Nalini Bala Devi
 
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PADMASHREE NALINIBALA DEVI:

(1898-1977)

Throughout the whole poetic compositions in Assamese literature the poetic works, which exhibit the melancholic note of self dedication, and appeal with mysterious beauty of infinity, are the poems of Nalinibala Devi. As a poet she was well established in a respectable position in the field of Assamese literature.

Nalinibala Devi was born in an old aristocratic family. The renowned personality, Karmaveer Nabin Chandra Bordoloi, was her father and her mother was Hemanta Kumari. Nabin Chandra Bordoloi married Hemanta Kumari, the daughter of famous tea planter Malbhug Barua when Bordoloi was studying in Calcutta. At that time Raibahadur Madhab Chandra Bardoloi was the Sub Divisional Officer in Barpeta. He was allowed to stay at the Local Board go down, after an overall repairing, as the residence of the S.D.O was very badly damaged in the devastating earth quake of 1897. Nalinibala was born in this Local Board store house. Before her birth her mother had been blessed by the chief devotee of Barpeta Satra. Therefore the new born girl child was named ‘Padmini’ by her grandfather. But Nabin Chandra Bardoloi, who was studying at Calcutta at that time, was not satisfied at the old fashioned name and renamed her as ‘Nalini’.

The childhood of Nalinibala was very happy and peaceful. She began to grow up like the phases of the moon under affectionate guardianship of her grandfather. This affluent household was more than adequate in offering an environment not only in enjoyment but also in speedy growth of a healthy child. The cart drawn by spotted horses, ‘Yatra', the huge female elephant, the process of preparation of molasses and mustard oil in that house hold, were all extremely amazing. Nalinibala was very much interested in the days when the whole family was preparing for a picnic. The sweet memory of childhood like searching for eggs of tortoise in the sands of ‘Ashwaklanta, or in the sands of Kurua- was always haunting her mind even in her latter days of life. Sometimes she got the opportunity of voyaging through the Brahmaputra from Guwahati to Dibrugarh. She was deeply impressed by the riverside landscape even in her childhood.

She started her education in Bengali primary school of Tezpur. She had her higher education at home .A Sanskrit scholar named Gopalkrishna Dey was her private tutor .He taught her language and literature. The huge treasure of Sanskrit literature was unveiled to her by interesting and scholarly discussion of this scholar. Apart from learning rhyme, rhythm and grammar in poetry, she learnt English, Geography and mathematics from Jagyeshar Borua and Nishikanta Sen, the Headmaster and assistant teacher of Collegiate High School.

Her uncle Kritinath Bordoloi was the music teacher of Nalinibala. She used to sing Borgeet and Brahma Sangeet with her grandmother. She could chant ‘Chanakya’s sloka’ at the age of 8/9 years.

At the early days of her adolescence she was full of fancy by the scenic beauty of the world and the influence of Sanskrit literature. Her poetic sensibility developed even in her adolescent period and from that time she practiced the art of painting. In this field also she was expert.

Nalinibala Devi was full of love and compassion. She liked to take care of patients and due to her interest in this field she learnt homeopathic treatment. She was a lover of nature. The chirping of domestic birds, the charming beauty of flower filled up her. Following the custom of the society of that time even before she passed her threshold of adolescence her marriage was solemnized. The bridegroom was Jiveshar Changkakaty, the son of Krishnapran Changkakoty who came of a reputed family of Nityananda Chaturvedi of Amulapaty, Sibsagarh. Her married life was full of happiness in company of this meritorious person .She experienced the joy of motherhood by giving birth to four children .But her happiness did not last long due to the sad demise of her husband in 1917. The aggrieved daughter was brought back to her father’s house along with her three sons and her daughter Usha Rani Borua. The fifth child was still in her womb. After this she started her life as a poet. Nabin Chandra Bordoloi was pained to see his daughter in the attire of a widow, but consoled himself considering her a form of ‘Mahasheta’. He gifted the Gita to his daughter so that she could console her afflicted soul. The Gita became her all time companion and later on any one can feel the depth of her mind enriched with the study of the Gita.

The time, in which Nalinibala stepped in the threshold of adolescence, the Assamese society was swept by the wave of non co-operation movement launched by Gandhiji. Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi was one of the leaders of this movement. The spirit of the revolution which found expression in him affected the heart of his daughter. Nalinibala also came into contact with Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendraprasad, and Subhash Chandra Basu etc. Discussion on Gandhi’s message and plan took place frequently among the distinguished persons. Everybody in the house wore Khadi cloth. A pure atmosphere was present everywhere in the household. These were the basis of Nalinibala Devi’s mental education.

Analysis of Nalinibala Devi’s bulk of literature reminds us of her personal affliction and pain which was the main resource of her literature. This was the pain of separation from her near and dear one. She had suffered not only for the loss of her husband but also for the pre mature death of her children. In such a situation her father was a source of inspiration to her. Nalinibala acquired the strength and inspiration to endure pain through writing from him. As a result, though her poems are saturated with pain, no one can hear the wailing of broken heart. Only a tranquil feeling of acceptance of pain as blessings of destiny is palpable in her poems.

Nalinibala composed her first poem pita at the age of ten. Since her childhood, her poetic creativity was searching its outlet for expression. It was perfectly reflected in her poems of later age. Sandhiyar Sur,(1 928), Saponar Sur(1943), Parashmani(1954), JugaDevata(1957) Alakananda(1967) Jagrity(1962) and Antim Sur (1977) are her chief anthologies _ Her unpublished poetical works are Jonaki Swapna, Surabhi, Mandakini, Sandhiar Sapon Parash, Sajar Purabi and Meghdut (translated) .The autobiography of Nabin Chandra Bordoloi ---------- Smriti Tirtha (1948) was her prose work and ‘Eriaha Dinbor’ was her autobiography where one can trace the soothing admixture of experience and emotion.’ Sardar Patel and ‘vishwadeep’ are two other biographies written by her. Her unpublished articles are ‘Manash Tirtha’ and ‘Naradiya Bhakti Sutra’. ‘Shesh Puja’, ‘Parijatar Abhisek’, ‘Prahlad’ and ‘Mirabai’ are published dramatic works attributed to her.

NalinibaIa’s poems are like jasmine soaked in dew, melancholic but attractive. Her suffering is the wailing of the heart of a woman who experienced the pain of loss of her husband and children. It is not the lamentation of an ordinary woman, but it is the appeal of the universal melancholy dripping from the heart of the poet, her poetic work can be divided in three divisions - transcendental poem, patriotic poem and another class of poem encompassing a variety of subjects.

In her transcendental poems, a rare combination of wisdom and creative power is expressed. Through these poems her belief in Indian philosophy is very beautifully delineated. Her thought and feeling was conscious of the nature of eternal soul and mystic events occurred due to the cycle of birth and rebirth. Her belief in the doctrine of birth and rebirth gives her hope and consolation even in the midst of suffering. So she had a great affection for the world though it had given her nothing:

Ajire Nohoa Tumi Sundari Prithibi

Janamar Jugamiya Tumi

Tumi Mor Jivanar Shantir Jirani

Atitar swapnalila Tumi.

(O beautiful earth! You are everlasting for all the births; you are the resort of peace of my life and the dreams of my long past.)

The poet visualizes an eternal mystery in the midst of man and nature. Being one of those, who are enslaved in the chain of karma and made to suffer the pain of birth and rebirth, she was the one to question herself why she had to sojourn to this mundane world again and again. The soul is eternal and its thirst is to merge into the world soul. The path towards this union with God is full of hope and aspiration, pain and pleasure. Nalinibala Devi’s poem exhibits the colorful and heart touching description of this path. Her poems are rich with mystic thoughts. She accepts God as true friend and the proximity with God is her rare resource of her semiconscious mind.

When the mind of the poet longs to merge with eternity transcending the chain of finiteness, she feels like a caged bird in such a mood. She feels a kind of longing to fly like birds in open sky.

Duranir paknijak uri jai ringiai

Biyakul udashi surat

Pratidhani Baje Sudurat

Mor ei pinjarar asanta pakhiti dekho

Mili jaba khoje anantat

Ashimar achin batat

(The flocks of bird are singing a plaintive note as they are flying across the sky which comes to me every day as if from a very distant place; and the restless bird within my cage also longs to merge in the eternity.)

The thirst of her soul is though nourished by the influence of Indian philosophy; her distinct way of expression gave her poems a distinguished place in the field of the contemporary poems. Her sincere self dedication is beyond comparison. Most of her poems show the way to infinity transcending this mundane world.

The second tone in her poem is patriotism. A sense of deep love and infatuation for motherland is found to be dripping in her poem. In this respect no other poem is comparable to her poem ‘Janambhumi’. Another poem expressing this mood is ‘Amar upja Thai Eikhoni Martya Swargabhumi’ Where one can find the glorious picture of the past of our country .Apart from these, she wrote poems taking various festivals, life of great man, nature, personal remorse as subject matter of her poetry .Moonlit night, dancing fountain of mountain, green forest ‘murmuring birds - -all peeped through her poems. Her observant and sensitive mind is expressed through them .The motherly remorse reflected through the poem ‘Putali’ is very heart moving. Another poem ‘Bhrasta Lagna’ has not received much attention of the critics. Though a symbol of god and individual soul can be traced through the hero and heroine of the poem, besides, a lyrical beauty is distinct in it .Like the verses of Bidyapati or Chandi Das the picture of a lovelorn heart of the impatient coy lover finds reflection in the play of hope and despair. Expression of such type of delicate mystic love for God is visible in the religious songs of Mirabai.

There were many Indian women poets contemporary to Nalinibala Devi. Among them Malayalam poet Balmoni Amma, Amrita Pritom and Dogri poet Padma are worth mentioning. Amrita Pritom was also a very sensitive and meritorious poet but unlike Nalinibala’s mysticism, the poems of Amrita display sensuous and mundane hopes and aspirations of common man. On the other hand the poems of Padma have some remote similarity with Nalinibala’s poetic style and theme. One of Padma’s patriotic poems was ‘1857’ which shines among the patriotic poems. The poem is rich with beautiful diction and depth of emotion.

This meritorious poet, Nalinibala, presided over the 23"‘session of the Asom Sahitya Sabha’ held in Jorhat .She was conferred the honor ‘Padmashree’ in 1958. The Assam branch of the ‘All India Sanskrit Sanjibani Sabha’ has conferred the title ‘Kabyabharati’ to this great poet in 1956. In 1968 Sahitya Akademi gave recognition for her anthology ‘Alakananda'. This woman poet who was the winner of such rare honour is always in the seat of great respect for the people of Assam. She left this world on 24 December, 1977 at her own residence Swapnachal in Guwahati. She is alive in the heart of every poetry loving person through her immortal talent and huge contributions to Assamese literature.

 

 
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