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BARAK MUSEUM: RUNG THE PRELUDE FOR NEW POSSIBILITIES
DR. GANESH NANDI

Barak Valley is a historical place situated in the Southern part of Assam and covering mainly three districts; Cachar, Karimganj and Hailakandi. Many things combined together work as a catalyst behind Barak Valley’s uniqueness and glorious identity. Its geography and population have differentiated this valley from other places. Wonder is the first response if and when an outsider approaches this valley from the point of view of its racial, religious, linguistic, cultural and ethnic diversity. The Aryan and the non-Aryan blood both have mingled in the veins of this valley. Barak is the place of congregation for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and a meeting place of the various segments of the four prime linguistic families of India. Perhaps due to this, scholars have unhesitatingly described this valley as an “anthropological garden” of India. In a word, Barak Valley in itself is a mini-India.


Since, once the Barak Valley was a part of the greater Bengal, the Bengali-speaking population of the valley outnumbers others. Even though since time immemorial, different linguistic communities are living here together without the least bit of malice against each other. The residents of the valley are the Bengali Hindus and the Bengali Muslims, the Dimasas, the Nagas, the Khasis, the Hmars, the Manipuris, the kukis, the Assamese speaking people, the Marwari, the Riang, the Nepalis and the tea garden laborers and various other tribes. Their intermingling since time immemorial has carved the natural way for a mutual interaction. Each community has enriched its immediate and remote neighbor. With so many cultures in its treasure house, the culture of the valley has developed into some kind of a mixed fixture. Once upon a time, this valley saw the rules of Tripuri, Koch and Cachari kings. Over a period of 115 years Barak Valley had to live under the yoke of British Raj. Here it is obvious that where civilized British once ruled they left a mark of something different arena in all the way of development and created different history. So Barak Valley has a deep rooted history with its treasure of unique nature, bio-diversity, ethnic diversity and so many things to feel proud. But unfortunately most of the people of this valley are unaware about their treasure and they are very much reluctant to preserve their glorious past and promote present possibilities. Till today Barak Valley as a whole did not think to establish a museum to keep intact its past. Even most of them did not have any idea actually what treasure they have and what they had. But the scope of self introspection has given by recent Barak Museum event which was the important part of Namami Barak Festival, held on 18-20th November, 2017, at Silchar.

After mega event Namami Bramhaputra, Assam Government took the initiative to organize Namami Barak Programme, a multidimensional river festival in the Barak Valley. There were 15 events covering Barak Arati, sports and a colorful cultural program. Out of 15 events Barak Museum event was one of them. Coordinator of the event was Dr. Ganesh Nandi, Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Arts, Assam Univerity Silchar and Deputy Commissioner’s office staffs Niranjan Dhar, Soumyajyoti Bhattacharjee and some others were his supporting staff. Firstly it aimed to exhibit some artifacts, documents and historical objects related to Barak Valley. But because there was no concept about the possibility of a local museum, so the Barak Museum team took this responsibility with a challenging mood. Within 7-8 days they searched three districts of the valley, they visited various educational institutes, houses, contacted all the tribes, communities of the valley, they organized a formal meeting with them, convinced them and ultimately what they got was beyond their imagination. They presented a huge number of museum items in the temporary 60×80 feet museum house, temporarily created for the Barak Museum event at Silchar Town Club ground. It can be said that the collected Australian glass lantern, wooden bed, locker, kerosene run room heater, the ancient bunch of keys, weapons, musical instruments, gramophone, typewriter, historical documents given by Dimasa King, old books, manuscripts, other antique articles and costumes of yesteryears at the “Barak Museum” stall in the recently-concluded Namami Barak festival brought the focus back on the precious heritage of southern Assam. Among the major attractions that drew lakhs of enthusiasts of all ages, the makeshift museum also housed a 300 year old drum used by the Rongmei Nagas, the centuryold Polo Challengers Trophy, Old Microscope, above all, the historical charkha (spinning wheel) used by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit at the DNNK Girls High School in 1921 which drew a massive crowd during the three-days of the festival here. It is known to all that birthplace of modern polo is Silchar and first polo club in the world’s sports history was also established at Silchar. So one Polo Challengers trophy which introduced by the British as a running trophy continued from1914-24 was placed in the museum and attracted lots of crowd towards it. Another object which is a center of attraction and discussion is the microscope used by Nobel laureate Dr Ronald Ross to detect the malaria parasite at the Labac tea garden Hospital, which was also kept at the museum. Manipuri King Gambhir Singh’s decorated historical turban was also an item of great interest. Categorically the museum was divided into five sections. ‘In the light of history and Anthropology’ is the section which covered all fossils, historical artifacts and items related to anthropology, it is the large part of the museum. ‘Bio-diversity’ represented various flora- fauna, bamboo, wood, tiger nail, elephant teeth and all the remains of the unique bio-diverse character of the valley. In the ‘Science and technology’ part all the local inventions, old science and technological equipment including a historical malaria parasite detector Microscope of great Ronald Ross, old Typewriter, computer, fan and numbers of scientific instruments used by the British collected from various corners of the valley were beautifully placed in the museum. But the most amazing section was ‘Ethnic and Cultural Diversity’. It represented the cultural diversity of eleven communities and tribes including Bengali, Dimasa, Manipuri, Assamese, Hmar, Kuki, Naga, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Khasi, Marwari and Tea garden community. All the community’s traditional textiles, huge numbers of weapons, musical instruments, and daily items more than hundred years old were arranged beautifully in the limited space, mesmerizing all sections of the community. Rich tradition and quality of the textile and crafts works of the various communities paved the way of thinking to the viewers that there is a great scope if the skill, quality of the Barak Valley’s ethnic tribes can be explored. One museum cannot be completed without art heritage. So there was a separate section for art also where eleven legendary artist’s works of 100 years old art tradition of the valley were displayed. Artists were mainly late Ananta Bhattacharjee, Birendralal Bhowmik, Asit Kumar Roy, Aswini Kumar Roy, Mukunda Debnath, Alibokhs Mazumdar, Ramlal Dhar, Sushen Ghosh, Shuchibrata Deb, Swapnesh Choudhury and Moinul Haque Barbhuiya.

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