Dharmalata Baruah
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(1895 - 1981)

In every nook and corner of Assam, we find some unfortunate persons, who faced many hindrances in course of developing their merit and still they remained unsung. Such a person was Dharmalata Baruah (of late nineteenth century). She has little educational qualification but on her own merit she went on writing on different topics till her last days. Only a few of her writings were published.

Most of her unpublished works were not even duly preserved. Due to lack of proper assessment and patronizations all her toil of life went into dust. Her works did not get proper focus, not because that she was unknown rather she was a renowned social worker and literary person of "Nakari" area in North Lakhimpur district. Her works did not get focus only because of the prevailing thoughts in the society, because it was such a time when women were not given proper status. She was acclaimed as a writer by a section of society, but none gave importance in preserving her writings.

Dharmalata Baruah was born to Manik Chandra Dutta and Tilottama Dutta in 1895 at Amolapatty area of Dibrugarh town. She started her primary education at the "Ouguri girls’ School". She passed the primary merit scholarship exam with flying colors. On those days, primary level education was considered to be enough for girl students. Hence Dharmalata too had to end her institutional education at that stage.

She was married off to Ramrup Baruah, then a teacher of "Alimur lower primary school" of Kamalabari, Majuli. She joined the "Jogi gaon lower primary school" just after 3 years of her marriage and carried off the responsibility of Head Mistress of the same school for long 18 years.

The flood menace of Majuli and various other family problems compelled her to leave Kamalabari forever. She moved to ‘Naoibaicha’ of North Lakhimpur district.

As a true social worker, she bore the responsibility as a social reformer in ‘Nawoibaicha’, then a very remote area. She carefully nurtured the "Mahila Samiti" (Women’s Association) of ‘Nawoibaicha’ as president for several years. Her leadership quality not only remained confined to women’s association, but she bloomed as a path finder for both man and woman of that social group and she was accepted as leader of the society.

Dharmalata Baruah left ‘Nawoibaicha’ after the sad demise of her husband. She finally settled down in ‘Nakari’ village, adjacent to North Lakhimpur town. There also she emerged successfully as social worker. Her organizing capacity was revealed while she worked as a ‘welfare organizer’ in Paralital area of North Lakhimpur for one and half year with Late Lilawati Bordoloi, a noted lady of North Lakhimpur. Social development and expatriation in own field of work went hand in hand in her case.

Her creative talent came to the notice of others while she was in Kamalabari. She was a silent writer as did not intend to publicize her writings. Her merit as a writer suddenly came to light in a meeting held in Kamalabari for which she won an award a bell metal ‘bota’ for her literary talent. Since then, she went on writing many poems, articles etc. that were acclaimed by dignitaries in many meetings, gatherings etc.

Since her childhood, Dharmalata had a zeal for writing. Her paternal uncle Ganesh Chandra Dutta, a noted advocate of Dibrugarh and his wife, Manorama Dutta always encouraged her. She was also much inspired by noted Literary figure like ‘Bagmibar’ Nilmoni Phukon. Doctor Late Binoy Bhushan Chakraborty, Doctor Late Girija Kumar Mazumdar, of Jogigaon, Majuli hospital also gave her mental support and inspiration.

Dharmalata wrote several comic verses during her service as teacher at Kamalabari. The school inspector Durgadhar Borkotoky appreciated her and awarded a prize

"Bonraja habit thake iman dangor mur

Houn houn koi khedi ahe ki je bhikhon sur.

Erabarir poka kothal tolot sori pore

Take amar bonrajai selek mari sale.

Gale mukhe atha lagil, unthat lagil bor

Aruwaonte sati dhoril gutai kolewar."

(Tiger, the aggressive roaring king of forest,

With its large head, tested a fallen ripe jackfruit

The sticky juice of the jackfruit

Covered the whole body of the tiger)

Another one –

"Borkonai kan pari hui ase phosti mari

Uthilei tarjolpan khaboloi narmanish ata hobo dorkar."

(The large- eared demon in sleeping.

He will need a human being

As food when he will wake.)

She not only wrote such comic verses, but also inspired her students to recite these verses in public meetings for the enjoyment of others.

Dharmalata also focused on social evils like taking opium through her such comic verses. One of such verse is –

"Hakolue bule dukhia mook, kihor dukhia hera?

Anedore khai asu choidhya purushor pora.

Bopai moor bhede kania hokoluejane

He kaniar pu moi mook kunenu nisine?

Berot paba poitachura, baghmokora, jethi

Ari ase moor agal bholukabanhar lathi.

Jetia moi roja bohadi kani khaboloi bohu

Moi aru lorahantar make dhek dhek koi hanhu."

(Everyone says that I am a poor man, Am I really poor?

Everyone knows my father Bhede, the opium eater.

I am the son of that famous addict,

Who does not know me?)

(I have a strong bamboo rod and cockroaches,

Spiders, wall lizards are on my walls. So what?

When I sit like a king and smoke opium

I and my wife are on cloud nine.)

Dharmalata was a true social reformer. In her poems she asked the people to be guided by conscience and to work for the reformation of the society. In one of her poems she said –

"Desh tololoi gol raij hokol

Asom tololoi gol,

Surat, kosu, biholongoni homajat babyahar hol.

Homajor majot makhon nai

Keol karhala bon,

Bibekak loi sikunai pelwok

Puhor hwok homajkhon."

(My country in falling,

Oh, my fellow countryman

Assam is heading directly towards hell,

The society is strewn with useless weeds.

The best of the society is lost

Among these weeds

Let us root out the weeds with

Our conscience

The whole society will be enlightened)

Most of her poems are symbolic. She wrote many poems addressing the young girls, preaching practical lessons and moral to them through those poems. She wrote the moral lessons of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Purana etc in sort form. She also wrote an interesting note on genesis of Ravana, the demon king of the Ramayana the epic.

DharmaIata’s merit was not confined to writing. She was also a good orator. In a meeting organized by "Sahitya Sabha’, North Lakhimpur branch, her speech impressed the dignitaries present. She was much acclaimed as a singer of various folk tunes like songs of marriage (Biya Naam) and devotional songs (Naam) etc.

Dharmalata was also expert in weaving. She wove the lines of highest devotional literature of Assam, ‘Ghosha’ in ‘Gamocha’, the traditional pieces of cloth marked for honor. Not only this, she even wove the symbols of ‘Motsya’, ‘Kurma’ etc in the gamocha. She donated twenty seven nos. of such ‘Gosai Gamocha’ to ‘Namghar’s of different areas. At the age of 76, she was quite able to weave such ‘Gosai gamocha’, which brought to her the 15' prize of Rs. 100.00 with merit certificate in the 18"‘All India Weaving work week held in North Lakhimpur. Such ‘Gosai Gamocha’ woven by her was exhibited in an exhibition in Guwahati on the occasion of international Women’s year.

As a multi faceted person, she was an expert home maker and cook who could prepare many delicious dishes out of usually discarded material. She was an encyclopedia of home remedies for common ailments particularly in case of children.

One notable feature of her personality was that she never hesitated to share her practical knowledge with others, especially with the women folk.

Dharmalata was a freedom fighter too. She took active part in the mass movement of 1942. Her residence was a safe place for food and shelter for many noted freedom fighters like Bijoy Chandra Bhagawati, Hemchandra Hazarika etc. For such activities, she had to face house arrest by the British Govt. Her indomitable spirit was reflected again during ‘Assam Movement’, a movement to restore the threatened identity of Assamese people.

Dharmalata Baruah and her sister represented North Lakhimpur branch in the annual convention of "Sadou Asom Lekhika Samaroh Samiti" (All Assam Women Writer’s Association) held in Mangoldoi. lt is quite interesting to note that three of their five sisters had made good contributions to Assamese literature.

A die- hard social worker to her core, the life sketch of Dharmalata Baruah is a good example of progress amongst Assamese Women. She was a kind hearted, benevolent, straight forward woman with a farsightedness and practical minds who was busy with her pen till to the age of 85 years. The active life of this poignant lady finally came to an end in 1981 at her own residence in Nawoibaicha.

This tireless literary and artistic soul, who never succumbed to any hindrances coming from the society, who never lost her patience even in extreme point of difficulties, is an idol of inspiration.


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