Rudra Barua

by Manjit Kumar Sarma


I have never met him, have never even talked to him. But still, I feel I know the man, know what he felt and the way he wanted the Assamese people to forge Assam’s destiny. Maybe, this is not only me but all these who have gone through his songs will enumerate the same anecdote. Those who knew him as a person, might have some other story to recount, but for innumerable fans including me, he is simply magic. And perhaps the underlying impulse within his every number, that thrive to stimulate a sense of nationalism and oneness among the aboriginal of the region and that which are presented in an impromptu, casual manner was what his magic all about. To quote noted writer Chandra Prasad Saikia, "His songs carry the glories of the great Assamese history and tradition, which continue to enable the Assamese people to face the new day, fearlessly and confidently".

      O bandhu, somoi pale
      Amaar phale ebar aahi jaaba
      Sahaj saral gawar jeevan
      Khyantek roi saba.
      Jan bahaanar sujog naai
      Auhotiya amaar thai
      Baat bolote hoito bandhu Anek dukhei paba
      Ebar ahi jaaba ...

The prototypical Rudra Barua numbers like this one has for decades enthralled people across the valleys and the plains and still continue to bridge the gap between the rural and urban populace. Every time one listens to his numbers floating in from the radio, they are bound to feel like having understood the man more closely, than ever.

      Paka dhanar maje maje
      Soru soru ali oi, soru soru ali
      Alit pori geet jore jakk balimahi
      Heem sesa botah ahi dhaan gole sumi
      Dawaniya halot kachi khorai lole tuli Soru soru ali ...

Centered around the innocence of the rural populace and their humble lifestyle, Rudra Barua’s songs are some of the finest offerings in the field of Assamese music. However, somebody on the very first hearing may tend to classify his songs as magnificent imagination and soulful fantasy only, but the truth is that they are not. Infact his songs were born out of his closest attachment with the rural background of Assam, an attachment that began from the banks of the river Kollong.

Musician, writer, actor, promoter and above all a great singer, who is known as the kollongparia geetikaar, Rudra Barua was born in the year 1926 at Bhimor village near Puranigudam in the district of Nagaon. Unfortunately, when his father Barada Kanta Barua predeceased wife Hiralata Barua and two daughters, Rudra Barua was only nine. For the next couple of decades, the family had to pass through some real tough times. Because of financial hardship, Rudra Barua could not excel in his academic life. He had to do very hard labour but somehow he managed to continue his studies. And weathering all these storms, he started to write songs while he was only at the eight standard. The sankari culture and tradition, as was prevalent in the then undivided Nagaon district swayed him immensely and this was when a desire to start a career in culture took place within him.

Since his childhood he used to take part in most of the religious and cultural ceremonies of the area that included Bhoana, Naam Prasanga to the auspicious Tithi Ustav (birth and death anniversary) of the great Vaishnavaite saint Sankardeva as well as Madhavdeva.

He began his college education at the Nagaon town, where luckily, he got financial help from a number of well to do families of the town. And it happened only because of his decency and his prized quality that empowered him to sing beautifully. He started singing his songs in most of the functions organised in Nagaon which made him popular day by day. Within that time he began acting too. The local Amolapatty Natya Mandir used to be a prestigious platform for showcasing skills of cultural excellence and it was where Rudra Barua found a secure home for portraying his talents. Slowly, he came in contract with some of the noted actors of that period like Chandra Phukan, Sarada Bardoloi and others.

When he passed the IA exam in 1947 he had to proceed for Shillong as the then capital town of Assam was a glittering land of hope. Immediately, he got a job through one of his relatives living in Shillong but he didn’t stop his education and got himself admitted into the night shift of the St Anthony’s College. By the time he completed his graduation in 1951 he had became an active cultural worker of Shillong being member of various organisations such as the Shillong Kola Porishad, Shrimanta Sankardev Natya Samaj, Shillong Mukul Sangha, Shreemanta Sankardev Kristi Kendra (Bishnupur), Laban Namghar, Asomiya Namghar (Jail Road), Madhavdev Namghar and others. His popularity among the senior and respected Assamese citizens of Shillong also increased within these time and apart from them he also got influenced by some of the greatest exponents of the Sankari culture of that period like late Jiveshwar Goswami, late Girikanta Mahanta and others, whose guidance enabled him to know more about the great Sankari culture.

As an active member and grassroot worker of Shillong Kola Porishad, Rudra Barua took part in numerous dramas, Bhoanas and dance dramas and even went to far off places of the country for participating in various festivals. Later, when the capital of Assam was shifted to Guwahati, Shillong Kola Porishad too had to be shifted to Guwahati and Rudra Barua also joined the cultural department and settled down in Guwahati. But, the memories of Shillong, of its colourful people and the green hills kept on haunting him and Rudra Baruah penned down

      Umiam Umiam senehi noi
      Bukure bedana bujaba noari Ushupi thakili boi
      Tore pare pare Bali bhoj patilo
      Tore sole sole/Safuri phurilo Ulahat utala hoi ...

Joining the Cultural Department, Rudra Barua began enriching the treasure trove of Assamese music as he got the chance to concentrate wholeheartedly on the same. Apart from singing and writing songs, he also continued acting in Assamese films and dramas. But perhaps, his greatest contribution to the field of Assamese art will be his untiring efforts to bring out the hidden talents to the forefront. Rudra Barua is one among the few Assamese who left no stone unturned in bringing out the best talents from the abyss of uncertainty. During his lifetime, he helped many singers, actors, performers and artists to come out from the unknown villages and perform their art. For the upliftment of the Assamese artists and performers and also for the development of the overall scenario, he submitted many a proposal to the government and was trying to implement them when he fell seriously ill and was flown to Madras where on 14th February, 1980 he left for his heavenly abode. Assam lost one of its worthy sons.

It is really tragic to note that against his life long devotion and sacrifice for the upliftment of Assamese culture, we could pay him nothing. He fought, all through his life for the peoples cause, sang from deep in side his heart where every tune reflected his moribund effort to awaken the Assamese society, and now twenty years have passed since he died, but not even a posthumous recognition has been conferred upon this great singer son of Assam, which clearly proves how selfish and ungrateful we Assamese people are.

There’s no many organisation that make a hue and cry in the name of Assamese culture, so many people speaking out in favour of the same, but nobody ever raised a voice in his favour. For Rudra Barua’s untiring efforts for the upliftment of the downtrodden, he should have been conferred with a national recognition like Sangeet Natak Academy award or something like that, but how that can happen when the very people for whom he did so much are silent, letting even his memories fade away so easily.

Perhaps, today people have forgotten him for he is long dead but still Rudra Barua will continue to allure us and everytime the Assamese society went through an emergency he will continue to empower us with his golden voice that’s still afresh and alive in our hearts.

Coutesy: The Assam Tribune

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