By Dr B K Gohain
Many a song and ballad has been inspired by the Brahmaputra, love for which courses through the heart of each and every Assamese. Such is the presence of this great male river that even in the epics, it is mentioned as Lauhatya — the Red River. The ancient me of Assam was Kamrup or Pragjyotisa and in mentioning the kingdom, the me of the river Brahmaputra as Lauhitya is found in many Hindu scriptures.
Let us quote some verses in this respect:
Sarayurvaravatyatha langalica saridvarayi
Karatoya tathatreyi Lauhityasca Mahadah .( Mahabharata :Sabhaparva,9-22)
In the Bhismaparva too, there is reference to same Karatoya river, Atreyi river and the great male river (Mahadah).
Suktimatimahangam ca tathaiba Brisakahvayam
Lauhityam Karatoyam ca tathaiva Brisakahvayam. ( Mahabharata: Bhisma Parva)
The great poet Kalidasa, in his work ‘Raghuvamsa’ refers to Kamrupa and Pragjyotisa, two mes of the same country as lying to the east of the Brahmaputra. In his work ‘Brhatsamhita’ of Varahamihira, both Pragjyotisa and Lauhitya are mentioned.
The Markandeya Pura mentions Pragjyotisa along with Lauhitya, Udayachala and Kamrupa as standing in the east. The Vayu Pura also mentions Pragjyotisa and the Lauhitya as lying in the east.
Padma Puran relates the story of the birth of Brahmaputra. In the ancient time, Amogha, the beautiful wife of Sage Santanu carried in her womb the semen of Brahma as it was put into it and she gave birth to a watery form at a place called Yugandhara. A celestial being clad in blue and adorned with a garland of jewels and wearing a crown was born in water. The gods saluted him and the place became a pilgrimage. Thus Lauhitya was the son of Brahma born in Amogha’s womb and brought into being by Santanu.
Kalika Puran gives a detailed rrative of the creation of Brahmaputra as the son of Amogha. Sage Markandeya rrated the myth thus:
There was a sage med Santanu whose wife was Amogha. One day, when Santanu went to collect fruits, Brahma went to the place where she was staying. Lord Brahma was emored with Amogha, the beautiful wife of Sage Santanu and went to catch her. She vehemently opposed his move and went inside their cottage and locked up the door. She became furious and told Brahma that if he forced his way to fulfill his desire, he would curse him. Hearing this and knowing that she did not want to have sexual union with him, Brahma who was greatly aroused discharged his semen on the ground in the hermitage of the sage and went away feeling ashamed.
Seeing the footprints of Brahma, Saint Santanu asked his pensive wife who was observing the fire-like semen of Brahma what the matter was. She told him that one four-headed sage came there riding on a swan and requested her to have sexual union with her. When she refused and threatened him of a curse, he discharged his semen and went away. Santanu meditated to know the reason of such a divine discharge and got to learn the true intention of the Lord of doing good for all by creating pilgrimages. He asked his wife to drink the semen which she refused, saying that it would be against her conscience to take another person’s semen. She suggested that the sage take the fire-like semen of Brahma in his mouth and put the same in her womb with his mouth which he did. Thus, the semen got imbibed in her womb and she delivered, in course of time a watery form.
It was a celestial god clad in blue and adorned with a garland of jewels and a crown and with four hands and fair complexioned like Brahma. The water and the form was the son. The sage placed the form called Brahmaputra in the midst of four mountains mely, Kailash on the north, Gandhamada on the south, Jaarudhi on the west and Samvarttaka on the east. Brahmaputra grew up and Brahma observed all the necessary rites for purification. After some time, the water grew immensely and looked like a sea. It was Brahmakund. The gods and goddesses and other celestial bodies loved to come there to take bath and drink its pure water.
Then Parasuram, son of the powerful Jamadangi committed the gravest crime of matricide on command from his father. He went to take bath in this great water body to atone his gravest sin. His father asked him to return soon. Accordingly, he atoned by taking dip in this holy water. The great holy river Brahmaputra comes out of this holy water Brahmakunda and flows through Kailash and falls in the Lohit sea. With his axe, Parasuram cut a channel till the Brahmaputra flowed into the Lohit. ‘The sober son of Brahma flooded all sacred lakes and sub-merged all the holy places and made them concealed in water.’
Thus our Brahmaputra is a four-headed god, adorned with a garland of jewels and wearing blue. It became Lohit or red as there are many types of erosion of lands into it making its colour red. In our alkaline tongue, it is Luit. The greatest attraction for all people to this land of Red River and Blue Hills are the expansive river valleys formed by it and its tributaries which make cultivation of crops easier.
The river Brahmaputra is mentioned in some of the copper-plate inscriptions of the ancient kings of Kamrup (Assam). In the copper-plate inscription of Vamaladeva, while rrating the lineage of Pragjyotisa, it is written as follows:
‘May bliss attend you. May that river Lauhitya protect you-the river the waters of which have been reddened by the flowers of the tree of the lord of heaven falling down from the hands and locks of the best of the celestial women well ormented while playing in the midst of its water-river that has moistened the group of travelers in the aerial region by means of its showers stirred as it were by a friction against the huge masses of golden stones of the beautiful Kailasa mountain ,and therefore appearing as so many rays of frost mixed with a paste of gold.’ ( English translation: D.Sarma in ‘Kamrupa Sasavali’.)
In the Sasavalis (written commands of the kings) of King Balavarma, King of our Kamrup, there are references to the river Lauhitya. In the copper plate inscription of Balavarma, while describing the beauty of the ancestral capital city, it is stated that the waves of which are hitting the foreheads of victorious the elephants. In the Hawraghat copper plates grant of Balavarma, it is written thus:
Let the pure water of the river Lauhitya where the moon-shaped circles are formed by the heavenly elephants and which is made fragrant by the musk of the deer roaming on the ridges of the mount Kailasa remove your scene.( English translation: D.Sarma)
Even the Chinese traveler Hsuen–Tsang mentions Kamrup as Kamlupu of our mighty king Kumar Bhaskar Varma and stated that its capital is on the bank of this river.
In the tongue of the ethnic Assamese, Lauhitya became Luit and this me for the Brahmaputra became popular that poets, dramatists and singers use this me: ‘Luitore pani jabioi b’oi’ (Water of the river Luit will flow for ever). This is the wistful thought in the mind of every Assamese and every Indian. We, the Assamese treat this river not only as sacred like taking a dip in it on the day of Asokastami to atone for our sins; it is our soul and without it, we will face death. Let us love this River and not pollute it.
Sudhakantha had already heartily sung the glory of the Brahmaputra. Even from early sixth century in our land, there are written eulogies in Sanskrit for this mighty river which is the line of fate for every Assamese and every Indian. We salute those who have taken such a massive step to pay oblations to this mighty male deity. Nomami Brahmaputra.