| Chandra Kanta Murasingh with his books at his Agartala home. Telegraph picture |
Agartala, Oct. 6: Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore visited princely Tripura seven times from 1900 to 1927 and was showered with royal bounties in many forms during his long and close association with Tripura’s kings, spanning over five decades.
But except penning a novel, Rajarshi, and two plays, Mukut and Visarjan, based on episodes of royal history, he had no interaction with the state’s indigenous people and their rich culture.
However, that has not impeded Tripura’s indigenous poets and authors from studying and writing on Tagore’s literature.
Tripura’s leading poet Chandra Kanta Murasingh, 57, has translated all 157 poems/songs in Tagore’s Nobel winning Gitanjali into the indigenous Kokborok language and the work is all set to be published by Viswa Bharati soon. All the translated poems have already appeared in a prestigious Bengali literary magazine, Parikatha, of Calcutta in which current stalwarts of Bengali literature regularly contribute.
“I have translated at least 20 other poems of Tagore and they are also likely to form part of the volume,” said Murasingh, now a branch manager of Tripura Gramin Bank.
The very first winner of Sahitya Akademi’s “Bhasa Samman” — an award given by the Akademi to poets and authors of non-scheduled languages — in 1996 from the Northeast, Murasingh has penned seven highly acclaimed books of Kokborok poems.
“In five of the seven volumes, I have provided Bengali translation of my original Kokborok poems but two are exclusively in Kokborok,” said Murasingh.
Anthologies of his poems, based primarily on love and nature, have been published by North Eastern Hill University and even Oxford University Press.
The Hindi department of Calcutta’s Presidency University has published a volume of his 100 poems translated into Hindi.
Murasingh has been witness to a rapid and remarkable evolution of Tripura’s socio-economic life from the pristinely pure existence as jhumias (shifting cultivators), eking a living out of hilly terrace cultivation, to plainland cultivation with bulls, yokes and other traditional implements.
“I saw my parents engage in shifting cultivation and helped them as a boy; observed the lights and shades of nature, the cascading sound of the hill springs, heavy monsoon rain and chirping of birds that I saw and listened to in my boyhood at my ancestral village of Twiwandal in Sonamura subdivision,” the poet said.
It was at his father’s initiative that Murasingh left his village for studies, much to the consternation of the traditional village chief who was opposed to boys and girls going outside for education.
He is now absorbed in creating a “grammar” for learning Tripura’s rich indigenous folk songs by devising notations. “Our rich folk songs are endowed with poetic beauty but they have come to us by oral tradition and are sung with indigenous instruments like sarinda and chompreng; I have made progress in devising the musical notation and once the task is complete, our folk songs can be recorded and easily learned,” Murasingh said.
A poetic soul trying to bring together different strands of Kokborok spoken and written in Tripura, Cachar and Chittagong hill, Murasingh’s lone regret is that the modern generation of indigenous youths is no longer interested in using the Kokborok language.