The conclusion of Shri Avijit Chakraborty’s PhD thesis “The Social Life Of Tista Based Rajbangshi As Reflected in the Work of Debesh Roy” submitted to Gauhati University in 2013. I have not changed anything about his words. But put some words (Note) at the end.
The present study is essentially based on literary creations. To be more specific, it is essentially based on the fictional prose writings of Debesh Roy which were, however, cast on the background of the life of the Rajbanshis on the bank of Tista in the district of Jalpaiguri in North Bengal. The two genres of the fiction of Debesh Roy— the novels and the short stories, are brought within the purview of the study. The author has projected the life of a particular marginalized community on the Tista region in North Bengal in their entirety, in his three novels, Tistaparer Brittanta, Tistapuran, Maffassali Brittanta, and in his stories, Mrita Junction O Bipadjanak Ghat, Dakhal, Bana, Jayjatray Jao He, Rakhi Purnimar Raat, Anaitihashik, Ucchader Paar, and Jot Jami. He has portrayed the struggle for existence of the people in the backdrop of social and political reality. A research report is prepared on the basis of the documents derived from the literature regarding the geographical background of the Rajbanshis, the demography of the region, the process of ethno-formation, food habit and cuisine, dress and ornaments, materials of daily use, construction of houses and vaastu, ceremonies related to birth, death and marriage, etiquette and social norms, social gatherings, folk deities, religious functions and festivals, vocabulary, names of persons and places, proverbs and aphorisms, rhyms and riddles, folk tales and folk songs, folk beliefs and folk wisdom, of the Rajbanshis. In our analysis, we have resorted to such documents as the criticisms and notes of other authors on the matter, other writings of the author, scholarly books by writers that have a relevance to it, published interviews offered by the author, reports and essays published in different journals are used as additional references. The authenticity of the facts gathered from the primary sources were also cross-checked by field study wherever it was felt necessary and was possible. The existence of the Rajbanshis on the plains of Tista region in Jalpaiguri that had figured in the novels in the backdrop of geographical location leads us to believe that the the Rajbanshi community formed the focal point of Debesh Roy, specifically in his works based on the background of Tista. The picture of demography that we have in the fictions of Debesh Roy shows that the actual scenario of the region of Tista is one of peaceful co-existence. The ethnic formation that had been reflected in the works of Debesh Roy shows that there is indeed scope of doubt and despondency in the psyche of the Rajbanshi society on this point. This, however, has a historical reason behind it, and the author successfully projects the tripartite tussle among Hinduism, Koch-ism, and Tribal-ism. From the analysis of Debesh Roy’s works on the social life of the Rajbanshi community settled on the banks of the river Tista, we can draw the following conclusions:
1. The local Hindu Rajbanshis who form the majority of the population coexist rather peacefully with the later-day immigrant Bhatias from East Bengal, the Charuas, the Madesias among the tea laborers, the Bahe Muslims etc. Of course, the novels had projected major transformation in the demography following immigration from East Bengal.
2. The land enclave formed by the soil deposition of river Tista as well as by other tributaries, covers both the forest area as well as areas under tea plantations. The Rasjbanshis settlements are sometimes in the forest area or its vicinity and sometimes on the banks of the rivers, that is, char area. Their homesteads are adjacent to their paddy fields. However, the residential area tended to decrease in course of time.
3. The food habit of the community is connected with their mode of production. Of course, the absence of nutrients in their food stuff is evident. The profuse use of salt and chilly is a marked feature.
4. The traditional attire of the Rajbanshis are without stitch, simple geometric in texture, loose, and designed mainly to cover the body. The home-spun clothes have no variety of colour. Natural elements are used by women in their make-ups. Ornaments made from bamboo, cane, and lac are used along with costly metals.
5. Both earthen potteries, as well as the utensils of bamboo are used by the Rajbanshis. The agricultural tools are all home-made and mostly local. Agricultural tools are mostly meant for rice cultivation. These are made from natural objects. The fishing contraptions are also home-made; the major weapons and appliances are simple and operated manually. Sometimes a common tool is used for multiple purposes.
6. Most of the materials used for house-building are collected from the surroundings, never purchased from market. In their concept of vastu the Buddhist-Chinese system is mixed with the Hindu concept.
7. The society is basically matriarchal. The spirit of synthesis prevails in the observance of customs of the community. In the society under transition Vedic and Vaishnavite rituals are observed simultaneously. The society is also influenced by the urban Bengalee elite culture of Calcutta.
8. The Gods and Goddesses propitiated by Rajbangshis are mostly folk deities, and have a general acceptance by all irrespective of religious convictions. Among the deities the female deities are dominant, and it is the women among the Rajbanshis who play a dominant role in the process of worship of these deities.
9. The linguistic community has a vast store of vocabulary of which we have some in the fictions. In their everyday life there is a mixture of several languages; a large number of people has been found to be speaking this language from historic period.
10. The proper names of the Rajbanshis have an association with nature or natural objects. The social status of a man can be determined by an analysis of the proper name. Religious influence is absent in the naming of a person. It is not essential that in the Rajbanshi society there should be something common in the name of the children and their parents.
11. The proverbs are used both in the conversations as well as in the narrative parts of the novels or stories. The most frequent users of the proverbs are women. There is a marked resemblance between the proverbs of the Rajbanshis and that of the Bengalis.
12. There is no published compilation of the rhymes, riddles and proverbs of the Rajbanshis. These rhymes, riddles and proverbs survived in the collective memory of the society and are transmitted orally. The induction of the riddles rhymes and proverbs in Debesh Roy’s literary works have saved them from being lost in course of time.
13. The folk tales featured in the novels have in a unique style of presentation mixing up the myth and reality. Some of the myths express divine magnificence; while some are imaginative supernatural tales and some others are ritualistic narratives or the brata katha.
14. The folk songs are generally sung by the women characters. A singer of these songs need not necessarily be a trained artist; anybody or everybody whoever so feels like is free to sing out the songs at his or her pleasure.
15. The folk beliefs are natural acquisitions of the society. The collective wisdom of the Rajbanshi society has enriched and enlightened the life of the common mass. Folk knowledge in most cases has indeed a scientific basis. Bengali literature has witnessed a score of novels written on the background of the rural and community life in Bengal. ‘Padmanadir Majhi’ by Manik Banerjee, ‘Hanshulibanker Upakatha’ by Tarasankar Banerjee, ‘Dhonrai Charit Manas’ by Satinath Bhaduri, ‘Titas ekti Nadir Nam’ by Advaita Malla Barman, or ‘Ganga’-by Samaresh Bose are the examples of the kind. The novel ‘Tistaparer Brittanta’ by Debesh Roy belongs to that tradition of prose-fiction in Bengali representing the life in the rural Bengal in a broad spectrum.
In final analysis, the present work is an attempt to trace the process of the socio-economic-historical and anthropological transition of the Rajbanshi community on the bank of Tista in North Bengal as has been portrayed by the author Debesh Roy in his numerous prose-fictions based on his observation of the life of the community coupled with his field study and collection of data. By making a close study of different dimensions of the land and its people, their culture, language and’ folk lore figured in the fictions we may summarize our observation as:
(a) The prose-fictions of Debesh Roy are significant inclusion to the Bengali literature for the unique variety and style it has introduced. The author has extended the horizon of Bengali prose-fiction by bringing the life of the Rajbanshi community within its ambit. This is indeed a task of a true descendent of the Bengali novelist of the same tradition.
(b) Debesh Roy’s literary works besides giving an insight into neighbouring folklife also acknowledges the cultural bond existing between the cultures of the Bengalis and the Rajbanshis thereby elevating the status of Rajbangshi culture in Bengali literature.
(c) The author has drawn our attention to the multifarious aspects of the marginal society of the Rajbanshi by introducing them in the domain of prose-fiction in the light of history and sociology. This would open new vista before the social scientists of the coming days, and would provide clue to the sources for the future studies conducive to new literary ventures on similar themes.”
Collected from: Open Source
Author used the term “Bahe Muslim”. I don’t know from where he collected the reference of Bahe and why they called “Bahe”. Generally Bahe means “Baba he”, to call someone with respect. Like Baba he kote jaan? (Baba he, where are you going?). Bahe is not a name race/caste or prefix/suffix. Most of Bengali authors used this term in derogatory sense in their work which readers tried to follow. If I am wrong viewers you may ask to scholars of Koch Rajbanshi society.
7. “The society is basically matriarchal.” – its simply wrong.
15 (b) ”Elevating the status Rajbanshi culture in Bengali literature” – is Rajbanshi culture inferior than Bengali culture Shri Debesh Roy or Shri Avijit Chakraborty? Few days ago Kobial Ashim Sarkar also tried to spit on Koch Rajbanshi culture and language. He said that Bengalis came to northern part and developed Koch Rajbanshi people (socially and culturally). He also gave foul comments on traditional dress of Koch Rajbanshi ladies. The most illegal comment by Ashim Sarkar was that “ Assamese were always against Bengali people, Assamese did not know cultivating, Bengali people came to Assam and taught them to cultivate” – how, he can say like this. Hope Koch Rajbanshi Kamtapuri society will look after on these matters continuously.
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