Benudhar Rajkhowa, the president of the Asom Sahitya
Sabha session Dhubri in 1926 said in his presidential address- ‘In
comparison to the period when we were studying in Calcutta, there has been
tremendous development in Assamese literature. A few days ago an Assamese
lady delivered lecture in a function held on the occasion of Shankardeva
Tithi at Dibrugarh in front of thousands of audiences. Can anybody think
of such an activity ten years ago?'
From this deliberation of the honorable president, one
can imagine the status of women in Assamese society in the first and
second decades of the 2O"century. Heads spontaneously bow down when we
think about Raseswari Khatonier who in spite of being staying in such a
small town like Golaghat and that too during those days, contributed so
much towards the development of literature and culture.
Raseswari Khatonier was born in 1902 on the bank of the
river Dhanshri in Golaghat town. When the education of women was not given
importance Raseswari completed her primary education in Udaygaon School
and after completing the primary education, started learning Hindi and
Sanskrit at home. She was conferred with the title ‘Kaubid’ in Hindi.
Poetess Jamuneswari Khatonier was Raseswari’s elder
sister. Their father’s name was Bhadram and Gauri was their mother’s name.
Their title was Saikia. Dramatist Surendra Nath Saikia was Raseswari’s
This cultured family established an organization named
‘Jurani Chora" at their house. Raseswari was the secretary of the chora.
The various activities of the chora included recitation, singing and
discussion relating to multifarious topics.
Apart from Hindi, Raseswari was well versed in
Sanskrit. She read Sanskrit verses and discussed those in "Jurani Chora’.
She set up a library in her house. The library contained variety of books
and magazines including ‘Banhi’ (flute) and reputed Bangle magazines
published from Calcutta. Discussions were made on the writings of those
magazines. There was a hand written book named ‘Santawali’ with a Sanskrit
scholar Dwarika Nath Mishra. Raseswaei noted down the contents of the book
and discussed them with the members of the ‘Jurani Chora’.
Bhairab Chandra Khatonier from Bajali first married
Jamuneswari and after her early demise married her younger sister
Raseswari. Bhairab Khatanier was a teacher in Golaghat Govt. Bezbaruah
High School. He was very much interested in literature. He inspired both
the sisters Jamuneswari and Raseswari and both of them started writing
poems towards the end of the 'Jonaki' period. Jamuneswari published a book
on poem entitled ‘Arun’. Satynendra Nath Sarma has written in his book
‘Asomya Sahityar Etibritta’- ‘among the poetess, the names of Roseswari
Khatanier and Jamuneswari Khatonier are noteworthy’.
After the marriage with Bhairab Chandra Khatonier,
Raseswari stayed in her husband’s house at Bajali. Bhairab Khatonier died
in 1939. Raseswari Khatonier worked as a teacher for about 9 years at
Bajali. She again started her teaching career at Golaghat and taught there
for about 16 years. She served as Hindi teacher at Dandadhar Girls’ High
School. During that period she was the secretary of the Golaghat Mahila
Samiti, Sipini Bharal etc. Simultaneously she continued her literary as
well as cultural activities. In the absence of her husband, Raseswari
Khatonier took the responsibility of nourishment of their two sons Shubhan
Chandra Khatonier and Bijoy Chandra Khatonier.
Roseswari Khatanier had no books in printed forms. Her
writings are scattered in various magazines. She died in 1982 in Guwahati.
She was associated with a large number of social organizations till her
death. In one occasion before her death she made a statement- ‘At present
the condition of Assam is deplorable. If we want to save Assam we all have
to work selflessly.’ She had no faith in the politics prevailed at that
time in the state. Raseswari Khatonier established herself as poetess,
patriot, and propagator of Hindi language, organizer and social reformer.
Bhairab Khatonier’s ‘Sewa’ and Jamuneswari Khatonier’s ‘Arun’ (the two
books on poems) are like stars in the vast sky of Assamese literature. In
the same way if we talk about Raseswari Khatonier we can express in the
language of Kabiguru Rabindra Nath Tagore - ‘you are greaterthan your
After the death of her husband Raseswari Khatonier
tried to engage herself more in the social activities. She tried her level
best to popularize Hindi among the general people and also worked for
women’s organizations. During the 1942 movement when people came out with
slogan ‘do or die’, she also could not resist herself and took part in
picketing for prohibition of opium from the society. She delivered
lectures in public meetings organized by various organizations.
Jamuneswari established the only school at Golaghat
town in those days when it was totally backward in educational level.
After Jamuneswari Raseswari Khatonier, her younger sister 'took the
responsibility to run the School. Although the women are called as
‘feeble’, when they work hard to establish themselves in society, then
definitely the society in turn is benefited. One of the Presidents of the
Asom Sahitya Sabha Late Jangeswar Sarma wrote in Sahitya Sanskritir Prabha’
‘up to the period of the British rule which was started in the last
century, Assam was in the middle age. ..... The middle age attitude has
been changed with the closed contact with the Western world. Minds of men
being freed from lot of prohibitions and prejudices, have tried to develop
new attitudes towards this known world and its inhabitants.’ During that
time of change of attitudes, education for women had been taken into
consideration. However it took some time for implementation. In that
period of dilemma, the role played by the women like Raseswari Khatonier
was amazing. Her bold step can be called as challenge.
During the renaissance of Assamese literature
(19"‘century), Raseswari Khatonier showed tremendous work spirit and
awareness. She will remain forever as a source of inspiration for the
women in general.