Abhiruchi Sports Day programme at Rangia in Assam

Assam is celebrating Abhiruchi Sports Day on September 3 every year for the last 38 years – saluting the Arjuna awardee sprinter Bhogeswar Baruah.

The Assam Kaziranga University admissions

It was in 1966 when Bhogeswar Baruah won the gold medal in the 800m race in Bangkok Asian Games. It was a milestone for the entire Northeast and for Assam, it was a red-letter day. He became the first-ever Assamese to win a gold medal in any international event.

And in the same year, Bhogeswar Baruah was honoured with the Arjuna award, becoming the first from the entire Northeast region to get the award.

It was a massive moment for sports lovers of the state.

Celebrating Bhogeswar Baruah’s birthday as Abhiruchi Sports Day

India had its first National Sports Day in 2012. But, Assam’s state sports day, started by the then popular (and only Assamese) sports magazine ‘Abhiruchi’ and thus known as Abhiruchi Sports Day or Abhiruchi Krira Divas, has been an annual affair on September 3 since 1984.

Here’s the backstory.

“Bhogeswar Baruah was found to be working as a driver with ONGC after retirement from the army. ‘Abhiruchi’ editor Balendra Mohan Chakraborty did a cover story on it, and that edition of ‘Abhiruchi’ became a bestseller, creating immense sympathy for the soft-spoken athlete. ONGC immediately promoted Baruah to officer rank thanks to the public uproar,” recalled national award-winning filmmaker Utpal Borpujari.

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“But Chakraborty, also the owner of Brahmaputra Printers, decided to take it to another level. He mobilised the Assam Sports Journalists’ Association members and with the support of leading sports and other journalists (including Subodh Malla Barua, Pabitra Gogoi, Samudra Gupta Kashyap, photographer the late Dipak Bezbaruah and many others) took the decision to celebrate Baurah’s birthday, September 3, as Abhiruchi Krira Divas.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Bhogeswar Baruah
Bhogeswar Baruah

The first Abhiruchi Sports Day programme was simple: mass jogging led by Bhogeswar Baruah with the participation of school and college students and citizens in general, in Guwahati, and a felicitation programme for prominent sportspersons in the presence of Baruah.

The huge public support for the initiative saw Abhiruchi Sports Day soon spread state-wide and the central programme at Guwahati witnessed participation of guests like Milkha Singh, PT Usha, Shiney Wilson, Kapil Dev, Kamlesh Mehta, Manohar Aich and so on, apart from local stars like Monalisa Baruah, Taibun Nisha and Harakanta Borgohain among others.

“Then onwards, it has been an annual affair on September 3,” Borpujari added.

“As a young student, I was part of the first year’s celebrations, and from 1986 onwards till 1990, when I left Guwahati for higher education, I was closely associated with the organising team as a volunteer. Such great memories,” he added.

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As a journalist and filmmaker Borpujari has travelled to several places across the country. “I don’t think anywhere else in India a sportsperson’s birthday is celebrated as the State Sports Day (National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29 – the birthday of hockey great Dhyan Chand, but it started 28 years after the initiative in Assam began).”

Anecdote

So much so that Milkha Singh had once publicly told Bhogeswar Baruah: “More people might know me, but I doubt if even my neighbours would know my birthday. And here, the entire state celebrates your birthday.”

39th edition of Abhiruchi Sports Day

Olympian gymnast Dipa Karmakar and her coach Donacharya awardee Bishweshwar Nandi attended the celebrations in Guwahati on September 3, 2022.

Abhiruchi Sports Day
Abhiruchi Sports Day

“Such an honour to be a part of this celebration. Such a legend, the first from the Northeast to be awarded Arjuna. I salute the champions athlete. I wish him good health and best wishes,” said Nandi addressing a gathering on September 3.

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