(1903 – 1953)
Kanaklata chaliha, the youngest among the five children
of Songitcharjya Lakshminath Baruah and Jahnavi Baruah, was born in 1903
at Dhubri. Kanaklata had two sisters Swarnalata and Madhavilata
respectively. Her elder brother Prafulla Chandra was the first Assamese
singer having his voice recorded in gramophone. The younger brother
Parasuram Baruah was an actor who performed the role of Gudapani in the
first Assamese movie named ‘Joymoti’.
A descendent from the ancient Bezdoloi Bhandari family of North Guwahati,
Lakshminath Baruah was a well figure in the ambience of music in Assam. By
profession he was a cashier in the department of PWD. In1905 his wife
Jahnavi Devi died. At that time Kanaklata was a two year old child. The
sudden demise of his wife was a great shock to Lakshminath. He decided to
take leave of two years from his office and shifted to his birth place at
North – Guwahati, so that he could take proper care of the motherless
Lakshminath resumed his service after two years and by
1907 he had been transferred to Tezpur. Hence Kanaklata’s primary
education began at the historical place, Tezpur. She learnt her first
alphabets from Tulu Borkakoty, daughter of Brahmananda Borkakoty, who was
then the second teacher of a primary school at Tezpur.
During their stay at Tezpur, Lakshminath’s family had established a god
relation with the cultured families like Gohain Baruah and Agarwala, which
had an impact on the grown up child. But Kanaklata’s dream had been
shattered at the untimely death of her father in 1914. By that time her
two elder sisters go married. One of her sisters, Swarnalata resided with
her family at Shillong. Considering their future, the relatives and well –
wisher of Lakshminath’s family decided to send them to their sister’s
place at Shillong
Kanaklata got admitted to Laban School at Shillong. From the time onwards,
Kanaklata‘s inborn talents had sprouted up. She was particular in her
works and always followed a routine life. Highly interested in music, she
sang Bargeets and songs composed by her father melodiously. She had
expertise in playing violin also.
In 1920 she got married to Taraprasad Chaliha, the eldest son of renowned
Kali Prasad Chaliha. Taraprasad Chaliha was a barrister, the first Indian
Chairman of the Local Board and also a member of Legislative Council. As a
first daughter– in –law of that respectable family, Kanaklata by her
benignity won the heart of the family members. Bimala Prasad Chaliha, who
was once the Chief Minister of Assam, was her youngest brother- in – law.
He was only a child of twelve years when Kanaklata first came to that
family. She had great respect for hr mother-in-law and always took her
Kanaklata Chaliha, mother of five children was much more concerned with
the uprising of her children. Her motherly care bringing up was not
confined to her own children only. She had extended her support to the
nephew and niece also. A teacher named Prabhat Chandra Changkakoty, from a
technical institute taught these children at home up to class V. As an
ideal mother she was capable of distributing the household duties like
gardening, sweeping, shoe polishing, helping in the kitchen etc equally
among her children. She was always guided by the principal of her
father-in-law. Concerning status, kali Prasad Chaliha made no distinction
between male and female. He therefore, named his tea garden ‘Ti-Mon’ after
Kanaklata’s eldest daughter Protiva Chaliha passed away
at Kolkata after having her graduation. Her two sons Devabrata and
Satyabrata Chaliha married Hemalata Deka and Jayashri Agarwala, daughter
of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala respectively. Her second daughter Arati Chaliha
was the wife of a politician named Bipinpal Das.
Kanaklata was interested in preparing delicious dishes for the children.
There was a separate modern kitchen-room named ‘Buloni’. She cooked
various tasty food, made cake-biscuits in ‘Oven’. At that time,
restrictions were there in keeping so many things in the kitchen.
Kanaklata usually called the neighbouring children to her place and taught
them English and Assamese rhymes. She never allowed her children to treat
their servant badly and instructed them to call him Rojhukai’. She was
once nursing a burnt orphan named ‘Adar Moni’ at her critical moment and
trained her to adjust her with the household duties and later she gave
Adarmoni’s hands to Roghu Murari.
Kanaklata was extraordinary woman. Apart from being a busy housewife she
managed to have time for social activities. Her indomitable spirit
prompted her to become a chief organizer of ‘Sipini Bharal’. Kanaklata and
her mother-in-law, Nikunjalata, along with a number of active women of
Sibasagar’s Mahila Samiti, founded this Shiv Mandir or ’Sipini Bhoral’ for
women. The primary concern of this ‘Sipni Bharali’ was to create a sale
–centre. Hemlata Baruah and all the women of Amolapaty were closely
associated with ‘Sipni Bharali’. Several news was published in ‘Ghar Jeoti’
and also in news-papers to focus on this ‘Sipni Bharali’. Usually this
organization supported his poor section of the society by giving training
in weaving, sewing, knitting, and carpet-making and also trained them to
prepare Jam- jelly, pickle etc. to sell out in the market. Kanaklata’s
skill in handicraft can still be traced in her house.
Kanaklata and her sister-in-law Kamalalaya Kakoty was the joint secretary
of that first magazine ‘ghar jeoti’. That was a monthly magazine for women
and Tara Prasad Chaliha was its chief patron. Kanaklata wrote a number of
articles for the awareness of women of her time. The first issue of the
magazine was published in 1848-49. The magazine highlighted the political
awareness among country people. Apart from this, the ‘Ghar Jeoti’ gave
much importance to the topics on women education, widow-marriage,
self-establishment, cottage industry and health awareness etc. Kanaklata
also wrote a number of articles in ‘Ghar jeoti’ such as ‘Bhitor chotal’,
Nikhil Bharat Mahila sanmilanir samu Biborani’, Punjab kesorir Mahaprayan’,
swadeshi Diyasalair karkhana’, ‘congressor Batori’, ‘Bigyanar Sadhika’,
‘Madam Cuori’, ‘Biplob Andolonet china Mahila’, etc.
In 1928, Radhika sarmah, the then Head Master of phuleswar school planned
to organize ‘Joymoti Utsav’ in the hope of uniting women society.
Kanaklata and Suprabha Chaliha came forward to assist him. During that
time the Assamese women were victims of social and economic exploitation.
Inspired by the same idea, Kanaklata and her sister-in-law Kamalalaya
Kakoty took the membership of the ‘Asom mahile Sanmilon’. Later they
became the joint secretary to that association. They initiated the women
of Sibasagar to involve in this Mahila Sanmilon. Jeotara Bharali, Jogamaya
Phukan and many other women of sibasagar came forward to take part in the
same. Kanaklata chaliha highly felt the shortage of women physician and so
he encouraged her sister–in-law Nirmala chaliha to study medical science.
Later she became a reputed gynecologist and child specialist as well.
Kanaklata dedicated her life for the welfare of the society and the
country. She never excused whoever neglected their duties towards their
country. During 1924-25, Madan Mohan Malabya, when he had visited
Kanaklata’s place at Melasakar, sibasagar was greatly impressed by her
hospitality and her progressive mind.
In 1934, Gandhiji, Miraben, Krishnaben, Amit Katar, Thakkar Bapa, all came
to visit her place at Sibasagar. At that time she was bed-ridden. She
breathed her last on 12th January in 1935 leaving behind her
husband, two son, two daughter, two brothers and relatives. The short span
of her life was numbered not in years but in deeds. Suprabha Chaliha, once
a co-activist of Kanaklata, wife of Padmadhar Chaliha and also the mother
of Paragdhar Chaliha said Kanaklata was an unparallel daughter in-low of
Sibsagar. She was an attractive lady no doubt, but her deeds surpassed her
beauty. Because accomplished innumerable noble deeds in this short span of