Raseswari Khatonier
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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 younger brother.

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 glory’.

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.


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