Assamese Children’s Magazine – An Incomplete Discussion

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children magazine

By Santanu Kausik Baruah 

The child’s mind is a delicate world – where there is no grammar, no logic, where there are neither the wounds nor the burdens created by experience, where unrelated imaginations shine and dance with silvery and golden hues; where the co-existence of sunlight and rain means the marriage of the tail-less fox, where the house sparrow flies in to offer betel nuts; where while staring up at the moon and asking for a star, one remembers the yellow bird nibbling at the unripened rice grain, and where while speaking about the yellow bird and its attempts to eat the rice grain, the merchant’s son takes out his boat and sails to destinations unknown, and when the boat shakes and shivers, the thought of beating drums come to the mind. It in only in this world that starched flowers grow over the vixen’s head, the vixen daily reaches some faraway Ratanpur at the blink of the eyes, the stork soaks in the rain while on its way to attend a function, and, out of the fear of being dirtied in mud, the cunning dove keeps her clothes on the branches of the bamboo tree and her shawl on the brinjal plant and runs around gleefully. Yes, this is a child and the perpetually astonishing world of his/her mind – a big, blooming, buzzing confusion. 
It is not very easy to usher in happiness in the strange and iridescent world of a child’s mind. Yet, in spite of this, many people have managed to make their mark and promote children’s literature, even if sparsely, and Assamese children’s magazines have significantly contributed in this regard. But a clear-cut pattern in the development and publishing of children’s magazine in the Assamese language is still awaited.
In the nineteenth century, that is, about twenty five years after the introduction of a children’s magazine in the world’s literary scene (the world’s first children’s magazine, namely, “Children’s Magazine”, was published in 1789 A.D. in the USA), the very first thoughts of starting a children’s magazine rose in Assam. The foundation to this was laid in the pages of “Orunudoi” in the initial phase of the beginning of the print media in Assam. In the first year’s ninth issue of “Orunudoi”, Miles Brosnon addressed the children in an essay entitled “First Letter to the Little Readers of Orunudoi”, and urged them to come forward and read “Orunudoi”. In addition, stories of the Bible and other moral stories and also stories and folklores from all over the world were published in “Orunudoi” in a way appropriate for the children to read and comprehend.
Among these stories, the most memorable ones were “Bibleor Xadhu” (Stories of the Bible), “Xuwoni Xaaj” (Lovely Dress), “Maura Suwali” (The Orphan Girl), “Afrikaar Kuwor” (The Prince of Africa), “Burha” (The Old Man), “Juddha Nayak” (The War Hero), “Rebir Kahini” (The Story of Rebi), “Dharmik Soha” (The Religious Insect), “Bejonor Kahini” (The Story of Bejon), “Eagleor Baah” (The Eagle’s Nest), “Xorukalor Dharma” (The Religion of Childhood), etc.

    LORABONDHU
The stories, folklores, etc. written and published by Nathan Brown, Miles Brosnon, Oliver Kottar and other missionaries probably inspired the founder of the first children’s magazine in Assamese language, Karunabhiram Baruah, to move ahead. It was due to the undaunted efforts of Karunabhiram Baruah, who was the son of Gunabhiram Baruah, that the first Assamese children’s magazine “LORABONDHU” was published from Nagaon in 1886 A.D. It is believed that the appellation “LORABONDHU” was inspired from the English children’s newsmagazine titled “The Boy’s Own Paper” (1879 A.D.). After the publication of about four issues, the magazine was discontinued in 1888 A.D..
    OKON
There was a significant time gap after “LORABONDHU” for children’s magazine in Assamese language. The second Assamese children’s magazine “OKON” was published about a decade and a half after “LORABONDHU” in the year 1916. An advertisement was published in the seventh year’s first issue of “BAHI” magazine in 1915, before the publication of “OKON”. The part of the advert went as follows:-
“অকণ
সৰু ল’ৰা ছোৱালীৰ উপযোগী সচিত্ৰ মাহেকীয়া কাকত বাৰ্ষিক বৰঙ্গনি ১ অনা মাত্ৰ।
কিতাপৰ আকাৰত প্ৰতিমাহে ৪৮ পিঠিকৈ ওলাব। ৰং বেৰঙৰ হাফটোন ছবি থাকিব আৰু প্ৰবন্ধবোৰো সচিত্ৰ হ’ব। চকচকীয়া কাকতত ধুনীয়াকৈ ছপোৱা হ’ব ‘অকণ’ক ৰূপে গুণে ঠিক ‘অকণ’ সোণটিৰ নিচিনাকৈ উলিওৱা যাব। 
অন্তত: ২০০০ গ্ৰাহক পাবৰ আশা নেদেখিলে এনেকুৱা কাকত উলিওৱা অসম্ভৱ। গতিকে অসমীয়া ৰাইজৰ ওচৰত আমাৰ গোহাৰি তেওঁলোকে যেন এই সদানুষ্ঠানত উত্সাহ দিয়ে। 
গ্ৰাহকসকললৈ – ‘অকণ’ৰ প্ৰতি সংখ্যাৰ বেছ ৯৬ পাই। যিসকলে এতিয়া গ্ৰাহক হৈ থাকিব তেওঁলোকলৈ প্ৰথম সংখ্যা নমুনা স্বৰূপে পঠোৱা হ’ব। ২য় সংখ্যাহে ভি পি পঠোৱা হ’ব। নমুনা পোৱাৰ পিছত যিসকলে কাকত ল’বৰ ইচ্ছা নকৰে যথাসময়ত জনালেই হ’ব। 
লিখকসকললৈ – মাহেকীয়া কাকতৰ মাক বাপেক হৈছে প্ৰবন্ধ। ভাল ভাল প্ৰবন্ধৰ নাটনি হ’লেই কাকতত নানান ঘূণে ধৰে, অনাহাৰে যাতে মৰিব নালাগে সেইবাবে সময় থাকোতেই আহাৰৰ সংস্থান কৰি লোৱা বিধেয়, গতিকে অন্তত: এবছৰৰ নিমিত্তে প্ৰবন্ধ ভঁৰালত গোটাইহে কৰ্মক্ষেত্ৰত নমা যাব।“  
(“OKON 
The pictorial monthly newspaper for children with an annual subscription of just 1 anna.
It will be published in the form of a booklet every month and will have 48 pages. It will have colourful half-tone photos and the stories will be accompanied by pictures too. “OKON” will be beautifully printed in crispy paper, and will be published like elegantly turned out children.
We expect atleast 2000 subscribers, and anything less will make the publication of this magazine impossible. Therefore we urge the Assamese people to encourage us in this noble act.
To our readers – the current subscribers will receive the first issue of “OKON” as a sample. From the second issue onwards, it will sent by V.P.P. If anyone does not want to subscribe after going through the first sample issue, they should let us know the same.
For our writers – the real guardians of a monthly magazine are articles. The shortage of good articles will make our magazine rot, and therefore you are requested to contribute generously so that we have enough articles in our stock for atleast a year.”)
A similar advertisement was published in 1915 in “ALOCHANI” (sixth year, eleventh edition), which was published from Dibrugarh. The advertisement read as follows:
“ডাঙৰীয়া, অকণৰ হাতত একোখন ‘অকণ’ দি অকণৰ মুখভৰা হাঁহি চাব খোজেনে? অকণৰ কোমল অন্তৰত পচাবৰ কাৰণে বৰ্তমান সময়োপযোগী শিক্ষা আৰু সত উপদেশৰ সঁচ লাগেনে? যদি লাগে তেন্তে সময় থাঁকোতে নিয়কহি। 
‘অকণ’ কিতাপৰ আকাৰত ৪৮ পৃষ্ঠাকৈ প্ৰতিমাহে ওলাব। ৰঙ বেৰঙৰ হাফটোন ছবি থাকিব আৰু প্ৰবন্ধবোৰো সচিত্ৰ হ’ব। চকচকীয়া কাগজত ছপোৱা হ’ব। ‘অকণ’যে কেৱল দেখিবলৈ ধুনীয়া হ’ব তেনে নহয়। ‘অকণ’ যাতে ৰূপে গুণে ঠিক অকণ সোণটিৰ নিচিনা হয়, সেইবাবে যথোচিত বন্দৱস্থ কৰা হৈছে।
‘অকণ’ত  কি কি থাকিব – কবিতা, সাধুকথা, গল্প, বিজ্ঞান, শৰীৰ তত্ত্ব, প্ৰাণীতত্ত্ব, বুৰঞ্জী, খেতি,নীতি শিক্ষা, সাঁথৰ ইত্যাদি। 
অসমীয়া ৰাইজৰ ওচৰত আমাৰ একান্ত গোহাৰি যেন তেওঁলোকে এই সদানুষ্ঠানত উত্সাহ দিয়ে। সাজ-পাৰ পিন্ধি ‘অকণ’ বহি আছে, অন্তত: দুহাজাৰ গ্ৰাহকৰ নাম দেখিলেই ওলাই পৰিব”।    
(“Gentlemen, do you want your little children to smile with a copy of “OKON” in their hands? Do you want to plant the seedling of proper education and honest teaching in your child’s heart? If yes, then come and subscribe on time.
It will be published in the form of a booklet every month and will have 48 pages. It will have colourful half-tone photos and the stories will be accompanied by pictures too. “OKON” will be beautifully printed in crispy paper, and will be published like elegantly turned out children.
What will be there in “OKON” – poems, folktales, stories, physiology, history, agriculture, moral-education, riddles, etc. 
Our earnest request to the Assamese people is to come forward and encourage us. Upon getting 2000 subscriptions, “OKON” will be published.”
With Pt. Hemchandra Goswami as the editor, “OKON” was published from the Banik Press of Street No. 60, Mirzapur, Kolkata; its pages boasted of articles from writers like Pt. Krishnakanta Handique, Atul Chandra Hazarika, Bholanath Deka, etc. But the lifespan of “OKON” was as short-lived as that of “LORABONDHU”. After two years of regular publishing, the magazine died an untimely death in 1918. There was an attempt by Birinchi Kumar Baruah to revive the magazine in 1935, but it was also short-lived.
    MOINA

Another children’s magazine contemporary to “OKON” was “MOINA”. With Bihogi Poet Raghunath Chaudhury as the editor, “MOINA” was printed in the “Orunudoi Art Press” of Kolkata in 1923. But the magazine could not grab the attention of the young readers for long, and after the publication of a few issues, it faded into oblivion.

    ARUN
Under the editorship of Mahadev Sharma, a promising children’s magazine titled “ARUN” was published in 1926. At that time, an advertisement was published in the monthly women’s magazine “GHOR JEUTI” (second year first issue) which read as follows:

অসমীয়া ল’ৰা ছোৱালীয়ে ‘অৰুণ’ পালে থপিয়াথপি লগায়, অৰুণৰ ধুনীয়া ধুনীয়া ছবিবোৰ দেখি।…সৰুৰে পৰা ল’ৰা ছোৱালীক পঢ়াৰ ফালে ঢাল খুৱাব পৰা, ল’ৰাক নানা বিষয় জানিবলগীয়া কথা শিকাব পৰা মাহেকীয়া কাকত আসামত কেৱল মাথোন অৰুণেইহে।
আপোনাৰ অকণিহঁতৰ হাতত অৰুণ একোখন দিছেনে? যদি নাই দিয়া আজিয়েই বৰঙণি দুটকা পঠাই দিয়ক। আমি নিয়মমতে কাকত পঠিয়াই থাকিম।  

“The Assamese children pounce for a copy of “ARUN” because of its beautiful pictures. “ARUN” is the only children’s magazine which can make the children eager about their studies and teach them about the various topics and issues.
Can you see a copy of “ARUN” in your children’s hands? If not, then send a contribution of Rs 2 today. We will send your magazine regularly.”

Lavish praises were also showered on “ARUN” by the contemporary mouthpiece of the Assam Students Union “MILON”. But the light of “ARUN” did not last long. The magazine, which rose with a lot of possibilities, disappeared in the dawn of its birth.

    AMAR DEX and POKHILA

A couple of significant children’s magazines published in the third decade of the twentieth century were “AMAR DEX” edited by Tulsi Narayan Sharma (1931), and “POKHILA”, which was edited by Hirendra Nath Sharma (1933). Printed by the Darpan Press of Jorhat, “AMAR DEX” continued till 1935, but “POKHILA” was short-lived.

    PARIJAT

In the beginning of the fourth decade, a children’s magazine named “PARIJAT” was published. Printed under the editorship of Dinanath Sharma, who was the editor of another distinguished magazine “AWAAHON”, this magazine appeared in January, 1940, and displayed a unique speciality with its coloured cover-page, beautiful halftone multicoloured photos and neat print. Also, with folktales, stories, ghost stories and topics on general knowledge, the magazine contributed a lot towards children’s literature. Thus, “PARIJAT” bloomed like a night jasmine in the garden left abandoned by “AMAR DEX” and “POKHILA”. The cost of each issue of the magazine was 4 annas. Another popular magazine of those times, “DEKA XOMOI”, also praised “PARIJAT”. But like the other children’s magazines, “PARIJAT” also disappeared soon.

    RONG-GHOR
Published in 1948, “RONG-GHOR” was a significant children’s magazine, printed under the editorship of Birinchi Kumar Baruah. In the first issue of the magazine, a poem by Devakanta Baruah, which was titled “RONG-GHOR”, was published. A stanza of the poem went as follows:

‘সোণৰ অসম দেশ
এনেনো নিছলা বেশ
কিয় হ’ল এনুৱা বিলাই
পোনাহঁতে ভাবিছানে নাই?’

“The golden land of Assam
The indigent land of Assam
Why there is this misery?
Have you ever thought of it, dear children?”

Each issue of “RONG-GHOR” cost 6 annas, half yearly subscription was for Rs 3, and annual subscription was for Rs 5. On the last week of every month, Devakanta Baruah published “RONG-GHOR” on behalf of the Ramdhenu Prakash Bhawan. Famous poets and writers of those times wrote in “RONG-GHOR”; among them were Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Devakanta Baruah, Kamalananda Bhattacharrya, Ratnakanta Barkakoty, Maheshwar Neog, Upendra Chandra Lekharu, Nabakanta Baruah, Mahim Borah, etc., and the readers accepted the magazine as a significant children’s magazine. It was in “RONG-GHOR” that the famous poems “BHOOT PUWALI” by Jyotiprasad Agarwala and “AAMI DUWAR MUKOLI KORU” by Devakanta Baruah were published. The lyrical writing of this poem by Devakanta Baruah has been labelled as the “beginning of the independent rhyme in the Assamese rhyme history” by Mahendra Borah. Though popular and accepted by the people, “RONG-GHOR” metamorphosed into “RAMDHENU” with a change of name and its contents.

    KASIJON
In 1951, M. Ibrahim Ali of Mangaldoi edited and published “KASIJON”. In spite of the fact that the magazine was rich in its contents, it was not long-lived.

    DEEPAK
The appearance of “DEEPAK” was nothing short of a milestone in the history of Assamese children’s literature and children’s magazine. Edited initially by Gaurikanta Talukdar and later by Atul Chandra Hazarika, this magazine created an era of sorts in the history of Assamese children’s magazine. Published for a period of seventeen years, this magazine not only imparted knowledge but also encouraged the young writers of the hills and plains to write. It was on the pages of “DEEPAK” that Devakanta Baruah’s “AMAR GHAR”, Nabakanta Baruah’s “KHORA XIYALOR BIYA”, Seema Dutta’s “RONGMONOR XOPUN”, BHUGULOR BHOOL” and other wonderful poems which were suited for the children’s mind, were published.  In addition, the writings of writers like Nalinibala Devi, Bisweswar Hazarika, Alimunisa Piyar, Tarunchandra Pamegang, Tagang Taki, LLoknath Baruah, Purna Chetia Phukan, Ananta Deva Sharma, Golok Chandra Dutta, Kamaleshwar Chetia Phukan, Hariprasad Baruah, Chandra Nath Kalita, Hemanta Kumar Das, Nilima Dutta, Nityananda Tamuli, etc. were regularly published. Later on, “DEEPAK” was published as “a magazine for the entire family”, but it primarily remained a children’s magazine. Due to financial crunch, “DEEPAK” was discontinued in 1971. The last issue of the magazine was printed with a black cover page. With the unexpected demise of “DEEPAK”, an irreparable damage was done to the world of children’s magazine, and the bond of love and unity among the young readers of the region was broken.

    JONBAI
Another significant children’s magazine, “JONBAI”, was edited and published in the month of January 1961 by distinguished writer Nabakanta Baruah. The contents of “JONBAI” were able to make a mark on the children’s mind, and it soon became popular among the children. Some of the significant articles of “JONBAI” were “JUKTA AKHOROR NOTHOKA XADHU”, “OXOMIYA GHORUWA KOTHA”, the Assamese translation of the novel of Nikolainikolvich Nosov in the form of “BHEBARAM ARU TAAR BONDHUBUROR OBHIJAAN”, “NOTU OXOM GORHUTA”, etc. In addition to the writings by adults, the section “LAHI HAAT” contained stories, poems, etc. written by children. Following Nabakanta Baruah, the editors of “JONBAI” were Nanda Talukdar and Naren Sharma, respectively. After the fourth issue of the sixth year (1966), the magazine disappeared.

After that, “MOINA” edited by Jahid Choudhury (1962), Haldhar Sharma’s “NO-JEUTI” (1965), Jagat Chetia’s “AMAR GHOR” (1965), Jones Mahalia’s “NOTUN BELI” (1967), Bhupendra Naryan  Choudhury’s “BALYAJYOTI” (1968), Devajani Chaliha’s “BHAITI BHONITI” (1968), Suresh Chandra Rajkhowa’s “RODALI” (1969), Ruchinath Sharma and Ashwini Kumar Sharma’s “KAKOLI” (1972), Hem Borah’s “XEUJI”, Arun Sharma’s “XEUJI XEUJI”, Kanika Bani Bhuyan’s “SEMONIA” (1977),  Paresh Chandra Baruah’s “KIXOR” (1979), Deepak Dutta and Bubul Bordoloi’s “RUPOBON” (1975), Nagen Borah’s “JOONTORS”, Suryakumar Bhuyan’s “MOINA” (1979), Badn Baruah’s “RUNJUN” (1979), Rahim Haque’s “PHOOLKOLI” (1979), Preet Baruah’s “AAKAX” (1979), etc. were published with much fanfare and gained some degrees of popularity too, but nevertheless disappeared soon. In 1976, the Assamese edition of “CHANDAMAMA”, published from Chennai (Editor: B Nag Reddy), was published and it is going strong till date.

    XOPHURA
An astonishing wave of children’s magazines came in the eighth decade of the twentieth century. And in this fertile alluvial soil, children’s literature also tried to prosper and grow.

In this decade, a number of children’s magazines came into being and expanded to make its presence felt. Among these magazines, the most remarkable one was “XOPHURA” which was published in 1983. With Dr. Bhabendranath Saikia as the editor, this magazine gained immense popularity in a short span of time. Though the contents of “XOPHURA” were nothing extraordinary, it ushered in some uniqueness with articles like “AAXAKORU TUMALUK XOKOLU BHALE AASA”, “MOHADUSTOR DUSTO BUDDHI”, “XOSAU NOHOI MISAU NOHOI”, “GHOROT KORIBOLE KAAM DISU”, etc. The poetry section of the magazine also displayed a character of its own. “XOPHURA” had indeed contributed significantly in the intellectual development of children in Assam.

    MOUCHAK
Among the children’s magazines, the most widely circulated as well as the most popular among the children is “MOUCHAK”. Edited by Shantanu Tamuli and published from Jorhat, “MOIUCHAK” has reached the zenith of popularity in Assam. Since its inception, the magazine has tried to steer clear of regular topics and has given priority to children’s literature and news related topics in an elaborate manner. Another deciding factor for the popularity of “MOUCHAK” is its modern offset print, which is the first of its kind among children’s magazines in Assam. Some of the popular titles of the magazine are – “AAMI KENEDORE PORHISILU”, “ND KHURAR XOMIDHAN”, O BIDEXI BONDHU”, “ROBIN POKHIR KAKOLI”, etc. 
The other children’s magazines published in the eighth decade are “KOKADEUTA” edited by Dulal Chandra Borthakur (1984), Ranju Hazarika’s “KONKON” (1986), Shantanu Kaushik Baruah’s “OIKYOTAAN” (1987), Bhagyalaxmi Mahanta’s “MOINA” (1987), Dinesh Baishya’s “GYAN-BIGYAN” (1990), etc.  At this point, it should be remembered that though these magazines were unable to gain permanency due to their short lives, they contributed significantly in maintaining the tradition of children’s magazines in Assam.
A few other children’s magazines are – “MUKUTA” whose editor was Kumud Goswami (1987), Lavanya Goswami’s “RANG-BIRANG” (1988), Gokul Borpujari’s “XURUJ” (1989), Purnaim Konwar’s “RODALI” (1990), Bubul Chandra Deka’s “PHULONI” (1990, Morigaon), Pranabjyoti Neog’s “PHULONI” (1990, Lakhimpur), Kumar Niranjan’s “JNANKOX” (1989), Sarat Rajkhowa’s “JNANUDOI” (1990),  Bedanta Kumar Borah’s “MOUKOH” (1990), Nalini Kumar Deka’s “PHOOL” (1987), Assam Scientific Society’s “BIJNAN JEUTI” (1961), State Science Association’s “BIJNAN XOPHURA “ (1987), Shantanu Tamuli’s “NOTUN AWISHKAAR” (1988), Dr. Dinesh Chandra Goswami’s “DRISHTI” (1984), “OKONI AGRADOOT”, “RONGMON” etc.
Under the editorship of Homen Borgohain, a monthly magazine for teenagers titled “KIXOR” was published in an attractive form in 1991, but it could exist for barely a year till 1992. In this magazine, numerous articles to cater to the need and the mindset of the teenagers were published; writers like Priti Baruah, Arupa Patangia Kalita, Gitartha Pathak, Bipuljyoti Saikia, etc. contributed in “KIXOR”.
In the context of children’s magazines, we can also mention the annual magazines of schools, the mouthpiece of MOINA PARIJAAT, children’s science magazines, etc. Due to the lack of adequate data, we are unable to mention the name of all these magazines in this article; but this is also a fact that these magazines have contributed immensely in keeping the tradition of children’s magazines alive in Assam. We have also mentioned at the beginning of the article that this discussion is far from complete. We have tried to enumerate, or rather, name the various Assamese children’s magazines published over the years and have tried to describe some of them in brief. Therefore, we cannot take the onus of labelling this discussion as complete and adequate. There is also a possibility that we may have failed to mention the names of some children’s magazines, or may have given some incorrect data; but this is purely unintentional. We will be highly obliged if our esteemed readers can contribute in any way by providing more data.
If we go through the discussion above, we will see that except for a few, the Assamese children’s magazines were unable to leave a lasting impression and were incapable of contributing significantly to children’s literature due to their short life spans. It is really unfortunate that even in the twenty first century we are still lamenting the lack of a full-fledged Assamese children’s magazine.

 

References:
1.    Nirmalprabha Bordoloi, “Xixu Hahitya”, “Bingxo Xotabdir Oxomiya Xahitya”, Dibrugarh, 1987, page 178
2.    Dr. Maheswar Neog, “Orunudoi”, Guwahati, 1983, page 67
3.    Dr. Mahendra Bora, “Oxomiya kobitar sondo”, “Modyobingxo xotikaar oxomiya xahitya”, 1974, page 79

Translation By: Mayuri Borgohain, New Delhi
©Project Lipyontor, enajori.com


 

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