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Assam: Birth anniversary of Kalaguru Bishnu Prasad Rabha-Versatile Genius, Revolutionary

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On January 31, 1909, Bishnu Prasad Rabha (বিষ্ণু প্ৰসাদ ৰাভা) was born in Dacca, Bengal Presidency, British India. His mother’s name was Gethi Mech, and his father’s name was Raibahadur Gopal Chandra Mushahary, who worked as a police officer during the British rule.

Every year on his death anniversary, Bishnuprasad Rabha, one of the most celebrated Assamese icons of the twentieth century, is remembered and the day is celebrated as “Rabha Divas”. We should remember his talent as an artist, singer, lyricist, music composer, actor, and litterateur; however, should we forget that his true spirit resided in his political beliefs and message of “true freedom”? He was a key figure in the anti-British movements, but he gradually lost faith in the (then) Indian Congress’s disregard for farmers, the poor, and the oppressed.


His songs deserve special mention when discussing his creative impetus. Rabha’s lyric-poem composition has now been institutionalised as Rabha Xongeet (Songs by Rabha). ‘While some of his poems are romantic, his revolutionary poems blaze through the pages of history. He seeks the participation of the common masses in his revolution to end the society’s capitalist/imperialist order.

Despite his communist ideology, Rabha was initially inspired by Gandhi and actively participated in the 1930 civil disobedience movement. He was pursued by British authorities, forcing him to transfer from Ripon College to Victoria College of Coochbehar. Even there, he continued his anti-government activities and wrote these lines on the wall, which became very famous in his time because they represented his fear that India’s freedom would only be transferred from the British Elites to the Indian Elites, with no regard for the poor.

Also Read: Assam: Me-dam-me-phi: All You Need To Know About The Ahom Festival

Bishnuprasad Rabha travelled to Kashi (now Benaras Hindu University) in 1939 to showcase Kamrupi dance and research classical music. In a celebration, Rabha performed a dance based on Krishna Leela, Dasavatar, and Tandava, for which he was specially praised by the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

Rabha rose to prominence as a revolutionary artist and was known as Xoinik Xilpi (the artist who took up arms). ’ Bishnuprasad Rabha was apprehended and imprisoned for a year in 1952.

Bhupen Hazarika, who met Rabha on the Kamakhya hilltop during his underground days, was a big fan of Bishnu Rabha. When Bishnu Rabha died, Bhupen Hazarika published a special issue on his life and works, but Rabha was ignored by institutions and the middle class for several years after his death.

 

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