Legendary polyglot and polymath, Bishnu Prasad Rava

Avinibesh Sharma

(This is a popular WhatsApp forward, doing the rounds for several years with modifications at times  with some distorts till team Mahabahoo has traced the original writer who penned down this write-up.)
Remembering the legendary polyglot and polymath, Bishnu Prasad Rava on his 50th death anniversary. It is difficult to shine beacon on this multifaceted personality by sharing anecdotes from his life. But still, I could not resist myself from sharing a few.
1) Bishnu Rava was dragged along the streets of Tezpur during the Chinese aggression, with his legs tied by ropes. But his faith in Parliamentary democracy did not waver. He contested the 1967 Vidhan Sabha election as an independent candidate and emerged victorious. When he reached Shillong to attend the inaugural session of Assam Legislative Assembly, the then Chief Minister of the state, Bimala Prasad Chaliha allotted him a room at Pinewood Hotel (Room No. 34), situated next to the room of his protege Bhupen Hazarika. Chaliha later revealed that he wanted them both to continue in their creative endeavours even after joining politics.
2) Sometime in the late 1950s, a Jorhat based cultural group named “Milita Silpi Samaj” sent an invitation to Bishnu Prasad Rava. He was to deliver a lecture on Kamrupi folk music. Rabha purchased a new dhoti from an outlet in Tezpur and set out for the town in Upper Assam. Other speakers included Shahir Amar Sheikh, the revolutionary poet from Maharashtra and Devendra Verma, a noted tabla player from erstwhile Bombay. After the aforesaid speakers  delivered their lectures, it was the turn of Rava to shine a beacon on the folk music of Assam. He up to the pedestal and asked Sheikh in which language would he prefer to hear the lecture. Sheikh oblivious of the fact that Rava was a polyglot told him that it would be better if he addressed the august audience in English. Rava, however, decided to speak in Sheikh’s parent tongue, Urdu. He left Sheikh and the other people in the meeting spellbound when he spoke for two hours on Samba music of Africa, Chinese classical music, contributions of Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande, a comparison between the ragas of Hindustani Classical music and Kamrupi Lokgeet et al.
The next day, Bishnu Rava, who had the habit of sitting in the back while a meeting is on going, took his usual seat for that day’s session. He saw that the chair on the dais reserved for the chief guest was left empty while the chair that he sat on the previous day was occupied by Amar Sheikh. Much to his surprise, Amar Sheikh who was the chief guest of the meeting stood up and audience said to the gathering, “I confess with regret that I never thought a scholar of Shri Bishnu Rava’s stature resides in a remote place like Assam. I must thank the organizers for giving me this opportunity to listen to this great. Ladies and gentlemen, you must have wondered why the seat is empty. I am offering to Shri Rava as a mark of respect.” Thunderous applause reverberated through the meeting room.

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