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Dhekial Phookun pioneer of modern Assamese society

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 20 - Anundoram Dhekial Phookun (September 22, 1829 � June 16, 1859) brought the sense of modernity to Assamese society with such a decisive role in his extremely short span of life that he deserves the honour of a real hero.

This was the observation made by noted scholar Prof Ranjit Kumar Dev Goswami, the Sankaradeva Chair Professor of Tezpur University. He was delivering the Krishna Kanta Handiqui Memorial Lecture on the occasion of the 118th birth anniversary of renowned orientalist Pandit Krishna Kanta Handiqui at the Pandit Tirtha Nath Sarma Sabhaghar here today. Assam Academy for Cultural Relations organized the lecture.

Prof Dev Goswami said, quoting from Pandit Jogesh Chandra Bagal�s book Bethune Society, Anundoram Dhekial Phookan was one of the 25 founder members of the Calcutta-based Bethune Society. This society played a major role in bringing about the Bengal Renaissance about two centuries back, in the second half of the 19th century.

The other founder members of the Bethune Society included the illustrious Radhanath Sichdhar, Ramchandra Mitter, Ganendramohan Tagore, Surya Kumar Goodeve Chukerbutty, Peary Churn Sirkar, Debendranath Tagore, Pandit Iswar Chandra Bidyasagar, Dakhinaranjan Mukhopadhaya and Nabin Chandra Mitra, among others. Bagal depended on a news item published in The Bengal Hurkaru and Indian Gazette on January 20, 1852, to prepare the list.

Though he could not complete his higher study due to the problems in his family, Anundoram, during his short stint as a student in the Hindu College, Calcutta proved himself to be a bright student. The General Report on Public Instruction in the Lower Provinces of the Bengal Presidency for 1844-45 (Calcutta 1845, p 28) had praised him for his academic excellence stating that he and Gresh Chunder Mitter of their class were found to be far ahead of the others in all subjects.

Anundoram was the son of Haliram Dhekial Phookun, the author of the widely discussed Assam Buranji. Anundoram gave Assamese prose a modern shape so as to make it an effective tool to enlighten the common people of Assam.

For the purpose, he made the language simple in a clear, bare and inornate style, in keeping with the concept of the Royal Society of Science. His translations from the works of the noted English authors of that time brought forth a wind of change to the 19 th century Assamese society.

His Asamiya Lorar Mitra, a collection of the translated works of the English authors, has the samples of the modern Assamese prose that he had developed by blending the rich literary heritage of both the oriental and the western societies.

Anundoram Dhekial Phookun, besides using his pen to familiarize the people of Assam with the enlightenment that illuminated the western society during his time, also tried to prepare an Assamese dictionary. He leaves behind the sketches he had drawn of both the history of Assamese literature and the political history of Assam. He was elated at the news of abolition of slavery and was a staunch advocate of ryotwari system so far as the system of realization of land revenue was concerned.

Gunabhiram Baruah was inspired by him to set up the �Giyanar Sabha� to enlighten the common people.

Anundoram had a keen desire to turn Assam into a garden of flowers, where vessels would replace the canoes on its rivers, the thatched houses would be replaced by the RCC structures, thousands of schools would enlighten its rural folks, charitable institutions would provide succor to the poor and the needy, hospitals would be there to treat the ailing ones and poverty would disappear, people would embrace each another as brothers and they could never be lured to resort to perjury, and, prostitution and consumption of opium and wine would become the matters of the past, said Prof Dev Goswami.

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