Bishnu Prasad Rabha (1909-1969)
Bishnu Prasad Rabha was a multifaceted artist and revolutionary singer of Assam. He was a singer, poet, dancer, actor, music composer, playwright and great artist that Assam has ever produced. He was also an eminent freedom fighter and played an active role in the
freedom struggle of the country. He is popularly known as ‘Kalaguru’ (teacher of arts). He is the Leonardo da Vinchi of Assam for his immense contribution in the field of music.
Life of Bishnu Prasad Rabha:
Bishnu Prasad Rabha was born on January 31, 1909, in Dhaka. His father Gopal Chandra Rabha was in the British police. Kalaguru spent his early childhood in Dhaka. He was an eminent freedom fighter. He played an active role in the freedom struggle movement of the country and dedicated his entire life to the freedom movement. He was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. He never joined the Indian National Congress. To him the Congress was the party of the bourgeoisie. To him freedom never meant liberty merely from British rule but it meant being free from capitalism, wage salary, poverty and all social evils. He said, “I am fighting for a revolution from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom”. He donated an ancestral estate of 2500 bighas in favour of the peasants. His slogan was ‘Hal jar mati tar’. The present Tezpur University stands on the land donated by Kalaguru. He was close to the ideology of the Left Wing and the Communist party of India. In 1945 he joined the Revolutionary communist Party of India. In 1951 he became the president of the Assam branch of the Indian People’s Theatre association. Kalaguru passed away in 1969. The 20th of June every year is celebrated as ‘Bishnu Rabha diwas’ in Assam.
Kalaguru started his primary education in Bengali medium in Dhaka. After shifting to Assam he started his high school education in Tezpur Government high school. He went to Calcutta for higher education. He completed ISC exam from St Paul’s Mission College and joined the prestigious Ripon College. Kalaguru was a brilliant academician. He was, however, forced by the British Government to leave Rippon college at Calcutta and was transferred to Victoria College at Koch Behar. He had to give up his formal education due to the British atrocities.
Career of Bishnu Prasad Rabha:
Bishnu Prasad Rabha was a revolutionary. He always fought for the downtrodden. In almost all the works of Kalaguru the interest of the weaker section of the society finds expression. Kalaguru was concerned about the uplift and liberation of the weaker sections. Bishnu Rabha’s masterpiece was “bano Kobang”. It portrays the life of the ethic groups of Assam. The other important works of Kalaguru include “Mising Coneng”, “Sonpahi”, “Axomiya Kristir Samuh Abhash” and “Atit Axom” etc.Many of Kalaguru’s plays have been staged in theatres. There have been live performances at the Ban theatre in Tezpur connected to Kalaguru.
Bishnu Rabha was an established singer. He learnt the ‘Borgeet’ of Shankardeva. He gave ‘borgeet’ a new significance for the modern times. He is one of the best borgeet singers of Assam. There are more than hundred songs composed by Kalaguru. He gave music to his compositions. His songs are collectively called Bishnu Rabha Sangeet. His songs have diverse theme, including that of tribute to mother nature, voice for the weaker sections of the society, workers revolt at the tea industry, revolutionary ideas, country’s freedom etc. He translated the famous song of revolution “internationale” by Eugene Pottier into Assamese. His songs are extremely popular with children which include “xurore deulore”, “bilote halise” etc.
Bishnu Prasad Rabha was a multifaceted artist. He was a director, actor and music composer. He was an actor per excellence. He used to perform dramas at Ban theater, Tezpur. His main motto of acting was to educate the masses. He acted in “Era Bator sur”. He also assisted in the making of the first Assamese film “Joymati”. He had composed the music of “Siraj”. Bishnu Rabha was awarded the title “Kalaguru” by Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan at Varanasi for his mesmerizing ‘Tandava’ dance of lord Shiva. Famous dancer Uday Shankara was also fascinated by his dance.Kalaguru was a painter per excellence. He painted the portraits of Srimanta Shankardeva. He also painted the images of Gods and Goddesses. Kalaguru was an excellent orator. His speeches and lectures touched upon the hearts of the masses. He advocated for a world community. He said that the independence achieved in 1947 was a farce. According to him the real struggle begins after 1947.
Honour to Bishnu Prasad Rabha:
The Bishnu Rabha Smriti Udyan is a memorial park set up in honour of the great icon of Assam. The park is located near Tezpur on the banks of the Brahmaputra river. The construction of the park was initiated by his son Hemraj Rabha. Later the Government of Assam took upon the work. The park also contains the cremation spot of Kalaguru. Many of the works of Kalagura are sculptured on the walls.
Kalaguru Bishnu Rabha Bota is an award presented to the achievers in the field of culture and music by the Government o Assam.