Assam, a land of kaleidoscopic culture is a colourful collage of tribes, communities and traditions. The Brahmaputra wraps the entire region of Assam in its arms with its majestic embrace. The waves of the Brahmaputra shape the cultural tapestry of Assam. In the timeless songs of Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Brahmaputra is often used as a metaphor to display the glory and sorrow of the Assam. The historical accounts of Assam are portrayed in the lyrical form woven around the waves of the Brahmaputra. Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s songs appear as a lens to capture this kaleidoscope of cultures to craft a historical musical narrative. The Brahmaputra in his compositions celebrates the heroism and valor of the Assamese people showing how this kaleidoscopic culture contributes to the rich tapestry of Assam.
The Brahmaputra is often signified as a ‘river of dualities’, through the song ‘Bistirno Parore’, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika has captured the dualities of the river. ‘Bistirno Parore’ is inspired by Ol’ Man River by Paul Robeson. Ol’ Man River is a reflection of the challenges and tribulations of African Americans wherein the Mississippi River plays a central role. The contrast of the Mississippi River is portrayed by its boundless and emotionless flow. Similarly, ‘Bistirno Parore’, a beloved anthem of Assamese people as it mirrors the dualities of the river. It appears that Dr. Bhupen Hazarika is conversing with the Brahmaputra trying to seek answers to life’s questions. He expresses dissatisfaction with the Brahmaputra as its waves are insensitive and has caused misery to poor, ignorant, and downtrodden people since time immemorial. The universal appeal of the song transcends time and language barriers, resonates with people across India.
The Brahmaputra is immortalised in Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s other compositions as well. In ‘Aji Brahmaputra Hol Bahniman’, he painted the Brahmaputra as a source of creation and destruction. He compared the tumultuous state of the Brahmaputra with the clouded minds of Assamese people during the Assam Agitation in 1979.
Another popular song, “Luitor Boliya Baan,” composed by Dr. Hazarika and sung by his brother Jayanta Hazarika in 1968 during the great flood, clearly demonstrates the Brahmaputra’s destructive nature. In the summer, the river becomes untamed and destructive, wreaking havoc all over its shores by destroying both people and the surrounding land. Dr. Hazarika frequently criticized the Brahmaputra for its negative characteristics. However, he understood its importance as the cornerstone of Assamese culture. He states, “Luitor Parote janam amaar, paniyei pitri, shakti amaar,” which means, “We are born at the banks of the Luit, water is our father, our strength.”. The glorification of the river is also evident from his popular song ‘Mahabahu Brahmaputra, Mahamilar Tirtho’.
Dr. Hazarika once said, “Songs are a definite way for social change. Social awareness is essential to write and sing songs. I was born with social awareness. With that social awareness, I am creating, will create, and will die with social awareness.” His compositions act as a window to provide a wider portrait of Assam as melting pot via the medium of Brahmaputra.
In conclusion, the Brahmaputra since the dawn of time has played a crucial role as a source of imagination for the Assamese. The socio-cultural mosaic of Assam is painted by the waves of the Brahmaputra. It is clear that the Brahmaputra is not just the lifeline of Assam but also contributes to literature, music lores, folk songs, and other musical forms. Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s songs woven around the historical accounts of Assam takes one on a lyrical journey to the land of Assam.