Hirawati Gohain Barua
 
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HIRAWATI GOHAINBARUA

(1890-1967)

The very name Hirawati reminds us of a white complexioned woman of five feet high. Her nose was sharp and she possessed a soft voice. She was born at Kalibari of Tezpur district. Her father’s name was Laksmikanta Das and her mother was Keshawati Das. She was the worthy wife of Padmanath Gohainbarua.

Hirawati’s father Laksmikanta Das was a reputed man of Tezpur. In 1856 he met Maniram Dewan when he was brought to Jorhat by ship as a convict under Government custody. Laksmikanta made his daughters to learn letters at home by appointing private tutor. He gave them education through the classics like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, Ratnamala etc. Apart from these they were taught weaving, hospitality and things of religious importance. Due to her father’s sincere effort she could have her education till primary level. But her thirst for education had not been quenched. So she expressed sorrow for her inability to make herself properly educated. This feeling finds full expression in her poem Anutap. Here are few lines from the poem.

Uccha sikshat sikshita nahalo

Dekha nai skul mai |

Ajali hiyat sata bhav uthi

Hiyat pariche jai ||

Pitadeu mor sikshar birodi

Nidile skulat mok |

Anutape mor dahe man pran

Uthali uthise sok ||

(I was not highly educated and I never saw a school. Hundreds of emotional outpour faded away within my heart as I was unable to receive education due to my father’s reluctance.)

Gohainboruani compossed several poems in 1937. She collected all of them together in an anthology entitled Phulmoni. The cited poem Anutap is taken from his anthology and this given us a picture of the condition of women education hundred years ago. In another poem Bihur Ulah she narrates the importance of loom in the life of Assamese women. She could weave very nicely and could design riha (a kind of sheet worn by woman in the upper part of the body) with golden thread. Kamaladevi Chottapadhya and P.C Joshi were enchanted by the pair of dress woven by Boruani. When Gohain Borua was busy in official work at night, she was busy in weaving flower in cloth in light of lamp. In fact she could materialize truly the comment of Mahatma Gandhi on that ‘Assamese women create dream in weaving’.

Behind every successful man there was a woman. A nice example of this was Gohainbaruani. Padmanath Gohainbarua tried his best to re-establish Assamese language in schools of Assam as at that time Bengali was the official language. Gohainbarua prepared the text of Assamese language, geography and history for Assamese for vernacular schools which would have been impossible without the inspiration of his wife. He usually worked at night for the composition of the text book. Gohainborua used to give her husband bread lest he felt drowsiness at the time of writing.

The duty of an Assamese woman was mainly restricted to the kitchen and the loom. In spite of this Boruani’s creative mind reacted to the voice of cuckoo and other spring birds. Welcoming the spring she wrote-

Kenino lukali kalia kulity

Katno thakibi rai

Kahani ahibi likhiba lagiso

Anguli murate lai.

(From the poem Kuli)

(O my dear cuckoo! Where are you hiding? Where will you stay? When will you come? I am just counting the days for your arrival)

This poem was published in souvenir of Sadau Asom lekhika Samaroh Samity, 1976 after nine years of her death.

Hirawati was not only enchanted by the beauty of the spring but also by the landscape of the autumn. The sweet scent of jasmine smeared by new drops of winter fills her mind and soul with a sense of fulfillment. She expressed her feeling in the poem Sewali

Sewali phulile sandhiya parat

Malaya parash pai

Kalia bhomora rabake noare

Ulati ubhti chai

Niyar upachi pare jari jari

Shuale dubari ban

Hepah nuguche chao ghane ghane

Ulati nahe mor man.

(The jasmine blossoms at the touch of the breeze. The black bees are humming around again and again. Due drops are embellishing the grasses seeing which my mind is not fulfilled and do not wish to return.)

From her childhood she had the opportunity to enjoy the worship of Devi Durga celebrated with pomp and ceremony at her home. So with deep devotional ardour she composed a devotional poem Devi Agaman

Ahe narayani Jagata Janani

Trishul dambaru lai

Dukhani charan pujibaloi buli

Ahe bhakta sabe ai. Etc

(Goddess Narayani, the mother of the world, is coming with ‘trishula’ and ‘dambaru’. The debotees are coming to worship her.)

From her childhood Gohainbaruani liked to chant devotional song. So probably this song was written in a rhyme suitable for prayer song of Bhagawati the Goddess Durga. We listens many prayer songs to pray Durga Devi by this poetess.

We were charmed by the various prayer songs sung by this poetess. Sometimes, without seeing her we can feel her presence through the notes of her deep devotional songs and sometimes we saw her plucking flowers in the garden for holy offering to her personal deity and being overwhelmed in deep sense devotion she used to hum some musical notes. As she was advancing in age she became more and more religious and had composed a good number of religious songs extolling Deities like Lord Krishna, Siva, Godess Durga, Laksmi or Saraswati. Frequently we had the rare opportunity to hear those holy songs in the evening when she was in deep meditation before her God. Recapitulating those enchanting notes even today we feel bewildered. After many years of her passing away to her heavenly abode, we regret that we did not venture to keep her songs safely. In this way a great treasure was lost. She wrote in poem titled Agnipariksh:

Tumiene Ram dayar sagar

Janaki Sitar pati?

Micha apabade banat erila

Nechai Satir gati?

Tomar charan chintile satiye

Banar majat gai,

Lakhimi sitak chinile muniye

Gal ashramalai lai. (etc)

(Are you Rama; are you the sea of kindness? Are you the husband of Sita? You have left Sita alone in the forest lodging false charges.)

Her poem Soaran written in 1937 gives a picture of her marriage

Biyar dinalai pariche manat

Bajiche pran rai |

Hiyar majat uthali uthiche

Jen barisher nai ||

Koneno mok noale dhuale

Malile bandhile chuli|

Ayatisakale ashirbad karile

Beir upare tuli ||

(Remembrance of the day of wedding brings joy to the heart like over flooded river of rainy season. Someone applied paste of pulses and turmeric to my body, while others bathe me. The singers blessed me with marriage song by placing me in a carpet made of the bark of banana tree.)

Apart from these, she wrote poems like Madar, Phulani, Lakhimi, Matrihin, Harini, Jamuna tirat, Sakhiyati, Bidai, Na nair parat, Bishad, Chilong, Basanta, Santan, Atit etc in spite of her taking responsibility of a large family consisting of one son, Seven daughters and her husband. She used to study various religious books till her death.

When the Rangali Bihu was staged for the first time she joined in pitha (cake) competition and Hirawati Gohain Borua was put in first position. She also served as inspector of the woman branch of jail. She was also founder president of Nari Silpa Samity for two years. (1956-58)

This learned woman breathed her last at her own residence in 1967 when she was 77. Her death sustained a great loss to our literature. But her anthology of poem Phulkoli has left a very lasting smell in the garden of literary work of Assamese women.

 

 
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