Saradabala Das
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Saradabala Das

Born in a patriarchal society, Saradabala Das, poetess and revolutionary women of Barpeta, occupied a unique place in society. She could overcome the barrier of society because of her strong power. She was born at Tilapara of Goalpara town in 1899. Her father was Budhiram Das and her mother's name was Seuti Bala Das. The abode of Saradabala's forefather's was Hadirachaki. Her forefather's carried various offices in the Ahom Kingdom. Hadirachaki was swallowed by the Brahmaputra at the time of great earthquake and so the parents of Saradabala had to shift their residence to Goalpara as the residence of her maternal uncle religious verse in Shyam Rai Satra and she could compose devotional song keeping context with the religious books. She was brought up under the affectionate umbrella of her mother and uncle.

Saradabala was a courageous and conscious girl from her childhood. She had great enthusiasm for education. She wanted to go to school even before her age. She concentrated her mind in reading when she had been admitted to school. At that time medium of instruction in school was Bengali. The impact of Bengali language and culture in Goalpara was greater than it is in other part of Assam. Speaking of pure Assamese language was rare among the people of Goalpara. Saradabala was also less acquainted with the mother tongue due to her education in Bengali medium school .Besides, outside school also she had to converse in Bengali language . Her 'guru' in the school was Iswar Chandra Roy and his wife Giri. She was very favorites of the 'guru' and his wife. Her 'guru' inspired her to keep concentration in study. According to her 'guru', only education can make one's life beautiful. She tried to follow the words of her teacher and engaged herself seriously in study.

At that time people were not conscious of women education. Her enthusiasm for study was nipped in the bud when she was made to marry Dr. Madhav Chandra Das of Barpeta. At that time she appeared only the M.V examination. When the result was out after her wedding, she secured scholarship mark in M.V final examination. She was awarded some valuable books which coasted about two hundred rupees and a suitcase as she was unable to continue her study.

Saradabala could enjoy the environment of Assamese society only after her marriage. When she became familiar with Assamese language, she began to think of the development of mother tongue. She began to express herself through writing whenever she had time. Her husband inspired her a lot in this respect. She realized that women had lot to do for society apart from her duty to her family. She got hurt to see the subordinate status of woman in society. She lodged protest for the rights of women. At that time the women of Barpeta were backward. So Saradabala faced the criticism of women of Barpeta because of her courage to stand against the discrimination done to women. But Luhit Chandra Nayak, the brother-in-law of her husband encouraged and asked her to work for women. ''Use your pen to teach the women community about the importance of education. Overcome fear, doubt and weakness of mind. In order to perform good work, you must have courage and patience''. The idea to do something for society was rooted in her mind due to this type of advice given by Nayak.

Saradabala's husband was a veterinary doctor. She had to move to the different places outside Barpeta along with the transfer of her husband. So she came to be acquainted with women problems which she wanted to redress though various social works. She was never interfering by her liberal minded husband.

Probably, Saradabala begun to live in Barpeta after her stay in various places like Nalbari, Abhayapuri etc. At that time an agitation programmed for women liberation was going on under the leadership of Chandra Prava Saikiani. In 1929 Asom Mahila Samity, Barpeta branch` was constituted after the formation of Asom Pradeshik Mahila Samity in 1926. Saradabala was one of the leaders of this organization. Saradabala came forward to lodge protest against discrimination done to women in society. But unfortunately, her husband died in 1942 and after a year, her son Hrishikesh too had premature death. These two incidents hurt her severely and she was very much upset. But her surviving children asked her to engage herself in social work to retain her mental peace.

Saradabala involved directly in various social organizations from 1946. She worked whole heartedly for the development of society while she was the president of Barpeta Mahila Samity from 1947 to 1955. At that time only a handful of women came forward for this type of work. So Saradabala requested the women of every household to be the member of Mahila Samity. In this mission she had to bear ill- treatment in many places. She had to face harassment for this type of Endeavor. She again became the president of Barpeta Mahila Samity from 1969 to 1975. During this period she contributed for women liberation by sensitizing women. At that time she involved herself in politics. She worked as member of congress party in the independence movement as a follower of Chandraprava Saikiani. As a zonal president of Barpeta zone, she worked smoothly. Apart from this, she was the member of the governing body of the Madhav Choudhury Mahavidyalaya, adviser of the executive committee Barpeta Sahitya Sabha, etc. She worked for prevention of child marriage, removal of illiteracy, abstention from drug taking, forsaking of obscenity. She even created awareness among people against marrying a young girl by an elderly man. She wanted to engage women in weaving through formation of Primary Samity. At that time an old man near Sundariya Sundaridiya Satra was going to marry a teenager, but the marriage was stopped at the intervention of Saradabala and her committee. She was appreciated by Pradeshik Mahila Samity for this. She visited even the leprosy patient and consoled them following a call of health officer of Barpeta District. She even took part in cleaning the quarters of the untouchables of Metuakuchi.

Saradabala faced serious criticism for her movement even forty two years ago demanding the women's right to enter Barpeta Kitanghar. For this she printed some petitions. She herself wanted to enter the Kirtanghar with some bold women. She said,'' The creation of the world consists both of men and women, hence the door of God must not be kept closed for women ''. Such bold step taken by Saradabala made other woman to think their own rights. Papers and magazines took interviews of Saradabala highlighting this particular aspect.

Apart from her talents in diverse fields, she tried her hand in writing poems and for this she must be acknowledged as the first woman poet of Barpeta. She wrote a poem "Devi Binapani" on the occasion of sati Joymati festival:

"Aji Goahe Kirity

Rani Joymati


Sati gun aji goahe

Tejile paran nakale


Pati Pati prem kene


The inaugural song of the inauguration of Devi Ram Pathshala, established in memory of the other of Hari Narayan Dutta Baruah was composed by Saradabala.

Saradabala was a born poet. Thoughtful mind of Sarada could create poetry even in a slightest touch of emotion. She could write poems whenever she had a mind to do so and she used to recite them in various meetings. She showed her poems to the revolutionary poet Prasannalal Choudhury and he praised her very much as she engaged herself in writing poetry in spite of the so many obstacles. She was an active worker of Barpeta Sahitya Sabha.

In 1947, after independence of India, then chief minister Lokapriya Gopinath Bardoloi came to Barpeta to release a martyr's pillar. She wrote a poem on ''Mahatma'' which was published and distributed among the people by Bholanath Das, the secretary of Mandal Congress. In that meeting Saradabala was recognized as the first women poet. Ambika Giri Roy Choudhury was felicitated publicly in Tarun Ram Phukan Hall. Taking a poem written by Saradabala, Roy Choudhury said,'' I request you to continue your literary pursuit".

She was criticized for engaging herself in literary work by her mother-in-law. But it was not easy for her to leave this habit because she started writing poem in Bengali language even in her childhood. Being offended with her husband, Saradabala wrote:

"Ki bichare aji mor prane

Kiyo kandi uthe ghane ghane

Kon dur digantar pare

Mon mon bicharan kare".

She wrote a poem with this feelings and named it as "Taju prem kulu kulu kara". She contributed her anthology of twenty nine poems under the title "Kabitar Har" just before the Barpeta conference of Asom Sahitya Sabha. The themes of these poems are hope, inspiration, divine love, patriotism etc. She also wrote praying to God not to be affected by the depression of old age in the poem "Abasad". She writes:

Prabhu mor jivanaloi naniba abased

Ache mor jivanat saru bar bahu kaj

Karmamoi jagatar bishal jaladhi maje

Aponar astittva bachai

Bachi laba paro jen jivanar mahabat".

Her second anthology, a collection of 37 poems, is "Kalijar Sur" which was published in 1987. Almost all the poems are full of deep and spiritual knowledge. She experienced a sort of depression standing at the last part of her life. So she wrote her evening song sorrowfully:

Mor jivanar

Biyali belar gan,

Koneno suniba baru

Kakno sunam!

Saradabala's unpublished works consist thirty fie songs, some religious stories and an anthology of poem named "Kabita Guchcha". A few of her poems were published in Ramdhenu, an anthology of poems edited by Bharat Chandra Das. In her poetry we find Patriotism, enthusiasm for reform in society, reverence for great man, praise to the man of virtue, a tone of personal grief, call for emancipation of woman, a mind submitted for spiritual love. The source of her poems is the mixture of worldly and spiritual thoughts. As she hailed from Goalpara, the influence of Bengali word is found in her poems. But due to her sincere effort, she occupied a permanent place in the field of literature. She never hesitated to participate in the meetings like Barpeta Sahitya Sabha, Barpeta literary symposium; open meetings of Mahila Samity, Barpeta Lekhika Samaroh Samity, Celebration of International Woman’s Day, and Women Sensitization programmed, and drug prohibition meetings. Her poems were published in the souvenir of various organizations like Barpeta, Sulekha and Lekhika.

In addition to all these, Saradabala was very traditional expert. Assamese weaver capable of creating variegated artistic crafts over the cloth she weaved. For this artistic proficiency she had been awarded several prizes especially in the great exhibition held in Abhayapuri. Moreover, in her daily life she herself was extremely self dependent and frugal and she taught her children to be like that. In fact, fathomed from different aspects of her life, it can be said that Saradabala was not only a very devoted social worker, but also was a very outspoken speaker. She never dissuaded from circulating her thoughts only through literature but she disseminates those thoughts in a very simple way among the public through public gathering she attended.

Although late, the people of Assam have realized the value of the lifelong toil of Saradabala and as a result the appreciation and explanation of her works have begun from seventh decade of the 20th century. Many scholars, noted critics and literary figure have expressed their positive views regarding the works and literary creation of Saradabala un "Saptahik Nilachal" 1978 (Dec), "NatunAsamiya" 1979, "Barpeat" 1982, "Ajir Samay" 1986, "Prantik" 1988 and in many other journals and periodicals. Moreover in 1974 (4jh August), all India Radio had circulated some aspects of he life of Saradabala. In the same way the Guwahati Doordarshan had telecasted an exclusive interview of Saradabala in the year 1988. Saradabala, throughout her life had received many awards and felicitation for contribution to the society and literature as well. Barpeta Mahila Samity in 1976, Barpeta Sahitya Alochana Chkra in 1978, Barpeta Sahitya sabha, Padmashree Late Nalini Bala Devi, Sadau Assam Samaroh Samity, Sadau Asam Lekhika Samaroh Samity Barpeta branch, and many other organizations have felicitated Saradabala in different times.

The talent and literary merit of Saradabala had suffered a lot under the pressure of the bindings of the then conservative society and had to confine within the regional periphery. The untiring effort of this lady, who tried to break the social bondage, eliminate superstitions from the society and tried her best to bring all oppressed and down trodden women to the threshold of education was beyond comparison.

This legendary social activist, a rare literary talent, the noted poet and a sincere Gandhian leader had breathed her last on 27th July 1990 in her own home at Barpeta.

(Note: Saradabala Das made an appeal to the Barpeta Kirttan Ghar authority praying for easy entry of the womenfolk into it probably in the year 1948. The substance of the letter of appeal is annexed here with the article.)

''Mahapurusiya Satras o Assam can be deemed as the second abode of the Lord. The devotees here can be able to obtain perennial delight attending the congregational prayer occurred daily. The deep devotional and spiritual atmosphere of the Namghar cannot be found anywhere in India.

Among the Mahapurusiya Satras, the barpeta Satra is one of the most exalted and generous one. According to the regulation of the Namghar, as laid by reverend Burha Ata, the women devotees were also given the same importance and respect as the male devotees. This system of equal right and privilege was great and cannot be found anywhere in other Indian religious sectors. We feel proud of it and naturally it magnifies the nobility of the Barpeta Namghar. Such a noble and generous institution o religion is always benevolent to the prayer of the devotees. But at the same time the devotees must keep it in their mind that any prayer made such institution should not create any sense of intolerance to other religion.

Of course, since past a few years, it is felt that a debate had arisen regarding the entry of the women devotees into the Namghar. It is an assumed fact that if the privilege of co-congregation the devotees. So keeping in mind all these factors, I like to make humble prayer to the senior devotees that a particular time, within the day, may also be able to pay their homage to the Lord. Of course during the monthly cycle women should remain from entering the temple".

Jaya Guru Sankara

On behalf of women devotees

Sri Saradabala Das

Barpeta, Galiahati.


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