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Bokul Bonor Kobi
Ananda Chandra Barua

A Profile by Utpala Goswami

Situated ten miles to the east of Jorhat, about three kilometres off the national highway, is a tiny hamlet called Dhekiakhowa on the banks of the meandering river Deeha. The small village falls on the way to the great pilgrim centre of Dhekiakhowa Bornamghar, which was blessed by the great saint Sri Sri Madhabdev. Thousands of people throng the Bornamghar throughout the year. But during the month of Bhadon the whole region becomes a veritable sea of humanity with devotees coming from far and wide across the country to pay their obeisance at the shrine.

Besides this significance, Dhekiakhowa shines like a pole star in the firmament of Assamese literature, as it is the ancestral home of three great litterateurs, namely, Bokul Bonor Kobi Ananda Chandra Barua, Nalinidhar Bhattacharya and Late Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya. Ananda Chandra Barua’s home was situated on the very bank of the Deeha river that has a small bridge over it. At the very entrance to his home lies two big Bokul trees giving shade and succour to weary passers-by. It was in such a serene ambience that young Ananda began to write his soulful poetry. And it was for this reason that the great litterateur Shri Madhav Sarma, referred to him as the “Bokul Bonor Kobi”, a title which was attached to him for posterity. The title was first formally used in writing by “Papori Kobi” Ganesh Gogoi in his preface to Papori and has referred to “Bokul Bon” in the book although the term “Bokul Bon” was coined by the poet Ananda Chandra Barua himself. The two Bokul trees were planted by his father Premadhar Barua. And as the poet had written in his book Nimati Puware Pora, “After the death of my father and mother those two Bokul trees are like images of my father and mother. When I return home and stand under the two Bokul trees, I can feel at heart the touch of my parents.”

Ananda Chandra Barua was born on December 31, 1907, at Khumtai Tea Estate, in upper Assam. His father, Late Premadhar Barua and mother Late Indrani Devi reared a family of eight children, of which Ananda Chandra was the fourth. In 1914, Premadhar Barua built his house on the banks of the Deeha river and settled there with his large family. It was this house which later came to be known as ‘Bokul Bon’. Little Ananda started his schooling at Dhekiakhowa and showed keen interest in his studies. He had also received several scholarship in the primary stage till he went to study in the Government Boys’ High School at Jorhat. When he was a student of Class VI, the seeds of literature germinated in the mind of young Ananda Chandra. He began to contribute his writings to the hand written school magazine called Jeuti. It was at the high school that he came into contact with the great poet Papori Kobi Ganesh Gogoi. The friendship between these two great poets left an indelible mark on Assamese literature.

Ananda Chandra Barua passed his matriculation in 1926 and later went to study at the Benaras Hindu University. Although he studied there for nearly three years, Ananda Chandra Barua could not acquire a degree for reasons not known certainly. But it was in Benaras that he accomplished certain knowledge and experiences much more valuable than a degree.

During those days all the students from Assam who were studying at the Benaras Hindu University brought a hand written journal Jahnavi. It was in this periodical that Ananda Chandra Barua contributed generously with his literary pen. During his days at the Benaras Hindu University, Anand Chandra Barua came into personal contacts with great personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Prasad, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Jawahar Lal Nehru and Jaypraksh Narayan, who influenced him in a very positive manner. While at Benaras he also got the maximum exposure to great Indian minds, great literatures, society, culture, philosophy, music, drama, acting and various other fields, which enhanced his knowledge and experiences. Sans a degree Ananda Chandra Barua returned to Assam, with treasures more valuable and a man more enriched in all spheres of life.

It was while at Benaras, on a visit to Assam, that Ananda Chandra Barua married Promila Devi, daughter of Padmanath Bezbaruah, a descendent of the great poet Rasaraj Lakshminath Bezbaruah.

In 1930, Barua’s father Premadhar Barua passed away and the responsibility of shouldering his family fell on him. Ananda Chandra Barua chose journalism as a career and there began his innings of life to earn his own bread and butter. He first served as an editor in a newspaper called Asomiya which was published from Guwahati by Late Chandra Kumar Agarwala. After successful publication of the newspaper for nearly two years Ananda Chandra Barua decided to return to Jorhat. He than joined the School Inspector Office at Jorhat in 1932 and served there temporarily for a year. The next year he joined Senarian High School at Tinsukia as an Assistant Teacher. But in 1934 he once again returned to Jorhat to resume his career as a journalist. He joined as a sub-editor in Shiva Prasad Barua’s weekly Batori, on a salary of Rs 100, a month. The editor of this popular weekly was Bagmibor Late Nilomoni Phukan. It is worth mentioning that it was through this newspaper that Ananda Chandra Barua first titled Nilmoni Phukan as “Bagmibor” and Jyoti Prasad Agarwalla as “Rupkunwar”.

Journalism provided Ananda Chandra Barua not only the much needed bread and butter but also satiated his soul. It was a profession close to his heart. But circumstances forced him to leave journalism and he became a school teacher in the Dikom Tea Estate in the year 1942. A year later while the Second World war was going on, he left home for Karachi to join the Indian Air Force. In 1947 he eventually returned to Jorhat and finally joined his last job at the Industrial Training Institute as an accountant and served there faithfully till the time of his retirement on December 31, 1968.

Although Ananda Chandra Barua had an erratic professional life, his literary career graph moved on steadily all the time. Ever since he started writing when in school, his pen never stopped till the time of his death. He wrote poetry, drama, translation, prose, novels besides contributing to various periodicals.

Altogether nineteen books were published between 1930 to 1982. The dates of a few of his publication are not known. Some of the books written by him includes Porag (1930), a collection of poems; Bijoya (1932), a drama; Hafizor Sur (1933) translation of poems; Bisorjan (1933) a drama; Ranjan Rashmi (1934), a collection of poems; Puspak (1934) sonnets; Nal Damayanty (1934) drama; Meghdoot Purbamegh (1940), translated poems; Komota Kuwori (1940), a drama; Asiar Jyoti (1960), translation work; Soviet Kabita (1968) translated poems; Kumar Sambhav (1969), translated poems; Paporir Porimal (1969), collection of poems; Bokul Bonor Kabita (1976), a collection of poems; Sei Nimati Puware Pora (1982), a collection of poems; Kopoi Kuwari (Children drama); Nilanjan, drama; Pondit Modon Mohan Malaviyar Jiboni, biography and Ethan From (translations) are some of his works of which the dates of publication are not known.

Some of his unpublished but completed works are Panchami, children drama; Tejimola, children drama; Phulora, children’s one-act-play; Sahjahanor Ontim, translated play; Bonik Bondhu, translated play; Sitaharan, drama; Mrigamaya, drama and Banipath, for school curriculum. Agnigarh (drama); Asomiya Deka (novel) and Amar Sahitya (for public education) are some of his incomplete and unpublished works.

Bokul Bonor Kabita (1976) fetched him the prestigious Sahitya Academy Award in 1977 and Ananda Chandra Barua’s name and fame received international acclaim. It is a collection of poems depicting the poets multifarious views of his love for his motherland, love for humanity, true love for man, experiences of life etc. Among the poems, Ananda Chandra Barua’s famous composition includes Prithibir Preme Mok Dewoliya Korile which he himself recited in the kavi sanmilan organized by the All India Radio on January 25, 1960, at New Delhi.

Ananda Chandra Barua was not only a writer of various literary genres but also a good actor. He had acted in quite a number of plays and a few films. He played pivotal role in dramas like Sahjahan and Chanakya; as the character of Laksman in Mitradev Mahanta’s Boidehi Biyug; as Sokuni in Ganesh Gogoi’s Sokunir Pratisudh; as the old maulovi in Phani Sharma’s Siraj and in many other important roles. In Podum Barua’s film Ganga Silonir Pakhi he won the hearts of the audiences with his stunning performance.

Ananda Chandra Barua was equally a good social worker and philanthropist. He had organizational prowess and capability to involve people for the greater benefit of an organization. It was through his relentless efforts that organizations like the Bani Sanmelan was established in 1930. Initially Bani Sanmelan, a cultural and literary confluence, was held six times in a year, in accordance with the changes of season. Irrespective of caste, creed and religion people thronged the sanmelan and actively participated in it. Music, literature, art and dancing talents came to the fore in this sanmelans. Besides some of the great literatteurs of Assam like Sahitya Ratna Chandradhar Barua, Pandit Krishna Kanta Handique, Dimbeswar Neog, Benudhar Sarma, Pitambar Dev Goswami, Indreswar Borthakur, Kirti Nath Bordoloi, Bagmibor Nilmoni Phukan, Mitradev Mahanta and others. Prof (Dr) Suniti Kumar Chattopadhaya from West Bengal also graced the occasion. But as all good things always come to an end, with the passage of time Bani Sanmilon began to fade in glory, eventually coming to an end.

The working spirit in Ananda Chandra Barua remained undaunted. A few years later he got involved in another literary organisation known as Chintamoni Chakra which was established in Jorhat on July 16, 1948. Ananda Chandra Barua was its president. The chakra was held once a month in which various topics on science, philosophy, social, literature and religion were discussed. Its members were also given the opportunity to express their talents in singing, recitation of self composed poems and short stories etc.

Ananda Chandra Barua was also an integral part of the Jorhat Theatre. He had not only acted in several plays but also staged many plays.

Ananda Chandra Barua was very closely associated with the Assam Sahitya Sabha from 1948 till the time of his death in 1983. He was not only a member of the executive council but was also elected as the president of the kavi sanmilan. In 1969 he was the president of the Barpeta session of the annual Assam Sahitya Sabha. The three-day sessions was most memorable in the annals of Assom Sahitya Sabha for various reasons. First, because of the presence of the Barpeta Kirton Ghar there, the Sabha was also surrounded by a religious aura with the chanting of naam kirtans and with feelings of bhakti for the Gurujan, secondly there was the beautiful exhibition of the boat race of Barpeta on two big ponds, near the Sabha venue. His seventy pages long speech is an invaluable piece of Assamese literature.

Besides such major organizations, the Bokul Bonor Kobi was also member of other socio-cultural organizations such as the Assam Pratijugita Samiti, Assam Natya Sanmelan, Jorhat Sangeet Bidyalay etc. He was also an active member of some government organizations, besides being invited to various meetings and seminars to deliver speeches.

Ananda Chandra Barua received the title ‘Padmashree’ from the Government of India on April 21, 1970.

From 1977 Ananda Chandra Barua’s health began to fail. In 1981 he suffered a stroke, which brought more signs of deterioration to his frail body. The same year, just as he was trying to recover, he fell and broke his thigh which could not be healed due to his old age and weak health and he remained confined to bed forever. As days passed into months more complications began to arise, and in spite of the best possible treatment, he left for his heavenly abode on January 27, 1983 at 5.30 a.m. He was laid to rest at Dhekiakhowa, on the banks of his favourite river Deeha.

The news of his death was relayed to the nation within a couple of hours through the All India Radio. The national paper such as The Statesman made headlines to declare his death as — “Mr Ananda Chandra Barua, a well known Assamese poet and former president of the Assom Sahitya Sabha, died at the Assam Medical College, Dibrugarh on Thursday after a prolonged illness. He was 76. A recipient of the Padmashree and the Sahitya Academy Award (for his collection of poem, Bakul Bonor Kobita), Mr Barua was a regular contributor to literary magazines and was associated with many cultural and literary organizations. (21.8.83).”

The Times of India on its issue dated 30.1.83 reported his death on the same vein. They added…….. “The cremation took place in his home town Jorhat last evening in the presence of a large gathering.”

Ananda Chandra Barua’s death was not only the end of a man, but the end of an era of Assamese literature. We can almost say that he was the last of the Assamese Romantics. He was a man who loved humanity, his State, and above all his language. During the last stage of his life, as he lay in his death bed, he told his elder daughter Minerva Bhattacharya, “I could not give you all anything, I could not give Assamese language and literature anything. But when I die, I shall take with me the Assamese language.” Such was this son of Assam, who was so proud of his motherland. But today as we get prepared to celebrate his centenary, it is he who is making us proud.

Reference: Bokul Bonor Kobi by Sri Gunakanta Barua

Courtesy: The Sentinel (2007)

Read Ananda Chandra Barua’s poems.

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