The theme is taken from mediaeval Assamese history. It describes how ancient Kamatapur (situated near modem Cooch Behar) was sacked, during the reign of King Nilambar by the Nawab of Gaur through the conspiracy of Nilambar's -own minister. Divided in fifteen sections, the poem is mostly dramatic. Another historical narrative poem is his Tirotar Atmadan (Woman's Self-Sacrifice) in which the poet describes how the illustrious Ahom Princess, Jayamati, held as ransom by a tyrannical despot, the Lara-Raja, willingly embraced death through torture for the cause of her husband and the country. The poet, while maintaining fidelity to facts, pours out all the wealth of his imagination whenever there is opportunity to do so.
He often stops and indulges in impassioned apostrophes to such things as Imagination, Tears, Dewdrops, Sleep, etc. apostrophes which almost become independent lyrics of rare charm and beauty. Yuddhakestrat Ahom Ramani ba Mula Gabharu (An Ahom heroine in the battle-field or Mula Gabharu) is another long, narrative poem by Barbarua. Based on the sixth and seventh invasions of Assam by the Moghuls of Delhi in 1532 and 1533, the poem describes the exemplary courage, unswerving heroism and sacrificial love of the Assamese heroine, Mula, who joined the army, fought the Moghuls, killed two Moghul generals, and thus avenged the death, at their hands, of her own husband, a general killed the previous year in action. Mula was herself subsequently killed on the battlefield. There is soul-stirring patriotic appeal throughout the poem; Barbarua's lines on love of the father-land have become proverbial in Assam:
Whoever lays down his life on the battlefield,
Fighting for the freedom of his father-land,
Gets immortal bliss after death.
Death is, in his case, eternal rest,
Full of happiness, on the lap of the Mother Universal.
To him fire is mellow as moonlight
And the bed of clay is flower-bed,
And the piercing spears falling
Are but flowery showers.
He was widely read in European literature which he admired very much and which influenced his literary practice. He modelled his Anjali after Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield and based his Desdemona Kavya on Shakespeare's Othello. Profuse quotations from famous European writers are interspersed in his works. The Abhas (Outline, 1914) is a collection of twenty one lyrics devoted to the lives of as many illustrious women, including such diverse figures as Yasoda, Boadicea and Joan of Arc.
His Malac (1918), a collection of 128 sonnets, is the first sonnet-sequence in Assamese. Covering in its narrow compass a very wide range of topics such as Isvara (God), Kalpana (Fancy), Ihakala (This Side of the Grave), Sapon (Dream), the sequence contains, besides, poems addressed to Shakespeare, Kalidasa, Sankaradeva, Sakuntala, Miranda and other figures, real and imaginary, dear to his heart. Barbarua had known several bereavements in life, and apparently some of his sonnets are keys to unlock his agitated and afflicted heart. We have some splendid sonnets on. Yatana (Tribula-tions), Kandon (The Crying), Santvana. (Consolation) and Cakulo (Tears). Cakulo (Tears, 1922) is another sonnet-sequence of Hiteswar Barbarua composed on the death of his youngest son. The sonnets express the bitter grief of the father. If the test of genuine poetry is to move, there can be no more genuine poetry than these sonnets. There is something in their language which brings tears to the reader's eyes. The title, Cakulo, is thus an apposite one. The sequence contains, in addition, a number of elegiac poems, which deal not only with the recurring grief of the bereaved father but also with ultimate problems like Life, Death, Soul, Heaven and the like. In such poems the poet succeeds in refracting the actual into the prophetic. A scion of an ancient Ahom royal family, Hiteswar Barbarua knew intimately the pageant of Ahom history. This he collected into a book called Ahomar Din (The Ahom Days), which unfortunately yet remains to be published. His Malita is a novel with the same purpose, lined on a more fanciful canvas, and gives a faithful picture of some aspects of Ahom aristocracy in its heyday.
(Last Updated on : 09-05-2013)
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