The Bhojpuri Academy of Bihar, a government of Bihar Institution celebrates this year its 35th year of existence. In this context, the Academy decided to honour the lifelong achievers, promoters, scholars, educationists, erudites, writers, poets, singers and grassroots workers engaged in the promotion and propagation of Bhojpuri. This is the first time that the government of Bihar has decided to confer such distinguished awards in the field of Bhojpuri.
For most people, their chosen field of enterprise is synonymous with a mission which they carry on with dedicated zeal and passion. Award or no award they are engrossed in their work in the chosen field with single-mindedness. However, an award comes to consecrate this persuasion, celebrates the success and confers recognition.
Out of 26 awardees some were from Mauritius, England and Nepal.
1. Dr Mrs Sarita Boodhoo, Director of Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute and Chairperson of Bhojpuri Speaking Union – was awarded for her lifelong contribution in the field of Bhojpuri language, culture, literature worldwide.
2. Mr Arvind Bissessur, Head of Department of Bhojpuri at the MGI -was awarded for his contribution in the field of education and media.
3. Mr Sashi Sohadeb, Mauritian Rresident in London, received the award for his contribution to Bhojpuri music.
4. A 101-year-old folk singer of Bihar, Mr Ramagya Ram, was also given an awarded.
5. Manoj Tiwari, Bhojpuri film icon was also given the recognition.
The aim of the Bhojpuri Academy of Bihar is to promote excellence in Bhojpuri language and literature, collect and disseminate knowledge about Bhojpuri oral traditions, art, lores and other segments of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Such stalwarts of Bhojpuri as Dr Hawaldar Tripathi have been its erstwhile directors. The Bhojpuri Academy operates under the government of Bihar. It has produced volumes of Bhojpuri literature and compiled powerful volumes of works of innumerable Bhojpuri authors, poets, thinkers and well-wishers. The current Chairman of the Bhojpuri Academy of Bihar appointed by the government of Bihar, Prof Ravikant Dubey is doing a remarkable and praiseworthy effort in revitalizing the works of the pioneers in the field of Bhojpuri after a prolonged period of laisser-pour-compte under somnolent authorities. In November 2011, I invited Prof. Ravikant Dubey as part of an exchange scheme of the Mauritius Bhojpuri Institute to visit Mauritius and conduct workshops and interact with various institutions and personalities in the field of Bhojpuri.
It is a matter of appreciation that the government of Bihar is promoting Bhojpuri at school, college and tertiary levels. Some of these universities may be cited here: The Veer Kunwar Singh University in Arrah, the Magadh University, The Jayprakash Narayan University in Chappra, the University in Muzzaffarpur, the University of Bihar in Patna and so on. Moreover, the government of Bihar has set up Bhojpuri as a subject in its educational curriculum of the Nalanda Open University (NOU). A panel of scholars, educationists and writers has worked out several pedagogical materials for upper secondary levels.
It is good to know that Bhojpuri is offered as subject at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) which has branches all over the world including Mauritius. In the same breath, the prestigious Banaras Hindu University (BHU) runs a Centre for Bhojpuri Studies. Most remarkably, the government of New Delhi has set up a Maithili and Bhojpuri Academy since some years now whose patron is no other than Shrimati Sheela Dikshit, the Chief Minister. The chief executive of the Maithili and Bhojpuri Academy is Mr Ajit Dubey, former CEO of the Airports Authority of New Delhi. On my recent visit to Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh from where a good number of Mauritians have originated, I urged the VC of the University of Purvanchal to set up a unit for Bhojpuri Studies, and this has been agreed in principle.
There are hundreds of big and small NGOs to promote Bhojpuri throughout India not only in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh but also in major cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kanpur, Rishikesh, Agra and others.
Mauritius is unique in the world in the promotion of languages and their associated Intangible Heritage. The government of Mauritius is well aware of the necessity of formulating safeguarding measures as spelt out by the UNESCO Convention 2003. It took the bold decision to set up amongst others the Bhojpuri Speaking Union which functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Arts and Culture and which was gazeteered on 1st April 2013. The aims and functions of the BSU are broad-based and well defined, offering a wide possibility of exchanges nationally and internationally. The Aapravasi Ghat Trust Fund which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2006 under the criterion VI (Intangible Cultural Heritage) of the UNESCO convention promotes Bhojpuri as one of the ancestral languages of the Indentured immigrants and their descendants. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources has introduced Bhojpuri in the school curriculum right from Standard I since January 2012. The Ministry is also proposing Bhojpuri as an elective at Form IV level. The curriculum materials are prepared at the MGI in collaboration with the MIE. The MGI also runs modules in Bhojpuri for BA levels jointly with the University of Mauritius.
Recently, I was approached by the National Council of Indian Culture of Trinidad and Tobago to explore the possibility of starting a Bhojpuri Institute to revive Bhojpuri in that country. What I want to stress here is that Bhojpuri has reached a wonderful breakthrough worldwide and there is more and more awareness towards its value as a means of communication and forum of literature and Art specially with the growing popularity of Bhojpuri films, music and TV serials. The possibilities of productive co-operations are vast. When Shri Nitish kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar visited Mauritius in 2007 at the initiative of GOPIO International, he declared that if Mauritius were tol introduce Bhojpuri in its school curriculum, he would be prepared to send a team of scholars, pedagogues and consultants to assist in the preparation of pedagogical materials. I believe that with the rapid and empirical way that our Bhojpuri pedagogical materials have been prepared (MGI, MIE, MOEHRD), we have no doubt become a center of excellence and can share our knowledge and skills with similar bodies – and why not, even in Bihar and UP or Nepal for that matter.
The prospects of exchange are many and need to be explored more profoundly, with seriousness, willpower and determination. It is being proposed to celebrate the International Bhojpuri Mahotsaw next year to coincide with the 180th anniversary celebrations of the arrival of Girmitias. This would be a golden opportunity to set about to achieve this vision.
* Published in print edition on 16 August 2013