GUWAHATI, Oct 11 – About seventy years back, there was a family drama troupe in the Uzanbazar area of Guwahati, which used to stage full-fledged plays during the Astami and Navami nights of Durga Puja days. The family was headed by late Guru Prasad Baruah, the father of Natya Prabhakar late Satya Prasad Baruah.
The troupe was named Sundar Sevi Sangha by none other than Rupkonwar Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the doyen of modern Assamese drama, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
Hazarika, while talking to this correspondent said that Barowari Durga Puja also had a specialty of inviting Yatra and Kamrupia Dhulia troupes and Ojapalis to perform during the puja days at the Barowari Naamghar premises.
During the puja, Kamrup Natya Samiti also used to stage plays at its Uzanbazar-based Kumar Bhaskar Natya Mandir on the Saptami, Astami and Navami days on religious topics.
Besides Barowari, Yatras were held also at places like Hari Sabha, Panbazar Railway Colony, etc., during the puja days.
During those days, five cinema halls of Guwahati, namely Bijuli, Kelvin, Rupashree, Lakhi Talkies (now Choudhury Talkies) and Rupayan (now not existent) used to screen two films each against a single ticket bought by each of their viewers. Lakhi Talkies had the record of screening even three to four films in one go during the puja days in that period. These films started around 10 pm and used to end in the crack of the dawn.
Bijoya Dashami day was the most fascinating day for the children of Guwahati during that period. On the occasion of the Bijoya Dashami, a mela was held at the Deputy Commissioner’s Court campus those days and people used to carry the idols on their shoulders to the river bank for the purpose of immersion.
However, with the rise in the number of pujas, the mela venue was shifted to the Judges’ Field and the Church Field. Barring the road dividing them, these fields were almost joined as a single field. Church Field is now known as the Nehru Park.
The last arati was performed at the mela venue before immersion of the idols. After immersion, fireworks were displayed by the Barpeta artisans at the Judges’ Field.
Later on, trucks were introduced to carry the idols to the bank of the Brahmaputra.
These practices continued beyond 1960s. But with the rise in the number of pujas, the immersion ghats (spots) also rose and the mela disappeared in the 1970s.
There were only four sculptors in Guwahati till the 1950s. Three of them were Assamese – Minadhar Bardoloi and Dimbadhar Bardoloi of Latasil and Purna Hazarika of Uzanbazar and the Pauls of Panbazar College Hostel Road. The Pauls are still there, while the Bardolois and Hazarikas are not in profession, said Hazarika.