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The human civilization is about ten thousand years old.The farmer became a major architect of this civilization from the beginning of the civilization.There were other professions too.In farming Practices of farming gradually took the present day jargon ,technology.The persons involved in farming became the early farmers.They were both males and females.They were also the early communicators.They used to share their experience to the neighbours.Thus knowledge generation and sharing became a practice which became the rudiment of agricultural science.The early communicator of farming practices used to share with the fellow farmers orally or through speech.In India,Bangladesh and Nepal one female communicator ascent to eminence.Her name was Khona and the poetic expression of her technological package is popularly known as THE SPEECH or BACHAN OF KHONA.The BACHANS are still very popular among the farmers.It is very surprising to note that the BACHANS composed long ago are still very relevant in the context of present climatic phenomena.I like to quote a news item published in NEW AGE of 2-8 November,2007 in which the great contribution of Khona is depicted.I take the opportunity to invite the learned members of this network to write about the famous early communicators of their country and regions for the sharing of knowledge and experience.

Leelabati Akhyan: Upholding
the story of Khona

by Robab Rosan

What Leelabati had learned from astronomy and astrology in the 4th AD has become the harvesting norms for farmers in villages and rural parts of Bangladesh, Nepal and India.

The history of agriculture in this region, particularly, in Bangladesh, is very ancient. People in this region have been involved in cultivating crops since time immemorial. But the ‘bachan’ or speeches of Khona, who is considered as the tenth jewel in the court of the Gupta king Vikramaditya of the 4th century AD, a historical figure, are considered the oldest ‘agricultural science’ in this area.

This female scholar is immensely popular among the peasants of Bangladesh, Nepal and the Indian provinces of West Bengal, Orissa, Assam and some parts of Bihar.

Due to her popularity, various versions of myth have been created in different areas related to her identity, life and profession. Though the rural people still follow the suggestions of Khona in cultivating crops, the urban have little knowledge about the lady and her speeches.

Loko Natyadal presented the life and contributions of Khona in their latest play ‘Leelabati Akhyan’, which was staged at the Experimental Theatre Hall of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in the city on October 27. The play, written by Nasreen Mustafa and directed by Liaqawt Ali Lucky, is based on the folktale of ‘Khona’.

The writer of the play has mingled the folktales available in Bengal and Orissa. The play presents the story of the princess of Sinhal currently known as Sri Lanka, Leelabati, who was confined to the fort of the enemy after the defeat of her father. Leelabati was then a young child when she was brought up by her father’s court astronomer Munjal.

One day Munjal rescued a male child of five days from the sea coast of the fort. When Leelabati and the boy were sixteen year old, they fell in love and got married with the sun god as witness.

Munjal had protested their wedding and said that it is written in Leelabati’s fate that she will marry the son of an eminent astronomer of Ujjayini in India. Leelabati studies the position of the stars and using her astronomical knowledge she sees that her husband Mihir is the son of Barah, the court astronomer of the kingdom of Ujjayini. She also counts the position of stars for a suitable time to escape from the fort. At last they along with the astronomer escape from the fort and take shelter under the king of Ujjayini. They disclose their identity at the court and at last Barah accepts them.

Leelabati achieved knowledge about agriculture and she was able to forecast the weather after observing the position of stars. The farmers were benefited after following her suggestions related to cultivation. Seeing this, the king of Ujjayini Vikramaditya declared Leelabati as the tenth jewel of his kingdom. Barah felt jealous and told his son to cut the tongue of his wife Leelabati so that she cannot give guidance to the farmers. After excessive blood-shedding she died in her young age.

Leelabati has survived as ‘Khona’. In Orissan language the word Khona means the person whose tongue is cut. Lately, the speeches of Leelabati are popularly known as the ‘Khonar Bachan’ or the speeches of Khona.

The director starts the play following the traditional narrative style. He has also used the arena style in staging the play. Mahfuza Helali Happy and Masud Sumon performed the roles of Leelabati and Mihir respectively. They played their roles rather attractively while the other performers, including the narrator, Liaqawt Ali Lucky, who also played the role of Barah, could have been better.

The director was also responsible for designing the set while Yasmin Ali Nirjhar Chowdhury made the music, Thandu Rayhan arranged lighting and Enam Tara Saki set the costumes. They all deserve special mentions for their respective contributions.


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