(Last Updated on : 03-04-2013)
Nilmani Phukan's works have a universal appeal, yet the distinct Assamese writings coming out from his kitty are full of vitality. His art is not lost amidst the forest of imagery that he puts forward so brilliantly. The septuagenarian poet is an epitome of humanism and his concern for society is deep rooted. This doyen of Assamese poetry considers poetry as 'the voice of humanity' and according to him whenever one ruefully attempts to listen, one can distinctively hear in the calmness of his own mind the flowing cadence of dawn and dusk, of truth and beauty. Yet the reflective detachment amalgamates with the soulful urgency as well as anguish and a deep sense of loss. The unapologetic unhindered preoccupation with the cosmic and existential does not lead to grandiosity or a resort to misty abstractions. For even while the poetry invokes generalities, it does not ignore the scorching particular that has always been such an integral part of the poet's province.
Early Life of Nilmani Phukan
He was born in Deragaon Golaghat district of Assam
received his Masters degree in History from Guwahati University. He was a lecturer at Arya Vidyapeeth College in Guwahati
in the year 1964. He has also received Assam Valley Literary Award in 1997. Gaoled in 1942 for, taking part in the August revolution his life thereafter and his prison experiences have been incorporated in his Jinjiri (The Shackles). In search of God, he entered the realms of the temple of liberty. What his sensory perceptions captured were ensnared within the fabrications of his fertile mind only to be put down in writing to gratify the pent up strong desire. Almost all the poems of Jinjiri are optimistic in tone, and behind the poems, there is a powerful and healthy mind that is not deterred by the struggle or the storm. Rugged, bare and cryptic, rather prose-looking in dress, resembling the rattling of a milk-cart, his lines have beneath the surface a deep philosophic core.
An excellent piece of literature must necessarily mirror the aims and aspirations of society, enthralling the reader to newer heights of imagination and human values, offering a speck of truth in the thought, with an exceeding diversity of interpretation for all ages; a conscious realisation that perhaps, only a poet can do justice to such a mission as is Nilmani Phukan. Distinguished Assamese poet Nilmani Phukan, who was awarded the prestigious Joshua Foundation award for lifetime achievement in literary excellence, recently, is an epitome of humanism who feels "Wherever there is man, there is poetry and poetry enlivens all the living and the inanimate alike."
All his compositions contemplate the plight of society with an equal embrace of Assamese landscape in its theme and imagery.
Works of Nilmani Phukan
Poetry is the voice of humanity for him and each poem is a human moment...Moment of inexpressible joy and sorrow, culminating in a silent but sure regeneration of awareness.
The late Banikanta Kakati aptly remarked that Nilamani Phukan (1880- ) is the only modern Assamese poet of lofty spiritual aspirations. His poetic canvas bears mammoth strains; his reflective imagination surpasses the borders to become mythopoetic and his voice bard like. His literary concerns do conquer a wide range from political to cosmic from touching the cores of contemporaneity to primeval. The landscapes he evokes are epic and elemental; he speaks of fire and water, forest and deserts, man and rock, the binary oxymoron.
Nilmani Phukan's (1885) style is unreal that flows naturally and bears an untouched eloquence. Its appeal lies in its inherent masculine qualities. His works include Sahitya kala (1940) and Chintamani (1940), Surya Henu Nami Ahe Ei Nodiyedi, Gulapi Jamur Lagna, Kobita.
In their construction, his metrical compositions seem to be simple, but there is a complex pattern of experiences at an inner level. The experience takes the reader into regions of what can be called the unconscious recesses of an individual mind. Through these poems, Phukan has endeavoured to establish a transition from transparent imagery to symbolism. He has created archetypal imagery and a style in which folklore and living language of a community provide a deep resonance. Phookan's poetry is replete with images of the sunflower, house, river, trees, mountains, snow-covered peaks and that he introduced in Assamese poetry.
"Phookan's poetry in their construction seem to be simple, but there is a complex pattern of experiences at an inner level and the experience takes the reader into regions of what can be called racial memories and the unconscious recesses of the individual mind," Sahitya Akademi president Ramakanta Rath says.
In one his all-time favourite poems, Dancing Earth, in which the earth epitomizes wholeness absorbing the dead and the living, destruction and creation, Phukan expressing his faith in humanity in the midst of death and madness, asks: "Even then, won't you plant a /Sapling of fragrant banana" The poem is a magnificent expression of his humanism, which is essentially a compassion for fellow beings and a belief in the wholeness of human existence. The Earth's dance is ultimately a dance of creation that absorbs the destructive energy in its motion.
Nature makes a dominant presence in most of his poems. Some of the recurring images in his compositions are the sunflower, house, river, trees, mountains, snow-covered peaks et al. In fact, Phukan set the trend for incorporating natural elements in Assamese poetry. It would be very modest to say that modern Assamese poetry has evolved after him.
Nilamani Phukan's prose is as passionate as his poetry. It lacks however analytical acumen and restrained or disciplined imagination. He cultivated the rhetorical, ornate and sonorous prose style. His Sahitya-Kala is a book of original essays on diverse aspects of literature. Sailadhar Rajkhowa's Nijara (The Brook) is a collection of poems composed at different times and on a variety of themes. He did not discover anything "far more deeply interfused" in nature nor did he propound any philosophy about her. He is enchanted with the objective beauties of Nature. He had the most profound regard for places of historical interest. He wove historical myths around those places, thereby enhancing the general effectiveness of the nature descriptions.
In 1981 he received the Sahitya Akademi Award in Assamese for his poetry collection. In 1990 he was awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India
Eminent Assamese poet and art critic Nilmoni Phookan, this year's recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, its highest honour, says that wherever there is man, there is poetry, and poetry enlivens all - the living and the inanimate, alike. Poetry is imperishable and eternal as man has immense faith in love, strength, peace, unity, beauty and creativity while "the worship of the indivisible life itself is the supplication of the poet".