Hema Prabha Goswami
 
     
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Hemaprabha Goswami

The Ghumoti village of Kopahera area of Nagaon district:

The winds of Phugun (the second last month in Assamese calendar) locally known as ‘Posua’ fanned into the village lanes and alleys, plants and creepers, rivers and streams and covered it with a colorful curtain to indicate the forthcoming changes in the nature.

In a day like this during the dusk, a confused, adolescent, newly- wed lady of the Goswami clan of ‘Itakali Satra’ (place of cultural and religious congregation) was inspecting the transformation of the season, all the way gazing to the fluttering leaves of the Bogori tree, which were triggered by the blowing of winds. Picking up few of the detached and dead leaves of the Bogori tree and rubbing them with both her palms, few poetic lines came out through her indistinct voice-

‘Friends, through the winds of ‘Phagun’, I got news of

The re-arrival of ‘Bohagi’ (the first month in Assamese calendar).

The hearts of all the young and elderly get excited from the beginning of the month of chat (the last month in Assamese calendar).

She noted down and hid these poetic lines out of shyness. This was the promising beginning. The time was during the later part of the third dedicate of the twentieth century. Can anybody’s talent be hidden? During that time Asom Kesari Ambikagiri Rai Choudhury visited the Goswami clan of village as a guest. After reading the poetic lines of the young lady and recognizing her potential, he encouraged her to take on writing. Late Mahesh Chandra Dev Goswami, who was the founder and principal of Nagaon Girls College (he was studying in Kolkata during those days), took the short poem to Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) for publishing it in the Assamese magazine, ‘Awahon’. The poem ‘Phagunor Posuat Palu Sakhi Botorati’ was published in ‘Awahon’- Poetess Shrimati Hemaprabha Goswami. Due to the encouragement of such an expert and honorable personality, Shrimati Hemaprabha Goswami took the pen in her hand and continued writing throughout her life.

Shrimati Hemaprabha Goswami was born in the year 1926 at the Kandhulimari village in Dhing of Nagaon. Her father Anandiram Dev Mahanta moved to Dhing area from Barpeta’s Patbashi Than. Her mother Premeshwari Devi belonged to the Narua Satra. Before stepping into the age of 12 she was married to Pranballav Goswami family from the married to Pranballav Goswami of the Goswami family from the Itakali Satra of Ghumoti village in Nogaon’s Kapahera area. From her childhood, she was keen on her studies. After her marriage and before stepping into her in-laws’s house (before attaining puberty), she cleared her MV examination by studying covertly without anyone’s knowledge. She also learned a little bit of Sanskrit at home. The direct influence of ‘Sahitya culture’ (the culture propagated by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev, who is referred to as ‘Guru here later in the text) of both the families led to Hemaprabha’s growing interest towards education, even when she had to wind up her school education because of the vicious circle created by the then orthodox society that combined societal customs and obstacles, and domestic responsibility.

During the mass movement in the year 1942 her husband Pranballav Goswami resigned from the police department and started working as an advocate in the Nogaon District Court. After settling in Nagaon, through the support and cooperation of her husband, Hemaprabha got admission into a Hindi school and in the year 1963 she successfully achieved ‘Bisharod’.At that time she the mother of 11 children and was a homemaker of joint family with numerous responsibilities. She couldn’t enjoy any leisure time. The imaginary thoughts came to her mind amidst her household chores, which she penned down hastily wherever she could. She usually sat down to write late at around 11 pm, after completing all the household chores.

Mrs. Goswami’s literary talent got reflected through her usage of simple and precise language in her poems, travelogues social dramas, religious and spiritual songs (Dihanaam), marriage songs (Biyanaam),and so on .Her poems and write-ups were published in ‘Notun Axomiya’,’Ganatantra’, and ‘Axom Bani’ a number of times. ‘Khelimeli’, and the first and second volumes of ‘Dihanaam’, were also published.

From around 1938 to 1940 Hemaprabha’s literacy talent evolved to a new level. The romantic mild breeze of the month of phagun month made the poet fall in love with nature through some dried leaves lying below the Bagari tree. The poem ‘Phagunor posuat palu sakhi Botorati’ was the first gift of honor to her mother tongue and to the world literature. The poem was indeed romantic. After this, the poems that poems that she wrote beautifully reflected her minute, precise and detailed observation of nature.

The poet’s deep love for nature and living beings, such as tiny creepers, birds, insects, and the innocent and speechless creatures, is revealed through her poems. The self-less help and support to human beings by the different creations of nature, and in sharp contrast, the selfish, indifferent, and cruel approach of human beings towards nature were the themes of her various poems, such as ‘Porua’, ‘Masua’, ‘Mukhura’, ‘Borgoss’, ‘Modhu’, ‘Ow’, ‘Serelilaah’, ‘Tula’, ‘Bosumoti’ and so on. Her publication Khelimeli is a collection of 30 such wonderful poems. This collection of poems was published in the year 1977 by ‘Dutta Baruah and Company’ of Nalbari. In the dedication section, though the poet mentions that the poems were penned down just to stay abreast with the present trend, but each of her poems evidently expressed the poet’s concern for humanity and immense love for nature.

Through the poem ‘Dubori’ it is evident that the poet is a keen observer of nature-

The morning sun rays says to the Dubori grass,

Leave your youth.

Footsteps of the whole day,

Would shatter your soul

The pearl droplets,

Illuminates you momentarily

For just one night’s youthfulness,

Need you say it as yours!

The grass gets up in rage,

Burning like a fireball.

You know nothing at all,

I am fulfilling my duty with honor.

Innumerable dust of footsteps,

Though I receive daily

Yet, they pluck and invite me,

To the sacred place of worship

(Dubori)

Despite the morning sunlight’s ridicule over one night’s short- lived youthfulness of the tiny grass, the poet showed respect to the grass’s momentary beauty and dedication towards its duty, mentioning its paramount importance in the holy places forever. Indeed, the poem is as soft and evergreen as the grass. The poet also portrays a similar picture of nature in her another poem named ‘Gonga- Siloni’-

Among the sand dunes the Gonga- Siloni (name of a bird)

Tried to fly in a typical dancing posture

Waves jump out of the filled river,

And embraces it again and again

The ‘Phutuki’ grass on the river banks,

Gazes the scene constantly

Gonga-Siloni soars high,

For the helpless situation

(Ganga Siloni)

Human’s cruelty towards innocent and helpless animals and the poet’s humanitarian cause are voiced in the poems ‘Mukhura’,

‘Porua’, and so on -

Carrying plough tools on the shoulder

They walk up ahead.

Though speechless animals,

Various feelings emerge.

However long the path is,

They are compelled to walk.

In the rough and coarse field

They are made to work.

Raising the hands the farmer

Lashes them on the back

With tears on both eyes,

To whom will they look for.

They eat grass, but gives wealth.

Still so tragic

Mask designed of bamboo sticks

Their mouths are tied with the Mukhura (Bamboo mask).

(Mukhura)

‘Kosupator Pani’, ‘Kanti’, ‘Kau Kau’, ‘Letera’, and so on, was poems with diverse themes. The unending desire and greed of human beings towards money and wealth, clothes and dresses, cosmetics and jewellery; but negligence towards self- development and spirituality, and oblivion of unpredictability of one’s life are portrayed in her poems.

The surroundings around the four sides of her home, and free and open nature were the base of most of her poems. There is no complication in her expressions. Simple

And easy words and usage of original folk language were the attribute of her poems.

The second testimony of the poet’s talent was the ‘Kirtanar Dihanaam’, which was published in two volumes. Life of the poet was enormously influenced by ‘Satriya culture’ and ‘Eksaraniya Bhagawati Naam Dharma’ (the culture and the religion propagated by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva). Along the four directions, her life was inspired by the pure sounds of ‘Kirtan- Dasham’, vibrations from the lines of the ‘Bhagawat’, the research studies, and the discussions carried out by the particular section of that time. She sincerely studied ‘Kirtan- Dasham’, ‘Ghosa’ (‘Ghokha’) ‘Bhakti- Pradeep’ and also ‘Guru Charit’, ‘Bakyamrit’, and others. Her ability to indoctrinate the ‘Kirtan- Dashan’and others’ helped her compose the first volume of ‘Kirtanar Dihanam’. The second volume of ‘Dihanaam’ comprises the Guru’s ‘Jibon- Charit Kirtan’ (hymns depicting the life of Guru).

The main objective of ‘Vaishnava’ religion is- one universal religion and complete devotion to the Almighty as a true follower. Devoting to the Almighty and considering herself as the most unwise, the poet stated the following in the preface of the ‘Dihanaam’ (second volume)- ‘Writing about the different "avatars" (forms) and covering the wide- ranging aspects of the "Supreme Guru of the world", by minuscule creatures like us is totally unworthy. However, by the blessings of the Supreme Guru, whatever little amount of wisdom is bestowed on us, only a minor part of it is written from the "Guru Charit".

The poet was successful in composing the two volumes of the Kirtan’s Dihanaam in well- defined and accurate way. These two volumes were also published by Shri Bhabendra Narayan Dutta Baruah and Company of Nalbari. Apart from this, she has written several Dihanams that are currently unpublished and are in handwritten form. She has also written a book on ‘Biyanaam’ which is yet to be published.

Hemaprabha Goswami was a strong critic of child marriage. Based on a story, she has written a book named ‘BalyoBibhah’ (child marriage) in Hindi – which is yet to be submitted. This book has also been translated in Assamese. A story based on child marriage was also published in a newspaper.

‘Sintarjor’ and ‘Family Planning’ were two social dramas composed by her. Both the dramas were performed at the District Library by the members of Mahila Samiti (women’s organization) of Nagaon district.

‘Bonti Gosi Saugoi’s part on travelogue was one of the wonderful pieces of literary work by the writer. The essay was published in the weekly ‘Saaptahik Ganatantra’ published by Ganatantra Press of Nagaon. In the journey towards Dhekiakhuua Naamghar (Naamghar, is a religious institute, introduced by Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardeva, where people gather), the writer’s mind got fascinated by the nature again. While the co- passengers were engrossed among themselves, enjoying and having fun; the writer’s attention was towards the rice plants, in the field besides the narrow demarcated road, which were growing brightly and healthily, and were dancing tenderly. The scenic beauty of the trees, grass, creepers, flowers, and the variety of birds in the surrounding forest thrilled her heart with deep joy and passion. Engrossed in the free and open nature’s scenic beauty, the writer wrote- "The beauty of nature’s flower decoration on both sides of the road. Varieties of creepers, such as, Futukilotaa, Tubukilota, Aakashilota, and so on are twirling delicately and talking to each other. In the midst, birds such as Hetuluka, Bota, Khrungmoni, and so on are flying while preparing for the marriage of the creepers. In intervals the owls are also hooting.’

In the description, she also wrote, ‘The solid bunches of Kutuha and Katibah were bowing to the passersby and were blessed in return. Watching the vivid forms of nature we almost forgot about our destination’.

In the essay, details about the history and the establishment of Dhekiakhoa Naamghar were exquisitely described. ‘Bonti Gosi Saugoi’ is one of the noteworthy contributions of the writer to the genera off travel writing in Assamese literature.

Recently, the writer has found and preserved an ancient book of ‘Sasipat’ from a box that was buried long ago. The name of the book is ‘Bhakti-Pradeep’. The pages are half damaged by the termites. The religious texts were hard to decipher through naked eyes – the lines were deciphered with the help of a magnifying glass, although with great difficulty. The extracted religious texts are preserved and are being written in the form of a book.

The writer was also a skilled weaver (‘Shipini’ in local language).On the ‘Gamochas" (traditional white-coloured cotton towel with red flower designs) the writer weaved attractive flowers (‘Aasufool’), and also texts from self-composed Hindi poems, the national song of India, Bapuji’s (M.K. Gandhi) favorite ‘Bhajan’ (‘Raamdhun’) and religious lines from the holy book ‘Kirtan’. She gifted such unique and eye-catching Gamochas to the Late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Shri Lalita Shastri, Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Shri Mohendra Mohan Choudhury, the then governor of Punjab. She weaved various types of clothes and gifted them at various religious functions, and also for the ‘Monikoot’ in Naamghar (the place where Bhagawat is kept, and in front of which people worship in the Naamghar)

She is also popular in Nagaon as an active social worker, who is associated with different organizations. She is an active member of Axom Sahitya Sabha (Nagaon branch), Red Cross Society (Nogaon branch). She used to save every penny that remains after daily market expenses and also some rice every time she makes food. She used to buy thread from the money thus collected, to weave Gamochas and gift it to the soldiers who are safeguarding the country’s border line. The news about this great woman’s compassion for the country’s defenders was published in ‘Dainik Axom’.

Her talent as a writer and an artist is eternally beautiful. Throughout her life, this woman had earnestly prayed and worked hard to attain this eternal state of beauty and perfection both as a poet and an artist. May her writings and creations be more captivating and beautiful? May God bestow her good health and long-life- is the best wishes from the sincere literature lovers.

 

 
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