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Geetiswami Gokulananda — a visionary

Going down the history lane

By RK Rishikesh Sinha

Every year we Bishnupriya Manipuries celebrate the birth anniversary of Geetiswami Gokulananda with great enthusiasm and gusto. He is being remembered with many shades. He is being referred as a social reformer, intellectual, minstrel, writer, politician and also communicator. But the present generation due to the lack of work on him finds itself hard to associate with the great Bishnupriya Manipuri soul. One probable reason that we fail to comprehend is the context of ‘time’ that made Gokulananda, the “Geetiswami”. Because it is with the time and the period we associate a person, his or her deeds and activities. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became “Mahatma” in our freedom struggle. Here we are very well-acquainted with his role in the pre-Independence India. But, this is not the case with Gokulananda Geetiswami. We don’t have extensive work on him.

This article is an attempt to recreate the time he lived, the phases that our society had to undergo, since under a better understanding of the time, Gokulananda’s role and his personality would come visible and would sprout.

Since this article is not a research-based article, the author doesn’t claim authenticity of facts and co-relation, the article only tries to delve into the period from the perspective of contemporary history, the history that we are well-acquainted with.

Let us remind ourselves to this fact: Geetiswami Gokulananda Singha was born on November 26, 1896 and died on July 10, 1962. Here, the period from 1896-1962 is important and needs study. Concentrating on this period, it would give us better understanding to the great personality of Gokulananda Geetiswami.

What we find in this period? This is the tumultuous period in the Indian sub-continent; people and society were coming to the terms of a new environment that was arising. First, this is the same period when British government were making firm grip over the Indian sub-continent. Second, this is the same period, when we people came to a new world — India and East Pakistan.

The continual political events that were taking place during this period, it could be easily ascertained, that it definitely had its effects on our people. The Bishnupriya Manipuri society found itself in a crossroad since the very essence of identity was getting transformed in the midst of political developments that were developing in and around us. It was a period of ‘community consciousness’ and getting into a new social and political reality.

Geetiswami Gokulananda was the only iconic figure in that era who had the realization about the changing time and visualized the future in the new developed reality. He was the person who understood the true essence of time and gave direction to the community as a whole. It might look simple today, but those days and periods were different. With mass illiteracy and scattered population, it could be easily understood that it was not easy. Therefore, we find in him many facets in one personality.

Here the author has taken two important events, though there were many developments in the same period that had its cascading effect on our people.

What were the events?

(1) First and foremost, is the enumeration of caste under the colonial rule. It is here important to remember that the perception of ‘community’/caste that we today understand was not the same at that time. It doesn’t mean that the Bishnupriya Manipuries didn’t know the word ‘community’ before the advent of colonialism in India. Hitherto, our ancestors were fully aware of the difference between ‘they’ and ‘us’. Britishers’ “grand scheme for the mapping and measurement of every racial ‘type’ and ‘specimen’ in India” had a prolong effect, still it continues, on our perception towards society and community. This was the period where people and community were getting in touch with the British Government’s codification of Indian societal structure. We find that the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century of it saw frantic changes in all Indian society due to Britisher’s attempt to understand India and to run it. It is natural to conclude here that Bishnupriya Manipuri people and community as a whole to be found itself in flux. In this period, we find great works and efforts being done to acquaint our people to the changing time. Here, great personalities like Geetiswami Gokulananda come into our picture.

(2) Second, is the emerging of two nations — India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Creation of two new nations also had its effect on our community people. Families and the community bondage got electrocuted with the erection of border with the independence of two nations. Suddenly, members had to face multifold problems; on one hand coming to terms with new Independent India; and on the other hand a part of a body, a big Bishnupriya Manipuri population going to East Pakistan, had a gloomy consequence on our people. It could be concluded that members were shocked and surprised. Here, again we find Geetiswami Gokulananda’s singular effort to bridge the gap between the newly developed political spheres with our people. It is important to remember that in this context Geetiswami Gokulananda getting into the political structure in the Independent India. He became the champion of political consciousness in our people.

Concluding with the note that every year when we celebrate Geetiswami Gokulananda’s birth anniversary, we should try to understand him by employing different approaches and revealing various unknown facets of the life and the time he lived.

Courtesy: Smarinika 2011

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