The Luit in Bhupen Hazarika’s Songs: A Metaphor for Exploring Assam’s Linguistic and Ethnic Politics

10.22492.ijah.8.1.07

Author: Jayashree Borah, Indraprastha College for Women, University of Delhi, India
Email: [email protected]
Published: August 25, 2021
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.8.1.07

Citation: Borah, J. (2021). The Luit in Bhupen Hazarika’s Songs: A Metaphor for Exploring Assam’s Linguistic and Ethnic Politics: An Eco-Conscious Approach. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.8.1.07


Abstract

The river Brahmaputra, also known as Luit, has always occupied an important place in the cultural mindscape of the people of Assam, a state in the northeast of India. A source of great pride because of its sheer size and the myths and lore associated with it, it has nevertheless brought untold misery to people over the years because of annual flooding. Authors and musicians of the land have found in the Luit an apt metaphor to tell stories of love, loss, belonging and pain. In the songs of Bhupen Hazarika (1926-2011), a renowned music composer from Assam, the Brahmaputra becomes a character through which the poet expresses both his anguish at the sufferings of the masses and his joy at the all- embracing nature of the valley. In songs like “Mahabahu Brahmaputra”, Hazarika tries to appeal to the people of Assam to maintain harmony and promote the land as one of plurality and hospitality. This song becomes significant when seen in the context of the Assam movement (a six-year long agitation to halt the illegal migration of people from neighbouring Bangladesh) and Hazarika’s own conflicted attitude towards it. This article is an attempt to examine how the Luit has been represented in a selection of Hazarika’s songs – the ways the river becomes a potent presence of deeply political and social overtones and a metaphor to underscore the turbulent history of Assam.

Keywords: Assam, Brahmaputra, metaphor, migration, plurality