January 17, celebrated as Shilpi Divas, is truly an important day in the history of Assam. This day left a void many decades ago that cannot be filled even today or ever later. The iconic figure of Assam has paved the way in many fronts in the cultural field such as theatre, literature, film making, lyricist, music composing etc.
Assam’s glory cannot ever be retold without mentioning the contributions of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala. He in fact, in essence, moulded the modern Assamese society. Even today, nearing seven decades of his absence, the Assamese society cannot go about marking a day, a protest, an occasion or any event without acknowledging his works. Here is a brief about his life:
Jyoti Prasad Agarwala is a freedom fighter, noted playwright, lyricist, a poet, filmmaker for which he was popularly known as Rupkonwar of Assamese culture, giving a new face to Assamese society. In 1935, the first-ever Assamese cinema was made under his guidance. He has written above three hundred songs set to his own tunes, these songs are thus referred to as the ‘Jyoti Sangit’.
He was a revolutionary and thus returned back from Scotland in 1930 even before completing his studies to participate in the Independence struggle back in Assam. His love for his country doesn’t just end in his writings or his songs. He sacrificed selflessly for his motherland in the Indian Independence Movement for which he was also imprisoned for over a year.
While Agarwala could have chosen to write songs of praise for the British crown, he chose to serve his loyalty towards his people and his country. Songs like Biswa Bijoy Nojawan and Luitor Parore Ami Deka Lora Moribole Amar Bhoi Nai are just two examples of his songs which were written to awaken the youth of the society in the struggle for freedom.
Biswa bijoy naujawan,
Shakti shali Bharat or ulai aha, ulai aha,
Santan tumi biplabor,
Mrityu bijoy koribo lagibo, swadhinotar khuli dwar…
For his participation in the Indian freedom struggle, many scholars placed him ahead of Rabindra Nath Tagore as his contributions were not merely confined to songwriting and poetries, it served a greater purpose than that.
Although his songs were written in the 18th century, it holds much importance even today. In the recent time when the Assamese society is fighting for the preservation of its language, literature and its culture, the writings of Jyoti Prasad Agarwala has emerged again as the beacon for the youth to rejuvenate its fighting spirit for the Assamese culture.
On his death anniversary, we salute the great spirit that built the modern Assamese society, an architect of modern Assam through his powerful skills in art and culture. He will forever be the brightest star of Assam.
The author is the Deputy Editor of TIME8. The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.
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