New Delhi: Way back in 1926, on this date, noted Assamese singer, music composer, film director and actor, Bhupen Hazarika, was born.
Popularly known as the ‘Bard of the Brahmaputra’, the inimitable Bhupen da enthralled many music lovers spanning Assam, Bengal, Bangladesh, Bollywood and beyond.
The oeuvre of Hazarika’s songs – infused with local culture and ethos and laced with the folk tunes of his home state – created a musical tapestry which has continued to enthral listeners long after his demise.
Above all, his songs have been able to encourage sustained dialogue on Assam and Assamese society.
Today, on September 8, 2020, Hazarika would have been 94.
On the occasion of his birth anniversary, as a personal tribute to his memory, to his love for an identity of Assam hinged on its syncretic culture, here is an attempt to translate – loosely – one of his most popular songs, Mahabahu Brahmaputra.
The song embraces the heritage of the land through which the Brahmaputra, or the ‘Luit’ as it is called in Assam, flows. The cultural and sociological history of Assam is encompassed in a few lines set to music. And yet, they have been sung by many.
I thank Aruni Kashyap, writer-translator from Assam and at present, assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Georgia, Athens (USA), for helping out with the translation. The lack of appropriate expressions in English for some of Assamese terms is often a point of frustration for any translator, but never a hindrance.
The translation has a singular purpose, to convey to non-Assamese music lovers the import, the soul and the body of the song. Any suggestion to make it a better version is welcome from readers and listeners.
Where does spring come to its own?
By the banks of the Brahmaputra, isn’t it?
But have you wondered
What is the heritage of the mighty Brahmaputra?
O the mighty Brahmaputra!
The abode of many a confluence
For millennia, it has illumined to mankind
The true import of assimilation
The Baro Bhuyans arrived at its shores
From faraway Kannauj
In that clan, on this land, Sankardeva was born
From Persia came Azan Fakir
Composed the melodious Jikir by its banks
Dilvar from Delhi came too
To draw the Hasti-Puthi here
From the Land of Five Waters appeared Guru Teg Bahadur
To build a bridge of unity
Sprouted many an example of union
Lachit fenced the enemy at Saraighat itself
Bound one and all in a veil of loyalty, patriotism
Merging the lines of community, faith and tongue into one
Son of the Kirata, Bishnu Rabha,
Enlivened the culture of the land
Magnified the many facets of integration
Swayed by the sweeps of River Padma
Several reached the shores of Luit
O how many visitors did both the banks of Luit greet!
Take some, give some
Give and take
Open your arms, unite
Open your hearts, give
Tagore said so too
It was here that Jyotiprasad Agarwal spread light
Botched the conspiracy of those who wouldn’t merge!
O the abode of many a union
For millennia, the migrants continued to march to it
Thus, carving out a pilgrimage for assimilation
Below is the Assamese version of the song.