Bishnu Prasad Rabha

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Bishnu Prasad Rabha
Bishnu rabha.png
Born 31 January 1909
Dhaka
Died 20 June 1969
Tezpur, Assam
Other names Kalaguru
Occupation Actor
painter
Dancer
Former member of legislative assembly
Music composer
Poet
Dramatist
Writer
freedom fighter
communist revolutionary
Years active 1909–1969
Sculpture depicting words from Bishnu Rabha

Bishnu Prasad Rabha (Assamese: বিষ্ণুপ্ৰসাদ ৰাভা) was a multifaceted artist and revolutionary singer of Assam. A doyen of the Arts, he is popularly known as Kala Guru ( Assamese: কলাগুৰু).

Early life[edit]

Bishnu Prasad Rabha was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 31 January 1909. His father was Sardar Bahadur Gopal Chandra Rava who was serving in the British Police. He attended Tezpur Government High School and later went to Calcutta for higher education. He completed his ISC exam from St. Paul's Cathedral Mission College and joined the prestigious Ripon College (now Surendranath College) at the University of Calcutta for a BSc degree.[1]

From an early stage, he played an active role in the struggle for Indian independence. He came to be influenced by left wing ideas and came close to the Communist Party of India. However, when Germany attacked Soviet Union during second world war and the Indian communists decided to work with the British government, a section of the party favoured a different approach – to oppose British imperialism and Fascism simultaneously. So a split happened in the communist party and in 1945 he finally joined the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI). In 1951, after the death of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, he became the president of the Assam branch of Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA).

His work Bano Kobang portrays the life worlds of the ethnic groups of Axom. His other works include Mising Coneng, Sonpahi, Axomiya Kristir Samuh Abhash, and Atit Axom. His interest for the upliftment and liberation of the weaker section of society is visible in his works. But these works did not get much accolade as his other works received. Bishnu Prasad Rava was an eminent freedom fighter. His meaning of freedom however is not simply freedom from British rule. But it meant freedom from capitalism, freedom from wage-slavery, freedom from poverty and all social evils. In his own words, "I am fighting for a revolution from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom". He dedicated his entire life for this freedom movement. He donated an ancestral estate of 2500 bigha land received from the British government in favour of the peasants. His slogan was "Haal Jaar Maati Taar" means "those who cultivate should own the land". The present day Tezpur University stands upon the land donated by him. His entire life was characterised by a restlessness to work for the people and he kept on moving around like a nomad. He was also an excellent mass mobiliser. His speeches and lectures could touch the heart of the masses. However, his political struggle was never pregnant with individual power seeking motive. It was only give power at the hands of the masses. He even said that the independence achieved in 1947 was simply a farce. It is because in spite of the freedom the poor and weaker sections of the society remained the same. According to him, the real struggle begins after 1947.

Apart from being a revolutionary he was also a brilliant academician and researcher. This was despite the fact that due to participation in freedom struggle he was forced by the colonial British regime to leave Ripon College at Calcutta and transferred to Victoria College (now Acharya Brojendra Nath Seal College) at Cooch Behar. He was not able to continue his formal studies even there due to frequent raid of British forces in his hostel and was compelled to give up his formal educational career for ever.

Cultural influence[edit]

The level of influence exerted by the Kola Guru can be observed through the fact that most cultural music competitions of Assam feature a segment called Bishnu Rava Sangeet related to his compositions, lyrics and verse. Bishnu Prasad was an established singer. He had learnt Borgeet of Shrimanta Shankar Deva and gave the genre a new significance for the modern times. There are more than hundred songs composed by him. His songs are collectively called as Bishnu Rava Sangeet. This was a new genre of Assamese. In his songs one can see diverse themes like tributes to the Mother Nature, the exploitation of the peasant masses by the colonial rulers, the revolts of the workers at tea industries etc. His songs also reflects his revolutionary ideal and the country's struggle for real freedom. Some of his songs are popular among children even today and will be, for all times to come. Some leading numbers include 'Xurore Deulore, 'Bilote Halise', etc.[2]

He advocated the need to be aware of other people's cultures, views and religion etc. and advocated for a world community – a true humanist ideal.[3]


His evergreen compositions includes song like Para jonomor khubho logonor, logon ukali gol, roi roi keteki,tilai tilai, kurua botah and many more to mention. He was a great actor. He used to perform dramas at Bann theatre of tezpur which is regarded to be one of the oldest cultural activity centres of Assam. He also translated the famous song of revolution "Internationale" by Eugène Pottier into Assamese. His paintings are still preserved in his residence at Tezpur. Many of his art works are considered to be remarkable, as it were worked on with such a great perfection even at that time.[citation needed]

Theatre[edit]

There have been many live performances at the Baan theatre in Tezpur which is famously connected to Bishnu Rava. This theatre (Ban Stage) where many of Bishnu Rabha's plays have been staged is designed by renowned architect Upendra Kr. Baruah[4]

Films[edit]

He was also recognised as a film director, music composer (Siraj) and actor (Era Bator Sur). He was an actor par excellence. His acting expertise was witnessed by Ban Theatre of Tezpur. But, he never used this talent for commercial purpose. In spite of having very good rapport with the art world of Kolkata and Bombay, he never left Assam to achieve commercial success in the field of acting. Rather he used his talent to educate the masses. This talent also helped him to move around in disguise during his days of struggle. He also assisted in making of the first Assamese film Joymoti, by Jyoti Prasad Aggarwala. He was also a recognised film director.[5][6]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha Bota[edit]

There is an award given in his honour for achievements in the cultural/music world of Assam by the state government.[7][8]

Memorial Park[edit]

Memorial inside Bishnu Rabha Smriti Udyan

The Bishnu Rava Smriti Udyan has been set up as a memorial park in his honour. It is located on the banks of the Brahmaputra near Tezpur in a plot adjacent to the Bhairabi Temple.

The park is a result of the hard work of his middle son Hemraj Rabha who took the initiative to pay tribute to his father and started the construction. The project was later on taken by the government of Assam. It contains the cremation spot of the maestro. Apart from it, many of his unforgettable works are sculpted into the walls. The cremation spot lies on the bank of the Brahmaputra as a result of which it was suffering from soil erosion. But now it has been provided with embankments to prevent it and preserve it. Nowadays it has become a major site of attraction for his devotees. People often visit this place to offer homage.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bishnu Prasad Rabha". onlinesivasagar. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  2. ^ "Honour for Bishnu Rava". Assam Times Website. Assam Times. 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  3. ^ "Assamese – a search for a national identity". Dainik Janasadharan Website. Dainik Janasadharan (Newspaper). 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  4. ^ "Ban Theatre – Background". Ban Theatre Website. Ban Theatre. 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  5. ^ "Bishnu Rabha". IMDB Website. IMDB. 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  6. ^ "History of Assamese Cinema". Rupaliparda Website. A Profile by Sanjib Kr Borkakoti. 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  7. ^ "Rich tributes paid to Bishnu Rabha". Assam Tribune Website. The Assam Tribune (newspaper). 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 
  8. ^ "Bishnu Rabha Award Recipients". Amtron Website. Badruddin Ajmal. 2007. Retrieved 22 June 2007. 

External links[edit]