Bishnuprasad Rabha as Cultural Icon of Assam: The Process of Meaning Making

Debarshi Prasad Nath



The term ‘cultural icon’ is generally used to refer to individuals or images, objects, visual sign, monuments, space etc. In semiotics the term ‘icon’ is used to refer to a sign that bears close resemblance to the object that it stands for. Icons are particularly influential signifiers because they are immediately identifiable and carry complex cultural codes in a compact image. In this paper the understanding of ‘cultural icon’ is not limited to semiotics. Following Keyan Tomaselli and David Scott in Cultural Icons (2009), we believe that cultural icons are purposive constructions. An attempt has been made in this paper to analyze the association of ‘desirable’ meanings to a cultural icon (while dropping ‘undesirable’ ones); thus, it is imperative that we look at the changing socio-political contexts behind such purposive constructions. With this in mind, we look at the iconic figure of Bishnuprasad Rabha who has been one of the most revered figures in the cultural history of Assam and has been appropriated as a cultural icon in different discourses of the national life of Assam that has emerged in recent times.

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