Guwahati: Veteran Assamese poet and Jnanpith Awardee Nilmani Phookan passed away on Thursday in Guwahati. He was 89.

Phookan is survived by his wife Dulumoni Phookan, a daughter and two sons.

He was not keeping well for some time and was admitted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in Guwahati on Wednesday.

The poet breathed his last at GMCH around 11.50 am on Thursday due to old-age ailments.

He was being treated under the departments of cardiology, neurology and medicine at the GMCH.

Phookan complained of difficulty in breathing and was referred by Sanjeevani Hospital to GMCH on Wednesday for advanced treatment.

Born on September 10, 1933, at Dergaon in upper Assam’s Golaghat district, Phookan completed his Master’s degree in History from Guwahati University in 1961.

He started his career as a lecturer at Arya Vidyapeeth College in Guwahati in 1964, where he worked until his retirement in 1992.

Phookan started writing poetry in the early 1950s and he is noted as one of the pioneers of modernism in Assamese poetry.

Phookan’s notable works include Surya Henu Nami Ahe Ei Nodiyedi, Gulapi Jamur Lagna, Phuli Thaka Suryamukhi Phultor Phale, Kait Golap Aru Kait, Nritarata Prithibi, Sagar Talir Sankha, Kobita and his autobiography Pati Xonarur Phool and Pahoribo Noarilu Jee.

He translated Japanese and European poetry into Assamese and was also an art critic. Silpakalar Upalabdhi Aru Ananda is one of his important books on art criticism.

The celebrated poet is a recipient of numerous awards and won the 56th Jnanpith Award, India’s highest literary award, in 2020. He was the third Assamese poet, author and writer after Birendra Kumar Bhattacharyya and Mamoni Raisom Goswami to win the Jnanpith Award.

In 91 81, Phookan was also awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in Assamese for his poetry collection, Kobita and he was also awarded Padma Shri in 1990.

He received the Assam Valley Literary Award in 1997 and in 2002 he got the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship, the highest literary honour in India, and India’s National Academy of Letters, reserved for “the immortals of literature”.

In 2019, he was awarded D. Lit by Dibrugarh University.

His work, replete with symbolism, is inspired by French symbolism and is representative of the genre in Assamese poetry.

Many writers, poets and politicians have expressed grief over the renowned poet’s demise. 

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