Bhupen Hazarika

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Bhupen Hazarika
Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, Assam, India.jpg
Bhupen Hazarika in 2011
Born(1926-09-08)8 September 1926
Died5 November 2011(2011-11-05) (aged 85)
Other namesXudha kontho
Alma mater Cotton University, Benaras Hindu University, Columbia University
OccupationMusician, singer, poet, filmmaker, lyricist
Years active1939–2010
Notable work
Darmiyaan: In Between
Gaja Gamini
Political party Bharatiya Janata Party (2004–2011) [2]
Movement Indian Peoples Theater Association
Spouse(s)Priyamvada Patel
Relatives Jayanta Hazarika (brother)
Awards Bharat Ratna (2019) (posthumously)
Padma Vibhushan (2012) (posthumously)
Padma Shri (1977)
Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1992)
Padma Bhushan (2001)
Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (2008)
Asom Ratna (2009)
Friends of Liberation War Honour (2011)
Bhupen Hazarika signature.png

Bhupen Hazarika (Assamese:  [bʱupɛn ɦazɔɹika] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) (8 September 1926 – 5 November 2011) was an Indian playback singer, lyricist, musician, poet and filmmaker from Assam, widely known as Xudha kontho (meaning cuckoo, literally "nectar-throated"). His songs, written and sung mainly in the Assamese language by himself, are marked by humanity and universal brotherhood and have been translated and sung in many languages, most notably in Bengali and Hindi.


His songs, based on the themes of communal amity, universal justice and empathy, are especially popular among the people of Assam (India), West Bengal and Bangladesh. He is also acknowledged to have introduced the culture and folk music of Assam and Northeast India to Hindi cinema at the national level. He received the National Film Award for Best Music Direction in 1975, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1987), Padmashri (1977), and Padmabhushan (2001), [3] Dada Saheb Phalke Award (1992), the highest award for cinema in India and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship (2008), the highest award of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. He was posthumously awarded both the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award, in 2012, [4] and the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, in 2019. [5] [6] Hazarika also held the position of the Chairman of the Sangeet Natak Akademi from December 1998 to December 2003. [7]


Early life

Hazarika, who made fame as a musician, was born on 8 September 1926 to Nilakanta and Shantipriya Hazarika in Sadiya (শদিয়া), Assam. [8] His father was originally from Nazira, a town located in Sivasagar district. The eldest of ten children, Bhupen Hazarika (as also his siblings) was exposed to the musical influence of his mother, who exposed him to lullabies and traditional Music of Assam. [9] His father moved to the Bharalumukh region of Guwahati in 1929, [8] in search of better prospects, where Bhupen Hazarika spent his early childhood. In 1932, his father further moved to Dhubri, [10] and in 1935 to Tezpur. [8] It was in Tezpur that Bhupen Hazarika, then 10-years-of-age, was discovered by Jyotiprasad Agarwala, the noted Assamese lyricist, playwright and the first Assamese filmmaker, and Bishnu Prasad Rabha, renowned Assamese artist and revolutionary poet, where he sang a Borgeet (the traditional classical Assamese devotional songs written by Srimanta Sankardeva and Sri Sri Madhabdeva), taught by his mother at a public function. In 1936, Bhupen Hazarika accompanied them to Kolkata where he recorded his first song at the Aurora Studio for the Selona Company. [8] His association with the icons of Assamese culture at Tezpur was the beginning of his artistic growth and credentials. Subsequently, Hazarika sang two songs in Agarwala's film Indramalati (1939): Kaxote Kolosi Loi and Biswo Bijoyi Naujawan at the age of 12. He wrote his first song, Agnijugor Firingoti Moi at the age of 13 [10] and he was well on his way to becoming a lyricist, composer and singer.

Education and career

Hazarika studied at Sonaram High School at Guwahati, Dhubri Government High School [8] and matriculated from Tezpur High School in 1940. He completed his Intermediate Arts from Cotton College in 1942, and his BA (1944) and MA (1946) in Political Science from Banaras Hindu University. For a brief period he worked at All India Radio, Guwahati when he won a scholarship from Columbia University and set sail for New York in 1949. There he earned a PhD (1952) on his thesis "Proposals for Preparing India's Basic Education to use Audio-Visual Techniques in Adult Education". In New York, Bhupen Hazarika befriended Paul Robeson, a prominent civil rights activist, who influenced him in [10] his song Bistirno parore which is based on the imagery and theme of Robeson's Ol' Man River . This song is translated in various Indian languages, including Bengali and Hindi and sung by the artist himself, and is still popular. Being inspired from some other foreign ones, he also composed several other songs in Indian languages. He was exposed to the Spiritual, and the multi-lingual version of We are in the Same Boat Brother [11] became a regular feature in his stage performance. At Columbia University, he met Priyamvada Patel, whom he married in 1950. Tez Hazarika, their only child, was born in 1952, [12] and he returned to India in 1953.

His famous songs include (in Assamese):

  1. Bistirno Parore (বিস্তীৰ্ণ পাৰৰে)
  2. Moi Eti Jajabor (মই এটি যাযাবৰ)
  3. Ganga Mor Maa (গংগা মোৰ মা)
  4. Bimurto Mur Nixati Jen (বিমূৰ্ত মোৰ নিশাটি যেন)
  5. Manuhe Manuhor Babey (মানুহে মানুহৰ বাবে)
  6. Snehe Aamar Xoto Shrabonor (স্নেহে আমাৰ শত শ্ৰাৱণৰ)
  7. Gupute Gupute Kimaan Khelim (গুপুতে গুপুতে কিমান খেলিম)
  8. Buku Hom Hom Kore (বুকু হম্‌ হম্‌ কৰে)
  9. Sagar sangamat (সাগৰ সংগমত)
  10. Shillongore Godhuli (শ্বিলঙৰে গধূলি)

IPTA years

Hazarika began close association with the leftist Indian People's Theatre Association soon after returning from the US in 1953 [10] and became the Secretary of the Reception Committee of the Third All Assam Conference of IPTA, held in Guwahati in 1955.

Professional life

After completing his MA he briefly worked at the All India Radio station at Guwahati [12] before embarking for his doctoral studies at Columbia University. His thesis "DEMYSTIFYING DR. BHUPEN HAZARIKA: envisioning education for India", edited by Tej Hazarika and published by Cool Grove Press will be available in the US in days. Soon after completing his education, he became a teacher at the Guwahati University. [10] But after a few years, he left the job and went to Kolkata where he established himself as a successful music director and singer. During that period, Hazarika made several award-winning Assamese films such as Shakuntala, Pratidhwani, etc. and composed evergreen music for many Assamese films. He was also considered as a new trend setter in Bengali music. The famous musical genre of West Bengal, the Jivanmukhi geet started by Kabir Suman in 1990's is thought to be influenced by Hazarika. Bhupen Hazarika composed music for films from Bangladesh too which got international acclaim. He was elected the President of the Asam Sahitya Sabha in 1993. [13] In 1967, Hazarika got elected as a member of Assam Assembly from Nauboicha constituency. [14]

Social Struggle

From early in his life, he was at the forefront of a social battle against the entrenched forces of casteism that sneered at a member of the ‘Koibarta community making it as a musician of note, and kept him away from the upper-caste Brahmin woman he had loved. Eventually, when the spirited Hazarika did marry, it was to a Brahmin woman, his revenge of sorts against a caste-ridden society. [15]

Later life

He was introduced to Kalpana Lajmi in the early 1970s by his childhood friend and India's top tea planter Hemendra Prasad Barooah in Kolkata. [16] Her first feature film Ek Pal with music score by Hazarika was produced by Barooah. [17] Subsequently, Lajmi began assisting him professionally and personally till the end of his life. [18] [19] [20] In the period after the release of Ek Pal (1986) until his death, Bhupen Hazarika mainly concentrated on Hindi films, most of which were directed by Kalpana Lajmi. Ek Pal (1986), Rudaali (1993) and Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence (2001) are major films this period. Many of his earlier songs were re-written in Hindi and used as played-back songs in these films. These songs tried to cater to the Hindi film milieu and their social activist lyrics were browbeaten into the lowest common denominator. [21] He served as an MLA (Independent) during 1967–72 in the Assam Legislative Assembly from Nauboicha Constituency. [22] He contested as a Bharatiya Janata Party candidate in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from the Guwahati constituency, persuaded by Chandan Mitra via Kalpana Lajmi [23] which he lost to the Indian National Congress candidate Kirip Chaliha.


Hazarika was hospitalized in the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute in Mumbai in 2011. [24] [25] He was admitted to the intensive care unit on 30 June 2011. He died of multi-organ failure on 5 November 2011. [26] [27] [28] His body lay in state at Judges Field in Guwahati and cremated on 9 November 2011 near the Brahmaputra river in a plot of land donated by Guwahati University. His funeral was attended by an estimated half a million people. [29] [30]

An Indian Postal Stamp commemorating Dr. Bhupen Hazarika Bhupen Hazarika 2013 stamp of India.jpg
An Indian Postal Stamp commemorating Dr. Bhupen Hazarika

Legacy and influences

Bhupen Hazarika stamp of 2016. Bhupen Hazarika 2016 stamp.jpg
Bhupen Hazarika stamp of 2016.
Hazarika (right) and Hartmut Konig (left) at the Berlin Festival of Political Songs in 1972 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-L0216-0033, Berlin, 3. Festival des politischen Lieds.jpg
Hazarika (right) and Hartmut König (left) at the Berlin Festival of Political Songs in 1972
Bhupen Hazarika meets the Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi on 27 February 2004 Renowned music director, Shri Bhupen Hazarika meets the Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi on February 27, 2004.jpg
Bhupen Hazarika meets the Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi on 27 February 2004

As a singer, Hazarika was known for his baritone voice; as a lyricist, he was known for poetic compositions and parables which touched on themes ranging from romance to social and political commentary; and as a composer, for his use of folk music. [31] In a poll conducted in Bangladesh, his song, Manush Manusher Jonno (Humans are for humanity)' was chosen to be the second most favourite number after the National anthem of Bangladesh. [32] Some of his most famous compositions were adaptations of American Black Spiritual that he had learned from Paul Robeson, whom he had befriended during his years in New York City in the early 1950s. [33] His famous song "Bistirno Parore" is heavily influenced by Ol' Man River sung by Paul Robeson.

During his lifetime, a full length docu-feature biopic film on his life titled Moi Eti Zazabor('I am a Wanderer') jointly directed by Late Waesqurni Bora and Arnab Jan Deka was launched in 1986 at his Nizarapar residence in Guwahati city. Music for this biopic film has been scored by 5-time International Best Music Awards winner only Assamese musician, songwriter, composer and singer Jim Ankan Deka, who also worked as Chief Assistant Director of this film. [34] During the next two decades, the joint directors Late Bora and Deka shot him live for the film during his various public performances all over India, as well as many private moments in his domestic and social life. Arnab Jan Deka also extensively interviewed him regarding his life and its creative aspects for the film, which had been recorded during their joint travel to different metropolises and remote corners of Assam and rest of India. The film has been under production since 1986 with film negative footage of more than 16 hours currently preserved in different film laboratories in Bombay (Mumbai), Calcutta (Kolkata) and Madras (Chennai). The film was targeted for public release during the lifetime of Dr Bhupen Hazarika in 2008. But, the production was halted after sudden demise of one of the Co-Directors Waesqurni Bora in November 2008. Eventually, after the death of Dr Hazarika, the film's subject, the surviving Co-Director Arnab Jan Deka is currently carrying out necessary works to finish the film at the earliest and release for public consumption in several language versions including English, Assamese, Bengali and Hindi, with support from Late Waesqurni Bora's widowed wife Nazma Begum and Dr Hazarika's bereaved family members including his wife Priyam Hazarika and Tej Hazarika. Meanwhile, two books describing the unforgettable experiences of the making of this milestone biopic film had been authored by its co-director Arnab Jan Deka titled Anya Ek Zazabor and Mor Sinaki Bhupenda, first of which had been officially released in February 1993 by Late G P Sippy, then President of Film Federation of India and producer of world-record holder Hindi film Sholay at a public function organised by Dr Bhupen Hazarika himself.

Awards and honours

National and state honours

Other awards and recognition

Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow Award-08 to Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika for his outstanding contribution to Indian music Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow Award-08 to Shri Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika for his outstanding contribution to Indian music.jpg
Pratibha Devisingh Patil presenting the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellow Award-08 to Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika for his outstanding contribution to Indian music
Bhupen Hazarika Statue Bhupen Hazarika Statue.jpg
Bhupen Hazarika Statue
Bhupen Hazarika Museum inside Shankardev Kalakshetra, Guwahati, Assam Bhupen Hazarika Museum at Kalakhetra by Bishnu Saikia.jpg
Bhupen Hazarika Museum inside Shankardev Kalakshetra, Guwahati, Assam


YearFilmCredited as
Playback singerComposerDirectorProducerWriterActor
1939 Indramalati Yes
1955 Pioli Phukan Yes
1956 Era Bator Sur YesYes
1958Mahut Bandhu ReYes
1964Ka SwaritiYes
1969Chik Mik BijuliYesYesYes
1974 Aarop Yes
1974For Whom the Sun ShinesYes
1975 Chameli Memsaab YesYes
1976Roop Konwar Jyoti Parsad Aru JoymotiYes
1976Mera Dharam Meri MaaYesYes
1977Through Melody and RhythmYes
1977Shimana PeryeYes
1978Chameli Memsaheb (Bengali)Yes
1979 Debdas Yes
1981Chameli MemsaabYes
1982 Aparoopa Yes
1986Ek PalYesYesYesYes
1993 Rudaali YesYes
1997Do RahainYes
1997 Darmiyaan: In Between YesYes
1998 Saaz Yes
2000 Gaja Gamini YesYes
2001 Daman: A Victim of Marital Violence YesYes
2006 Chingaari YesYes
2011 Gandhi to Hitler Yes


  1. "Acclaimed singer Bhupen Hazarika dies at 85". CNN-IBN . 5 November 1986. Archived from the original on 6 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  2. "Bhupen Hazarika joins BJP". Outlook. 27 February 2004.
  3. "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 October 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. "Padma Awards". pib. 27 January 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  5. "Bharat Ratna for Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh and Bhupen Hazarika". Times Now. 25 January 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  6. Northeast, Newsdesk Rising (26 January 2019). "Assam Celebrates Late Bhupen Hazarika being awarded with Bharat Ratna " Rising NorthEast".
  7. Dr. Bhupen Hazarika – the Legend of Assam Archived 26 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 "As ashes merge into rivers". The Telegraph. Calcutta, India. 12 November 2011.
  9. "Celebrated Indian singer Bhupen Hazarika dies". BBC News. 5 November 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 Sushanta Talukdar, Brahmaputra Balladeer , The Hindu, 10 November 2011
  11. Schuman, Sandy. "We're in the Same Boat, Brother". Another Side to the Story. Retrieved 5 February 2019.
  12. 1 2 Asjad Nazir, Bhupen Hazarika obituary, The Guardian, 6 November 2011
  13. "Presidents of Asam Sahitya Sabha since 1917". Asam Sahitya Sabha. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  14. "Assam Legislative Assembly – MLA 1967–72". Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  15. "The unsung genius of Assam's balladeer – Bhupen Hazarika (1926–2011)". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  16. "I had in a way introduced Kalpana Lajmi to Bhupen some three decades back. Kalpana wanted to direct a movie and it was then that I took her to him. The friendship started then. She had directed a film Ek Pal, which I had funded. Their association grew stronger after Bhupen started living in Mumbai." Hemendra Prasad Barooah, Fond memories of a schoolmate , The Telegraph, 9 November 2011
  17. Hemendra Prasad Barooah, Fond memories of a schoolmate , The Telegraph, 9 November 2011
  18. "Rituparna Chatterjee's Blog : Kalpana Lajmi-Bhupen Hazarika: A 40-year-old love story". CNN-IBN. 5 November 2011. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  19. Archived 12 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  20. "Kalpana Lajmi inconsolable after Bhupen Hazarika's death". 6 November 2011. Archived from the original on 14 December 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  21. Debraj Mookerjee, Bhupen Da done in by the popular, The Pioneer, 12 November 2011
  22. "Assam Legislative Assembly" . Retrieved 16 November 2012.
  23. The boatman's missing melody, The Pioneer, 12 November 2011
  24. "Hazarika's death plunges Kolkata into gloom". 6 November 2011. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  26. "Music Legend Bhupen Hazarika passes away". Bollywood Life. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  27. "Bhupen Hazarika is no more". Indiavision news. 5 November 2011. Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  28. "Celebrated Indian singer Bhupen Hazarika dies". BBC News. 5 November 2011.
  29. "Lakhs aend Bhupen Hazarika's funeral". indiatv. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  30. Smitha (29 December 2011). "Bollywood pays tribute to Bhupen Hazarika — Oneindia Entertainment". Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  31. Hazarika and his attachment with Meghalaya Archived 17 November 2012 at the Wayback Machine ,
  32. Mobarak Ali (11 November 2011). "Manush Manusher Jonno ..." The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
  33. "Dr. Bhupen Hazarika official biography" . Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  34. NE, Review. "Assamese Musician Jim Ankan Deka wins Best International Music Video Award". Review NE. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  35. "9th National Film Awards". International Film Festival of India. Archived from the original on 2 December 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  36. "NFA archives" (PDF). Directorate of Film Festivals. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  37. "Arunachal Pradesh mourns Hazarika's death". The Hindu . Chennai, India. 6 November 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  38. "Royal elegy for Bhupen". The Telegraph. Special Correspondent. Retrieved 1 January 2020.CS1 maint: others (link)
  39. "Padma Awards Directory (1954–2009)" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 May 2013.
  40. "Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh, Bhupen Hazarika conferred Bharat Ratna". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 8 August 2019. ISSN   0971-751X . Retrieved 14 August 2019.CS1 maint: others (link)
  41. "Hazarika's statue unveiled". The Hindu . Chennai, India. 15 February 2009. Archived from the original on 19 February 2009. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  42. "Royal elegy for Bhupen". The Telegraph. Kolkota.
  43. "Postage Stamps:: Postage Stamps, Stamp issue calendar 2014, Paper postage, Commemorative and definitive stamps, Service Postage Stamps, Philately Offices, Philatelic Bureaux and counters, Mint stamps (unused stamps)".
  44. PhilaMirror (30 December 2016). "India Post Issued Stamps on Legendary Singers of India".
  45. "PM Modi Names India's Longest Bridge After Assam Singer Bhupen Hazarika". Retrieved 26 May 2017.

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Kalika Prasad Bhattacharya was an Indian folk singer and researcher. He was born and raised in Tezpur, Assam. He went on to study comparative literature at Jadavpur University. His musical inspiration was his uncle Ananta Bhattacharya. In 1999, he co-founded the band Dohar with the intent to revive the folk music tradition of Northern and Eastern Bengal. He also contributed music to a number of movies. His last movie was Bhuban Majhi (2017). He was associated with the popular Zee Bangla Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, a renowned Bengali music reality show. His last concert was in the Baguihati Krishi Mela.

<i>Piyoli Phukan</i> (1955 film) 1955 Indian film directed by Phani Sarma

Piyoli Phukan is a black & white Assamese language film direced by Phani Sarma, released in 1955. The film is based on the life and struggle of a historical character of Assam Piyoli Phukan, son of Badan Borphukan, who revolted against British occupation. He was sentenced to death and hanged in 1830 at Jorhat. The film is produced by Gama Prasad Agarwalla under the banner of Rupjyoti Production, Tezpur, Assam. Music is composed by Bhupen Hazarika. Piyoli Phukan is the first Assamese film, who got national reorganization. The film was honoured by the Certificate of Merit in State Awards, 1956.