Hema Prabha Hazarika
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Hemaprabha Hazarika

Hemaprabha Hazarika was born in a period in which the number of Assamese women writers was very negligible. She was born in 1904 at Dhing which was eighteen miles away from Nowgong town and her father was late Ghanashyam Barkakaty and her mother was Labanyamoyee Barkakaty. She was a daughter of an affluent family with elephants and horses. But in course of time the family had to lose everything and it was her elder uncle who brought the three families under the same umbrella and rescued them from ultimate disaster. At that time Bhog Singh was very loyal to the family, helped her uncle to keep the family stable.

The mother of the poet late Ratnakanta Barkakaty was the daughter of Debnath Baruah who was a famous tea planter of Assam. She had a premature death leaving her five surviving children. So Barkakaty was borough up under the guardianship of his uncle. There was no high school at Dhing and so Barkakaty had to receive his high school education staying at the residence of late Chandrakumar Baruah of Faujdari Patti. At that time the poet was only nine years old. They did not have their own house in Nowgong town. Hemaprabha Hazarika had the opportunity of having an association with a sacred and honest family. Labanyamoyee, the mother of Hemaprabha was the sister of Chandrakumar.

The grandmother of Hemaprabha was a devoted and sincere woman. She could read and write well. Hemaprabha could chant the verses from the Holy Kirtana and Namghosa and she acquired this skill only listening them from the mouth of her grandmother. In the evening she used to chant those sacred books written on the pages of Sanchi in the light of earthen lamp lit with mustard oil. It is probably due to this sacred atmosphere, the mind of Hemaprabha was directed towards spiritualism.

Hemaprabha had the rare opportunity to listen to the stories from the will of Krishna Kanta and the novel of Bankim Chandra even in the age of seven/eight. She even became familiar with the story of Othello and La Miserable. At that time the Assamese aristocratic family used to study Bengali literature.

Hemaprabha had her primary education at Dhing and read in Mission school till VII. She was married to Phatik Chandra Hazarika from Kaliabar in 1928. In 1931 she had to suffer the pain of the death of her husband only after three years of her marriage. So she came back to her paternal home taking three children with her. She expressed her pain in the following words:

"Before the completion of three years of our married life I had to come back with broken heart to be the burden of my mother. My mother, whose heart is full of love and affection, welcomed me with warm heart." In this way she had to start a life of struggle. She observed the ‘vrata’ of the hard life of widowhood. She had to maintain a strict control not only in her food habit but also in her movement. She never came even to the courtyard of her house nearly for twelve years. Her mother allowed her to take non vegetarian food, but her brother forebodes her to do so. So she remained vegetarian throughout her life. She had her meal once in a day. She had also to suffer the pain of the loss of her children which afflicted her much. She concentrated her mind in the Shastras in pursuit of the solace of her mind. During this time she studied the bulk of Shatras written by the two great saints of Assam. She was also a sincere devotee to Ramkrishna Parahangsha. She read "Vivekananda’s Bani and four episodes of "Parampurush Ramkrishna" by Achintya Kumar Sengupta. She was invited to the various programmers held in Belur Math and through this she was able to establish a type of connection with the monastery. Apart from this, she studied the Veda, the Upanishad, the bible, the Gita and the Bhagawata Purana. The Sewali kabi Ratna Barkakaty was her brother. Both of them were afflicted seriously by worldly pain. She believed that it is poetry that relieves man from mental agony. She was able to bring the stability of her mind by reading Sanchayita and Gitanjali of Rabindra Nath Tagore. She could every pain when she was getting obsessed with poetry. She could forget her suffering if she talked of poetry. The discussion made on the poetry of Shelley, Keats, Milton, Byron and Najarul Islam with Deba Kanta Baruah and Ratna Kanta Barkakaty made her forget the suffering caused by malaria. These renowned persons used to discuss various subjects like ancient civilization, the fame of Rome, the rise and fall of the Buddhism, the influence of the Buddhism on the Vaishnavism, Durga puja etc. They referred in their discussion that Durga puja was first celebrated in Egypt and it was imported from Greece to India. Hemaprabha listened to all these attentively. Barkakaty supported the view made by Bezbaruah according to which the synthesis of the Purana and the Upanishad could be done by none except Sri Sri Sankardeva and Madhavdeva. They supported the Sakara (having a form) and ninrakara (formless) concept of God. Bezbariah also said that people of Assam should be proud of the to great saints i.e. Sankaradeva and Madhavdeva. Deba Kanta Baruah said that the Namghosha is a book of highly spiritual thought. He regarded the poet of Namghosha not as a lover but as a devotee of God.

Due to her association with an atmosphere of such spiritual thinking, Hemaprabha developed a kind of longing for study and acquisition of knowledge which ultimately was transformed into the love of God. Her only published work "Mahapurusha" was published by Asom Prakashan Parishad in 1982. At that time the secretary of Asom prakashan was Sri Chandra Prashad Saikia. During that time several articles on Sewali kabi were published in the magazine "Asomiya".

Hemaprabha Hazarika wrote an article on Barkakaty for the souvenir of fourth annual conference of Sadau Asom Lekhika Samaroh held in Nowgong. In that article to those people who looked down upon the poetry of Barkakaty due to Tagore’s influence on him. But Tagore’s poetry itself was influenced by the Upanishad. She further opined that there is close affinity between the "Gitanjali" and the Upanishad."

Hemaprabha had a great reverence for her mother tongue. According to her forgetting of the tongue means the forgetting of our mother who nurtures us by feeding milk from her breast. She believed that one who does not know one’s own mother tongue, will not be able to learn any other language. She emphasized the importance of mother tongue citing the reference of Barkakaty’s poem where he writes:

Mor Jivanar lags sadari matribhasa

Saponar tumi eketi mathun

Gabhir madhuri asha.

Tomar Karane ashim swartha

Tomar karane jagim moi.

Tomar pujat yadiba vyartha

Ee jiban mor byartha hai.

The writings of Sankardeva and Madhavdeva were favorites to her. She believes that the poet is not imprisoned in the temple of God. He is the worshipper of Truth and Beauty which is beyond the limit of space and religion, but in the love of man. This is the teaching of the Upanishad. God manifests himself through the religion, kindles, love, affection, suffering and mercy of human heart. She imagines God as the center of eternal world.

Hemaprabha studied Rabindra Nath Tagore too. She found a similarly between the Namghosa, the Bargeet and Gitanjalee. The impact of Rabindra Nath Tagore on Hemaprava Hazarika was immense. She is really creditable for accumulating so much knowledge in spite of not having any formal education. She was really a learned woman with extraordinary talent. Had she lived in a favorable condition, she could have remained a significant writer in the field of Assamese literature.

Hemaprabha wrote an article in memory of Sewali Kabi Ratnakanta Barkakaty highlighting the life of the poet. She wrote this article at the request of the reception committee of 37th conference of Asom Sahitya Sabha. From her conversation with Barkakaty, one can have an idea of Asom Sahitya Sabha held in Sibsagar. The fact that Sawali Kabi Barkakaty went to Sabha with M.Mushelh Uddin can be known from her article. President Gohain Boruah gave him warm welcome and said to him that in spite of his weak health Gohain Baruah came to the Sabha only because of his deep love for mother tongue.

In the same article, Hemaprabha wrote about India:

"Among all the countries of the world, India is one which is able to find out the mystery of life. The nations of the west engage themselves in the pursuit of knowledge which is helpful for the uplift meant of only wordily happiness. The region of Vedanta does not belong to only the Hindus, but it is the old religion of the whole universe. Because of this Vivekananda declared with strong words that the key to the emancipation of the world rests in the hands of India.

Our saint Sankaradeva also eulogizes Bharatavarsha in the following words:

"Dhanya dhanya Bharatavarisha"

Rabindra Nath also sings in praise of Bharatavarsha. Hemaprabha writes,
"The place of liberty in European minds of Indian people. The emancipation of the soul is real liberation and India does not consider any other type of liberation as salvation. The bondage of ripe or the foe is the real bondage. Breaking of the chain of karma can make man greater than the kings. The great man of India is able to liberate themselves by overcoming the shackles of karma.

Sewali kabi Ratna Kanta Barkakaty was made the president of Asom Sahitya Sabha held at Nazira in 1963. In this time she wrote addressing the poet:

Bhava Kadariye nou chapai parat lagalehi –

Baji uthil Deepak raginee.

"Mahapurush is the only published work of Hemaprabha. She deals with the life of the two saints in her own style. The book narrates the life of Sankaradeva from his birth to death. The pain he experienced in his journey to spread religion along with some of his supernatural feats were narrated by the poet. Her language was beautiful and the book gives evidence of her deep study. The devotional surrender of Madhavdeva to Sankardeva was described by her in these words:

"A complete submission of wisdom to sincere devotion, the union of these two saints is an excellent one."

A part from the two saints, she wrote about Badula Ata , Narayan Thakur, Mathura das Ata. Her unpublished works are Gharua Vedanta, Matri Swarga, Sewali kabi and Brahman, Himanta Raja etc. In the book "Matir Swarga" the writer gives reference of the Upanishad, Namghosha and Gitanjali.

"Arup tomar ruper seemai

Jage Hridoipur.

Amar madhye tomar sobha

Emon sumadhur"

Besides, the book contains the reference of Vivekananda. It would have been better if all her books had been published. I met her in the residence of her son Jatin Hazarika. She could recite some couplets of Namaghosa and the poetry of Rabindra Nath Tagore. Her memory is so sharp even at the age of eighty four. I asked her if she had any message for the new generation. She said, "Does anybody have earnest longing to study literature today. Now people are running after money only.

Hemaprabha passed her childhood near by the temple of Sri Sri Sankardeva. She conducted the ‘nama kirtana’ (chating) nearly for twenty years. Her blessings embraced not only the individuals, but the whole world. She used to help the poor from the fund of the temple if they are affected by natural disaster. Besides, many non Assamese women also received financial help from her.

Miss Kently, the professor of the department of oriental History, who did research on Srimanta Sankardeva as social reformer, was astonished to see the depth of her knowledge. She asked about her formal education and was astonished to see the depth of her knowledge. She asked about her formal education and was astonished to know that Hemaprabha completed only middle school. She said that how it becomes possible for her to take part in such serious discussion with a little formal education. Really her knowledge was deep and multifarious. Srijut lakheswar Hazarika mentioned this in the article ‘Hemaprabha Hazarika: a tribute.’ That Lokanayak Amiya Kumar Das was also impressed by reading her article ‘Rabindra Rashmi’, is mentioned in the same article. Sewali Kabi also praised her in the following words, ‘Hemaprabha’s judgment, interpretation, and mode of expression is praise worthy.’

This noble soul left this earthly abode in 15th April, 1991.


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