REMINISCING SARADA DEVI, THE HOLY MOTHER, WHOSE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY IS CELEBRATED AS 'MATRI DIVAS'


'Matri Divas' is celebrated on the twenty-second of December to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sarada Devi, who was fondly known as 'Maa Sarada' or the 'Holy Mother'. According to Swami Vivekananda, she was an illustration of an ideal woman due to her selfless service and liberal outlook towards enrichment of common people and transformation of the nation.

On 22 December 1853, Sarada Devi was born to Ramchandra Mukhopadhyay and Shyama Sundari Devi who lived in Jayrambati, a village in West Bengal. Since childhood, she was inclined to spirituality. She tried to learn the Bengali alphabet but had no access to formal education.

At the age of six, she was married to Sri Ramkrishna, who followed the path of spirituality. But she continued to stay with her parents and engaged herself in performing all the household duties. When she reached eighteen years of age, she went to Dakhineshwar to meet Ramkrishna. Her husband received her with pleasure and they stayed together living pure and religious lives.

In the year 1872, Sarada Devi was worshipped through rituals as Divine Mother and the trait of universal motherhood concealed in her got awakened. Subsequently, she began to perceive the disciples of her husband as her own children. She spent her entire life caring and serving everyone.

In 1886, Ramkrishna passed away and Sarada Devi set out on a pilgrimage. Later, she was brought to Calcutta by the disciples of her husband. The turning point of her life started as she began to receive plenty of devotees. With a compassionate heart of a mother, she embraced everyone, even people who led immoral lives.

Inspite of being worshipped as Holy Mother; she led a very simple life, doing all the household tasks all by herself. She ever remained calm and blessed one and all who came to meet her. She possessed virtues of purity, patience, wisdom, spiritual perception, universal love and compassion.

During the ultimate phase of her life, her physical condition began to decline. She became weak due to frequent attacks of malaria. On 21 July 1920, she breathed her last.

To reminisce and pay tributes to the Holy Mother Sarada Devi, 'Matri Divas' is celebrated every year on twenty second December. The day is observed to acknowledge every mother, who plays a vital role in the development of her children since she is the essence of creation and the first tutor of her child.

 
[Published in ‘Ezine Articles’ on 6 June 2013]

CONTRIBUTIONS MADE BY MAHARISHI VED VYAS, THE AUTHOR OF THE EPIC 'MAHABHARATA'


Immense contributions were made by the great gurus of India during ancient times. Maharishi Ved Vyas is well known for protecting the Vedas and preserving knowledge.

Krishna Dwaipayan, popularly known as Ved Vyas, was born in Kalpi Island of the Yamuna River on the full moon day in the month of 'Ashadh' (June-July). His father was Sage Parashar, the grandson of Sage Vasishtha and his mother was Matsyagandha, a fisher girl whose original name was Satyawati. When Sage Parashar died, Satyawati got married to Shantanu, the king of Hastinapur.

Ved Vyas composed the great epic 'Mahabharata' which is read worldwide even today. He recorded all the history for the future generations and rendered 'Gita' as a part of the epic, which still serves as an ideal guide to every human being for positive actions and living a purposeful life.

Vyas made great efforts in preserving the voluminous store of Vedic knowledge. At first when he doubted that the Vedas might get extinct, he protected them by compilation and organised them into four parts. He then laid stress on handing over the knowledge from one generation to the other. This was done by a guru to his disciple and by a father to his son.

Besides these, he allotted the various branches of knowledge to several communities. The different branches were Ayurveda (medical science including surgery), Sthapatya Veda (sculpture related to metals, mortars, stones and wood), Gandharva Veda (vocal and instrumental music, dance, art etc.) and Dhanur Veda (skills of military warfare).

Ved Vyas also composed Puranas so that the common people could understand all about the Vedic principles and sincerely follow them in their lives. According to him, religion was not just belief in facts heard or told, but being a part, by realizing truths and developing them and carrying them out in actions.

The Guru-Shishya tradition for protection of Indian culture was established by Ved Vyas. He assigned each of the four Vedas to different disciples who were competent for propagation of knowledge. He gave Rig Veda to Bhaskala, Yajur Veda to Vaishampayana, Sam Veda to Jaimini and Atharva Veda to Aruni. The main goal of this tradition was to establish an ideal social order.

The Gurukul system of education in India thus gradually developed from the Guru-Shishya tradition. The sons of both the kings and the common men came from far off places to stay with the guru in his 'ashram'. All lived together and the children were treated as part of the guru's family. They served their guru and respected him as a deity. The disciples learned not only what they were taught but also learnt how to live with humility and dignity. The disciples attained knowledge by observing the life of their guru and experiencing truth.

Ved Vyas shall always be remembered for his sincere efforts of preserving Vedic knowledge. Hence, his birth anniversary is celebrated every year as Guru Purnima.

 
[Published in ‘Ezine Articles’ on 3 June 2013]

THE POWER OF WORDS


It was morning and the day was twenty-fifth December. The door bell rang. I opened the door and saw an old lady and a young girl smiling at me. “Merry Christmas,” they said and shook my hands. The girl then forwarded me a Christmas card. “We’ll be delighted if you with your family come to our residence in the evening”, the old lady invited me. “Sure”, I assured them.
It was my first visit to the lady’s cottage and I was overwhelmed with their hospitality. After returning home, I took out my diary and penned my feelings through a poem. Next day, I sent the poem for publication to the “feelings” column of an esteemed daily. Few weeks later, it was a pleasant surprise for me when I found my poem titled ‘A lady with a difference,’ published in the newspaper.

One of the lady’s daughters, who stay in a hostel and whom I had not met before, read it in the newspaper too. Noticing the address given below the poem, she came across a doubt that perhaps the ‘lady’ referred to could be her mother. She rang her eldest sister, the one who had visited my home and told her about it. The eldest daughter did not know my good name and in fact, none in their family too, but she was quite sure that I could be the person who wrote the poem. Later, she called me, enquired about it and felt highly delighted when I told her the whole story about the composition.
After a couple of days, the old lady came to my residence again. She presented me a gift and blessed me. Then, with a bright smile, she told me that my poem about her would be scanned, framed and shall be kept as a showpiece in their living room. But this was not the end. About a year later, when the marriage of their eldest daughter was fixed, the lady’s husband and her son came to our house with an invitation card. They invited me and my family to the wedding and mentioned that we were the first family to be invited.

The words of a poem created wonders. It was an amazement to see the power of words. The love and appreciation showered by the family purely touched my heart. The charming memories shall be cherished forever. 

[Published in 'Your Space’ of the e-journal ‘Muse India’ on 28 May 2013]

GURU PURNIMA - A DAY OF REVERENCE


Guru Purnima is observed on the full moon day in the month of Ashadh (June-July) every year. The birth anniversary of Maharishi Ved Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is celebrated as Guru Purnima. The day is also known as Vyas Jayanti.
The word guru refers to perfection. Gu signifies concealed and ru signifies revealed. Thus, a guru is one who removes ignorance and paves way for enlightenment. Earnestly religious people begin their day by chanting a prayer to their guru: Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnuh Gurur Devo Maheswarah, Guruh Sakshat Param Brahmah, Tasmai Sri Gurave Namah. In other words, Guru is the creator, preserver and also the destroyer.

India stands with pride for the contributions made by the great gurus in the ancient times. This is a day when we remember all the gurus who have worked for the propagation of knowledge. Ved Vyas composed the great epic Mahabharata which remains immortal till date. Valmiki composed the epic Ramayana which is read worldwide even today. Vasistha was the kulguru of Raghuvansa lineage where Sri Ram was born. Vishwamitra initiated the Gayatri Mantra. Bharat did research in performing arts and made India unique. Dhanvantari is known for his work in medical science. Patanjali made his contribution in the field of yoga. Vatsyayana wrote Kamasutra which serves as a guide for a happy married life. Thus, the gurus offered knowledge for the development of Indian culture.
Ved Vyas also made efforts in preserving the great store of Vedic knowledge. At first, when he doubted that the Vedas might get extinct, he protected them by compilation and organised them into four parts. Secondly, he laid stress on handing over the knowledge from one generation to the other. This was done by a guru to his disciple and by a father to his son. Third, he allotted the various branches of knowledge to several communities. The different branches were Ayurveda (medicine including surgery), Sthapatya Veda (sculpture related to metals, stones, mortars and wood), Gandharva Veda (vocal and instrumental music, dance etc.) and Dhanur Veda (skills of military warfare). Lastly, he composed Puranas so that the commoners could understand all about the Vedic principles and sincerely follow them in their lives. Hence, due to all these work of surviving knowledge and preserving the Vedas, the birth tithi of Ved Vyas is celebrated as Guru Purnima.    

The Gurukul system of education came into being from the Guru-Shishya tradition established by Ved Vyas. Sons of both kings and common people lived together with their guru in his ashram. They served their guru and respected him as a deity. The disciples learned not only what he taught but also learnt how to live with humility and dignity. They glorified their guru, respected him and expressed gratitude for being guided in life towards attaining the highest goal.
From time immemorial, the guru was offered an exalted place in India. The kings stood up from their thrones when the kulguru entered the hall. He was always given a seat near the monarch. Our country is gifted with sincere disciples and benevolent gurus. Chandra Gupta Maurya and his guru Chanakya, Maharaj Shivaji and his guru Samartha Ramdas, Swami Vivekananda and his guru Sri Ramakrishna etc. are some of the well-known examples.

Thus, on the day of Guru Purnima, let us pay reverence to our gurus. Our accomplishments would be worthless if we fail to remember them for their dedication towards moulding our lives.


[Published in 'Articles Base' on 20 May 2013]

CONTINUOUS AND COMPREHENSIVE EVALUATION - A BLESSING OR A BURDEN


Education in schools is presently based on the concept known as ‘Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation'. This new scheme of evaluation was implemented with the vision of assessing students throughout the academic session on a broad based process of learning. Being comprehensive, the prospects seem bright as the students are able to recognize their fields of interest and make decisions for the future in regard to pursuing higher studies, choosing their course and shaping the career. The scheme comes as a challenge to those students who excel in academics alone and lag in co-curricular activities.
Continuous and comprehensive evaluation plays an important part in the teaching-learning process and to raise the standard of performance in the schools. The new scheme provides scope for the teachers to develop better teaching strategies and assess the students through multiple techniques of evaluation. The scheme benefits the learners too as they get motivated to improve their studying habits by discarding memorization and laying emphasis on the co-scholastic areas. However, sufficient time would definitely be needed for the scheme to be properly effective in schools throughout the nation.

CCE was introduced in the CBSE Board about a couple of years back. Schools having less infrastructural expansion and resource availability are trying to make adequate changes for reforming the evaluation system. Though the implementation is considered as a blessing in some schools, it is referred to as a burden in some other educational institutions. Apart from classroom teaching, importance is being given to the students for their active participation in the co-curricular activities like aesthetic and performing art, health and physical activities etc. for proper functioning and efficiency of the scheme. Besides, progress of every student in both scholastic and co-scholastic aspects are also recorded.

The objectives of CCE have to be sincerely followed by the stakeholders for the success of the venture. The evaluation process would appear challenging during the initial years but it will truly live up to the expectations as education is not merely textbook learning but development of the entire personality.

In my opinion, continuous and comprehensive evaluation is a positive step in the process of assessment. I like the scheme for several reasons. It helps in bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning, minimizes stress caused by fear of Board examinations, decreases workload as the syllabus of one term is not repeated in the next term and aids in developing life skills to face situations in future.
The scheme turns out to be a disadvantage to some meritorious students since there is no scope for competition as marks are replaced by grades. Some students may not have a liking as they are constantly being watched of their actions. They do not feel at ease and remain tensed as grades are given for their attitude towards teachers, school-mates, school and environment.

It is possible that CCE may have to cope with some so far unseen challenges in future. It would all depend upon the acceptance of the scheme by the students, parents and teachers. Success would lie entirely upon the contentment of the stakeholders and only then it would stand the test of time.
Above all, feedback by students passing out with flying colours, reactions of the parents whose children achieved the desired goals and success of the teachers in imparting education would define the ground of necessity of the evaluation scheme in the schools in the near future.

 
[Published in 'Articles Base' on 7 May 2013]

THE DISCOVERY OF OIL


Digboi is situated in the north-eastern region of India and is famous for the discovery of oil during the nineteenth century. It is a small town located in Tinsukia district of Assam and still retains the ambience of the British. The place attracts visitors for its scenic beauty, spacious bungalows, oldest refinery, National Oil Park, War Cemetery, Digboi Club and the eighteen holes Golf Course.
According to records, a group of engineers from Assam Railways and Trading Company were extending the railway track from Dibrugarh to Ledo in 1882. As there was no habitation around and the area was covered by dense jungles, elephants were used for doing the work. Accidently, they noticed that black mud smelling like oil stuck to their feet and the legs of elephants. The startled men started to explore by tracing the trail of footprints left behind and they discovered oil oozing on the surface.

 It is said that the name of the place became ‘Digboi’ from the words “dig-boy-dig” which the Englishmen used when the labourers were engaged in the task of digging crude oil. In September 1889, the first oil well, locally known as ‘Well No. 1’ was dug and in 1899, Assam Oil Company was formed. In the year 1901, the first refinery in Asia was set up at Digboi. The oil field produced around seven thousand barrels per day during the period of Second World War.
At present, Digboi is the Headquarter of Assam Oil Division of Indian Oil Corporation Limited. The oil town stands with pride with two features that are unique. First, for having more than a century old oil producing oilfield and second, for having the oldest operating oil refinery. The oilfield now houses an oil museum that displays the history of the town.

 
[Published in the e-magazine ‘Fried Eye’ on 15 April 2012]

OJAPALI - A PERFORMING ART FORM OF ASSAM


Assamese culture embraces various performing arts and Ojapali is one among them. This is a traditional art form and is considered to be one of the oldest. Though perceived in the districts of Kamrup, Nalbari etc. in Lower Assam, it is but most popular in the district of Darrang. Ojapali showcases a combined performance of narrative singing, dancing gestures and dramatic dialogues.
Generally performed by a group of five men, the name Ojapali comes from the words oja and pali. The lead artiste is known as Oja and he is accompanied by assistant artistes known as Palis. The chief among the Palis is the Daina-pali or the right-hand aide, who makes the theme further interesting by his humorous dialogues. A small pair of cymbals called the Khutitaal is the sole instrument used during the performance.

The performers of Ojapali render two types of songs called malanci geet and jagar. The songs are sung in Sanskrit. They also sing Patsha Geet, a type of mixed song, which was composed during the Muslim reign. Besides singing, Oja, the chief performer, maintains the rhythm with his feet. Simultaneously, he explains the theme with suitable body movements and facial expressions. The costume worn by the performers are white gowns with long sleeves. They also wear various jewelry and nupur on their feet.
Ojapali can be categorized into two major forms - Byah Ojapali and Sukananni Ojapali, based on their style of performance. Byah Ojapali performers are also known as Vyah-gowa or singers of Vyasa’s works, as they primarily focus on the great epics. On the other hand, Sukananni Ojapali performers are known as Maroi-gowa or singers of Maroi Puja. These performers sing songs of the snake-goddess Manasa Devi, composed by Sukavi Narayana Dev, an ancient Assamese poet.

Ramayana and Mahabharata are the dominant subjects of Byah Ojapali. The stories are sung in pure classical style based on various ragas, with dancing movements made by hands and fingers known as mudras. To entertain the crowd and make them understand, amusing dialogues with explanations are presented during the performance.
The heart-rending tale of Behula and Lakhindar from the Padma Purana is presented by the performers of Sukananni Ojapali. This art form is usually performed during Manasa Puja, to worship the Deity of serpents. The entertainers start their performance by singing songs in praise of several Gods and Goddesses before going on to the story divided into three parts namely, Deva Khanda, Baniya Khanda and Bhatiyali Khanda.

Another form of Ojapali known as Ramayani Ojapali is gradually declining. In this art form, stories from the Ramayana are presented. According to records in history, Barbyahu and Sarubyahu, two talented artistes of the Koch kingdom, were summoned by the kings time and again to sing numerous mythological verses and subsequently, their style of performance became prevalent among the masses. However, some other reports relate Ojapali to the pre-Vaishnavite period.

 
[Published in ‘North-East India’ on 16 March 2012]

CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT


A huge expanse of land gets submerged when a reservoir is created followed by the construction of a dam. So it is very essential to demarcate the areas rich in biodiversity for protection of the environment. Survival of the exotic and near extinct species which are affected during the construction of a Project should be given due importance for continuous existence of floral diversity.
Hence, a sincere mission was carried out in Umrongso with the purpose of conserving the diverse plant species and flora of the region. A Botanical Garden was set up with the primary aim of conservation, prompt multiplication, rehabilitation of the plant species, extending awareness about the floral heritage and promoting education. Rare and endangered plants were collected from the impact areas and were introduced in a Nursery.

The Garden spreads over a large area and various plant species have been planted for preservation. It has several sections like wild edibles, ferns, medicinal plants, palms and cycads, rare and endangered species, wild plants of horticultural importance, plants of economic importance etc. The garden is enriched by the rare pitcher plant and with different varieties of orchids. To move around and have close access to each plant and every section, a pathway crisscrossing the total length and breadth of the garden has been laid out. A small lake in the centre with a bridge over it adds to the beauty of the garden. Blooming water lilies and ducks wading in the water present a beautiful sight to the visitors. Rare birds are noticed during the migratory season. For the pollination of plants, beehives are maintained.

The Nursery has a green shade net-house for hatching various plant species. Vegetative propagation of plants is carried out throughout the year and later the seedlings are transferred to small poly-bags. Different species of trees like Neem (medicinal plant), Silikha, Krishnachura, Kanchan, Chandan, Sonaru, Teak (Sagoon) etc. are available in the Nursery and plantation labels are marked on them. The plant saplings are then distributed around for planting them in different areas as massive plantation is a major step towards protection of the environment.

[Published in ‘Articles Base’ on 14 February 2012]

BIR CHILARAI - THE GREAT GENERAL OF ASSAM

Bir Chilarai (1510 - 1571 AD) was a great general who belonged to the Koch royal dynasty of Assam. By his valour, he played a significant role in expanding the empire of his elder brother, Maharaja Nara Narayan.

The Koch dynasty set up their kingdom in the western part of Assam after the fall of Khen dynasty in 1498 AD and Chandan was crowned king of Kamata kingdom. Maharaja Chandan ruled for thirteen years but as he had no sons, after his death Viswa Singha was enthroned.

The reign of Maharaja Viswa Singha marked a glorious episode in the history of Assam as he was the founder ruler of the Koch royal dynasty, who newly established his kingdom in 1515 AD. He had many sons but only four of them were remarkable. Shukladhwaj, later known as Bir Chilarai, was his third son.

Born on a full moon day, Shukladhwaj had a fair complexion and hence he was called by that name. He along with his brothers learnt warfare and they all mastered the art very well. For achieving higher education, he and his elder brother Malla Dev went to Varanasi. They learnt various subjects and acquired knowledge in Sanskrit, Grammar, Literature, Law, Astrology etc.

After the death of Maharaja Viswa Singha, his son Malla Dev ascended the throne. He was better known as Maharaja Nara Narayan. Shukladhwaj was appointed army commander and he assisted his brother in extending the kingdom. A brave warrior and an exceptional general, Shukladhwaj was extremely quick in his actions. He came to be known as 'Chilarai' as he was swift like the bird chila or the kite in capturing the foes.

In 1562 AD, an intense battle took place when Nara Narayan crossed River Brahmaputra and attacked the Ahom kingdom. Chilarai commanded his soldiers to fight both on land and through water. The defeated king finally fled with his army and Nara Narayan achieved victory. Later, a truce followed between them.

In 1568 AD, another battle ensued when Nara Narayan attacked Gour, ruled by Soleman Karnani. But this time he had to face defeat as Kalapahar, the army commander captured Chilarai. Kalapahar with his soldiers then destroyed many temples including Kamakhya while he proceeded towards Tezpur.

Nara Narayan defeated the king of Cachar and brought his kingdom under his rule. The king of Manipur surrendered as he decided not to combat with such a powerful ruler. Chilarai then attacked the states of Jayantia, Tripura and Sylhet. He defeated the kings in the battles and killed them. Observing the condition of the neighbouring states, the rulers of Khairam and Dimoriya submitted their petty states. Thus with the help of Chilarai's heroism, Maharaja Nara Narayan extended his vast empire and earned revenues from several rulers.

Nara Narayan attacked Gour for the second time when Akbar, the Mughal emperor sought help from him. They had an alliance with Sisya Singha Raikat and Debraj, the king of Bhutan while invading Gour. Chilarai captured Ghoraghat and seized the whole area of Gour. After defeating King Gourpasha, the kingdom was shared between Nara Narayan and Akbar.

During the second invasion of Gour, Chilarai breathed his last on the banks of River Ganga as he suffered from pox. After his death, battles subsided. It was the courageous deeds of Chilarai that led the Koch kingdom reach the zenith.

Later, Nara Narayan divided his kingdom into two parts namely, Koch Bihar and Koch Hajo. He kept Koch Bihar, the western part under his authority while Koch Hajo, the eastern part was given to Raghudev, the son of chilarai.

The birth anniversary of the great hero is celebrated every year as Bir Chilarai Divas. From the year 2005, the government of Assam has been conferring Bir Chilarai Award, the highest honour for bravery to individuals. The gallant accomplishments of Bir Chilarai in the regime of Maharaja Nara Narayan shall be remembered forever.

[Published in ‘North-East India’ on 9 February 2012]

BIR TIKENDRAJIT SINGH - THE TRUE PATRIOT OF MANIPUR


Bir Tikendrajit Singh was a great patriot and a prince from Manipur, a state in the north-eastern region of India, who laid down his life during India's struggle for Independence. He was called the 'Lion of Manipur' as he fearlessly fought against the British.

Tikendrajit Singh was born as the fourth son to Maharaja Chandrakriti Singh and Chongtham Chanu Kouseswari Devi on December 29, 1856. Koireng, as he was popularly known as, loved freedom since his childhood. After the Maharaja's death on May 20, 1886, the eldest son of the royal family Surchandra Singh ascended the throne of Manipur. The princes were appointed as heir-apparent, army general and police chief. Later on, Tikendrajit became 'Senapati', the general of Manipur army.

Tension began to develop gradually as some misunderstandings crept up among the princes and finally the royal family split up into two factions, one led by Tikendrajit himself and the other by Pakasana. The king remained unaware about the situation and chaos increased to a great extent. According to Tikendrajit, the king was in favour of Pakasana. He disliked the British attitude towards the local rulers as they expanded their empire by usurpation. So he thought of a plan and made efforts to protect the sovereignty of the state. He was also aware of the fact that the Britishers waited for an opportunity to change Manipur to a colony of their own.

On September 22, 1890, Tikendrajit along with two other princes Angousan and Jilangamba, revolted against Surchandra Singh and overthrew him. The monarch fled from the palace and took refuge in the residence of the British. Then Kullachandra ascended the throne and Tikendrajit became 'Jubaraj', the heir-apparent. This incident is known as 'Palace Revolt' in Manipur history.

Later, the former ruler Surchandra Singh, left for Calcutta but informed Tikendrajit that he was on his way to Vrindavan. After reaching Calcutta, he sent a petition to the Government for restoring his throne in Manipur. The matter was taken into consideration and British Viceroy of India Lord Landsdowne then took a decision to retain Kullachandra as the king but remove Tikendrajit from Manipur.

On March 22, 1891, Chief Commissioner J.W. Quinton reached Manipur with a troop of soldiers. A secret plan was arranged to arrest Tikendrajit but the secret got leaked and the plan failed. Grimwood, the political agent then asked the king to hand over Tikendrajit to him. King Kullachandra refused and so the British used force to arrest Tikendrajit.

Two days later, in the evening of March 24, the British troops attacked the residence of Tikendrajit in Palace Compound and killed many civilians, women and children who were watching a programme on Ras Lila. The Manipuri soldiers fought back and succeeded in their offensive struggle. Five British officers, Quinton and Grimwood among them, had to flee to seek shelter. Feelings of revenge arose among the people whose family and relatives had been killed and thus they executed all the five officers.

On March 31, the Anglo-Manipur War took place as the British Government announced war on Manipur. Three columns of the army, namely, Kohima commanded by Major General H. Collet, Silchar commanded by Colonel R. H. F. Rennick and Tamu commanded by Brigadier General T. Graham were sent to Manipur while the Manipuri army was led by Tikendrajit himself.

On April 27, the Kangla Palace was taken over by the British and Major Maxwell became the chief political agent. Later, Churachand Singh, a minor was given the throne as Manipur turned into a princely state, while Tikendrajit along with some other leaders went underground.

The British Indian Government constituted a special court formed under Lieutenant Colonel John Mitchell for the trials and the court commenced on May 11. Tikendrajit, Kullachandra and Thangal General were found guilty and were sentenced to death. Some efforts were made by Queen Victoria to save Tikendrajit but remained unsuccessful as the Governor General confirmed the death sentences of Tikendrajit and Thangal General. A protest movement was also launched but failed. Kullachandra, however, made an appeal to the Government and his sentence was thus converted into transportation of life.

On August 13, 1891, the order was announced and at 5 pm in the evening, both Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged before the general public at Polo Ground in Imphal. This place was later named as Bir Tikendrajit Park and to remember his heroic deeds, Manipur celebrates the day as Patriot's Day.

Bir Tikendrajit was a true nationalist and he will always be remembered for his courage and patriotism.

 
[Published in 'North-East India' on 12 January 2012]

DR MAMONI RAISOM GOSWAMI, THE JNANPITH WINNER BIDS ADIEU


Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami is a distinguished name in the world of literature. In the year 2000, she was honoured with 'Jnanpith', the highest literary award in India, for her immense contributions. She was an eminent writer, a prolific author, a Ramayani scholar, an editor and former Professor of Delhi University.

Born to Umakanta Goswami and Ambika Devi on 14 November 1942 in Guwahati, she was named Indira by her father in memory of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. She was lovingly called Mamoni by her mother. Mamoni Raisom Goswami is her pen name by which she preferred to write.

Indira Goswami studied in Pine Mount School, Shillong in the early years and matriculated from Tarini Charan Girls' High School, Guwahati. Her first collection of stories Chinaki Morom was published when she was thirteen years of age. She graduated in Assamese Literature from Cotton College, Guwahati and obtained her postgraduate degree from Gauhati University.

She met Madhaven Raisom Iyengar, an engineer from Karnataka, who was then working on the construction of Saraighat Bridge over the River Brahmaputra in Guwahati. After getting married, they moved to Gujarat and later to Jammu and Kashmir where Iyengar was posted.

But unfortunately, just after eighteen months of marriage, Madhaven Raisom Iyengar lost his life in a car accident in Kashmir. They had no children. After the premature death of her husband, Indira Goswami suffered from acute depression, got addicted to heavy doses of sleeping pills and even made attempts to end up her life.

At this stage, she devoted her time to writing and wrote only to live. Her sufferings and struggles in life are conveyed in her book An Unfinished Autobiography written in the style of a novel. It is prescribed as a text-book by the universities in Maharashtra.

Indira Goswami first started her career as a teacher at Sainik School, Goalpara in Assam. Her teacher Upendra Chandra Lekharu persuaded her to pursue research work for peace of mind. According to his advice, she went to Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh and involved herself in the studies of Ramayani Literature.

She worked on her PhD thesis on the topic, a comparative analysis of Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas and Kotha Ramayan by Madhav Kandali. Later, her treatise was published as a book, Ramayana from Ganga to Brahmaputra, for which she was honoured with 'International Tulsi Award' from Florida University.

Dr Goswami joined the Modern Indian Language Department of Delhi University and her magnificent phase in life started. She penned most of her works during this period and her books written in Assamese were later translated into English. She went on to become the Head of the Assamese Department and after retirement, she was honoured as Professor Emeritus by the University.

The first novel penned by Mamoni Raisom Goswami was The Chenab's Current, which she started writing in 1964 and was published as a book in 1972. The story of the novel was based on her experience while she was in Kashmir with her husband. Her experiences in life are also reflected in her novels The Blue Necked Braja and Ahiran.

In 1982, Dr Goswami received the 'Sahitya Akademi Award' for her novel The Rusted Sword. Her novel The Moth Eaten Howdah of a Tusker was later made into a film named Adajya which received much acclaim and awards. Her famous novels were Dasarathi's Steps, The Man from Chinnamasta, Pages Stained with Blood, Udaybhanu, etc.

Several short stories were written by the acclaimed author and some of them were The Journey, The Offspring, To Break a Begging Bowl, Beasts, Parasu's Well, Dwarka and His Gun, Sanskar, etc. Pain and Flesh is her poetry collection which includes her well-known poem Pakistan. Mahiyashi Kamala is her biography on Dr Kamala Ratnam.

She translated many books such as Premchandor Chuti Galpa, Jatak Katha Aru Kalam and Adhaghanta Samay. Her other works include The Bronze Sword of Thengphakhri Tehsildar, Shadow of the Dark God, The Budha Sea, Hazy Geishas and Mohammad Mucha etc.

Dr Goswami received numerous awards in her lifetime for her literary contributions. She was honoured with 'Jnanpith Award', 'International Tulsi Award', 'Sahitya Akademi Award', 'Bharat Nirman Award', 'Katha Rashtriya Puraskar', 'Kamal Kumari Foundation National Award', ''Asom Sahitya Sabha Award', 'Krishnakanta Handique Award' and 'Mahiyashi Jaymati Award' with a citation in gold.

She also received literary awards from several states of India. She was honoured with D Litt Degree from three universities namely, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Rabindra Bharati University of West Bengal and Rajiv Gandhi University of Arunachal Pradesh. She was a recipient of 'Sauhardya Award' from Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan.

Besides, she was conferred 'Principal Prince Claus Laureate' from Netherlands, 'Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar Gold Plate' from Asiatic Society and 'Ambassador for Peace' from Inter Religious and International Federation for World Peace. But she refused 'Padmashri' awarded to her in 2002. A film named Words from the mist was made on her life by the national award winning film-maker Jahnu Baruah.

Mamoni Baideo, as she was popularly known as, played the role of a mediator between the United Liberation Front of Assam and the Indian Government. She took the initiative of bringing the banned militant group for negotiation of peace talks. Her efforts laid to the formation of the People's Consultative Group.

The noted litterateur passed away on 29 November 2011 at the age of 69 years. She suffered a stroke in the month of February last year and was taken to New Delhi for treatment. Later in July, she was brought back to Assam and was treated at Guwahati Medical College Hospital. There she breathed her last following a cardiac arrest and multiple organ failure.

The Jnanpith winner was bid farewell by thousands of mourners at the crematorium. A gun salute of twenty-one shots was fired in the air as a mark of respect. Her niece lit the funeral pyre and her mortal remains were consigned to flames. She was laid to rest with full state honours and her last rites were performed with Vedic rituals.

Dr Mamoni Raisom Goswami was appreciated and respected by all not only for her literary talents but for being a great humanist as well. She shall be remembered forever for her celebrated works and also for her charming personality.

 

[Published in ‘Indian Ruminations’ on 10 January 2012 ]

THE NEW SCHEME OF EVALUATION THAT CAN BE A BOON


According to Swami Vivekananda, education system in the schools should be based on 'Man Making - Nation Building'. But in a long established system set up by the Central Board of Secondary Education, it could be observed that students of Class X were assessed only in academics through an external examination that was conducted at the end of the academic session in the month of March. To bring about a quality change in the pattern, a new scheme of assessment known as 'Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation' was introduced in 2009 with the initiative of assessing students on various aspects of development like intellectual, emotional, social, cultural, physical, along with the course of subjects, during the entire session and not when the academic year ended.

The term 'continuous' refers to the process of assessment that includes both formative and summative, carried out regularly throughout the academic session. The term 'comprehensive' refers to the process of assessment in the scholastic and co-scholastic areas, which covers an all-around development of the students. The 'evaluation' process is divided into three parts and each part is further divided into two parts. Part One A comprises the scholastic areas (Languages I and II, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and Additional Optional Subject) whereas Part One B comprises work experience, art education and physical & health education. In Part Two, the co-scholastic areas are divided into two groups, the former consisting of the life skills (thinking, social, emotional) and the latter consisting of attitudes (towards teachers, school-mates, school programmes, environment) and values. Part Three deals with co-scholastic activities and the students are given the choice to select two activities from the first group and another two from the second group. Group A includes Literary & Creative Skills, Scientific Skills, Aesthetic & Performing Art, Organizational & Leadership Skills (Clubs) while group B includes Health & Physical Activities (Sports, NCC/NSS, Scouting & Guiding, Swimming, Gymnastics, Yoga, First Aid, Gardening/Shramdaan).

The Scholastic Areas are purely academic and consist of subjects given in the curriculum. Two Formative Assessments and one Summative Assessment are conducted in a term twice a year. In the Formative Assessments, the students are monitored by the teachers regarding assignments, oral questions, conversation skills, quizzes, projects and research work carried out in a group. In the Summative Assessment, the students are assessed by a set of questions to be answered in short, long and one correct reply among multiple choices, in a written examination conducted at the end of the term and grades to be awarded instead of marks. On the other hand, the Co-scholastic Areas include diverse skills, attitudes, value system, co-curricular activities and health. The students are assessed according to their ability and progress in creative and critical thinking, self-awareness, problem solving, decision making, interpersonal relationships, effective communication, empathy, dealing with stress, managing emotions, creative and literary activities, aesthetic activities, scientific activities, Eco club activities, health and wellness clubs etc.

The new system was introduced with the aim at bringing out the inner potential of every student besides excellence in academic learning. It might also help in recognizing the fields of interest and strengthening the areas where the students lacked. Moreover, with the introduction of grades, there would be less scope for competition, comparison and criticism. Instead of competing with others and comparing the marks obtained, the students shall learn to compete with their own selves for improvement and better achievement. Besides, the students will also be able to get rid of frustration caused by criticism on acquiring poor marks. Above all, it could be hoped that the scheme would enable students to face challenges, build up confidence and develop personality traits to achieve their goals desired in life. However, success or failure of the ambitious format would all depend upon its acceptance by students, teachers and parents in the years to come.

 

[Published in 'Articles Base' on 3 December 2011]

DR BHUPEN HAZARIKA - FILMOGRAPHY


1939 - Indramalati (Assamese) - singer, actor (child artist)

1948 - Siraj (Assamese) - joint assistant music director, lyricist, singer

1949 - Parghat (Assamese) - lyricist, singer

1950 - Biplabi (Assamese) - lyricist, singer

1954 - Sati Beula (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer

1955 - Piyali Phukan (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer

1956 - Era Bator Sur (Assamese) - director, producer, music director, lyricist, singer, story, (screenplay and dialogues jointly done with Priyam Hazarika)
Asamapta (Bengali) - music director

1957 - Dhumuha (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Jiban Trishna (Bengali) - music director
Kadi O Komol (Bengali) - music director

1958 - Jonakir Alo (Bengali) - music director

1959 - Kesha Sone (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Puati Nishar Sopon (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Chaknoia (Assamese) - singer
Mahut Bandhure (Bengali) - director, music director

1960 - Dui Bechera (Bengali) - music director

1961 - Sakuntala (Assamese) - director, producer, music director, art director, screenplay writer, lyricist, singer

1964 - Maniram Dewan (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer

1965 - Protiddhoni (Assamese) - director, producer, music director, screenplay writer, lyricist, singer

1966 - Latighati (Assamese) - director, producer, music director (a Rajasthani folk used), screenplay writer, lyricist, singer

1969 - Chikmik Bijuli (Assamese) - director, music director, screenplay writer, lyricist, singer

1971 - Ekhane Pinjar (Bengali) - music director

1973 - Banaria Phool (Assamese) - lyricist, singer
Rashmirekha (Assamese) - singer

1974 - Aarop (Hindi) - music director

1975 - Khoj (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Bristi (Assamese) - lyricist
Kachghar (Assamese) - lyricist, singer
Chameli Memsaab (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer

1976 - Palasar Rong (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Pranganga (Assamese) - singer
Dampati (Bengali) - music director

1977 - Banahansha (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Dharmakai (Assamese) - lyricist
Mera Dharam Meri Maa (Hindi) - director, music director

1978 - Bonjui (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Niyati (Assamese) - lyricist
Simana Perie (Bengali) - music director

1979 - Mon Prajapati (Assamese) - director, music director, screenplay writer, lyricist, singer
Bishesh Erati (Assamese) - singer
Srimati Mahimamoyee (Assamese) - singer
Chameli Memsaab (Bengali) - music director
Sath Maia Ki Mahima (Bhojpuri) - music director

1980 - Akon (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Moinajaan (Assamese) - lyricist

1981 - Chameli Memsaab (Hindi) - music director

1982 - Aparoopa (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer

1984 - Jeevan Surabhi (Assamese) - singer

1985 - Angikar (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Bohagor Duparia (Assamese) - singer

1986 - Juge Juge Sangram (Assamese) - music director, singer
Maa (Assamese) - music director, lyricist
Sankalpa (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Mayuri (Assamese) - lyricist, singer
Ek Pal (Hindi) - music director

1987 - Pratishudh (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Jiuni Simang (Bodo) - music director

1988 - Siraj (Assamese) - director, music director, lyricist, singer

1990 - Miri Jiyori (for Doordarshan) - director, music director

1992 - Agni (Assamese) - singer

1993 - Priyajan (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Rudaali (Hindi) - music director, singer

1994 - Ashanta Prahar (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Agnigarh (Assamese) - singer
Gajamukta (Bengali) - music director
Papiha (Hindi) - music director

1995 - Paani (Assamese) - music director, lyricist, singer
Pratimurti (Hindi) - music director

1996 - Supan (Bengali) - music director
Saaz (Hindi) - music director

1997 - Darmiya (Hindi) - music director

1998 - Mil Gayee Manjil Mujhe (Hindi) - music director

2000 - Gaja Gamini (Hindi) - music director, singer
Daman (Hindi) - music director

2001 - Sesh Upahar (Assamese) - lyricist

2003 - Kyun (Hindi) - music director

2011 - Gandhi to Hitler (Multilingual) - singer


[Published in 'North-East India' on 15 November 2011]