Radharomon Dutta Purkayastha was one of the rare gems and pride of Bengal. Although a very great philosopher, he expressed his teachings through his soulful music. He would spontaneously weave his spiritual realizations into songs – a phenomenon that still boggles the minds of many admirers today. He was a famous composer, poet, lyricist and artist as well. However, before we delve into his life’s history, a few words must be spoken regarding his father – another illustrious personality.
Radhamadhab Dutta Purkayastha, the father of Radharomon, was well acquainted with many scriptures and a revered scholar. “Jayadeva” and “Padmapuran” are a few of his works that immortalized his glory as a Vedic author. One of the most important literatures in the Hindu religion is Gita Govinda, a lyrical epic composed in Sanskrit by the 12th-century Indian poet, Jayadeva. It is renowned both for its high literary value and for its expression of divine longing. Not merely a piece of writing, the Gita Govinda was an instrument that completely revolutionized, or rather re-vitalized, Vaishnavism – a path of love, devotion and absolute submission, the instruments that dispelled duality and led the self to unite with the Supreme Self. Since the first English translation of the Gita Govinda by Sir William Jones in 1792, the Gita Govinda has been translated to many languages throughout the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of Sanskrit poetry. The text has been an inspiration for many compositions and choreographic works in Indian classical dances. Radhamadhab’s translation in simple Bengali and extensive commentary on the verses of the monumental poem is studied to this day to gain insights on some of the esoteric topics of the text.During the Bengali calendar month of Shrabon, devotees still sing his Padmapuran in every home of Jagannathpur. Apart from his work in Bengali, he also has many compositions in Sanskrit like “Bhromor Gita” and “Krishnalila Kavya (the poem of Lord Krishna’s pastimes)”.
The youngest son of this renowned poet was Radharomon. Radharomon Dutta was born on May 25, in the village of Keshabpur in Jagannathpur Upazila in Sunamganj District, Bangladesh. He was the youngest of three brothers. The names of his two elder brothers were Radhanath and Radhamohon. Romon displayed a musical temperament from childhood. Due to the close association of his father, Romon developed a keen interest for spirituality from a very young age. Romon was only 10 years old when his father departed from this world. The early death of his father led Romon to seek the guidance of religious mentors throughout his life. His affectionate and devotionally inclined mother, Subarna Devi, left no stone unturned in ensuring that all arrangements were made for the brothers’ education – despite the tough circumstances and societal complications of the time. Other than that, due to being born in a highly aristocratic, learned and respectable family, Radharomon gained knowledge of the various scriptures, poetry and music from an early age. Radharomon’s gentle nature and sweet temperament would attract everyone to him. He was a poet by nature. Among the three brothers, Romon had undoubtedly been the one to inherit the literary and intellectual prowess of his late father, and with age these abilities only increased further.
He married Gunamayi Devi, the daughter of Nandakumar Sen Adhikary – the descendent of a very intimate associate of Lord Caitanya, SenaSivananda. Radharomon and Gunamayi Devi had four sons together: Rasabihari, Nadiyabihari, Bipinbihari and Rasikbihari. Romon regarded Gunamayi not only as his female counterpart, but honored her as a goddess. He was a staunch believer of the philosophy that every woman is a form of the Divine Energy, the one who brings life to this world, and should be held in the highest respect. Though he was reared and pampered in a wealthy family, materialistic pleasures of this world could never attract the heart of Romon – which is why he was successfully able to redirect the love of this world towards the Supreme Absolute Truth. Yet, the poet was after all a human; he could not escape the cycle of happiness and misery which is inevitable in this material world. During that time, cholera was spreading in a frightening manner, especially in the Bengal districts. This deadly disease, one by one, snatched the three of Romon’s sons away from him. Within a few days, his beloved wife soon left her body as well. With only his remaining infant son, Bipinbihari, Radharomon set out to start the new chapter of his life. The grief of his dear ones’ deaths gave him new knowledge, and a new perspective of life. Renunciation was already inherent in his nature. Now, the shackles of attachment had slackened.
After some time, he left his son Bipinbihari at his maternal uncle’s home, and set out himself on a different journey. The time had come to seek a spiritual master – one who could shed more light on the meaning of life. At the age of 50, he accepted Raghunath Bhattacharya as his guru, and immersed himself in rigorous sadhana – training or disciplines through which an individual attains perfection (or Samadhi). His knowledge of music began to flow in a newer form as it was now employed for a higher purpose. To express his love for God. He began to reveal the blissful experiences which were arising as a result of his spiritual practices through his melodious voice and hypnotizing tunes. However, he was so immersed in that blissful state that he did not have the composure to pen down these precious compositions. The songs would come pouring like a flood. The flow of writing was much slower in comparison.
People from all corners of villages and nearby towns would assemble in Radharomon’s courtyard to sing with him. People of various backgrounds, religions, caste, creed and different congregations would come eagerly to listen to the poet. Some would come from different districts as well. Caste was a big issue back then. Not everybody had the mindset to look beyond the barriers of caste and view a human as a human first. Hence, the poet did have to face some difficulties – inflicted by the families who were against this so-called “unauthorized” mixing. He later established a monastery in Noluyar and stayed there permanently, where devotees no longer faced any more disruptions.
Romon attained the highest stage of sadhana, when one becomes self-realized and realizes the Universal Truth, thereby becoming liberated from this material bondage and existence, in this monastery of Noluyar. This is also known as Samadhi. This is the stage when everything becomes one with the Supreme Truth. When one speaks from this spiritual platform, it touches the heart because the words are endowed with true knowledge. Radharomon’s songs would induce devotion and love in the hearts of all the listeners. His disciples later transcribed the songs he composed spontaneously and sang while in trance.
He was an ideal spiritual practitioner as well as an ideal householder. He never neglected his duties towards his son Bipinbihari. Bipinbihari later on married Kunjakumari Devi, carrying on the lineage of Radharomon. Radharomon’s descendants are scattered all over Bangladesh, Canada, USA and other parts of the world today.
A vital component of Radharomon’s music was dancing. Although Bengal’s dance forms may have not evolved to become recognized as classical forms, Romon inaugurated a new form of dancing which gained immense popularity throughout Bengal – known as Dhamaail. Even now Bengali weddings or events are incomplete without Dhamaail – and it is definitely one of the most enjoyable parts. This is a special contribution of the poet along with his compositions.
He finally left this mortal body at the age of 81 leaving behind him a legacy of spiritual values. The songs he left behind were not only devotional but also helped raise awareness regarding many societal issues. Many nuances of Bengali culture were illuminated and more appreciated due these songs. It is truly a wonder how a man could spontaneously compose so many songs in such rapid succession, that too in perfect tune, rhythm and meter, each more striking than the last. He is estimated to have composed around 3000 songs in his lifetime, only 200-300 of which have been recorded.
On the occasion of the 100th death anniversary of Radharomon Dutta in May 2015, there were huge celebrations all over India and Bangladesh. Furthermore, the government of Bangladesh issued commemorative stamps to pay homage to this legendary figure of the nation.
We would like to convey our heartfelt thanks to Amit Choudhury Moni, who is a part of the Romon family, and has offered great help in collecting Radharomon’s history.
Jyoti Dutta Purkayastha, a veteran activist in cultural front and a connoisseur of Bangla performing arts, is originated from Sylhet. The author herself is a part of the Radharaman family and lives now in Toronto, Ontario.
- Radharomon Dutta: A Poet Apart || Jyoti Dutta Purkayastha - June 26, 2019