Gunabhiram Barua (1837-94) was a Assamese writer, biographer and social reformer. The literary works and actions of Barua reflected liberal ideas of social reform. He is also the creator of first Assamese Biography, the biography of his uncle Anandaram Dhekial Phukan.
Personal Life and Career:
Gunabhiram Barua was born in 1837. He completed schooling from Assam and earned higher education from Presidency College, Calcutta. In 1860, Barua started his career under British. He served as an Assistant Commissioner for 30 years. After death of his first wife, Gunabhiram Barua married Bishnupriya Devi, a widow.
Writer and Biographer:
Barua wrote “Ram Nabami”, the first modern Assamese play, in 1858. It revolves around the story of a young widow, Nabami, and her lover, Ramchandra. Through the play, Barua criticized ostracism and advocated widow remarriage. In 1880, Barua wrote “Anandaram Dhekial Phukanor Jibon Sarit”. It was the first published Assamese language biography. He also edited a journal named “Asom Bandhu” (Friends of Assam). From 1885 to 1886, Barua wrote several essays on the pages of Asom Bandhu. His satrical work Kathin Sabdar Rahasya Byakha was published posthumously in 1912. The book contained wonderful comical interpretation of words.
Gunabhiram Barua advocated widow remarriage and women’s education. He was influenced by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and himself married a widow after the death of his first wife. A Brahmin by birth, Gunabhiram adopted Rammohan Roy’s Brahmo Dharma and married Bishnupriya Devi according to Brahmo rites. He also encouraged his wife and daughter to continue write and publish their works. He even sent his daughter to a boarding school in Calcutta for English education. That was a bold step at that time.
Gunabhiram Barua was one of the torchbearers of liberal thoughts in 19th century Assam. He was one of the few handful Assamese who worked for regaining the official language status of Assamese language and who also generating linguistic consciousness among Assamese people. He passed away in 1894
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