Padmanath Gohain Baruah
Padmanath Gohain Baruah

Padmanath Gohain Baruah: The Literary Luminary of Assamese Culture

Exploring the Life, Works, and Legacy of Assam's Pioneering Writer and Social Reformer

On the literary doyen Padmanath Gohain Baruah’s 78th death anniversary, Tezpur Sahitya Sabha, Baan Theatre, Asamiya Bhasa Unnati Sadhini Sabha, Padmanath Gohain Barua Sakha Sahitya Sabha, and several other socio-cultural and literary bodies organised a day-long commemoration programmes.

Padmanath Gohain Baruah:

Padmanath Gohain Baruah was born on 27 October, 1871 in North Lakhimpur. He was a noted litterateur and an important cultural figure in Assam during the freedom struggle. He was  first President of the Asom Sahitya Sabha, which was founded in 1917.

  • In the Assamese literary community, he is known as the "Pitamaha" (great grandfather) due to his towering personality and extensive knowledge.

  • The British government bestowed upon him the title of Raibahadur, a rare honor granted to an Assamese individual for the first time, in appreciation of his exceptional contributions to Assamese literature and society.

  • He was Assam's first literary pensioner.

Contribution of Padmanath Gohain Baruah to Assamese Literature:

The concern for Assamese as a medium of language in schools:

  • Padmanath Gohain started his early schooling in a Bengali-medium school in Nakari, which is close to the town of North Lakhimpur.

  • In 1836, on the recommendation of certain organizations, the British administration switched the language of instruction in Assam's schools from Assamese to Bengali.

  • In 1872, Assamese was let back in after nationalist leaders persisted in their demands.

However, the lack of textbooks became a new challenge in Assamese medium schools:

  • To address this issue, Padmanath Gohain and his friend Panindranath Gogoi collaborated to write several textbooks in Assamese.

  • Tragically, Panindranath Gogoi's premature death left Padmanath to complete the mission alone.

  • Padmanath Gohain authored a range of textbooks covering subjects like history, geography, and moral science.

  • He also wrote a teacher's handbook and a book on physical exercise tailored for Assamese students and teachers.

Contribution of Padmanath Gohain Baruah to Assamese Society:

  • Padmanath's works encompassed the lives and contributions of notable figures in Assamese society, enriching the educational content with cultural significance.

  • Serving as the Assamese society's spokesperson, he made numerous significant issues known to the British administration.

Asomiya Bhasar Unnati Sadhini Sabha:

  • In Kolkata, he actively participated in the Asomiya Bhasar Unnati Sadhini Sabha, an organization founded by Assamese students dedicated to the advancement of Assamese language and literature.

  • Padmanath was unable to complete his BA examination due to illness, but his time in Kolkata instilled in him a profound sense of nationalism.

  • Upon returning home, Padmanath devoted himself to the promotion and preservation of his mother tongue, Assamese.

As founder of modern Assamese novel:

  • Padmanat's influence on the Assamese literary landscape is profound, particularly as the pioneer of the modern Assamese novel.

  • The novel Lahori, published in 1892 is regarded as the first Assamese novel.

  • While a few predecessors had written novels in Assamese before him, "Lahori" is recognized as the true beginning of the Assamese novel genre from a literary perspective.

  • Drawing inspiration from a glorious chapter of Assam's history, Padmanath crafted another novel titled "Bhanumoti," which was first serialized in Bijulee, a monthly magazine edited by Krishnaprasad Duwara.

Contribution of Padmanath Gohain Baruahas a playwright:

  • In Assamese drama and theater, Padmanath was unmatched as a playwright.

  • He composed several dramas based on regional stories and incidents.

  • He created historical dramas such as Joymoti, Gadadhar, Lachit Borphukan, and Sadhani, drawing inspiration from several memorable chapters in Assamese history.

  • He wrote a mythological drama named Ban Raja based on the fabled romance between Usha and Aniruddha.

  • He skillfully captured the Assamese people's economic situation during British control in his social drama Gaonburha.

  • His comedies Bhoot Ne Bhram and Teton Tamuli caused readers and viewers to burst out laughing.

    Poetry collections of Padmanath Gohain Baruaha:

  • Padmanath showcased his versatility as a writer, displaying his prowess as a poet through works like "Lila kabya," "Jurani," and "Phular Saneki," which serve as testaments to his literary talent.

Newspaper and periodicals:

  • Together with Joydev Sarma, he published the Tezpur newspaper Asom Banti in 1901. Asom Banti was a major figure in Assamese language and literature during a crucial time.

  • Gohain Baruah started publishing a periodical called Usha in 1906.

Role of Padmanath Gohain Baruaha in freedom struggle:

  • He ran an anti-opium campaign.

  • During the 1919 Assam Association convention, he condemned the use of opium by both young and old.

  • The Swadeshi Movement's emphasis on self-reliance had an impact on him. He published a great deal in support of Assam Banti's Swadeshi movement. 

  • In response to his plea, the Jorhat Sarvajanik Sabha and the Assam Association decided to take the mission of educating people about the Swadeshi movement in the area seriously.

He died in 7 April, 1946. The works of Padmanath Gohain Baruah remain a timeless part of Assamese culture, and his legacy lives on as a symbol of the state's literary rebirth. He is an indelible personality in the rich tradition of Assamese literature because of his innovative work in media, education, and literature, which continues to inspire future generations

Advait IAS