Kitapor Bikalpa Nai!!
There can be no substitute for books!
Kitapor Bikalpa Nai!!
(Towards a new horizon in Eastern India)
Kitapor Bikalpa Nai, a unique literary event brought books lovers from different walks of life under one roof on 21st May, 2023 at Guwahati, setting a new direction in stirring the evolution of a much needed intellectual and socio-cultural growth in Assam and eastern India.
It is an effort to create awareness about the intrinsic value of books as a powerful tool of intellectual movement and social change, it is also an effort to popularize the book-reading culture which shows a steady decline in contemporary world. The event included discussions about six books of varied genre, followed by formal inauguration of two new Bengali books, ‘Uttariya 2’ and, ‘Aparup Arunachal’.
This is a first of its kind event for the literary circle of Assam, it brings ray of hope for spread of thoughts and knowledge required for the progress of our societies facing endless challenges in preserving and disseminating information about our roots amidst the whirlwind of 21st century. This event is been organized by ‘Purvottar Prakriti Sahitya Manch-Bharat’, a forum dedicated to promote ‘nature-writings’ in Assam and others parts of India.
This forum was created after the first ‘Nature-writings’ workshop of NE India, organized, and held at Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Guwahati in February, 2023. This forum is facilitating new thoughts and ideas in the literary circle of Assam. It played an important role in firmly introducing ‘nature-writings’ as a discrete genre of modern literature.
The genesis of this forum signals an exemplary form of environment leadership growing in Assam which has been capable of stirring the growth and progress of ‘Nature-writings’ over the past four decades of nature conservation movement in Assam, led by prominent environment organizations like Nature’s Beckon.
Purvottar Prakriti Sahitya Mancha-Bharat collaborated with Ekhon Dooars, Jalpaiguri and Rongroute publications, Kolkata for this event. This brings a rare chance to reinstate a new phase of intellectual leadership by Eastern India.
The event organized discussion over six selected books and the inauguration of two new books. The six books selected for discussion in this launching event of ‘Kitapor Bikalpa nai’ includes- Bareko Karoho Pranam written by Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury, Ajana Subhas compiled by Sri. Kamal Dutta, Free Tibet – Voice from Assam written by Smt. Novanita Sharma, Ourdho Doihik written by Dr. Pankaj Gobinda Medhi, The Soul of the Rhino translated to Assamese by Sri. Bipul Deuri, Prachin Kamrupor Itihaax translated to Assamese by Sri. Anjan Sarma.
The event began with a brief welcome address by Sri. Soumyadeep Datta in which he expressed his happiness at the launch of ‘Kitapor Bikalpa Nai’ amidst people who love books and gives hope to our society by spreading the light of knowledge and mind empowerment through their association with books in various ways, as book revelers, book-readers, writers, and publishers.
He opened the forum for discussion over the six selected books.
Dr. Pankaj Gobinda Medhi, well known poet & writer presented his insightful discussion on the book titled, ‘Bareko Karoho Pranam’, a book on the Vaishnavite saint Srimanta Sankardeva. He called this book an extraordinary work on the life and teachings of the Vaishnavite saint, which presents a rarely seen analytical account regarding the different aspects of Srimanta Sankardeva’s teachings and philosophy and its influences in the Assamese society.
He beautifully connected the gathering with the essence of this book written by Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury through his discussion. Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury, educationist & writer came next with his discussion on the book titled, ‘Ajana Subhas’, a book on the great Indian freedom fighter Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Dr. Raychoudhury quoted important parts from the book while presenting his discussion.
He praised the efforts of the writer Sri. Kamal Dutta for compiling this important book about Subhas Chandra Bose, this book provides rare facts about Netaji which are not found in the widespread repertoire of published literature about Subhas Chandra Bose so far. This book presents predominant views held by various quarters including the Britishers regarding Subhas Chandra Bose.
This is a unique book on Subhas Chandra Bose, befitting its title the book throws light on several unknown important facts and events regarding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Smt. Kankana Das, teacher, environment activist & editor-The Seed, Nature’s Beckon’s e-magazine followed with her insightful book discussion on the book titled, ‘Free Tibet-Voice from Assam’.
This is a book on the non-violent Tibetan freedom movement in Assam and NE India.
Smt. Das called this the first book on Tibetan freedom movement, written and published from NE India. She highlighted the significance of the book is raising more awareness and creating a strong support base for the Tibetan freedom movement in Assam as well as in others parts of India.
She presented a brief yet crisp discussion on the important contents of the book, which connects readers with the importance of the growing civil society movement in Assam, supporting complete freedom of Tibet from the repressive communist regime. This civil society movement is led by Free Tibet-a voice from Assam.
Sri. Jyoti Khataniar, well known literary critic & writer presented a thought-provoking book discussion on the anthology of nature-conservation oriented poems titled, ‘Ourdhadoihik’.
Sri. Khataniar called this work a beautiful reflection of the predicaments faced by the human world in midst of the Anthropocene era marked with human driven exploitation and destruction of Nature and natural environment around the world.
He juxtaposed this progressive work of Dr. Medhi with other nature-conservation based literature which is gradually rising given the need of this era.
Sri. Khataniar quoted several great poets and writers while discussing the importance of this unique anthology which presents 25 nature-conservation oriented poems to the readers, perhaps a first of its kind work in Assamese literature. Sri. Khataniar applauded the work of Dr. Medhi as a poet.
Sri. Bikas Bordoloi, writer & environment activist presented his book discussion on the book titled, ‘The soul of the Rhino’, translated to Assamese language by Sri. Bipul Deuri. Th English version of the book was penned by Sri. Hemanta Mishra, well known conservationist who narrated his spirited journey to protect the India Rhino in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal.
Sri. Bordoloi connects the gathering with the importance of the book which he discovered after reading the unputdownable Assamese version. Sri. Bordoloi captures the intense plot of the book in his discussion which revolved around the steep fight fought for protection of the vanishing Indian One Horned Rhinoceros population in Nepal.
He mentioned about several important socio-political aspects prevalent in Nepal during that time which is been put forward to the world through this book.
This tale of adventure and thrill is a rare narrative about the history of Indian Rhino conservation in Asia. Sri. Bordoloi mentioned about the significance of the translation of this book in Assamese language by eminent translator & writer Sri. Bipul Deuri.
Sri. Soumyadeep Datta, well known environment activist of India & eminent writer summed up the book-discussion session of the event with his enlightening discussion on the book titled, ‘Prachin Kamrupor Itihaax’, the Assamese version of the book, ‘Early History of Kamrup’, penned by Raibahadur Kanaklal Barua in 1933.
This book is been translated to Assamese language by Sri. Anjan Sarma, eminent writer & translator.
Sri. Datta connected the gathering with the significance of this book in bridging the gap of unavailable literature regarding the history of the ancient Kamrupa kingdom, which is necessary for the people of Assam who has forgotten their roots of the glorious ancient Kamrupa empire. He emphasized over the fact that the name ‘Assam’, ‘Axom’ is relatively new, there is no historical validity for the name ‘Axom’ in the ancient texts.
In every ancient text of India, and in other prominent ancient writings like the descriptions provided by the 7th century Chinese traveler, Hiuen Tsang about his visit to the Kamrupa Kingdom under the reign of King Bhaskar Varman, the name ‘Axom’ is nonexistent. History clearly connects us with the ancient Kamrupa kingdom as our political, social, and cultural identity.
But sadly, this knowledge about our ancient roots is missing amongst the people belonging to this legacy. Sri. Datta urged everyone to read this book, it is important for our young generations to know about our roots enabling them to be good future leaders of our country.
Sri. Datta applauded the valuable work of Sri. Anjan Sarma, the Assamese translation of this extremely important book on the history of Kamrupa has given a fair chance to the people of Assam to connect with an evolved political, intellectual, and cultural psyche of this region through the knowledge of history of our ancient roots.
The ‘Kitapor Bikalpa nai’ event introduces book discussion as a new trend, a new precedent in the literary circle of Assam. Books serve the purpose of education and provides the necessary intellectual momentum to our thoughts.
Books are an effective tool for bringing social changes in societies. Books are indispensable, however there are challenges in making books viable and visible amongst everyone in our communities.
‘Kitapor Bikalpa Nai’, is a new intellectual movement which give books the spotlight; it will provide a platform for book lovers, activists, writers, publishers, and everyone in our society to connect with this book movement in eastern India. The book discussion session was followed by the formal inauguration of two new Bengali books titled, ‘Uttariya 2’, and ‘Aparup Arunachal’, published by VISTAAR, Kolkata with Rong Route, Kolkata and Ekhon Dooars, Jalpaiguri.
‘Uttariya 2’ is a special compilation from Northeast India and ‘Aparup Arunachal’ is the Bengali version of ‘Aparupa Arunachal’, the popular Assamese book on ‘Arunachal Pradesh’, authored by Sri. Soumyadeep Datta.
Sri. Pradosh Ranjan Saha, the publisher of these books spoke on this occasion. He spoke about his close connection with Northeast India, about his efforts to popularize eco-tourism in different parts of Northeast India through his publications over past several decades.
Being a native from Coochbehar, he called himself a part of Northeast India, he cited the cultural integrity of this entire region which binds a diversity of communities from varied ethnic and linguistic lineage together in harmony.
He expressed his happiness at the launch of this unique intellectual initiative of Purvotar Prakriti Sahitya Mancha-Bharat and shared his aspirations to associate with this region through publishing of more books in Assamese and Bengali languages from Northeast India in the coming years.
He called the formal inauguration of ‘Aparup Arunachal’ the auspicious beginning of this journey. He announced the formal launch of a new publishing brand titled ‘Esana’ for books from Northeast India in this event. Sri. Saha solicited cooperation and effective collaboration in spearheading the book movement of NE India in future. Sri. Debayan Chaudhuri, the editor of ‘Uttariya 2’ spoke about this special compilation from Northeast India.
Ekhon Dooars, Jalpaiguri and VISTAAR, Kolkata has been working to bring forth different aspects of history, culture, and other facets of NE India through special compilation dedicated to writings in Bengali language from this region for past several years. This compilation is published in the title ‘Uttariya’. He congratulated all writers who has enriched the two compilations of ‘Uttariya’ which includes the newly inaugurated ‘Uttariya 2’.
This compilation includes writings of varied genres – novel, poetry, translation work, history, discussion/summary of books, non-fiction. These compilations have included writings from many writers from Assam and Tripura.
He expressed his happiness at the inauguration of ‘Uttariya 2’ amongst such an august gathering in Guwahati and is hopeful of a purposeful journey ahead.
Sri. Rupam Barua, senior journalist, writer & editor, Sri. Bipul Deuri, eminent translator & writer, Padmashree Ajoy Dutta, well known social activist graced the dais during the event. The event was formally concluded with words of encouragement and appreciation from each one of them.
The event was attended by a host of book lovers, poets, social workers, journalists, writers, environment activists, publishers, educationists, etc.
A quick peek into the history of intellectual renaissance of Eastern India is crucial at this point, for a better understanding of the significance of this event. Eastern India has played a key role through different periods of history in leading India in very important literary, cultural, and social movements.
From the Nalanda movement of ancient India which peaked in the 5th -6th century CE and declined after 13th century CE to the literary and social renaissance of modern India during the early 18th-19th century, India’s east gives glorious examples of literary and social leadership not just for the Indian people but for rest of the world. The ancient India was known in far off empires as the seat of great learning.
The ancient Nalanda Mahavihara, situated at Rajgir, Bihar (ancient Magadh) was the most respected centre of higher learning. Students from many different civilizations and empires flocked to this ancient university during that time.
The ancient Nalanda Mahavihara with its lineage of great scholars, students and followers constitute the greatest intellectual, spiritual revolution of human world; this intellectual revolution led the Indian civilization to its zenith of creativity and the golden essence of this tradition is reflected in cultures, religions, and philosophies across many different countries of Asia and the world over.
This Nalanda tradition of knowledge remained deeply entwined in the Indian culture till date. Centuries later, the most prominent intellectual movement in India took place during 18th –19th century in India’s east, this wave of intellectual upheaval led Indians on the path of national integration and widespread social changes.
This period of intense cultural, social, intellectual, and artistic movement found its roots in the Bengal region under the British Raj is known to all as Bengal Renaissance. It led the country on the path of intellectual and social awakening, the socio-cultural impact of Bengal renaissance was truly nationwide.
Some of the great names of this period from 18th – early 20th century include – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Satyendra Nath Bose, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Debendra Mohan Bose, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Rabindranath Tagore, Debendranath Tagore, Sri Arobindo, Swami Vivekananda. The work and philosophies of these great leaders, artists, reformers, and activists continue to influence the intellectual and cultural fabric of India till today.
The Bengal renaissance deeply influenced modernization of the colonial Assam, which resulted in subsequent intellectual movement in Assam. The prominent advocates of this 19th century modernization of Assam like Lakshminath Bezbaroa, Gunabhiram Barua, Anandaram Barua, Chandra Kumar Agarwalla and many others were influenced by the intellectual movements of Bengal Renaissance.
This 19th century intellectual movement rooted in Bengal provided strength and dignity to Indians under subjugation of British Raj to unite as a Nation and fight against the oppression of British crown with renewed determination and conviction. The seed of these intellectual movements continue to rein the mindscape in Eastern India.
The socio-political and environmental dynamics in India’s farther eastern state of Assam has germinated the seed of a unique intellectual movement of literature, nature conservation and social change in Assam and NE India. This movement delves deeper into the realms of ancient Indian philosophies which spread the thought of nature conservation in every human being more than 2500 years ago.
Assam has been a political potboiler for decades, but under the simmering ambers of conflicts and agitations grew the resolute green movement of Assam. This green movement of Assam bore the seeds of compassion and harmony amongst the nature loving people of Assam, people connected with the bond of compassion through their participation in this movement for protecting their native forests, wetlands, wildlife, and natural environment.
This green movement of Assam has lit the lamp of peace amidst the delusional mayhem of violence which once swept across the state with vehemence. This green movement has led a silent intellectual and spiritual revolution in Assam, that will reveal itself in its appointed time. Nature’s Beckon, an environment activists’ group of NE India, played the crucial role of facilitating and leading this green movement in Assam for the past four decades.
This green movement of Assam is a literary, cultural, and intellectual movement which will bring long term social changes in future. The growth of ‘nature-writings’ as a recognized new genre of modern Indian literature through years of continuous work with visible social impacts hallmarks the significance of this green movement of Assam beyond its forte of biodiversity conservation in Assam and NE India.
This green movement of Assam is the precursor of future intellectual movement in Eastern India. This rising in Assam marks the awakening of India to the latent intellectual movement of the ancient Nalanda Mahavihara, this is the awakening of the compassionate mind taught to us by our Gurus.
‘Kitapor Bikalpa Nai’ marks the beginning of a long march, towards intellectual awakening of our country. We embark on this march with empowerment of our minds with knowledge and warmth of compassion.
Eastern India is historically represented by the ancient Kamrupa kingdom; which once covered the entire Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, Bhutan, parts of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Bihar, and Sylhet. While the political boundaries separate us, our heritage and culture connect us with undeniable bonds of togetherness.
‘Kitapor Bikalpa Nai’, an initiative far beyond the ambit of politics will continue this intellectual movement of Eastern India.
(email@example.com the author is an environment activist & writer based at Guwahati. She is the editor of ‘The Seed’, Nature’s Beckon’s e-magazine)
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