The ‘land of red river and blue hills’, Assam, sculpted by the twists and turns of the Brahmaputra river is an amalgamation of diverse ethnic groups residing in the region. The Brahmaputra, since time immemorial, has played an important role in the annals of the region. The tapestry of Assam’s history remains woefully incomplete without the lyrical presence of the, ‘Brahmaputra’. The river is bestowed with various names like, ‘Luit’, ‘Burha-Luit’ and ‘Bor-Luit’, which reflects upon its captivating journey into the heart of Assam’s literature and mosaic of tradition.
The river is an inspiration in Assam wherein each and every literature woven around its waves celebrates different facets of their relationship with this watercourse. The waterway not only influences the cultural landscape but also occupies an important position in the rituals of Assam. The water of the Brahmaputra or any of its tributaries is considered auspicious in ceremonies such as weddings and religious prayers.
The literary corpus woven around the waves of the Brahmaputra is incomplete without the mention of mythological tales woven into the fabric of legends. The Padmapurana is a story of its birth wherein it weaved around the union of sage Shantanu and Amogha. In the text, Kalikapurana, a testament to the Brahamputra’s enduring impact, the term ‘Brahmaputra’ finds its first mention.
The living chronicle, Brahmaputra, has inspired literary luminaries and poets like Laksminath Bezbaruah, Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Parvati Prasad Baruah, and of course, Bhupen Hazarika. These esteemed writers have portrayed the moods of the waterway to capture the essence of the river in all its complexity.
Jyoti Prasad Agarwala is revered as a cultural icon of Assam and is often credited with bringing renaissance in Assamese literature and culture. Through his compositions he brought about social consciousness in the region. One of his compositions is ‘Luitor Parore Ami Deka Lora Moribole Bhoi Nai’ (We are the youth from the banks of Luit. We do not fear death). It was composed in 1942 to awaken youth during India’s Freedom Movement. In the 1948 film, Joymoti, he immortalised the sacrifices made for the motherland through his song ‘Luitor pani jabi o boi (Go flowing on, waters of the Luit)’. The deep love for the nation is also evident in Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s ‘Ami Asamiya nahaun dukhiya’, he points out in this song that the banks of Boruit welcome anyone who reveres it as their own mother.
Contemporary writers in their works often portray the Brahmaputra as an old man who has witnessed the past of the region influencing the landscape since the dawn of time. The majestic river’s presence is evident in Nirod Choudhury’s ‘Pani’. We also find the reference to ‘Pagaldiya River’ in Syed Abdul Malik’s ‘Suraj Mukhir Swapnor’ and in Lakhinandan Bora’s ‘Ganga Silonir Pakhi’, ‘Sonai River’ is mentioned. The meandering currents of the Brahmaputra River play a central role in the fictional narrative.
Assamese folk songs, Bihugeets, the melodies of celebration of life, craft a lyrical journey via the ebbs and flows of the Brahmaputra providing a window to the beauty of nature. The rhythms of the waterway are evident in ‘Bihugeets’ to ‘Biyanaams,’ and even lullabies or ‘Umali geets’. The folk culture of Assam is woven against the backdrop of the Brahmaputra.
In conclusion, the presence of Brahmaputra runs deep in Assamese culture. The river is more than a geographical landscape for the literary luminaries of Assam. The old man of the region stands as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Assam.