Posts Tagged North-East India

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 the blog ‘North-East India’ on 16 March 2012]

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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 the blog ‘North-East India’ on 9 February 2012]

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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 the blog ‘North-East India’ on 12 January 2012]

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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 the blog ‘North-East India’ on 15 November 2011]

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