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The Legends Making a Legend – Interlude

The Legends Making a Legend – Interlude

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Jyoti Prasad Agarwal

This is a story of three legends from Assam. It narrates how two legends contributed towards the making of another legend. The 2st part of this series is ‘The Interlude’ where Somashis Gupta narrates the story of one of the legends just the day after we celebrated his 119th birth anniversary.

I made a promise on the 29th of January, way passed the date for a New Year resolution isn’t it?  But no, it was not a New Year resolution. It was a promise to tell you the story of a legend, a legend, whose contribution was such that it became a culture, the culture of Assam.

It was a pleasant evening in the month of May. A young boy was playing in the courtyard of his house at the south of the Polo Ground Tejpur. Two men approached him and said “দেউতা ঘৰত আছেনে? Is your father home?” The young boy rushes inside to find his father, completely unaware that these two men were about to change his life forever.

You already know about one of these two men was Bishnuprasad Rabha from the 1st part of this story. Now it is time for me to keep my promise. So here is the story of the 2nd Gentleman which I share just a day after his 119th Birth Anniversary.

Formed in the year 1835 as the headquarters of Darrang district, Tejpur was and is a thriving town. Queen Victoria was proclaimed the Empress of India in 1877. The headquarters Tejpur was the seed to Queen’s government. But the history of this town is as early as the 1st century. Besides its glorious past this town has witnessed the growth of art and culture of the Assamese race.

In the northern part of this sprawling city was the family residence of the Agarwalas. The Agarwalas had an impressive lineage. They came from Rajasthan and settled in Tejpur in 1820. Eighty three years later in this vary house Jyoti Prasad was born, who went on to become one of the most brilliant and colorful figures of Assam. Jyoti combined cultured sophistication with largeness of heart in a rare degree of artistic acumen.

As a young boy, Jyoti acquired his taste in music from his father who was an able violin player, an outstanding organ player, and a melodious singer and all at the same time. His formative years were amidst various art forms like Biyanaam, Bangeet, Ainaam as well as devotional songs such as Bargeet, Brahmosangeet and recitations from Kirtan Ghosa. This type of music from the Jonaki era (Romanticism period of Assam) in later years reflected in his music which we know as Jyoti Sangeet.

In the year 1921, when Jyoti was 20, Paramananda his father went for a trip to Ahmadabad to attend a session of INC. He took the boy with him. It was here that the sense of patriotism got embedded in him in the companionship of great leaders. In later years these found its way in his compositions like Luitor Akakhot, Nimati Konya etc.

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Besides Paramananda, Kironmoyee his mother had a humongous influence in Jyoti’s formation. She belonged to the Tiru Kakati family of Baliaghat in Sibsagar. It was from her that Jyoti acquired familiarity with Assamese folk songs including Nisukanigeet, Ainaam, Bihugeet and so on. Besides this, she also left a remarkable influence of humanity which combined to set Jyoti in a new direction and made him receptive to divergent social and religious views.

Although a Hindu and a Vaishnav, Kironmoyee defied the ban of orthodoxy and let Jyoti go to the United Kingdom. It was due to her unflinching support that he was able to go to Scotland for his higher education at the University of Edinburgh.

With such an ensemble influences Jyoti Prasad Agarwala went on produce some of the finest music, songs and cinema, making him one of the foremost advocates of a distinct Asomiya identity. He truly is the Rupkonwar Assamese culture.

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