GUWAHATI: Neglected in history, so also in education, now theatre personalities have taken up the cudgels to restore the fading glory of Tai Ahom Veerangana Mula Gabharu. The towering character of the gritty Tai Ahom woman warrior hardly has any match in the rest of India when it comes to the bravery shown ever by anyone from the fairer sex.
The character of Mula Gabharu is literally sinking into oblivion because of the neglect being meted out to it in school curricula. Even a large number of aged people in the State are ignorant of her biography, let alone the new generation. However, of late, Awahan Theatre has stepped in with a theatrical performance that is set to restore the lost glory of the courageous woman who, through her brave death in the battle with the Gauda (an ancient kingdom on present-day Bengal) army, infused a sense of indomitable bravery among the male Ahom soldiers to defeat the invaders. Awahan Theatre has started the Prastuti Porasor-starrer crowd-pulling Mula Gabharu from Pathsala, the Hollywood of Assam Mobile Theatre. Awahan Theatre is a leading mobile theatre with one of the doyens of mobile theatre Krishna Roy as its founder producer.
Porasor, who herself is the executive producer of Awahan Theatre, shared with The Sentinel her thrilling experiences in the run-up to the making of the theatre. “Initially, ours was a make-or-break venture. Problems started to creep in right from the word go. Dearth of history was a major hindrance to us. We’ve got a few history books that have something about Mula Gabharu. We, however, failed to get any pictures of the warrior. What we got and drew the essence on the mental make-up of the woman warrior from is an art piece. Another problem that cropped up was the way of her dressing. We’re apprehensive of the fact that if the modern-day audience takes historic play or not. For quite a long time, historic plays aren’t staged in Assam. We doubted if our venture will get any takers or not. However, as soon as the shows have been started, the response has been overwhelming,” Porasor said.
Porasor continued, “Playwright Abhijit Bhattacharya gave shape to the play with whatever information we had on her. The Ahom-Gauda battle had been quite a long one. We, however, could depict it in two-and-a-half hours. We’ve done our best to keep the history intact. We, however, opted not to show that she had two children.”
On the relevance of the historic plays in present times, Porasor said, “It’s not just a play. The character of Mula Gabharu should have its ripple effects for generations in Assam and elsewhere in the nation. A few dialogues in the play like – swadesh aru swajaatir golam korar bade aan karo osorot murtol koribo nojona jaatituei hol Axomiya (The Assamese are people who can’t hang their heads before anybody other than the slavery to their nation and her people) – are indeed heart-rending. Such a tough mental make-up bespeaks the self-respect and pride of the Axomiayas.”
Drawing analogy between Assam some 500 years ago and now, Porasor said, “Assam under the Ahom rule had to confront external aggression. Intruders were out to invade Assam. In a striking similarity, even today intruders are out to grasp Assam – her lands and other resources.”
On the response from the audience, Porasor said, “Many an audience has inspired us to stage more historic plays in the State.”
The storyline goes – born in 1486 in Sivasagar to Ahom king Supimphaa Mula Gabharu, accompanied by Ahom Veeranganaas, had to fight a fierce battle against the aggression to Assam by the Gauda army in 1532 for the sake of the Assamese nationality after her husband Phrasengmong Borgohian had fallen in the war in 1527. She also fell in the battle when she was attacked from behind by Gauda General Turbak Khan with an arrow. Her death, however, infused a sense of indomitable courage among the male Ahom soldiers, who, led by Mula Gabharu’s sibling Kanseng Barpatra Gohain, defeated the invading army and hacked Turbak Khan to death.