Mahendra Saharia – an octogenarian folk artiste and an exponent of ‘Oja Pali’ and ‘Khulia Bhaona’, the two major components of traditionally rich Darrangi culture and a humble social activist of Darrang district of Assam is no more.
He has left for his heavenly abode at his village Neogpara’s residence near Kalaigaon in Darrang district on Saturday at about 6.45 am. He was 82.
According to his family source he suddenly fell ill immediately after completion of his morning bath.
He was guided to his bed, but within few seconds he breathed his last.
Late Saharia was an exponent of ‘Oja Pali’ and had performed this component of Darrangi culture with devotion and dedication in various places of the district for which he had earned a high reputation.
He reportedly had started his cultural career after his marriage, at the age of sixteen when he was recognized as a disciple by ‘Guru’ Gongo Oja – a famous name in ‘Oja Pali’ of that time.
Then he also gain expertise in the art of playing the ‘khol’- a musical instrument founded by Shankardev.
The ‘Khulia Bhaona’ is one of the localized forms of ‘Angkiya Bhaona’ which is also one of the unique creations of Srimanta Shankardevand late Saharia was also deeply involved with ‘Khulia Bhaona’ and played a key role for the performance and practice of it and even training and encouraging the local youths including one of his sons in this form of folk art which is on the verge of extinction.
Late Saharia also deeply involved himself with the historic Assam Agitation from 1979 to 1985 for which his entire family had to face the atrocities of police and security forces several times.
His involvement with the social work could well be reflected from his leadership to construct an embankment at the source of river Kulsi along the Indo-Bhutan border in 1988 only to control the river which had created massive devastation in the down streams without depending on any government fund.
On receipt of the news of his sudden demise, a large number of his admirers including leading local citizens, activists of Assam Movement from Mangaldai , Kalaigaon and Guwahati rushed to his residence and offered their last respects.
He has left behind his wife Jamuna Saharia, sons Jiten Saharia, Hiren Kumar Saharia (both were senior activists of Assam Movement), Sachindra Saharia, Khirod Saharia and a host of relatives among others.
The last rite was performed at his own village in presence of a number of admirers and family members.
The sudden demise of this popular folk artiste and social entrepreneur has widely been mourned in the entire locality.