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.
"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
"Arup tomar ruper seemai
Amar madhye tomar sobha
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
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