Early Life of Chandrakumar Agarwala
Chandrakumar Agarwala was the second son of Haribilash, born at Brahmajan near Gohpur on November 28, 1867. As the Agarwala family shifted to Tezpur in 1873, so the primary schooling of Chandrakumar was started at Tezpur under the strict supervision of his father. For a few years, Chandrakumar also studied at Kolkata but returned home before appearing in the Entrance examination. Passing the Entrance examination from Tezpur Government High School, Chandrakumar again left for Kolkata to pursue higher studies. There he got himself admitted into the FA classes of the prestigious Presidency College. Passing the FA examination, he wanted to go London to study law. But his father did not allow him to go England. A demoralised Chandrakumar then took admission into the BA classes of Presidency College. But, without completing BA, he returned home and joined his father to run their tea estate at Tamolbari near Dibrugarh.
While studying at Kolkata, Chandrakumar, with his intimate friends Lakshminath Bezbarua and Hem Chandra Goswami, founded a literary organisation in 1888 called Asamiya Bhasar Unnati Sadhini Sabha. Apart from improving the Assamese language and literature, the other objectives of the organisation were, to introduce Assamese at all levels of school education, to prepare textbooks, to collect and publish old manuscripts, to prepare a correct and reliable grammar and standardise the Assamese spelling system etc. The Sabha also decided to publish a literary mouthpiece called Jonaki. The first issue of Jonaki came out in January 1889 with Chandrakumar Agarwala as its founder editor.
Jonakiushered in an era of creative regeneration by introducing new genres in literature in the Assamese language. It brought a new light of excellence into the Assamese literary world. Dr Maheswar Neog, in his widely acclaimed book, The History of Assamese Literature, wrote: "The appearance and celebration of Jonaki in 1889 at Calcutta caused an invocation of the birth of modern Assamese literature with great significance." Though the contributions of Lakshminath and Hemchandra were no less conspicuous, but Chandrakumar played the pivotal role in making it popular among the literary circle. These three stalwarts are, therefore, regarded as the trimurti (triad) of Assamese language and literature.
A pioneer in the journalism movement of Assam, Chandrakumar brought out an Assamese weekly called Asamiya from Dibrugarh in 1918. From 1924, he published it from his newly found press at Kharghuli in Guwahati. Under the stewardship of its able editor and veteran freedom fighter Omeo Kumar Das, Asamiya became very popular among its readers. Publishing articles on many important events, incidents and burning problems of the State, it acted as a mouthpiece of the Assamese people. Understanding its increasing popularity, Chandrakumar also planned to make it a daily but later abandoned his plan.
An outstanding poet of rare calibre, Chandrakumar carved a niche for himself in the Assamese literary world by bringing romanticism in Assamese poetry. His simple expressions in lyrical form spontaneously described the eternal love between man and Nature, divinity of soul and magnanimity of life. A humanist of the highest order, he regarded man as God. In the poem Manav Bandana, he urged all to worship man as he believed that there was no God superior to man. His first collection of poems Pratima (Idol), published in 1913, created ripples in the Assamese literary world. Appreciating the book, Lakshminath Bezbarua wrote: "Though the idol is small, it is made up of pure gold'. His second anthology of poetry Bin Boragi, published in 1923, was also widely acclaimed by the critics.
Chandrakumar never took active part in politics. But he strictly followed Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence. In 1921, when Mahatma Gandhi came to Assam, he stayed at his house at Tezpur as his guest. This gave him a rare opportunity to personally meet the father of the nation. Inspired by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he gave up the western style of living and started to put on hand woven khaddar dress and cap.
Dominating the literary scene of Assam in the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century, Chandrakumar Agarwala died on March 2, 1938 at his Uzanbazar house in Guwahati. With his death ended a glorious chapter of Assamese literature.
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