Rajbala Das
 
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RAJBALA DAS

(1893 – 1985)

A glimpse of the Assamese society through the past history of 110/120 years makes us astonished to notice the changes that are visible at present…. Assamese women were living in the gynoeciums and innermost recesses. They had to learn cooking, weaving under the guidance of mother or grandmother to prepare themselves as future housewife. Born and brought up in a joint family, they had to make their journey to their new household before they attained maturity. In different ages they had to play the role of daughter, sister, wife and mother. But from the beginning of the twentieth century there was a change in economical, social, and cultural ideology. As a human being they began to enjoy equal right with men. This development is the result of the untiring effort of some socially conscious women. Rajbala Das was one among those who had contributed to make the Assamese women educated.


Rajbala Das was born in Dibrugarh in 8th march, 1893. She was the fifth child of her father Ramakanta Barua. .Her mother was Kamala Barua. She was brought up in a conservative family under the guidance of grandmother. Though western education was introduced at that time, the girls did not study in school walking through the road. In some aristocratic families girls were given the opportunity to have spiritual education. Some were given education keeping them in hostels of Calcutta along with her two daughters for their education. At that time communication between Calcutta and Assam was not so good. In such a time Rajbala’s elder brother Rajanikanta went to Calcutta for higher education after passing F.A. Since Rajbala’s cousin sisters were at that time in Calcutta, Rajani Kanta also wanted to take Rajbala to Calcutta and at that tine she was only eighty years old. But her mother refused to send her to Calcutta. The society was also not conducive towards women education. But her brother forced her to go and finally her parents were also willing to send her to Calcutta. Rajbala went to Calcutta and that time her cousin Hemaprabha Das was a student of class ix in Bethune school. Rajbala was also admitted to this school. She did not find interest there. After staying there for nine months she came back home.


In the mean time a calamity occurred in her family. Rajbala’s youngest brother Dr .Ruhini Kanta Barua was suffering from ‘kalajar’ (black fever) and suffered from immature death. After her son death she became very indifferent. She gave little importance on arrangement of the marriage of Rajbala.


In the mean time Rajbala’s interest on education increased and she with her sister Surabala began to study at home. Rajbala herself wanted to take formal education and to go to Calcutta. The parents were in favor of giving her marriage as that was the custom of society. But due to the strong will of the two sisters, their brother – in –law spoke in favor of them and finally both the sisters were sent to Calcutta. They were admitted to a newly established school at Giridhi. Rajbala was admitted to class viii while Surabala was admitted to class vii. After one year in that school they came to Bethune school and Rajbala passed the Entrance examination in 1915 securing at the rate of Rs 20.00 from Assam government. Surabala also passed the Entrance examination in first division and received scholarship from the government.


At that time a few Assamese girls were in Calcutta for taking higher education. Aruna, the daughter of Lakhminath Bezbaroa was her classmate. Sudhalata Duwara was senior to her. Keeping girls at home without thinking of their marriage was a subject of criticism in society. Rajbala paid no attention to it. Due to her ill health she joined in Darcheson College and passed I.A from this college and was able to get scholarship. In 1920 she passed B.A from Bethune College and admitted herself to the B. T College.


India’s struggle for independence swept the whole India at that time. The men and women of different parts of India came forward in responses to the call of Gandhi to make India free throwing away the shackles of the British rule. Socially conscious Rajbala could not keep herself away from this. In 1921 Mahatma Gandhi came to Calcutta and stayed at the residence of Desh Bandhu chitraranjan Das. Bapuji held meeting there calling upon the Indian women to take active part in the war of independence of India. Rajbala met Gandhiji there and was deeply inspired by him. Being aware of Gandhi’s visit to Assam in 1921, Rajbala came back to Assam and get the opportunity of meeting Gandhi for the second time. At that time there was hardly any woman in Assam to take the leadership of struggle for independence. Naturally the responsibility of organizing women fell on the shoulder of Rajbala. She became the secretary of women’s organization in Dibrugarh. But the people did not take easily the free movement of women at that time. So Devi prabha also started to co operate her in the work of the organization. A spinning centre was established and message of non violence was spread among the women.


Pandit Madan Mohan Malabya came to Dibrugarh in 1922. He made arrangement for Rajnala’s study in Benarash Hindu University seeing her enthusiasm for learning. He also arranged a job of teaching with a salary of Rs 150. But her mother was interested more in the marriage than that of education of her daughter. In such a moment a proposal for marrying her daughter came from Dr. Jyotish Chandra Das of Guwahati. He came back from England in 1923 the year in which congress conference was held in Gaya. Dr. Das joined in congress and went to the conference and Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phukon wanted to solemnize the wedding ceremony of Dr. Das with Rajbala. But Rajanikanta did not agree to this and so marriage was solemnized in Dibrugarh. On the wedding day she did not wear Assamese bridal dress. Following Gandhi’s ideology, she wore a very simple pair of Riha and Mekhela made of Muga.


Rajbala’s place of work was transferred from Dibrugarh to Guwahati after her marriage. She engaged herself in woman education realizing the importance of women education for the development of the country. Panbazar M.E School was upgraded to high school in 1926 and she was offered the post of Head master. But she refused this offer lest there would be difficulty in running her family smoothly. She imparted education there without taking any remuneration. In 1926 Rajbala Das was made the secretary of Asom Pradeshik Mahila Samity. She made arrangement for spinning, weaving, and Hindi learning centre for the development of women of Guwahati. She tired to materialize Sarada Act by prohibiting child marriage. She represented from Assam in Nikhil Bharat Mahila Sabha held in Calcutta.


Rajbala Das believed firmly that without education the development of Assamese women is impossible. So she tired to make Panbazar Girl’s high school a perfect one. Apart from weaving, spinning, sewing, she introduced music and domestic science for girls. She arranged bus facility for the students coming from distant places and arranged for the girls student of Cotton College to stay in girls hostel of Panbazar girl’s School.


All the girls passed from Panbazar High School could not be accommodated in Cotton College. So an idea came to Rajbala’s mind to start a college for girls. She was active and optimist and not a woman who left her plan undone. So only with five students she started morning classes of her proposed girls’ college in Panbazar Girls’ School. After a year she applied to Calcutta University for affiliation. Inspector came to inspect the college. He told her the need of a fund of ten thousand rupees. She sought a period of ten days to collect the amount. Suddenly she remembered that Narayani Handique, the wife of Danbir Radhakanta Handique, expressed her interest on the spread of women’s education. Since Narayani Handique by the time was dead, she sent her husband Dr Jyotish Das and Dr Surjya Kumar Bhuyan to Radhakanta Handique. He agreed to pay the amount for the institution. The first girl’s college in the oil of Assam was established and with this the want of higher education institution was fulfilled. Rajbala Das became the principal of that college. Her sincere effort, unsurpassable inspiration and her dream are saturated in every layer of the college. Handique Girl’s college is still shining as successful institution for women’s education carrying behind it the glory of her proficiency.


Apart from her involvement in the spread of women’s education and her effort in organizing the women, she engaged herself in the pursuit of literature. She published a book in 1928 written for women entitled Strisikshar Babe Keiashrman. She also took initiative in writing Assamese text book. She wrote Sahitya Path Book IV for school. She included in the historical, mythological story and narrative story to attract the students’ .The selection of subject matter shows the multifarious talent of the writer. The prose was suitable for students’. In every lesson the word meaning and central idea is given for the help of the students.


The heritage and culture of ancient India inspired Rajbala Das. So she wrote stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata which have been attracting the Indian society from time to time. Published in 1969 and 1970 by Datta Barua & Co, her books Ramayanar Katha and Mahabharatar Katha are the new additions to Assamese literature. Her Pauranik Adarsha Kahini, Naldamayanti, Sribatcha Chinta, Sabitri Satyaban and Harichandrar Upakhyan etc are her valuable contribution to children literature. As an objective to her writings she wrote: ‘The writer’s Endeavor will be fruitful if the readers are inspired by studying the life and character of these ideal men and women’.


The establishment of healthy ideology for the uplift of women was the mission of Rajbala. To provide spiritual solace she substantiated the Gita in simple prose in Gitabachan (1967). Tinikuri Dahbacharar Smriti (1971) was her autobiographical writing. In this book instead of giving personal account of her life she gives vivid picture of place of Assamese women in society of that time.


Rajbala Das contributed even to the journalistic literature. The Asom Batory was published in 1963 in her initiation. Sri Chandra Prasad Saikia acted as editor at her request and he received sincere response from the publisher in editing the news paper. She also participated in politics. She contested against Gaurishankar Bhatacharya in assembly election of 1952 and lost by 120 votes. She treated her colleagues equally in spite of their difference in political ideology.


In Rajbala Das’s rare personality, there was a nice synthesis of old and new. Viewed with the dress of ‘riha and mekhela’ and a viel in her head, she was a symbol o conservative Assamese daughter – in – law of an aristocratic family. But she had a progressive outlook. She established the temple of knowledge to live with dignity. Endowed with motherly love she was a successful teacher. She was the source of inspiration for her students and colleagues. Rajbala Das left us on 23 May, 1985 at the age of ninety two. But in the light of her wisdom she shines as an exemplary symbol in our midst. She is made immortal by her literary creation, Panbazar Girl’s High School and Handique Girl’s College.

 

 
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