Heera Prabha Baruah
 
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Heera Prabha Baruah

Normally, in the identity, good-breeding of the children, is hidden the meritorious traits, the efforts and healthy mental makeup of the parents. To build a good family, the sincere efforts of the parents, a healthy family atmosphere and economic stability, is essentially required. The efficiency and good nature of the four sons of Shri Heera Prabha Baruah provides a glimpse of her own value-oriented life.

Shri Heera Prabha Baruah belongs to the Khamatai region of the district of Golaghat. She was born in 1828 in the month of January born to a respectable family, she inherited values and principles from the life of her brothers which later, passed to her children. Her father was the Tahildar late Dandadhar Baruah and mother Golapi Baruah. In those times, the members of the wealthy families of society were designated with the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’. As a Tashildar, Dandadhar Baruah was able to secure a high position in the society which got him the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’. The daughter of such a man, as a young girl, she imbibed the spirit of social service and patriotism from her brother, Rajendra Nath Baruah, the then congress leader of Golaghat. She was the youngest of the nine children of the family. One of her elder brother, Jogendra Nath Baruah, is a retired judge of the Guwahati High Court.

At the time, Shri Heera Prabha Baruah did not get the privilege to receive institutional education because the society, then did not give much emphasis on women’s education. She received bookish education at home from a private tutor. At the age of 17, she tied the knot with Chandrakanta Baruah, a resident of Titabor. Today, she has a flourishing family with eight sons and daughters, grandsons and grand daughters. The details of her family make it clear that she enjoyed a simple, healthy home atmosphere right from her birth. A girl’s school had been set up in Golaghat in the name of her father. Today the school stands at the centre of the president Golaghat town. As a sister of one of the prominent Congress leader of the times, Rajendra Nath Baruah, she had a close tie with her society. Although she didn’t get the facility to gain institutional education in order to procure a commanding position in the society, the education received at home helped in broadening and enlightening her mental outlook. As a result, she was able to reflect on her own on the Kirtans, stories of Ramayana,etc. What came fourth was a number of ‘Naam’ Kirtans on the devotional character of Prahlad, Bolisolon, Janmastami naam, Shankar- Madhav naam etc.

The contemporary society wanted the womenfolk to remain confined to religious works, domestic chores and live a constrained life with no relation to the outer world. The women were addressed as ‘ironed clothes’. If the press is broken, the clothes look faded and clumsy. Similarly, it was a notion that if a girl or women steps out of the confines of the house, the control of their heart will get lost. At such a state of affairs, Shri Heera through the medium of ‘Naam Mandakini’ produced creations like Naam Mahima, Narayan, Naam, Sadashiv Naam, DashaAbatara Naam, Naam recounting the curse given to Jaya and Vijaya, the naam relating Udhav’s journey to Gokul, Naam describing how Shree Krishna protected the Pandavas, etc. contributed a book to the society and made a remarkable achievement for the women in general. ‘Naan Mandakini’ was her first book. It was published by her eldest son Shri Lilakanta Baruah. The book came into appearance on 13th April, 1972. In a brief introduction to the book noted writer Shree Atul Chandra Hazarika has mentioned: "The composer Mrs Heera Prabha Baruah, (Titabor, Hamdoi), is herself a popular naam singer. She has performed in various naamghars of Guwahati, Golaghat and Shillong, to the satisfaction and solace of the devoted ‘Naamti’ women. ‘Naam Mandakini’ will prove her deep-founded devotion and dedication towards the cult of ‘naam’ prayers founded by reverend saint and teacher Shri Sankardeva." In order to make the devoted, pious women able to sing naam prayers, she writes apologies for any possible errors in her humble attempt:

Do not understand the meaning and substance of naam, beginning or end

Forgive this immature woman, soul of the world

Do not know how to worship, sing or offer prayers

I have only paid my humble devotion at your holy feet

Seek refuge at your fearless feet

Forgive my mistakes a composing naam, bless me with your affection.

At the end of the book she writes,

Few verses of mine are heard from people

Only that remains which Hari permits and inspires

That I have followed with faith and devotion.

How beautifully the morning of Draupadi is portrayed in the book can be gauged from the following two experts:

Context: Dauping crying remembering Krishna

O protector of devotees

A menstrual woman, the royal family

How will she walk in front of them?

Verses: Clutching hairs Dushasan, the tiger drags her

Pandavas stare with restless eyes

Duryodhan goes attempts’ to bear

The heart breaks down with pain

Unable to undress her, the Kauravas

Their heart was afflicted with astonishment

Bidur says son of the blind

Have you lost your eyes in wide daylight?

The daughter of Drupad wife of the Pandavas

Weeps and calls Krishna

Where so-called noble, decent people, sat with aching hearts

Looking at Draupadi's humiliation.

In the second section entitled Naam Sudha', the writer gives a heart touching account in the naam singing’ how drapadi’s modesty was protected’.

Context: O lord Hari Krishna

Worried Draupadi calls you, O Narayana

Lord Hari Krishna.

Verses:

Grabbed by hairs, Draupadi was taken forcefully dragged

Dushasan tears her clothes (shamelessly), Kauravas look on silently

Trapped in a difficult situation, the women not finding any solution

Remembered Krishna and devoted her body

Guardian of the orphans and helpless, Hari Namo Narayan

Please keep the honor of my modesty in front of this people

There is nobody here who can save me expert you

Extreme difficult situation, O lord please help me out of this

Wife of five husbands, Today I stand alone and helpless

Accept me as your slave, please help, o lord Chakrapaani

(one who holds the divine Sudarshan Chakra)

Friend of the difficult times, merciful Krishna

Appears to protect his devotee

The people assembled look on with amazed and transfixed eyes

Hails Draupadi for her greatness and praise her devotion

How fortune you are, daughter of drupad

With the power of your sheer devotion, captivated the lord himself

Lover and protector of his devotees, the merciful Hari is your friend

Called Krishna when your honor was put at stake

Heera Prabha says "Hail O lord of the distressed

Happy or sad, bless me that I remain immersed in your name

I devote myself at your courageous feet

Embrace me as your slave; never forsake me in life or death.

Along with this, in the verse of ‘Mourning of the soul’ naam, she mentions poetically what happens when the human soul distracted to worldly things like wealth, kindred, bodily pleasures, etc, gets trapped into it forgets to acknowledge the supreme and one father of the universe, the god.

Trapped in the knot of worldly relations went down in sensual pleasures

Money, relations and affection for the body

Did not listen to your speech Gave birth to sins

Did not recognize you as my father

The sins and guilt entrap me the sensual lust did not leave me

I did not pay my devotion to you

Did not take the company of sages did not pray in holy meetings

Plugged myself into deeper sins

In ‘Naam Mandakini’ the section on ‘Ram and Sita’, she enumerates how Kaikeyi knitted the net to exile Rama, and crown Bharata as the king, how Dashratha tries to convince her not to send the ‘light of his eyes’ Rama and be the reason of her husband’s death, and how eventually Dashratha disgusts Kaikeyi calling her a ‘sinner’-

The words of Kaikeyi like the hood of the venomous

Stung the king

The king Dashratha lies unconscious

No one there to left him up

Listen, O Kaikeyi I beg at your feet

Do not send Ram on exile

Without Ram there is darkness everywhere

He is the light of my eyes

If Ram goes I will die

You will be responsible for your husband’s death

The character of Ram pure and holy

What did you find wrong

My son Ram is also your son Ram

Leave this insecurity

Tomorrow is the full moon day the day when Ram

Will be crowned as the king

On a happy occasion created sadness

Your heart is merciless

Listen, O sinner do not create problem

As if you are an enemy

For the fulfillment of a happy occasion awaits the brahmanas

This holy time will pass away

Kaikeyi’s selfishness, stubbornness and her aunt’s psychology is adroitly summarized in the following lines:

"Listening Kaikeyi thundered like the doomsday

At the king

To fulfill your vow today you have became restless

Not scared of breaking your Dharma

Let Ram go to the forests let Bharat be the king

I do not want other thing

Let the Brahman say what he likes let the people laugh

I do not feel any shame or guilt".

To keep the honor of his father, the scene of Ram, Lakshmana and Sita going to the exile has also been highlighted by the writer-

‘Of the vow hearing Raghupati

That his father has been trapped into

Did not delay left the palace immediately

Accompanied by Lakshmana-Sita

Again, she sketches the figure of Shri Krishna in the form of’naam’

Among she Shastras, the Geeta, Among the Dharma, it is ‘naam’

Amidst the gods, it is Krishna, I offer myself at His feet.

From his holy mouth, happened the birth of Geeta

To pacify Arjuna, started speaking the almighty Chakrapaani

In the battlefield stood Arjuna, confused and agony-stricken

The knowledge of Geeta soothed and enlightened him.

In the song of Janmastomi, she writes-

The guards deliver the news of Kansa

Listen, O king, Devki has delivered a baby boy

Hearing the news, the king imagines his time of death

Moves ahead in grimness like the messengers of death,

Stood in front of the Devki

Seeing him, Devki lost her senses in fear

Devki weeps pleadingly with the little girl child in her arms

Do not kill my daughter, o brother, please leave her.

Come, friends, come, let us go to the house Nanda

Let us feed our eyes with the sight of Yashoda’s newly born son

The streets and roads are strewn with flowers

Every shouts and exclaims in joy and delight

What a destiny, what a destiny of the people of Braja

The lord himself appeared here as their friend

What penance must have Nanda and Yoshoda had performed

The lord of the world himself came as their son.

In the part, ‘Shri Krishna Theh’, she describes how lord

Krishna’s affectionate witty banters with his mother Yashoda:

Context: How many times, O mother, order me to wake up

I would not live in your house, I will leave right now.

Verses: Would not eat curd, milk or butter, would not milk the cows

I will wonder and roam about the streets playing my flute.

So many days have I tended the cows with half-fed stomach?

Still you wake me up with a stick

I cannot tolerate all these tortures anymore

Will go to Mathura, and settle down there.

The name of her second book is ‘Naam Sudha’. It was published by the writer herself. The first publication came out in 5th December, 1981. This book too comprises folk songs and devotional songs inspired old poem and songs. In the Preface to the book Dr. Hemanta Kumar Sharma writes: ‘Most of the naam songs in ‘Naam Sudha’ have been self authored by the writer. The writer has taken the subject-matter of these songs from Kirtanas, Naam Ghosa, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and rendered in simple, poetic language. Based on the subject-matter, the poems can be categorized into ‘Gosai naam’, ‘Diha naam’, etc. mainly 14-15 parts. In the name of the Gurus, ‘Gurujonor namot’, and ‘Shri Madhav Devar naanat’, have been dedicated which sings the values of the teachings of this great people. The reverend teachers never considered or made distinction in the form of caste, creed, religion, etc and tried to spread equality by transforming everyone into Vaishnavait cult. In line with this thought, the writer corresponding to the Bhagwata speaks:

"You did not discriminate between the religions, preached your devotions

Garo, Bhot,Jawan,Kachari,all followed your preaching’s

Hail the noble Shankar Madhava."

It is noticeable that in ‘Naam Mandakini’ six songs have been dedicated to Shankardeva and Madhavdeva. In ‘Naam sudha’ the number increases to almost ten.

In the second book Naam Sudha,she hails shree Sankardeva

In the house of Kusum takes birth Shri Shankara

Summed up the knowledge of Shastras in the form of ‘Naam’

Showed us the way of prayer, devotion and dharna opened the heart doors of the devotees

Remove the darkness of ignorance of the devotees.

Through the knowledge of Guru and Shastra, we realized God

Without the name of God, three cannot b e Dharma, says Shankar

O merciful teacher, you are like the immortal tree of knowledge

Friend of the devotees, Shankar, You are our divine teacher

One acquainted us with God and removed our evils

Madhav established Dharma, and reigned Baikuntha

Among the saints, Shankar is supreme

I seek blessings at your feet, the great and supreme Bhuyan.

In the form of naam songs, Mrs Heera Prabha Baruah expresses her personal wishes. Entangled in worldly ties, she expresses her love and devotion to Shree Hari in the form of these songs. Hailing Shree Sankardeva as the only enlightening teacher and guidance, she prays to him to guide her in times of distress:

O Guru, I seek shelter from you

No one can remove evil like you

No one is as you merciful as you

Friend of the devotees, you are the kalpataru

Caught in the web of false affections worldly ties

O Merciful Saint, show me the way

Enlighten my misled heart with your divine knowledge

Bless me with Haribhakti, unknown false ties

Mercifully grant me the source to sing naam

Instill in my heart the evergreen rhymes o naam

That I always desire the company of saints and sages

In my lotus heart, establish the wisdom of Harinaam

Help me in times of distress

Remembering Harinaam is like rebirth of our souls

Sinful and guilt-ridden we are

Forgive our sins, and always furnish us with your divine guidance.

From these the writer’s intense respect for the noble Gurus can be recognized. The songs glorify the life and personality of the saints. ‘Shree Krishna saving Pandavas’ in these naam she describes how Krishna saves Pandavas from the wrath and curse of the sage Durwasa. In the naam devoted to Shree Rama, she describes the death the mourning of the people of Ayodhya. In the songs ‘Satyabhama’s pride’, she briefly narrates the story of Shree Krishna’s abduction of Parijat. In the naam ‘Phaguwa’, she narrates Krishna’s holi with the gopis near the bank of the Jamuna River and his merry-making. ‘Thowa’ naam describes the sympathy and mild thoughts of the writer in this manner-

"We do not understand or know the beginning or end of naam

We are foolish and guilty

Wherever we commit mistakes in composing naam

Consider us as ignorant, and forgive our sins".

"Had there been a context given for the described naam songs, it would have been easier for the people unwire of this form to understand the songs better. It is believed that the creation ‘Naam Sudha’ made up of folk songs, inspired by old devotional prayer songs verse forms".

Two songs include in her book have been recorded (with minor changes) by Shri Khagen Mahanta. With the assistance of her fourth daughter Shree Dipanwita Bora, some of her songs have aired on Akashbani and Doordarshan. The Sadou Assam Lekhika Samaroh Samity felicitated her in 1980 in its meeting held at Golaghat.

Presently, the writer has turned ninety years old. At this age she prays and sings at her local naamghar and her home. She stays with her eldest son, Shree Lilakanta Baruah who is busy in expanding his business and trade, and starting a tea estate of his own. Tended by the care of elder son and daughter-in-law, the old Heera Prabha Baruah appears to be quite happy. Her second son Shree Nilimkanta Baruah achieved high qualification like M.Sc, PhD, qualified for IAS and is presently a high administrative official under Assam government. The third son Dr Asimkanta Baruah, settled in London, is a renowned physician. The forth son Shree Pratimkanta Baruah works as an official in the Technical Education Department.

The daughters have been married to eligible persons. The first daughter Shri Labanya Bora was married to the Sidananda Borah, retired teacher of the Golaghat Govt. High School. The second daughter, Shri Kiran Duwara expired few days after her marriage. The third daughter, Hemi Medhi is married to the ex-head of Guwahati Law College under Gauhati University. The fourth daughter, Shri Dipanwita Bora is married to the executive of economics and Statistical Department.

Shre Heera Prabha Brauah is a simple, good-natured housewife. She enjoys using idiomatic expressions in between the conversation. She is sympathetic towards the poor and distressed. Due to her sympathetic and remunerative nature, she is still famous and desire by the prestigious members of society. Her enthusiastic heart is not ready to take rest still.

Her married life is peaceful and full of harmony. Since her husband Chandrakanta Baruah remained occupied in his farming and agriculture works, as a housewife during the showing season, she took care of the entire family with utmost difficulty. Due to her affectionate and cordial nature, she never had problems related to sowing, reaping or harvesting. Treating everyone as her own son and daughter, she was able to garner respect and love from all. After this service of her elder son, her husband died in Guwahati afflicted with gall bladder. Tormented with the pain of widowhood, she did not let loose the strength of her heart. The domestic responsibilities, although she did not take leave from it, came to a stop. She devoted herself completely in nurturing the life of her children, and making it meaningful as a mother. In this manner, she lessened the grief of widowhood. She enriched the life of her four sons by providing them with the best education, and earned the pride of being an ideal mother seeing her sons shining in their life and career. It was revealed in one of her interviews that she always read Bhagwat Gita, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Naamghosa, during her pregnancy days. It was her innermost desire to give birth to truthful and religious child. To give birth and nurture an ideal child depends mainly on the mother. The atmosphere at home suited for the growth of the child is built up by the mother. The hereditary and individual behaviors are conditioned at home. Shri Heera Prabha Baruah, created that healthy atmosphere at home, and carved the way for the proper personal and intellectual growth of her children. She is an inspiring role- model for the present womenfolk.

In her heart, lies the great devotion for the lord Hri. ‘Naam Mandakini’ and ‘Naam Sudha’ are the result of that devotion. Every moment while sleeping, working, eating or sitting, her heart wrings with the rhythm of ‘naam’. Due to this deep, earnest devotion, the ‘naam’ songs poured out spontaneously from the mouth of the writer. In Shillong, Guwahati, and many other places of Assam, she was popular once as a prolific naam singer. Till today, she visits the naamghar of her locality religiously as a part of her daily routine.

Through the medium of her nephew Srimati Rupali, once this writer visited the residence of Srimati Baruah in order to know of her well-being, and collect some information of her life. On reaching the houses, we met her elder son and daughter-in-law. From them we came to know about Srimati Baruah. We were expecting to meet Srimati Baruah in her sickly bed or probably, that her daughter-in-law would soon take us to a room where she must be lying feebly in her bed. While we were thinking thus what we saw is that a rickshaw stops at the gate from which gets down an old, beautifully dressed and good looking woman with a little kid, her hands holding the plate full of ‘Prasad’. The lady comes down only when the vehicle was placed at the door. The daughter-in-law laughed and said, ’She is our grandmother, Shri Heera Prabha Baruah.’ She was pleased to know the purpose of our visit, and gave us blessings and offered us the Prasad. We continued our discussion for some time, and took leave.

After few days, we received a letter from her. She mentions her ill-health in a light manner in the letter. Her art of expressions makes her a simple, effortless poet.

‘Now, I will tell you about the physical infirmities, listen. It is these physical diseases which creates restlessness in the heart. I do not know whether you laugh or cry hearing the word ‘restless’. Listen-

Hands and feet

The sensations in my hands and legs- where do I die

Stomach, O my stomach

The unrest in my stomach makes me tremble

Gas, O Gas

If the gas is not relieved, the stomach becomes complex

The throat, neck and the soles of my feet

The dried soles are like rotten potatoes

The eyes, ears and nose

Where do I go, what do I do

My heart has became so weak

My head is not steady

My heart has became so weak

The cold, cough and body ache

With the effect of these four, my body- heart has lost control

O dear daughters, this is the condition of my body and heart.

This is the dialogue of her heart-body. At the 92, the heart of Heera Prabha Baruah is shining like a diamond. The fame and acclaim earned by ‘Naam Mandakini’ and ‘Naam Sudha’ will always keep her name alive and shining.

 

 
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