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Sahitya Akademi Recipient Sobhanath Beshra Is Revolutionising Santhali Literature

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Sobhanath Beshra was born on 5th October 1939 at Niramishri, a small village, in the district of East Singhbhum of Jharkhand in a peasant family to Sundaram Beshra and Balhi Beshra. According to the social custom of the Santhal community, Sobhanath was named after his maternal grandfather. He has two brothers, Pitnath and Bikal and one elder sister, Guri.

Early Footsteps Of Sobhanath Beshra

He received his primary education from his village school in Bengali medium. After the completion of primary education, he studied at Bahragara M.E. School and Bahragara High School. During this period, he started reading storybooks and comics and participated in debates organised by the school every Saturday. He joined Auxiliary Cadet Corps of Bahragora High School and participated voluntarily with enthusiasm in a work camp at Saupal of Bihar.

Listening to traditional folk songs during festivals enchanted and influenced him and he started composing songs from a tender age. While studying in class nine, he started writing literary works in Santhali language. Some of his songs were published the first time in an anthology of songs with other poets in Jati Sagen Sereng Putih in the year 1955.

He wrote a social play titled Chapal Mala in 1956 which was staged in his village. The audience praised the play. He was a reader of Hor Sambad a monthly newspaper in Santhali edited by Dr Doman Sahoo Samir which influenced him a lot. He passed matriculation in the second division in the year 1958 and Intermediate Arts from Tata College, Chaibasa. In the new environment of college, he did not keep himself away from his mission; instead, he felt a powerful force in him.

In 1959, he composed the poem Binti related to the creation of the earth and the creation of human beings. Bir Baha, a book of Santhali songs, was published in 1969 by his college mates. Some of the songs of Sobhanth also got a place in this book. He passed Intermediate Arts in the year 1960, and unfortunately, his father even expired in the same year. Then, he started looking for a job for livelihood and discontinued his study.

One evening, Surendranath Singh met him and asked him to study further. Next day, he went to Chaibasa with Sri Singh and git admission in B.A. at Tata College, Chaibasa. Thus Sri Beshara continued study. He passed B.A. Examination successfully in the year 1962. He joined as an assistant teacher at Kendadangri High School on 25.06.1963. Kendadangri was far from his village. Pandit  Raghunath Murmu toured from town to village with his disciple intending to create wide awareness among the Santhal people about Santhali language and Olchiki script. Sobhanath got a chance to meet him at Bordih village in the year 1964.
Bordih village is situated in a hilly area 7 kms away from Kendadangri village. Pandit Raghunath Murmu influenced Sobhanath. He married Adar Rani, fifth daughter of Baidyanath Marandi of Jainagar village, in 1965. Shri Beshra resigned frim service as an assistant teacher in October 1965 and joined service at Rourkela Steel Plant two days later.

Preservation Of Language & Literature

He was unanimously elected as President of Adibasi Socio-Educational & Cultural Association, Rourkela Branch in February 1966. His poem titled Sohod Hapa was published for the first time October 1968 in Sagen Sakam a monthly Santali journal published from Rairangpur by ASECA, Odisha Head Office. Two more poems Sikhau and Okoy Orong Triyau were published in July and October issues of 1969 respectively.
Shri Beshra served as President of ASECA Rourkela branch for twelve years from 1966 to 1978. ASECA published an anthology of songs namely Saonta Taras and a literary magazine Kherwal Helhenl in 1970. His poems and songs were also published in this book. He was a member of All India Adivasi (Santhal) Council, which was formed in Betkundri meeting on 18th February 1977.
Several letters were exchanged with Pandit Raghunath Murmu which have been published by ASECA, Rourkela and edited by him in the form of a book titled Guru Gira. Shri Beshra was interested in pursuing an MA in Santali from Ranchi University. He secured admission for the academic session 1984-86. Due to late session and examination, he passed PG in TRL (Santhali) in 1988.

All India Seminar on Language Standardization of the languages of Chotonagpur was held at Ranchi on 12-14 December 1986. Shri Beshra attended this seminar. He was actively involved in various activities for the upliftment of Santali language and literature through organisations like ASECA and AISWA which were established in 1964 and 1988 respectively.

His writings have been published in literary journals and magazines like Sagen Sakam, Godet, Sarna, Chai Champa, Sanesh Taras, Fagun Koyel, Umul, Sarjom Baha, Mantar, Sakwa, Tetang, Sarthi, Dhar and Nawa Sagen Sakam.
On behalf of the Santhal employees of Rourkela Steel Plant, he requested the authorities to announce the birthday of Pandit Raghunath Murmu as a restricted holiday. The authority sanctioned and included in the list of holidays from the year 1990. Shri Beshra retired from service at the age of 58 on 31.10.1997.
Chiki Chiya is the first published of Shri Beshra. It was published in 1976. It is a handy primer meant for the Santhali language and script learners.
His short story collection Pe Jar Kahini’ published in 1977, contains six short stories titled Ankha Lahak, Nai, Monglawak, Ruwa, Bewra Sakam, Furgal Dishom Renij Parukiya and Kahu Dorbar.
The short stories deal with social issues like superstitions, social problems, unemployment and love affairs. The book has been included in the syllabus of B.A.(Hons.) in Ranchi University.
Montar is a poetry collection published in 1991 and contains 42 poems. The poems deal with a variety of things such as natural beauty, life and happenings in the society as well as in the country.
‘Saonhet Sajaona’is a book of rhetoric published in 2007. It is an excellent work of Shri  Beshra. Ras, Chhondo and Alonkar in Santhali have been described in detail and beautifully. It is an extraordinary addition to Santhali literature. It is an instrumental book for the students of language and literature; thus, it was well-received by the students, critics and the general readers.

Awards & Recognition Of Beshra

Rahla Raybar is a work of translation published in 2008. It is the translation of the famous epic poem Meghdoot by Kalidas. The critics and readers have praised this book in general. He received the Sahitya Akademi Translation Award in 2010 for his translation book ‘Rahla Raybar’.
Many organisations have recognised his work. Adibasi Socio-Educational &  Cultural Association, Odisha has honoured him as a ‘prolific writer’ in 1980. All India Santali Writers Association awarded him for his remarkable contribution to Santhali literature in 1988 and felicitated him by awarding Pandit Raghunath Murmu Fellowship in 2004. All India Bhasa Morcha, Jamshedpur felicitated him in 2005. ASECA, Rourkela felicitated him twice in the year 2006 and 2008.
He is a very loyal disciple of Pandit Raghunath Murmu, who has dedicated his entire life for the betterment of Santhali language and script, literature and culture. He leads a straightforward life; now, he is associated with the village education committee and other social organisations.
@Subhajit Murmu
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