GUWAHATI, May 26 - Two great mythological woman characters, Sita and Draupadi, are the most revolutionary woman characters in the entire gamut of Assamese literature.
This was observed by Dr Karabi Deka Hazarika, retired dean of the Faculty of Arts and professor of Assamese at Dibrugarh University, while delivering the 22nd Padmalochan Bhuyan Memorial Lecture on the theme �Women in Assamese Literature� at the Sankaradeva Kalakshetra on Friday evening.
The function was presided over by Dr Bijoy Krishna Dev Sarma, mathematician and former Director of College Education, NEHU, Shillong.
Dr Hazarika dwelt at length on how deftly the Vaishnava poets and writers of Assam, especially Srimanta Sankaradeva, gave a lucid expression of the universal softer sentiments of womenfolk while portraying a correct picture of the rebellious characters of Sita and Draupadi against vicissitudes of their lives.
She also mentioned the portrayal of woman characters by modern Assamese writers, right from the days of Arunodoy. She said Assamese literature sprang from the edifice of lullabies and folk tales of the early centuries of the Christian era which bore eloquent testimony of the cries and agonies of women persecuted by centuries-old social injustice, sexual discrimination and other forms of exploitation and deprivation.
Dr Hazarika also referred to the most revolutionary voice of Chandraprabha Saikiani, who held aloft the banner of revolt against societal prejudices, exploitation, conservatism and hypocrisy heaped upon women. She also acknowledged the contributions of Emily Goldsmith and Subarna Goldsmith who appeared as pioneers of the first Assamese lyrics and flung open the doors of a literary odyssey for the succeeding groups of Assamese woman writers.
She also spoke about the role of the great Assamese journals such as Jonaki, Banhi, Usha, Awahan and Ramdhenu on the pages of which woman writers like Tarini Devi, Bishnupriya Devi, Swarnalata Baruah, Trailokeswari Devi Baruani, Nikunjalata Chaliha, Annada Devi Barkataki, Amritpriya Devi, Noorjahan Begum, Kamalaloya Kakati, Dhanada Saikiani, Hemalata Baruah, and many other woman writers upheld the cause of society in general and women in particular.
Dr Hazarika referred to how great woman writers like Nalinibala Devi, Dharmeswari Devi Baruani, Jamuneswari Khataniar and Bimala Baruani and several other woman poets enriched the domain of Assamese poetry through their brilliant contributions.
�A women�s journal, Ghar Jeuti, published in the 19th century and jointly edited by Kanaklata Chaliha and Kamalaloya Kakati, gave expression to the sentiments of the Assamese women of the time. In the decades that followed, Assamese literature was immensely benefited by the brilliant writings of a new band of competent woman writers among whom Nirmal Prabha Bardoloi and Mamoni Raisom Goswami, Preeti Baruah and Nirupoma Borgohain shone brilliantly,� she said.
Referring to the advanced modern era of Assamese literature, Dr Hazarika mentioned the writings of poet Amulya Baruah who created a sensation with his poems like Baishya and Kukur.
She described Hem Barua�s Mamatar Sithi as one of the finest expressions of the cries and agonies of deprived women. Navakanta Barua�s woman characters were wrapped in the coating of romantic splendour, she said. She also referred to Archana Puzari�s Sita, Toshaprabha Kalita�s Draupadi, Nirmalprabha Bardoloi�s Draupadi, and her own Suli Nabandhiba Jagyaseni as giving different expressions on an abused, traumatised and anguished Draupadi who was horrified at the abuses inflicted on her in the court of the Kauravas in the presence of nobles and common men.
She also mentioned the writings of Lutfa Hanoom Selima Begum, Anupama Basumatary, Meera Thakur and Sumitra Goswami, and commented on the deft expression of women�s sentiments in the trying moments of isolation and persecution.
Dr Kandarpa Kr Deka, VC of Srimanta Sankardev University, in his speech acknowledged the contributions of Eliza Brown, and a band of woman missionaries in promoting the cause of modern Assamese literature at its nascent stage. He pleaded for value-based writings in Assamese literature.
Speaking as the guest of honour, senior journalist DN Chakravartty said while woman writers and thinkers like Mary Wollstonecraft put the revolt of women as a permanent struggle of women against male domination, other sections led by Virginia Woolf pleaded for cooperation and harmonious joint struggle of men and women to uphold the cause of women�s emancipation and empowerment.
He also referred to the great role played by Indian thinkers and social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, and observed that Mahatma Gandhi was the greatest emancipator of women.
Surjya Hazarika, vice president of Srimanta Kalakshetra Samaj and Paramananda Rajbongshi, president of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, also addressed the meeting.