Bishnu Priya Devi
 
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BISHNUPRIYA DEVI

(1839/40-1892)

Behind every successful man, as the saying goes, there is a woman. Bishnupriya Devi was such a woman who co-operated, helped and inspired in every step of the life of Raibahadur Gunabhiram Baruah. Regarding the exact date of birth of Bishnupriya no correct data has been found till this date. But from the information found from the article ‘Morkatha’ written by her son Jnanadabhiram Baruah, she died in 1892 at the age of 52/53 years. Therefore it can roughly be calculated that her date of birth may fall between 1839 and 1840. The name of her father was Lambodar Kakoty.

Earlier Gunabhiram Baruah married Brajasundari, the sister-in-law of Anandaram Baruah the famous literary figure of Assam. Gunabhiram’s marriage with Brajasundari was solemnized on 2nd December 1857.But Brajasundarileft for heavenly abode on July 1867 living behind no offspring. Therefore, Gunabhiram settled his second marriage in 1870 with Bishnupriya. This marriage was a great shock to the people of Assam because Bishnupriya was the widow of Parashuram Baruah, a childhood friend of Anandaram Dhekial Phukan. It was Iswarchandra Vidyasagar who initiated for the first time a marriage with a widow. Gunabhiram contemplated the change that Vidyasagar was about to bring forth and in the January, 1857, issue of Arunodoi, Gunabhiram wrote ‘Oh! The God of the Universe! When shall we be happy by such blessed work? Oh God be pleased.’ Probably the God gave year to his prayer and in his own life he was able to accomplish this blessed work by marrying Bishnupriya. His marriage was the first registered marriage in Assam and through this Gunabhiram had declared his fight against the conservative society of the time. Gunabhiram and Bishnupriya had four children and they were Swarnalata, karunabhiram, Kamalabhiram and Jnanadabhiram. All of them were very brilliant and intelligent from their childhood. But unfortunately Karunabhiram and Kamalabhiram died young. The workplace of Gunabhiram was nagaon and at that time there was no educational institution there. So Bishnupriya had to toil hard for proper education of her children. Jnanadabhiram Baruah in one of his articles ‘Mor katha’ describes that due to the non-availability of schools at Nagaon Swarnalata had to receive her primary education in her home under a ‘Pandit’ and later on she was admitted in the Bethune School in the year 1800. It was not a trivial matter for a family to send a child of nine years to a distant place like Calcutta. In spite of the poor and troublesome journey from Assam to Calcutta, Bishnupriya used to visit her ward frequently to know about her education. In a period when woman education was yet to receive proper importance Bishnupriya earned education both in Assamese and Bengali language and was able to contribute much in the development of Assamese literature. She wrote a book on social morality. Accordingly to the records of Jnanadabhiram Baruah his mother knew a little English also.

After his retirement, Gunabhiram Baruah settled permanently at Calcutta with his family. The family had a very good relationship with Lakshminath Bezbaroa. Bezbaroa wrote in his autobiography that he met this family in a rented house in Maniktola Street. Lakshminath Bezbaroa in his autobiography remembers this educated lady with affection and honour. Bishnupriya left for her heavenly abode on Saturday, 26th March 1892. In spite of the efforts of the famous doctors of Calcutta she breathed her last in her rented house. In that house of Bishnupriya, latter on the Bangavasi College was established.

Bishnupriya Devi was the source of inspiration for her son Jnanadabhiram. He, in his writing has categorically mentioned that his mother Bishnupriya Devi was very liberal and bright minded woman and possessed a amazingly loving personality. She never compromised with the conservative and rigid regulations of the society and protested strongly whenever necessity demands. She was very religious also. The building where ‘Padasila’ was kept was donated by her as informed by late Thuleswar Mahanta. Of course this has a reference in ‘Morkatha’ where Jnanadabhiram says that it was donated by him in the sacred memory of his deceased mother.

Bishnupriya could make a balance between her religious and family life. In fact the characteristics of an ideal mother, an ideal woman, and an ideal wife have been synthesized in a very balance manner within the personality of this lady. Her life and activities itself is a role model to remind every woman the duties to be performed towards the family, society and to the nation. Bishnupriya will remain alive as an exemplary legend in the mind of the Assamese people for ever.

 

 
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