Kahar community of HansuliBank and the forces of change
Karl Marx says in his article ‘The British Rule in India’, “England has broken the entire framework of Indian society, without any symptom of reconstitution yet appearing. The loss of his old world, with no gain of a new one, imparts a particular kind of melancholy to the present misery of the Hindoo, and separates Hindostan, ruled by Britain, from all its ancient traditions, and from the whole of its past history”. The novel ‘Hansuli Banker Upakatha’ relates the history of such a community of rural Bengal that is compelled to change their profession again and again to become rootless and destitute at the end. It is also a document of a semi tribal society which was disintegrated by different forces worked within and outside the community. Tarasankar, the gifted novelist shows how a community and a place are totally changed by imperial force. The muscle power as well as logic of development turned the peasant kahars overnight to laborers, forced to become industrial slaves leaving their traditional habitat. The novel is set on the turmoil period of the Second World War. Here the writer unravels the history of a semi aboriginal indigenous people who lives in the 20th century but their life is guided by the beliefs, customs, rites and rituals of primitive age. The novelist explores the realities of Zamindari system that is responsible for the social inequalities; the changes are nakedly seen in every sphere of life. Aktaruzzaman Ilias, the renowned Bangladeshi writer said that Tarasankar is the best chronicler of Bengal as he presented his time in full details. Like two other Banerjees (Manik and Bibhutibhusan) his work features a realistic picture of life in rural Bengal. In Hansuli….Tarasankar deals with industrialization, capitalism and urbanization. Much light is thrown in the decaying feudal system to which he himself belongs. With a keen eye of a researcher he observes the culture of the kahars and how they cope with the extortion of their way of life as new ideas encroach on the territory. A sudden and drastic change took place within a short period of time for which the kahar society suffered a horrible consequence. The writer even thought that this primitive society would run in every possibil way to be illuminated.
Who are the kahars ?
In the novel Tarasankar tires his hand with an exceptional subject that is the chronicle of kahars, the illiterate,, low cast people whose traditional profession was palanquin bearing. In Sanskrit they are called skandhakara-the people who carry things on their shoulders. The popular saying represents them as a mixed caste descended from Brahman father and a Chandal or Nishad mother. The kahars supposed to have come into these dominions from the Upper India during the rein of Auranjeb. The proper occupation of them is that of palanquin or dhuli bearers. It was the only mode of conveyance in the rural areas as there was no road at all. Only the well to do families could afford to keep the palanquins as the bearers were given farms at low rents. Besides palanquin bearing, they had to serve as regular household servants.
In the novel Tarasankar gives a detail about the kahars’ arrival in the remote place of Birbhoom. Suchand, the oldest kaharni narrates that the kahars arrived in this region with the European indigo traders. The kahars were brought to clean the waste land for indigo plantation. The kahars then were given two types of jobs to do- one group was employed as guards for the plantation house and the quarters, whereas the other group to carry the palanquin. From the division of duty two lineages of kahars originated-the Behara and the Atpoure .
A segregated society.
It is for their profession the kahars remain completely segregated. The inhabitants of Bashbandi where the story took place, have to endure near complete social isolation, humiliation and discrimination based inclusively on their birth...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document