By Kumkum Sinha, Guwahati
When society faces a great turmoil or social degradation, God sends some social reformers to save society from plunging into an abyss of darkness. This happened in the last century when the Bishnupriya Manipuri Society became vulnerable and morally unstable. The life of younger folk was that of a ship without a rudder. Some of the bewildered youths started to ape others blindly. The society was moving without any aim or in proper direction. It became necessary to guide the society to a worthwhile goal, to have a guide to streamline the society. At this critical time emerged a great reformer Sri Gakulananda, an extremely intelligent man who knew that reformation in that age through lectures and sermons would prove futile. So he innovated techniques to bring about a change in the mindset of the people.
The Bishnupriya Manipuri Society is a Vaishnavite society with a very strong cultural background. Sri Gakulananda tried to utilize this cultural bent of mind of the Bishnupriya Manipuri in reforming the society. Being a great lyricist, he composed some songs and also wrote some simple plays which were easily understandable by the common people, in order to create a social awakening. As he wandered like a minstrel from village to village, and from town to town singing his self composed songs and enacting the dramas, he brought about a massive social change. To the common people he became widely known as “Gakul Kirtani”. Later on he was conferred the title of “Geetiswami” by the Nikhil Bishnupriya Manipuri Mahasabha in 1933 honouring his patriotism and humanism.
Now-a-days, street plays have become a very modern form of dramatic art. But even in those remote days, Gakulananda Geetiswami introduced street plays as a medium of social reform since women were not allowed to perform in plays at that time. Gakulandand Geetiswami made male members of his troupe to play the female roles. This awakening of the social conscience through dramatic performance proved very effective. People crowded the streets and ‘mandaps’ where the plays of Gakulananda were enacted. This was a very simple but effective method of indirect sermonizing which induced a spontaneous change in the Bishnupriya Manipuri Society at that time. His songs were simple, having didactic them, and like his plays easily understandable by the common people.
Gakulananda Geetiswami may be compared with Charankobi Mukundadas of Bengal who awakened the society during the glorious years of national resurgence and stirred the hearts of millions with his songs and brought a silent protest against the British rule.
The impact of the songs of Gakulananda, the minstrel of Bishnupriya Manipuri society surpassed all other efforts made by other socially conscious people in awakening the society.
Gakulananda Geetiswami, the bard of the Bishnupriya Manipuri Community enthralled the audiences far and wide with dazzling performances in his life long drive to bring social awareness among his fellow men. His main aim was to bring about a positive social change making the young folk develop work culture shedding their silly foppishness. He advocated the development of cottage industries self-reliance and eradication of poverty and strove to make the womenfolk lead a life of dignity.
It is the sacred duty of the present generation of the Bishnupriya Manipuris to treasure the reach legacy of Gakulananda Geetiswami bestowed on them by the great minstrel and crystallize his noble intention of awakening and pushing forward the society urging all Bishnupriya Manipuris of work shoulder to shoulder in order to ensure parity with all other advanced societies of the world, flourishing with dignity and pride as responsible members of this culturally rich society.
Courtesy: Published in “SMARANIKA”
A Souvenir published on the occasion of the 112th Birth Anniversary of Gokulananda Geetiswami by the Brihattara Guwahati Gokulananda Geetiswami Jayanti Udjapan Committee held on November 30, 2008 at Silpagram, Panjabari, Guwahati
Today is Leipakpa (Tuesday)