative acumen, Momai Tamuli Borborua.Lachit enters history almost with a bang. King Chakradhwaj Singha (AD 1663-1670) while on a tour of his territories near the hills situated in its south eastern parts, called Lachit near him and in order to test him asked how the Moghul commanders at Guwahati could possibly be captured. Lachit gave a spirited reply which would be characteristic of him all through his later career. He said: "Are there no men in Your Majesty's kingdom? Who after all is the 'Bongal' (meaning the non-Assamese)? He is also only a man. Will not there be such men in our kingdom?" The king, himself a man famous in history for his spirited words and deeds, immediately appointed Lachit commander-in-chief of the Assamese forces to be sent to Guwahati for driving out the Moghuls.The Assamese forces under the command of Lachit Borphukon started for Guwahati in August, 1668. They engaged the Moghuls first on the North Bank of the Brahmaputra opposite Guwahati then attacked them on the South Bank. In September 1668, the Moghul forces were driven out Guwahati. They moved downstream by the Brahmaputra. The Assamese forces chased them both by land and water. Later that year, the Assamese forces soundly defeated the Moghul invaders at the confluence of the river Manah with the Brahmaputra after obstructing their passage by the river. One of their top commanders Syed Feroze was taken prisoner.The battle of Saraighat was fought sometime before April 8, 1671. For Raja Ram Singh went back on that day down the Brahmaputra. But the exact date of the battle of Saraighat is not given in the chronicle I am using for the purposes of writing this article. Here I must add a word about the chronicle I am using and why I am using it. The manuscript of this chronicle was obtained by the late Hemchandra Goswami, the renowned Assamese poet during his deputation by the Assam government in 1912-13, from the family of Sukumar Mahanta of north Guwahati. The manuscript was written on the strips of bark of the Sanchi tree. I am using the printed version of this chronicle for two reasons. In the first place, I saw the manuscript, which was preserved in the office of the director of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, Assam at Guwahati. I happen to possess a printed version of this manuscript. When I came to know that the original version of this manuscript was in the Directorate of Historical and Antiquarian Studies, which was right opposite my own office I went and had a look at it. I thus made certain that there was an original manuscript, which is not always the case.And secondly this chronicle gives, more than any other chronicle, the description of the battles fought between the Assamese and the Moghuls during August 1668 and April 1671 and especially of the battle of Saraighat. It gives details even of the positioning of the Assamese commanders on the eve of this great naval battle. However, it does not give the exact date of the battle.I consulted Dr S.K. Bhuyan's Lachit Borphukon and his Times also. He is considered one of our most important historians. It also does not give the date of the battle even approximately So, instead of resorting to what one of the greatest British historians of the 20th century E.H. Carr, calls scissors-and-paste history, I have faithfully followed this one chronicle for whatever it is worth.Having thus given the merits of the chronicle, I may give an account of whatever has been written about Lachit Borphukon there. Unfortunately, the account is not chronological. So instead of hazarding a probable chronology, I shall follow the order of the paragraphs of the chronicle.After the dramatic first appearance of Lachit and his fateful appointment of Commander-inChief of the forces despatched to recapture Guwahti, we find the names of other important commanders accompanying him. They were: Charingia Pelon Phukon who later became Borborua, the fourth highest functionary in the Ahom military-cum-administrative hierarchy; Miri Sandikoi Phukon, who was later appointed commander of the forces from the village Lathia to the hill of Chila, both on the north bank of the Brahmaputra near the present township of Aminagaon. There were two others of whom there was no further mention. They were Bheba Phukon and laluk Phukon.This is how the war for capturing Guwahati proceeded from August 1668 to April 8, 1671, the date when the Commander-in-Chief of the Moghul forces Raja Ram Singh finally went away.The Assamese forces after arriving near Guwahati, proceeded both by land and water. We found that the first engagement was at a place called Banhbari, where a commander named Dihingia Phukon quartered the force under him. There, two persons named Roshan and Beg who were probably local Moghul commanders were killed. They also took a booty of 12 horses and some swords an<>
Swahid (Myrtyr) Maniram Dewan
If the three ingredients - the man, the moment and the milieu-constitute the recipe for human greatness, these too occasionally conspire to bring about individual tragedies. Maniram Dutta Barua (1806-1858), popularly known as Maniram Dewan, undoubtedly the greatest Assamese of the first half of the 19th century is a poignant illustration of this truism.First, the man. Maniram was born on April 17, 1806, into a family tracing its lineage to the early 16th century, when it had migrated from Kanauj to Assam. His paternal forebears had held high offices in the courts of the Swargadeos, or Ahom kings, "(my) ancestors ...., for 300 years," so wrote he in a petition to A.J. Moffat Mills, judge of the Sudder Court who visited Assam in 1853, "were Chang Kagutees, .... when the country fell into the hands of the Burmese, your petitioner's father was upheld in the office and dignity of a Bar Kaguttee..." Maniram himself became a confidante and counsellor of Purundar Since ha, the titular Ahom king elevated to the throne in 1833, and his son Kameswar Singha and grandson Kandarpeswar Singha. Despite being Kayasthas, his family had assumed the status of nobility under the Ahoms; "rank and respectability" not only enhanced Maniram's influence on the court and the subjects, but also imbued in him a fierce sense of independence and patriotism, as also an aristocratic pride that would break rather than bend.True, his petitions to Moffat Mills, as also those on behalf of Kandarpeswar Singha to the Supreme Government at Calcutta, were couched in rhetoric of utmost subservience. But this was in accordance with the prevalent practice. One must remember that the bourgeois `moderates' who founded the Congress in the post-1857 period and initiated the thrust towards India's independence too had phrased their petitions in a similar, ingratiating manner. Maniram, in fact, belongs to this middle-class stratum notwithstanding his aristocratic lineage, and shares many of its traits. While, in the rest of India, the nucleus of this class was formed by zamindars, traders, professionals and intellectuals, in Assam, due to the absence of a fully defined trading-class, it was drawn from the landed gentry as well as service holders of the Ahom royaltyA product of the British conquest of India, the Indian middle-class was infused with the spirit of enterprise and a hankering for progress absent in the feudalistic medieval order it replaced and provided leadership in every field. In Assam, where the commercial ethos was almost entirely absent, it imbibed capitalist values from the British and, in a somewhat idiosyncratic inversion of the all India pattern, took up the role of businessmen and gave a new direction to Assamese entrepreneurship.Maniram was, so to say, at the very fount of this stream of bourgeois formation, endowed with its intelligence, enlightened progressivism and enterprising spirit, qualities that the British, on the lookout for natives capable of aiding them in running the administration, recognised soon enough. From the very commencement of British rule he was "consulted as to the internal resources of the whole province as well as its in come expenditure; and subsequently appointed by Captain Nobeen (Nueufville), Sheristadar and Tuhseeldar of the District." Encomiums about his intelligence and enterprise are reiterated in British records.Yet a vital difference did exist; the post 1857 middle class thrived under British patronage and owed allegiance to the foreign masters. Its leading lights were cooperators with the British and received Rai Sahib or Rai Bahadur titles for their loyalty. The nature of Maniram the man, on the other hand, and the milieu in which he had been reared, did not permit subservience. This lies at the core of his tragedy. That he later chose to compete with European planters to open out tea gardens in the teeth of opposition is telling testimony to his courage and independent spirit.No doubt, in the early phase of British rule, Maniram does appear to have cooperated with the conquerors. But it was the moment rather than the man which dictated such an attitude.He grew up during the bleakest period of Assam's history, when the state-machinery, buffeted by the Moamariya uprisings, had totally collapsed due to subsequent Burmese incursions. He was barely 11 years old when the first Burmese hordes swarmed over the land, killing, burning, unleashing a reign of terror the likes of which few regions of India had seen. Thus, when the British fought them during the Firsts. Burmese War (1824-26), and succeeded in wresting Assam through the Yandabu Treaty (1826), not merely the royalty and upper class, but the people of entire Assam, looked up to them as saviours. Taken in by the conqueror's assertion that they would renounce all claims of conquest over Assam and her dependencies" once the Burmese had been ousted, and restore them to the rightful ruler, the youthful Maniram could be no exception, and viewed them as a temporary presence.His myopia was prolonged by the fact that the British, after dithering for years, did install Purundar Singha in 1833 as a tributary native rule of Upper Assam. Maniram's association with them had begun much earlier. During the 1817-1824 phase of Burmese reign of terror, his family had fled along with the royals to the safety of Bengal, where he first made acquaintance with the Europeans. By the time the family returned in 1824 with the British, the latter had been sufficiently impressed with his acumen and ability to appoint him in 1828, at a relatively young age of 22, as Sheristadar and Tuhseeldar. Afterwards, when he was made a borbhandar or Prime Minister by Purundar Singha, they readily acknowledged his authority to negotiate on behalf of the Ahom Swargaded.The rapport did not last long, even less Maniram's myopia! At first the British had balked at annexing Upper Assam because Burmese atrocities had depopulated the region and they could not earn adequate revenue. But the Opium Wars with China had endangered the lucrative tea-trade with that nation and the EastIndia Company desperately required an alternative source of tea. The discovery of wild tea bushes in Assam, and the presence of vast tracts of jungles which could be opened out for tea planting, made them forget their pledge to re-establish a native government. Thus, on the pretext of misgovernment and default in payment of tribute, Purundar Singha was deposed in 1833 and direct administration of his realm passed into British hands.The ugly face of British imperialism now lay exposed. Ever loyal to king and country Maniram fought tooth and nail on behalf of the king. His relationship with the foreigners had suffered during the short period of Purundar Singha's rein, primarily because he had sought to speak as an equal before them, souring the `good opinion' they had of him. When his king was deposed, Maniram resigned from the posts of Sheristadar and Tuhseeldar, alienating the new masters further. He was divested of most of the privileges accuring to him as a borbhandar, including the twelve beesoyas under him.While the loss of power and prestige left him undaunted, the entrepreneur within him now came to the fore. He was perceptive enough to understand the motives of the colonialists in annexing Assam, and that tea was the industry of the future. Most European historians of the brew do not acknowledge Maniram's contributions towards the setting up of one of the most lucrative industries in the annals of colonialism. The truth is that it was he who first brought the existence of indigenous Assam tea to the notice of the British. In his pamphlet Tea in Assam (1877) Samuel Baildon does give him credit, though somewhat inaccurately Stanley Baldwin also mentions him in his book, Assam's Tea.Maniram's association with tea began even while the British were contemplating its cultivation in Assam. It was Maniram Dewan whom Charles Alexander Bruce contacted in January, 1825, and was directed to the Singpho chief with whom his brother, Robert Bruce, had contracted for a supply of tea plants and seeds. In 1835, when Lord Bentick's Tea Committee came to Assam to study the possibilities of tea cultivation, Maniram met Dr. Wallich on behalf of Purandar Singha and placed a memorandum before him regarding the prospects. He was also the first to open out private tea gardens in India, long before Lt. Colonel F S. Hannay Commander of the Ist Assam Light Infantry, who is considered to be the first to have done so by European historians.Aware of the lucrative opportunities offered, Maniram was determined to stake his share in the tea industry But he had to learn the techniques of tea cultivation and manufacture before striking out on his own. This, rather than the paltry Rs 200 per month he received, was the reason why he joined the first tea company in India, the Assam Company, as a Dewan or land-agent in 1839.Having acquired the rudiments of tea-craft, Maniram Dewan, as he came to be known now, resigned from the Assam Company in 1845 to open out his own tea plantations. The effrontery of the native upstart in daring to compete against the white masters invited vehement protest from the European tea planters. Since it could not legally prevent him, the administration put numerous obstacles in his path. His application for land grant at the nominal price offered to Europeans was summarily refused, and he had to purchase land at great cost to open out two tea plantations, Cinnamore at Jorhat, and Selung (Singlo) in Sibsagar. His landed property at Jorhat now contains the Cinnamora Tea Estate and Tocklai Experimental Station. His residence was where the factory is located now and is even today called the Dewan plot or Dewan number. Thus, by the time Hannay came into the picture, Maniram already had two running gardens. His success was met with hostility by both the administration and planters.They did not have to wait long! It was not merely personal travails which caused Maniram's disillusionment with British rule and aburning hatred of the Boga Bongals. A true patriot, he could transcend individual concerns and note the evils that subjugation by foreigners had brought to his beloved motherland. Not content to keep his thoughts to himself, he boldly put them into words in a second petition submitted to Moffat Mills in 1853: “the people, he wrote, "have been reduced to the most abject and hopeless state of misery from the loss of their fame,honour, rank, caste, employment etc... The abolition of old customs and establishment in their stead of Courts and unjust taxation; secondly, the introduction of opium in the district, for the gratification of opium-eating people, who are daily becoming more unfit for agricultural pursuits; thirdly, the making of this Province khas and discontinu-ing the poojahs at kamakya, in consequence of which the country has become subject to various calamities, the people to every species of suffering and distress, and the annualcrops to recurring failure. Under these several inflictions, the population of Assam is becoming daily more miserable .... by the introduction into the Province of new customs, numerous Courts, an unjust system of taxation, an objectionable treatment of Hill tribes,theconsequences of which has been a constant state of warfare with them.Under the revenue settlement of Military officers, while a number of respectable Assamese are out of employ, the inhabitants of Marwar and Bengalees from Sylhet have been appointed to Mouzadariship; and for us respectable Assamese to become ryots tosuch foreigners is a source of deep mortification ...."The panacea offered by Maniram is the goal he strove for ever since the annexation of Assam, and reveals his unflinching loyalty to the Ahom rulers: "In the shasters it is written thatrulers ought to practice righteousness and govern their subjects with justice while studying their welfare. These are not now done ...May we therefore pray that, after due investigation and reflection, the former native administration be reintroduced..."Native rule, of course, was furthest from the minds of the imperialists! Instead, the petition alerted them to the dangers posed by such critical elements and Maniram became the administration's foremost suspect. Rather than take any heed of his plea, Mills dismissed the petition as a "curious document!"By 1857, as the rest of India, Assam too was a cauldron of simmering discontent against British rule, with disaffected elements awaiting an opportunity to overthrow the white usurpers. The Sepoy Mutiny, regarded by Indian historians as the First War of Independence, appeared to provide just that. Maniram was in Calcutta in May, 1857, when North India and parts of the East flared into a rebellious blaze, petitioning the government on behalf of Kandarpeswar Singha for restoration of his kingdom. When the news that Bahadur Shah Zafar had been proclaimed emperor and dethroned rulers were wresting back lost territories reached him, Maniram saw another route to a goal that petitions had not been able to reach.Through a series of carefully coded letters he informed Kandarpeswar of the developments, and urged him to rise in rebellion against the British with the help of sepoys at Dibrugarh and Golaghat. Accordingly, a plot was hatched in the royal abode, influential individuals were roped in and arms and weapons gathered. The group contacted Subedars Nur Mahammad and Bhikun Sheikh as well as some Jemadars of the sepoys and obtained their support. The date of the uprising was set to coincide with Durga Puja, when Maniram would return to Assam and crown Kandarpeswar as the Swargadeo.Unfortunately, due to betrayal by the prince's own relatives, the British authorities uncovered the plot before it could be put into operation. On September 7, 1857, Kandarpeswar was arrested along with his accomplices. Maniram was taken into custody at Calcutta and brought to Jorhat to stand trial. Altogether 30 individuals were tried by Captain Charles Holroyd, district officer of Sibsagar, appointed special commissioner to preside over the `Conspiracy Case'. The trial itself was a farce, based not on hard proof but hearsay evidence of dubious witnesses, particularly that of Haranath Parbatia Barua, daroga of Sibsagar. The accused were neither given a fair hearing nor allowed to cross examine witnesses; Holroyd was both the jury and judge, without allowing the accused the rights of appeal in another court.Though not tried along with the others, Kandarpeswar Singha was first sent to Alipur jail, and finally interned at Guwahati. Dutiram Barua, Bahadur Gaonbura and Sheikh Formud Ali were exiled to the Andamans. Two Assamese women, Rupahi Aideo and Lumboi Aideo, had their properties confiscated. Maniram was identified as the kingpin of the conspiracy and, along with Peali Barua, another member of the group, hanged on February 16, 1858, at the Jorhat jail.People from all over flocked to Maniram's residence that fateful day to bid Peali and him a final farewell. A pall of gloom settled over the realm after the hangings, but his detractors rejoiced. The European planters in a joint letter to the administration recommended that the police officer who had arrested Maniram be rewarded and the Dewan's property confiscated and auctioned. A vindictive administration was all too willing to oblige them, the bulk of his landed estate, including Cinnamora and Selung tea gardens, being purchased at a throwaway price by George Williamson. The `taming' of the spirited Dewan was a two-pronged warning. It sent out an ominous signal to Assamese entrepreneurs that the White colonialists would brook on competition except on their own terms. It also served as a warning to disaffected elements that outspoken criticism and open defiance would not be tolerated, total subservience being the order of the day. The moment and the milieu had certainly been inauspicious for the spirited and independent-minded Maniram, leading to personal tragedy Yet, ironically, the man remained untamed! Within decades after his death he was magnified into a myth, enshrined in ballads and bihu-geets, his tale told and retold by the fireside. It was this legendary imageof a patriot who fearlessly took on the mighty British, of an untamed martyr who, having enjoyed his last puff on his favourite hookah at the foot of the gallows, went laughing to his death - which fired up the imagination of those who later waged the non-violent war for India's independence, and sounded the death-knell of imperialism.
Bharat Ratna Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi
Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi was the first, and only, man from the entire northeastern region of the country to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award. The recognition, however, came half a century after his demise in August 1950. The delay in recognition was due to many obvious reasons like Assam being a far away place from the national capital with very weak information and communication facilities and also due to the indifferent perceptions and a general lack of understanding of the people of the region.As a matter of fact it was only when the present Atal Bihari Vajpayee government came to power in New Delhi, and Lt. Gen (retd) S.K. Sinha took over as governor of Assam, that New Delhi began to think of giving national recognition to great leaders of the region like Gopinath Bordoloi, Lachit Borphukon and Mahapurush Sankaradeva. People of Assam, particularly the younger generation are more angry than pleased at such belated recognition. In the case of Bordoloi, the delay rankled even more, given that he was an architect of the Indian National Congress in Assam. If the central government is sincere in its efforts to tackle the root cause of insurgency in the North East, these matters should be sympathetically understood. Gopinath Bordoloi understood all this. An understanding which earned him the respect of Mahatma Gandhi - his political and spiritual mentor. Which is perhaps why Gandhi always stood by him, and supported his stand.Bordoloi was the first Congress chief minister of the undivided state of Assam and was one of the key leaders who had taken an important role in opening up the North East for the Congress. However with the start of the Non-Cooperation Movement, jointly organised by the Indian National Congress and the All India Jamiat-ul-Ulema Hind against British rule in India, preparations were made by the public leaders of Assam including Lokpriya Bordoloi to wind up the Assam association in 1921. They requested its members to individually join the Indian National Congress and the Assam Provincial Congress Committtee was formally established in 1921 with Bordoloi elected as the secretaryEven when there was no formal Congress organisation in Assam, Assamese leaders including Tarun Ram Phookun, Nabin Chandra Bordoloi and Gopinath Bordoloi, took the opportunity of participating in several annual Congress conferences as delegates of Assam while taking advantage of their presence in Calcutta either as students, businessmen or professionals. Delegates from Assam had been participating from the 1886 Congress session.Until then, the Assam association was the only political organisation in the Assam valley with a liberal policy vis-a-vi the British government. It should be mentioned at this stag that though the Congress organisation as such did not exist til then in the Assam valley, there was a militant unit of the Congress known as the Surma Valley Committee of the Congress, This committee functioned as a district committee of the Ber gal Provincial Committee of the Indian National Congress an Gopinath Bordoloi was in close touch with this body.A brief life sketch helps to understand Bordoloi's political philosophy and line of action. Bordoloi was born on June 6,1890. His father was a medical practitioner. He took advantage of his father's profession to understand the social needs of his many patients. He tried to share with them the feelings of their travails and suffering with sympathy He was admitted to the Cotton Collegiate in Guwahati and passed the entrance examination at the University of Calcutta in 1907. As a young boy, Bordoloi saw the British Empire celebrate the golden jubilee of Empress Victoria with much pomp and splendour. While the Russo-Japanese war was on, Bordoloi was studying at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta. The Russo-Japanese war and its outcome which resulted in the humiliating defeat of the great Russian empire of the powerful Czar at the hands of an Asiatic power - Japan - inspired the leaders of a "nation in the making" a term coined and applied to Bengal and India by Surendranath Banerjee.At that time, Sir Surendranath Banerjee, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Rabindranath Tagore, J.C. Bose and a few others were towering personalities in Bengal. Bordoloi was deeply influenced by them and learnt much from being in close proximity to them. He was a brilliant student of history. And the course of events around him as a student in Calcutta seemed similar to the drama and action of his textbooks.He also saw how, right through the ages, the imperialist rulers have always applied different forms of the age-old policy of divide and rule. In the comprehensive sense, Mahapurush Sankardev is the father of the socio-cultural entity of greater Assam. Gopinath Bordoloi's place is next only to the Mahapurush as the prime architect of the modern polity of Assam based on a solid structure as enunciated in the preamble to the Constitution of India.It was under Bordoloi's courageous and competent leadership that the entire people of Assam were able to save themselves, in a completely non-violent movement, from the Cabinet Mission's plan - which was a concept created by the British in collaboration with the Muslim League and an initial assent by the Congress high command. Despite insistent efforts by Bordoloi, the Congress high command failed to see that the Cabinet Mission plan carried with it a subsidiary plan drawn up by Professor Coupland, senior professor of History at Oxford University who was political adviser to the Cabinet Mission. Briefly Coupland's plan envisaged that the tribal areas of northeastern India including the Garo Hills, Khasi Jaintia Hills, Lushai Hills, Nagaland, North Cachar Hills and theNorth Eastern Frontier Agency was to be made into a selfgoverning Crown colony under the protection of the Crown with autonomous status to each of the regions.Bordoloi appraised Gandhi of the underlying causes and consequences of Coupland's sinister plan. Gandhi immediately grasped the full implication of the plan and advised Bordoloi to intensify the popular struggle against the British Cabinet Mission plan. He openly declared that if necessary Assam should break away from the Congress and intensify the non-violent struggle against the Cabinet plan. He also invited Nehru and Sardar Patel for a discussion with him. They immediately responded. Thus, Bon doloi not only saved Assam for India, but saved the entire northeastern region from the sinister designs of "Crown colony".After Independence when Assam became a constituent state of Part A category it had none of the required infrastructure like medical, veterinary, engineering, agricultural colleges and other institutions. Within a span of Bordoloi's chief ministership, he fulfilled all these needs. Not only did he succeed in uniting all the tribes, sections and sectors of people in the struggles of their existence, but helped them in achieving their immediate goals - there by giving them self-confidence and self-respect. In all spheres of development, including sports, music and performing arts he laid the basic foundations. He also laid the foundation of work culture and popular initiative in all. His was the first government among all provincial governments in India, which dared to levy agricultural income-tax on the rich and powerful planters, and helped usher in swaraj in place of `Planter's Raj. When he was not saddled with governmental responsibilities, Bon doloi volunteered to serve as a school teacher and college professor and became the founder principal of a private college which is still highly regarded in Guwahati. He was a true Congressman of the Gandhian school, which probably explains why successive Congress governments or Congress-supported governments did not care to remember Bordoloi. Not just a good Assamese, Bordoloi was a good Indian, and finally, a citizen of the world in the true sense of the term.
Gopinath Bardloi, an architect of modern Assam, was born on June 6, 1890 and died on August 5, 1950.The second son of Dr. Budhiswar Bardoloi, Gopinath had his early education in Guwahati and later graduated from the Scottish Church College, Calcutta, with Honours in History.He also took his post-graduate degree from Calcutta University in 1914.Back home, he joined the Guwahati High School as Head Master, but left it in 1917, after obtaining his Law degree, to join the Bar.Gandhiji call for non-cooperation soon captured his imagination and his head-long plunge into the movement landed him in the British hails in early 1922.HE soon became an eminent leader of the struggle in Assam and had to return to the prison again in 1940 and 1942.As the Congress Party leader in the Provincial Assembly in 1937, he brought the struggle also into the legislature.Even the premiership, which he assumed in 1938, was to him just an instrument for further expansion of the struggle and for reversal of the administration's repressive measures.He resigned his Premiership in 1939 in protest against the imperialist war but was back in office after the 1946 polls.He used his office, both before and after independence, to lay the foundation for a progressive Assam and to set the trends for Assam's future reconstruction in every sphere.Better known as Lokapriya, Bardoloi's life was indeed a legend of total dedication to the people's cause.Welfare of the people, particularly of the weaker sections, was a passion with him.His profound concern for the Tribals, for instance was eloquent in his forceful plea, as the head of the Constitution sub-committee to examine the question of tribalk autonomy, for the Sixth Schedule.His interests also covered various other fields of human endeavour, ranging from sports to music and from theatre to literature Even in jail he authored several brilliant books including biographies of Saints and Seers with stress on the basic essence of humanism in their teachings.Gopinath is often called Assam's saviour particularly because of his extremely courageous role in resisting the infamous Coupled plan for a Crown Colony in the North Eastern Hills, the Cabinet plan for Assam's grouping with Bengal and the Muslim League's threats to have the province in Pakistan.It was such courage that once prompted India's 'Iron man' Sardar Patel, to hail him as the Sher-I-Assam or the Lion of Assam.
Bishnu Ram Medhi
Bishnu Ram Medhi was born on 24th April,1888 in Humble peasant's family at Hajo, place of Historic and religious importance. His father was Sonaram and mother Alehi. Medhi showed academic excellance from his childhood. He passed the Entrance examination from the Cotton Collegiate High School, Gauhati in 1905 an din 1909 graduated from the Presidency College, Calcutta in the Science Stream. He obtained a degree of MSc from Dacca University in Organic Chemistry in 1911and carried out research in that University for one year. He then passed the BL examination in 1914 and joined the bar at Gauhati the same year. He joined the non-cooperationmovement in 1921. In 1930 he became thePresident of the Congress in Assam an continued in the office till 1938. He was the Joint Secretary of the Reception Committee Session at Pandu in Assam in1926. He was the Chairman of first congress of the Gauhati Local Boar in 1938. In 1946, he became a Minister in the Gopinath Bordoloi Gabinet in Assamand held the Finance and Revenue Portfolios. In 1950, he became the Chief Minister of Assam and continued till 1958. He was appointed Governor of Madrasform 1959 to 1964. In 1964, he came back to Assamand was returned to the State Assembly unopposedfrom 1967 to 1972. After a protactedillness he passed away on 21st January 1981. He died issueless and donated all he possessed for public purposes
Lokanayak Omeo Okumar Das
Loknayak Omeo Kumar Das, one of the great patriots of Assam was born ion Tezpuron May 21, 1895. During his school an college days he was attracted toward the ideals of servants of India society and very much influenced by the writing of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar tilak, Surendra Nath banerjee and other national leaders. He was very active right from his school days when as a student leader he decided to devote himself to the cause of country's freedom and to the service of the masses. He actively participated in the freedom struggle, and became on of the torchbearers of the national movement of Assam. In 1930, when Gandhiji launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, Omeo Kumar Das responded to Gandhiji's call b y organising the youth. He was, for his activities, imprisoned several times, by the British government. Later in 1937, he was first elected to Assam legislative Assembly and then in 1945, to the Constituent Assembly. After the country achieved independence, he served his state as a Minister holding important portfolios like Education, Food & Civil Supplies and Labour.As the Labour Minister, he was instrumental in setting up the tea plantation Worker's Provident Fund for the benefit of the large number of the tea plantation workers of Assam.This effort is a uniquer landmark ion the history of the labour welfare measures, not only in India, but in entire Asia. .As the Education Minister he brought about a number of reforms in the education system and popularised the concept of Basic Education, which was so dear to Mahatma Gandhi. Lokanayak Omeo Kumar Das was an intellectual of very high order. His activities were not confined to political sphere alone. He was a social thinker, a reformer, a journalist and popular writer. Besides writing a lorge number of books, he translated Gandhiji's Autobiography 'My Experiment with Truth' into the Assumes language. From his younger days he was in the forefront of prohibition campaign against opium, liquor and hemp. He was very actively connected within the establishment of several Ashramas based ono the ideals of Gandhiji and several socio-economic centres, tuberculosis centres and leprosy treatment homes and organisations for relief an rehabilitation of destressed people. He was also associated with HarijanSevak Sangha, Bharatiya Adim Jati Sevak Sangha, Bharat Sevek Samaj, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, Kasturba Nidhi and Assam Seva Samiti. He died at Guwahati on 23rd Januaryy 1975 at the age of 81.
Woman Freedom Fighter Puspa Lata Das
Puspa Lata Das, a veteran freedom fighter and former parliamentarian is an eminent social worker. She has strong faith in power of women. Independent in nature from her childhood, at the age of six, she joined 'Banar Sena' and never looked back since then. Born on March 27, 1915 at North Lakhimpur, Smt.Puspalata Das is one of the surviving freedom fighters from Assam. Daughter of late Rameswar Saikia and Smt.Swaranalata Saikia of Jorhat, Puspalata was thrown out of her school at a tender age of fourteen from Panbazar Girls High School, Guwahati. Her fault was that she was the Secretary of the Mukti Sangha and she alongwith her inmates tried to record a protest in the school against Bhagat Singh's hanging order.
Smt.Puspalata Das was an extrovert and independent in nature from her childhood. At the age of only six, she joined "Banar Sena" to popularise Khadi among the people and organised Charkha Sangha. Even her father, a Government employee at that time in Barpeta, was also compelled by his wife and his little daughter to wear only Khadi. Being inspired by her mother, she took the pledge for freedom and never looked back since then. Remembering her early days she said "I, as a teenager was influenced by the revolutionary literatures of Bengal and one day we (Jyotsna Majumdar, Punya Prabha Barua - later Rajkhowa, Sarala Saxena) assembled in the office of Kamrup Mahila Samiti and formed an organisation called Mukti Sangha and took pledge with a few drops of blood to die for the country. I was the secretary of the organisation". "In February 1930, when I was expelled from my school, my school ecuation ended and my education of life and struggle started" - says Smt.Puspalata Das. That was the beginning the eventful life of Smt.Puspalata Das, a social worker, former Parliamentarian and a veteran freedom fighter. In 1934, Puspalata Das passed Matriculation examination as a private candidate and joined the Banaras Hindu University from where she passed Intermediate. After Intermediate, she enrolled her name with Andhra University for Graduation. She got her M.A. Degree in Political Science in 1938 from the same University. Afterwards, she joined Earle Law College, Guwahati and was elected as Secretary of the College Union in 1940. But her study in law came to an end when she was jailed for joining 'Individual Satyagraha'.
Member of Planning Committee From 1940 to 1942, Smt.Puspalata Das was in Bombay as a member of the Women Sub-Committee of the National Planning Committee. During this period, she worked with Smt.Mridula Sarabhai and Smt.Vijay Laxmi Pandit, "when I saw the wonderful work done by Smt.Sarabhai's 'Jyoti Singha' and other institutions of Gujarat and Maharashtra for the first time, I could realise the strength of constructive works" - Smt.Das recalls.
Intrepid Organiser In 1942, she married a true Gandhian and social worker Shri Omeo Kumar Das despite strong opposition from some of her relatives and changed her place of activities from Guwahati to Tezpur. Here Smt.Das along with Shri Joyti Prasad Agarwalla and others prepared a team of workers for organising people. Her husband was seriously ill at that time. But Smt.Das could not sit idle. She organised Shanti Bahini (Peace Force) and Mrityu Bahini (Death Squad) with her co-workers at Tezpur and was supposed to lead the procession to put the National Tri Colour on the compound of Gohpur Police Station. But fate intervened and Kanaklata took over the charge of the procession from Puspalata Das and got bullets from British rulers
Saviour of Assam Smt.Puspalata Das vehemently opposed Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the question of dragging Assam into grouping. As a member of the AICC and the convenor of the women's wing of Assam Congress Committee, Smt.Das delivered a remarkable speech on that special session and succeeded in getting an amendment moved by Shri Purushottam Das Tandon, Gandhiji's statement also helped Assam remaining out of grouping with erstwhile East Pakistan.
After Independence Smt.Puspalata Das was elected a member of Rajya Sabha in 1951 and retained it for the next term till 1961. In 1958, she was a member of the All India Congress Working Committee. In 1959, she visited a numer of East European countries as a member of Parliamentary delegation. She was also a member of Assam Legislative Assembly. Besides these, the versatile lady was associated with a number of organisations and institutions in various capacities. Among these, All India Khadi Board (Chairperson, Assam Branch), Planning Committee of Congress (Women Section), Central Social Welfare Board, East India Motion Pictures Censor Board are worth mentioning. She was also the Chairperson of the State Bhudan and Gramdan Board. At present, she is the Chairperson of the Kasturba Memorial Trust, Assam Branch. Moreover, her interest in reading, gardening and in fine arts is well known. During her college days, she acquired proficiency in singing and dancing. One of her demonstrations of dance in Madras and Visakhapatnam was highly praised by the audience and then earned laurels from stalwarts like Rajgopalachari, the then Governor of Madras, through the two famous dance dramas - 'Amrit Prava' and 'Chitralekha'. For sometime, she was also the editor of the historically well-known Assamese magazine "Jayanti" (Women Section).
Krishna Kanta Handique
Among all the modern Assamese, Krishna Kanta Handique understood his country and the world the best. A name synonymous with scholastic pursuits, he was a great Assamese of whom every Indian can justifiably be proud.His life and works were a balancing of apparently irreconcilable opposites. A man given completely to profound study and never bothering about popularity, power and fame, Handique had a strong sense of social and moral obligation.Being the son of a rich tea planter, Handique could have easily devoted all his time and energy to profound study and that would have actually been the sort of life that came most naturally to him. But he chose instead not to turn his back on social duties.Born of a great philanthropist tea planter, Radha Kanta Handique and Narayani Handique in 1898 at Jorhat, K.K. Handique was educated up to IA in Assam and went on to do his BA with Honours in Sanskrit (Vedic Group) from the University of Calcutta. He passed all the examinations with flying colours.In 1920 he began his study tour of Europe. After doing his MA in Modern History from Oxford in 1923, he visited France, Germany and Italy to learn European languages and to study the Classics. After four years of travel and study, he returned home with knowledge of major European languages and a collection of over 2,000 books in different languages. Back home at Jorhat, Handique started learning the complex techniques that were essential to the management of his father's estate. He never entertained the idea of going into government service but he gladly agreed to become the principal of Upper Assam College (which later became Jorhat and finally J.B. College, Jorhat) the first non-government college in Assam.The fact that Handique agreed to become the principal of a proposed non-government college is an example of the great scholar's sense of social obligation. At that time the government did not welcome the idea of private colleges. But Handique remained principal at the institution for 17 years and that meant a lot for higher education in the state.K.K. Handique, the Sanskrit scholar and Indologist, is primarily known to common people as an educationist and in this field he successfully set ideals and values for all times. As early as 1928 he wrote an article on "German Academic Ideals" in Forward, a journal published from Calcutta. He was moved by the fact that the faculty members of the German universities were all very learned people devoted to the cause of education. The professors were all writers with new achievements in their respective fields. He could also see how different the environment for study and research was at the universities in his country As the founder-principal of the first non-government college of Assam, Handique tried to inculcate noble ideals in the most uncompromising of conditions.Handique's notion of values and ideals in education are best articulated in the convocation of speeches as the vice-chancellor of Gauhati University He saw education as an internal condition that continuously changes the man from within. In other words, education is an extension of man's knowledge of man himself. On January 31, 1955 he addressed the students: "The graduates who will be given their degrees today have my best wishes and congratulations. I need not remind them that the man counts more than the degrees and their university education will be judged by the influence it exerts upon their lives and actions."In other words, for Handique it was the man that mattered and education changes this man for the better. A man is what he does and his life is a summary of his action. Handique saw the educated man not just as an individual but also as an agent of change and progress in an underdeveloped countryIn the same convocation address, Handique invited the attention of the government to the poor condition of study in the non-government colleges in the country Quality in education cannot be expected without improvement in the academic environment. He pointed out that many students in the non-government colleges were accommodated in an environment not congenial to health, study and discipline.Handique's views on the examination system deserve attention: "Examinations as a system are decried from time to time but they provide a vital link between the university and the public," he said. Handique observes examinations from a social point of view: performance in examinations is a test of the candidate's ability to work for the society. And from this point of view, he wanted the university to be the guardian of its own reputation and to inspire confidence in its examination standards and the integrity of its methods. About the pay-scales of the teachers, particularly in the non-government colleges, Handique said that the pay should be enough to relieve the teachers of financial worries and to make it possible for them to work with confidence in their professions.Modern education in the country as a primary concern of K.K. Handique. His originality as a thinker is unmistakable. In a speech he delivered in 1917 as the president of the Jorhat Chhatra Sammelan he stressed the great importance of school education: "If the foundation of school education remains weak and narrow, it is no use making elaborate preparations for higher education in the university”.Three great works have brought Handique international fame as an eminent Sanskrit scholar and Indologist: Naisadhacarita, Yasastilaka and Se~ tubandha. The first one is a 12th century Sanskrit epic of Sriharsha, acknowledged as a very difficult text among scholars. Eminent Sanskrit scholars of the world readily acclaimed Handique’s annotation and explication of the text as a great work.Handique worked on Sriharsha's Naisadhacarita while he was the honorary principal of J.B. College, and it was first published by Motilal Benarasi Das, Lahore in 1934. Scholars like M.B. Emeneau, Prof. N. Winternitz and Prof. A.B. Keith praised Handique's work and he was recognised as a scholar of international fame at the age of 36. What surprises everybody is that the mind engaged in a very difficult 12th century Sanskrit text was also the mind that operated upon the immediate problems like poor accommodation of the students in a non-government college and the poor pay of the teachers.K.K. Handique had been the principal of J.B. College for 17 years and in 1948 he became the vice-chancellor of Gauhati University, the first University of the North-East. Handique completed his second major work in 1949. This work Yasastilaka and Indian Culture or Somadeva's Yasatilaka was first published by Jaina Samskriti Samraksha Sangha, Sholapur.Scholars in India and abroad widely acclaim this work. Scholars of the All India Oriental Conference held that year in Bombay duly acknowledged the merit of Handique’s work and Handique was elected the president of the classical Sanskrit session of the All India Oriental Conference held in Lucknow in 1951.K.K. Handique had been the vice-chancellor of Gauhati University for nine years and he shaped this new university according to his vision. After retirement he gave himself no rest. He began to work on Pravarsena's Setubandhana. This book is a 5th century Prakrit which Handique translated into English. He worked so hard on this book that it told upon his health.K.K. Handique, like an Indian sage or rishi in his single-minded devotion to the search for knowledge.He accepted many public offices, set standards in performing duties but his profound study and research continued unabated. While attending to daily duties he also devoted himself wholeheartedly to an undying ideal.Handique presided over the 1937 Guwahati Session of the Assam Sahitya Sabha and in the course of the presidential speech; Handique successfully made the Sabha a meeting ground of all religious, linguistic and ethnic groups of the region.A man cannot give better than his best and the best of Handique is obviously meant for Indologists and Sanskrit scholars. The few articles he wrote in Assamese are quite illuminating. Just one example is the article published in the journal Cetana on translation. Handique was unhappy with the comment made by a writer who trivialized translation. So he wrote spiritedly in its defense. As he knew languages like Spanish, Greek, French, Italian and German besides English and several Indian languages, he could see the problems of translation with far wider perspective than an average man. A few other articles in Assamese acquaint the readers with some interesting aspects of Japanese, Spanish, Greek, Russian and German literature.In Assamese, Handique wrote a few prefaces to books written by others, some reminiscences and a few articles for children. He translated some prose pieces into Assamese from the Russian language. His critical insight in Assamese is best illustrated in the preface he wrote to Atul Chandra Hazarika's Assamese translation of Sakuntala. The few English articles he wrote were all published in research journals like The Modern Review, Calcutta, The Indian Antiquary, Bombay, Indian Historical Quarterly. He also wrote a few poems and songs in Assamese.Handique breathed his last on June 7, 1982. He won many laurels in his life. He was awarded the Padmashree in 1955 and Padmabhusan in 1967. He was made an honorary fellow of Deccan College in 1968. Gauhati University awarded him an honorary D. Lit. Asam Sahitya Sabha elected him Sadasya Mahiyan. In 1985 he was posthumously awarded by the Sahitya Akademi for Racana Sambhar, edited by Jatindranath Goswami. In 1983 the government of India honoured him by issuing a commemoration stamp. Many books have been written on him. Dibrugarh University also published a bibliography on Handique.Handique bequeathed his personal library containing 7,489 great books in different languages to Gauhati University. Handique's love for knowledge, complete devotion to profound study, values and standards he set in the field of education and his simple living will for ever remain a source of inspiration to the people of our country.
Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwalla