Phookun Howli

This family is a branch of the famous Brahmachari family of Guwahati whose lineage can be traced to Lakshminarayan Brahmachari who hailed from the far away land of Dravida. Brahmachari was invited by the Ahom King Gaurinath Singha in the late eighteenth century to treat a notable court official who was blinded under the orders of the king himself. By the time Brahmachari reached Guwahati his would be patient passed away. Brahmachari settled in Guwahati adopting a boy from  Teok in Upper Assam , popularly known as the family of Teokiya Adhyapak. Due to some inconsistency, one of the members from that family had to seek shelter at Lakshminarayan Brahmachari’s abode and grew up near the downstream of the Nilachal. Later on, one more member from the family of Teokiya Adhyapak joined them and along with him Brahmachari also provided shelter to two more orphan Brahmin boys and a Brahmin widow along with her two sons.

 

With the passage of time, Brahmachari included them all into his own family lineage and renamed them according to their new caste. Jugai was named Ronoram (whose son was Gunabhiram Barua, the author of the famous playRam Navami and one of the first advocates of widow remarriage) and his distant relative was named Parashuram. The two orphan Brahmin boys were named Sitaram and  Sambhuram (whose grandson was the notable lawyer and social figure of Guwahati, Kamakhyaram Barua) and the two other boys from the Brahimin widow’s side were named Obhiram and Potabhiram.

 

Parashuram Barua was the Duworiya Barua at Hadirachowki. He had two sons- Haliram and Jagyaram. Haliram succeeded his father as the Duworia Barua at the tender age of fourteen. Later, with the advent of the British rule he was appointed as the chief officer for land settlements.Haliram Dhekial Phukan was a  reputed scholar and was well versed in Bengali,Persian and Sanskrit.He came up with Kamakhya Jatra Podhoti in 1831 by collecting various facts from the Juginitontro, Kalikapuran and etc. He was also the first person to compose a book on Assam’s history (in Bengali language) named,Asham Buronji. It was also the first of its kind to be published. His writings were also published in popular Bengali newspapers like Samachar Chandrika and Samachar Darpan and the latter one published the news of his demise through an emotional piece.Haliram was only thirty two when he passed away.His eldest son Anandaram Dhekial Phukan attended his primary education in Guwahati itself.General Jenkins and Sir John Matthew took up the responsibility of the education of this fatherless child. He was sent to erstwhile Calcutta for his higher studies at Hindu college in 1841. Anandaram returned to Guwahati in 1844 as a genius in English literature and culture. He was among the first ones to live an English lifestyle in Guwahati. His Axomiya Lorar Mitro (1842) was the first text pertaining to school. Another valuable writing of Anandaram Dhekial Phukan was A few remarks on the Assamese Language by a Native which he wrote under a penname.He was also the first Sub-assistant of Assam and put on his best efforts to preserve the language inspite of being appointed to sucha responsible post. Phukan objected against the misdeeds of various government officers and brought it under the notice of Mills saheb. During his tenure in Nagaon, he opened an English school in his home itself as there was no such provision made by the government in that region. He would also arrange a weekly discussion named Jnanadayi Sabha, which was again, first of its kind to have taken place in Assam. Anandaram’s son Radhikaram Dhekial Phukam was the first Doctorate degree holder from Assam who went abroad for his higher studies and decided to settle there itself. His daughter was among the well-known Assamese literati Padmavati Devi Phukannani whose valuable composition include Xudhormar Upakhyan (1884), Hitxadhika (1885) and etc.

 

Anandaram's uncle and Haliram's younger brother Jagyaram was the first Assamese to be trained in English.He went to Kolkata to study the English language under the guidance of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Apart from English, he also had expertise in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Urdu and Bhutiya.  Jagyaram  was a high-appointed Police officer who was later promoted to the post of Sadar Amin. He was the first Assamese to translate English poems into other languages and his poems were published in the popular Bengali newspaper Samachar Darpan (one of them being dated to 30th July, 1831)

 

Jagyaram Phukan also happened to be the first Assamese to subscribe to any Bengali newsletter where many letters were published in those newspapers discussing the grave problems that Assam was facing during that particular time. When Guwahati Seminary was established in the year 1835 with the help of public fund, Jagyaram Phukan was among the three persons to have made a hefty donation of one thousand rupees.

 

Again, Jagyaram’s second son Balaram was born in 1831; a highly educated man who and the Dewan to the king of Bijni whose praiseworthy writings include Harxa-Bixaad (1869) and Jug Boixisto (1872). Once his house caught fire that caused a heavy loss to him which was also published in the then prominent newspaper of Assam, Arunudoy.

 

Balaram Phukan had four sons - Jibonram, Nobinram, Bipinram and of course, Dekhbhokto Tarunram Phukan being the youngest one. The residence of the Phookun famiy is still located at the same place where Lakshminarayan Brahmachari set up his tol. The members of the family played a major role in the freedom struggle. Infact it was in the premises of the Phookun House (built in 1905) that foreign clothes were burnt under the orders of  Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi when he visited Assam in 1921. Several national leaders like Madan Mohan Malviya,Motilal Nehru,Sarojini Naidu stayed at this house.

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