Trailokeswari Devi Baruani
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Late Trailokeswari Devi Baruani is one of those who have made remarkable contribution towards enriching the realm of Assamese literature. This brilliant daughter of Assam was born at a time when it was unthinkable for a girl to set her step into the school to obtain education. Her father was the first Assamese Chota Sahib Rai Bahadur Purnanada Bauah and her mother was Muktawali Devi. Rai Bahadur Purnanada Baruah rose from the humble position of a clerk and climbed up to the position of Sub divisional officer (temporarily). He was posted in different corners of the state and his youngest daughter Trailokeswari was born at Goalpara in 1875 where he was posted at the time of her birth. During the time of her birth the conditions were not at all conducive for women’s education. Under such orthodox ambience she had to complete her education from home. But despite all adversities even at a tender age she displayed signs of extra-ordinary merit. Born and brought up in an orthodox environment, she got married to another brilliant son of Assam, Jagannath Baruah, and B.A in 1888. Before marrying her, Jagannath Baruah, in 1875, was already married to Lilawati, a daughter in the family of Pabatia Phukan of Ujan Bazaar, Guwahati. But unfortunately, Lilawati had passed away after giving birth to two siblings. This was the reason that Jagannath Baruah had to marry Trailokeswari when he was 37.

At a tender age, leaving behind all her youthful fickleness Trailokeswari had to devote herself towards the upbringing of the children. The burden of looking after the health and education fell on her tender shoulders as her husband was always away from home in connection with business. Letters sent to her from England in 1902 contain advices to take care of Jagannath Baruah’s son Debendra Nath Baruah dying at very young age. She maintained her family with utmost care and with an expert hand. She looked after every aspect of her family with great adroitness even supervising her vegetable-garden herself. The back-yard orchard of her house which is adjacent to the present day-Jorhat Government girls’ school was once flourishing with the local areca-plants. Chronic Diabetes took way the charm of her life and she fall sick very often than not. But despite this she was never deprived o her husband’s love who was always concerned about her health even though he was abroad. Devi Baruani was also an excellent weaver. Her works, especially those of Paat and Mejankari bears translated into truth Gandhi’s saying that ‘Assamese women can weave dream with their weaving.’ Needlework was another area of her forte.

The present campus of Jagannath Baruah College used to be the compound of Jagannath Baruah. The name of the house located in that premise was ‘Borpatra Cottage’. Jagannath Baruah purchased that house from someone with the title Borpatra and did not change its name. Before leaving for abroad he distributed his property between his brother Krishnakanta and Debendranath.

Trailokeswari Devi Baruani did not give birth to a child of her own. Therefore, she adopted one of her nephews to shower her love. He is none other than Kamalananda Baruah, residing by the present state high way No 37. He never saw the face of Jagannath Baruah as he had died on 21st April of 1907. After a short while Debendranath also passed way prematurely on 5th November of 1909. Debendranath married a woman named Kanaklata. As Debendranath was childless he willed all his property in the name of his nephew Murulidhar Baruah. Therefore as soon as Debendranath was dead Trailokeswari and his wife Kanaklata left ‘Borpatra Cottage’. During that time the ladies of Assamese elite families were not allowed to come in front of men. But Trailokeswari was daring enough to bypass this and participate in their discussion.

As there was no element of caste pomposity in Devi Baruani’s family, people from all classes and sects received love and affection from her. But she was very much conscious about cleanliness and hygiene.

Trailokeswari Devi Baruani was very benevolent and harbored great fondness for education. She could not pursue school education in an orthodox society. Poor and needy students received financial help from her to pursue education. She rendered donation to Gauhati University. She took keen interest in extension of women’s education. She donated an amount of five thousand rupees to the women’s section of J B College and one thousand to Baligaon girls’ school. Apart from these she played a pioneering role in welfare and education of women. She contributed in her way towards the cause of women as member of Mahila Samity and Governing body of Jorhat girls’ school.

The brightest aspect of her life was that of her literary talent. Despite having no formal education she could enthrall her grandchildren with her skillful narration of countless beautiful tales. Some of these she garnered from books, some garnered from childhood memories and some weaved by herself. Some of such stories saw the light of the day in the form of a book named ‘Sadhukatha’ in 1933-34. It is a collection of altogether seventeen stories. It was warmly received by every section of readers. Her aim was to give moral lessons to the tender minds of children in the form of stories and tales. Therefore all the stories carry valuable moral sermons apart from richness of a descriptive brilliance captivating the children’s imagination. Baandari, Chaulpuria, Dukhiraam, Duibhai, Baandar, Ganga Yamuna, Tetun, Dhar Jari Maar Tangon, Satayuus, Baidya, Karmabandha, Kumaror Lora, Chaari Chor, Maghor Bihu, Randhani aru Bhusung Pahu displays truthfulness, wit and cleverness. ‘Sandhiyar Saadhu’ published in 1937 consists of wonderful tales Ebegetia, Poka Mithoi, Ramdhan, Gaadha piti manuh kora, Darpa Churna, Ejoni Rajkonyar Katha, Dujan Kripon, Siyal Tamuli, Titkujir Kotoki, Chaku Saraha, Pitha Khowa Burha, Thupori, Jalowar Gurubhakti, Lubhuni, Kulaxani tirota, Charijon Murkhor Kotha. Each tale represents victory of the right over wrong, success of honesty and growth of women. Both ‘Sadhukatha’ and ‘Sandhiyar Saadhu’ won the heart of readers. In the preface to ‘Sadhukatha’ late Jyanadabhiram Baruah said, ‘after reading this book I can say it confidently that reading this book our children will get a companion for their life.’ Jatindranath Goswami, the biographer of Jagannath baruah commented very aptly that Trailokeswari enriched Assamese literature the same way in which Hence Anderson enriched the German nation. It was in 1830 that Laxminath Bezbaruah pioneered the tradition of stories and tales in printed form in Assamese literature with his books ‘Burhi Air Sadhu’ and ‘Koka Deuta aru Nati Lora’ with the aim of expanding the mental horizon of the children. During the next twenty six years after that nobody came forward to write a book of stories. Trailokeswari was a grand daughter of Laxminath. He was full of praise for her books and thus commented "Now the intellectuals and theorists realize well the fact that the history of a worn-out tale and the history of a word are many times more valuable than the history of a grand war. Saadhu Kaatha and Sandhiyar saadhu has helped us exploring and knowing the past life of the nation. Usually we do not proceed to refine the character of children in a way which is appealing to their little minds. The interested few can not claim to be successful. But merely with two books Trailokeswari has been able to win the hearts of children and readers. Though not voluminous, her books are invaluable. The treasure of national life, its age-old customs, rituals, world-views, faiths and beliefs all lie in their bosom."

Trailokeswari picked up the pen at a time when the number of women writers in regional languages was still pitiable. Subhadrakumari Chouhan and Mahadevi Verma made contributions to the arena of Hindi literature. The orthodoxy of society made it an upheaval task for the women to pick up the pen. Tralokeswari is the role-model for the women of Assam. With her life she has showed to the world how one can enrich the literary canon despite being not equipped with any school education. She conveyed herself subtly and very skillfully to the readers. She realized very well that the future of the country lies in the children. Failure to shape oneself in the childhood will lead one to nothing but to repent and remorse later. She wanted to mould the moral character of children through her tales. As society is conglomeration of individuals the shaping of children’s characters is paramount importance for the health of society. Keeping in mind that she laid great emphasis on ingraining moral values in her stories, she did not let her life go astray lying on the sick-bed. She is our beacon as she kindled the imagination of the children transporting them to the romance of the unknown.

This brilliant daughter of Assam passed away on 14th April 1954 at the age of Seventy Nine.


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