Hemalata Dutta
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Hemalata Dutta

Hemalata Dutta was born on 18th of Phalguna, in 1318, Saka (1908) in the historic Golaghat town. She was the first daughter born to the linguist of Assam, late Debaanada Bharali and late Kanchanlata Bharali. Hemalata’s grandfather, Ishananda Bharali was the first B.A in Assam. He wrote an invaluable book named ‘Prakrit Bhugol’ about the planets and stars. Hemalata’s father was a learned scholar and a researcher in Assamese language. The fundamental search for Assamese language and ‘China Luiter Pare Pare’, a novel based on the theory of language were his worth mentioning contribution. Hemalata’s great grandfather, Paramananda Bharali not only passed the Entrance Exam from the first English School in Sibsagar but also became the Head Master of that school. He wrote many books useful for children. There was a library in Hemalata’s house stuffed with Begali and Assamese books. As she grew up in such an intellectual environment, so she developed literary feelings since childhood. It was natural for Hemalata to have interest in education as she was born and brought up in an educated environment in Bharali family, pioneer in the field of education in Assam. Though Hemalata started her primary education in Dibrugrah,she was admitted into Nagaon Mission school during tenure of her father in Nagaon as sub –Deputy Magistrate. The school was managed by three American teachers named Miss Chrishen Berry, Miss Florence and Miss Sweet. Hemalata was made to believe in God with firm faith and much devotion by the prayer sung in melodious voice in disciplined order in a beautiful order in a beautiful neat and clean environment. She heard ‘Lechari Ghosha’ ‘Kakuti Ghosha’ and stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata from her mother. The new environment in the Mission school and the stories of great men heard from her mother had influenced the tender mind of Hemalata. But the social barriers created hurdles for Hamalata’s `craving for knowledge. Hemalata was taken away from school at the age of 11 while she was studying in class VI in Nagaon Mission school on the pretext that she was grown up. Hemalata’s mother was not convinced though Miss Chrishen Berry tried to explain it to her. Being helpless Hemalata’s father though started teaching her English at home, yet Hemlata’s teenage mind was shattered. At last she had to confine herself to weaving, sewing knitting lace, spinning pat, Muga and Ariyarn, cooking delicacies and all according to her mother’s advice. She became skilled in all artistic work at an early age.

The wave of non-cooperation movement of Mahatma swept away entire Assam. People boycotting foreign clothes publicly burnt it all. Hemlata with the sentiment of nationalism also joined in this activity. About two years after this movement Hemlata was married to a famous lawyer. Girin Dutta from historical Sibsagar. Hemlata getting married to a huge family comprising of eight brother in laws, four sister-in-laws, mother-in-law and father-in-law, served them and she could win over their hearts. Hemalata brought up three daughters. Nirmali, Anjali, Sewali and two sons. Birin and Jiten very well in her married life.

Their home became the centre of congress workers as her brother-in-laws Sonaram Dutta was MLA from Congress and rest of the members of their home were associated with congress since the time of freedom movement. Coming into contact with Mrs. Pushpa Lata das, Ms Amal Prabha Das and many other women workers Hemlata also participated in the meetings or the development of women. Her hospitality fascinated Gopinath Bordoloi, Amiya Kumar Das, Sankare Barua, Fakaruddin Ali Ahmed, Debakanta Baruah and many such illustrious sons of Assam. When Jawaharlal Neheru came in Assam in the month of January in 1946, he even came to Sibsagar. Tasty food prepared by Hemlata pleased Jawaharlal Nehru and he also praised her for hand woven ‘Muga Chader’ and ‘Gamocha’. Though she always regretted by saying, ‘I could not do anything in social sector, ‘yet she pioneered ‘Jonali Chara’, a Woman’s organization in Sibsagar after shifting from their old home to new home in Phukan Nagar. Though Hemlata had started her literary venture towards the later part of her life amidst her busy family life and social schedules yet she acknowledged with respect in her ‘Atitak Suwaro’ that her husband was the inspiration for her literary venture. Hearing about the tragic death of Bapuji in 1948, came out a heart rendering poem of sorrow.

‘Oh the great man

You are the angle of sacrifice

A great hermit

For the welfare of all motherland

You sacrificed all happiness

You have undergone so much torture

O’ great man ‘heavenly death.’-

Her husband encouraged her to read out this poem in the condolence meeting. This was the first literary creation of Hemlata. When she broke down due to the death to her husband in 1963, her younger brother-in-law Radhacharan Dutta took her to visit the holy pilgrimages of South India. After that her eldest son-in-law Debakanta Kakoty took her to visit the pilgrimage in Himalaya. Her mind and soul was filled with the natural beauty of the pilgrimage and the architecture of the temples. So, immediately after coming back she wrote. ‘Alakananda para Sagartiraloi’ in simple language and expression about whatever she had seen with her own eyes. Of course prior to this she had written ‘Aryabarttar sati’ a book of stories of Shaibya, Damayanti, Sabatri and Chintamoni and this was published by Suresh Goswami.

Though ‘Alakanandar Para Sagartiroloiu is a travelogue, yet it is an excellent contribution to Assamese literature. She wrote in the eye catching lovely natural beauty of the holy places like Kedarnath and Badrikashram and thus arriving in a dreamland devoid of attachment. She had been carrying this wish since childhood. This travelogue is divided into four sections named as, a) ‘Alakanandar tirat’ (On the bank of Alakananda), b) ‘’Mandakinir tirat" (On the bank of Mandakini), c) ‘Bhagirathir tirat’ (On the bank of Bhagarathir), d) ‘Sagarar Trait’ (On the bank of Sea). Her excellent expression has attracted the readers.

In the author’s own language –"I saw on the road of Kedarnath as if the Goddess Nature had given the offerings of different colored flowers on the feet of 'Kedarnath’, Shiva. The rivers from the mountains came down to provide water to Shiva. Washing the feet of Kedarnath, Mandakini had come down with the pride of happiness of the self. There is no language to give expression to that exquisite beauty. There is no ritual to worship that holy beauty. So like an attempt of a lame person to climb the mountain, I offer the magnanimity of pilgrimage in a little way to the people’’.

One can identify the loveliness of Hemlata Dutta’s language from the narrative of the foreword. She has written in ‘Sagar Tirat Abhumuki’ "When I remember the great mighty hero Shivaji’s land, Tanjore city, I think in my mind, will there be sacrificing men like those heroes of the independent states of those days"? With the stories of Bhisma, Drona, Karna she wrote another book named, "Aryabarttar Bir" (Hero of Aryabartta). This was followed by ‘Pancha Pandavar Sadhu’ (The story of Pandavas), a book for children. ‘Bisdesar Bate-Pathe is her second travelogue. She has nicely narrated the experience that she gathered while staying with her youngest son Dr Jiten Dutta in abroad. She has given exact description starting from the proximity of various Assamese families staying in abroad, their behavior and manners of the people in abroad, their sense of duty, natural beauty and all. It is significant that this woman with nationalistic sentiment remembers her country in each moment. She remembered the Dikhou Bridge constructed during the time of British in Sibsagar seeing the ‘tower bridge’ which is lifted by a machine during the commuting of ships. She has beautifully compared the Negro Women’s tying of hair with lot of care with the daughters of snake God. The writer has taken the readers to a familiar world with the description of Bhim’s journey to the land below the earth bring life saving beads. She has compared the calm blue multitudes of ocean which seems to be merged with the big void to "Nabanil Jaladhar Shyam Sundar". She has given a realistic description of ‘Brindavan Dham’ with the herd of white, bluish-black, stout cows grazing in the field. Her heart was filled with pride seeing the most invaluable goods of India in the British museum. She said that the saying ‘kukur srigal gardharvar atmaram’ (animals are alike with human beings) by our great man is appreciate in abroad. She said that by seeing people’s love for animals in abroad. Sri Biren Barkakaty, the former president of ‘Assam Sahitya Sabha’ had written in the preface of her book ‘Bideshar Bate Pathe’, with mind excited by the beneficial form of Ganga sourced at Gangotri, by the beauty of the magnitude of ocean, respected Hemalata Dutta who had visited the main places of India has narrated her feelings through her writing in ‘Alakanandar Para Sagar Tiraloi’. The wish to go to the far-off land was an at least partially fulfilled in the later part of lie. Once Mrs. Dutta went to London to meet her son, daughter-in-law and grand children who were in Scotland. She wrote ‘Bideshar Bate Pathe’ out of the experience of her short stay in abroad and visit to a few places in abroad. This is her second book as a travelogue.

Hemlata Dutta’s sense of nationalism has appeared in each book. Seeing the laying of yarns length wise for the purpose of weaving ‘Cheleng" cloth by the wife of Bishnuram Medhi, then governor of Madras, she had written in ‘Sagar Tirat Abhumukhi’-‘wise for the purpose o weaving in the forecourt of the Governor House in Madras", She had written in another place- "remembering Mysore town, known as the Kingdom of Mahisashur, remembering Brindaban the place of sports for Radha-Krishna, I have filled my mind. In such land India, desired by god, the great men appearing in ages have been destroying the despicable and unholy ones and promoting the religion the truth "(Sagar Tirat Abhumuki )’Atitak Suwaro’ (Remembering the past) written in the later part of life is another milestone of Hemlata’s literary life. "I have been able to engage myself in writing books only after being free from domestic bindings. Now at this stage of crossing eighty years, I have taken out time to write remembering all those things in the past which are playing hide and seek in the mind", saying this Hemlata has talked about purpose of writing this memoir,"Let the up coming boys and girls understand how was the society of our time, the attitude of people towards woman’s education, the difference between the social rules and tradition".

It is indeed beyond comparison how beautifully she portrayed the state of the society and culture of Assam of that period in such a simple and easy language. At the end she wrote, "Those days and these days! That age and this age, How it differs! I keep on thinking how much learning and education has widened the minds of people? How much kindness and affection has increased? How much peace is there in people’s living? It is true that we have not got the light of education well. The society was merged with superstition and evil practices. But the periphery of the mind was not narrow. People knew how to sacrifice. There was love and affection among people and there was peace and harmony". This is very significant saying in Hemlata’s memoir.

In 1979 a hand written magazines named ‘Puberun’ was published on the occasion of children year by ‘Joonali Chara’, a Woman’s organization in Sibsagar, which was edited by Mrs. Phuleswari Dutta Mrs. Mandira Baruah. Hemlata had written an article named ‘Bapujir Kalpnar Bharat’ (India of Bapuji’s Dream) and a poem titled ‘Lakhmi Asomi Asomi Ali’ (Prosperous Mother Assam) in ‘Puberun’

"We are Indian we are Assamese

The country is our home

Of our country all are dear

No discrimination as such

Dear of all is motherland

Forever loving mother

The land where I am born

That’s my mother Assam"

The last stanza was written like this

Not forgetting the self not forgetting the state

Don’t abandon national costume

Own language must keep clean

Don’t act as foreigner

Being respectful to Assamese folk culture and rituals Hemlata Dutta wrote an article in 'Dainik Asom’ on ‘Raslilar Tatparya’ (significance of Raslila), and she also wrote a series of article about Assamese art form, Brass metal Sarai (a beautiful tray with a foot), Safura( a tray with a lid for serving betel nut) Dunari (a kind of fine basket with a rim like stand) and such other art form. She wrote a few articles even in ‘Asom Bani’ about the ‘Hand-loom art and craft’. She wrote ’Apurba Ashirbad Biyanam’(songs of wedding) apprehending that such songs sung in the Assamese wedding and the rituals performed on the occasion would be otherwise lost in due course of time.

Hemlata was large heart-ed despite being respectful to own customs and rituals and own language and culture. According to her ‘Only worshiping God is not religion, service to mankind is religion’. Hemlata dutta who selflessly served the Assamese literature and culture left foe for heavenly abode on 19th February, 1991 in Guwahati.


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