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117th Birth Day of National Poet Nazrul

Tribute to the Rebel Poet

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25th-May-2015       
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Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque :
Rebel poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was born in poor respectable family on 11 Jaistha 1306(Bengali calendwer) in Churulia, Burdwan. 'Nazrul was born into a Muslim "Kazi (justice)" family who is second of three sons and a daughter. His father Kazi Fakeer Ahmed was the imam and caretaker of the local mosque and mausoleum. Nazrul also worked as a Muezzin {who regularly calling the people for prayer (Azan)} at a local mosque. Nazrul's mother was Zaheda Khatun. He had two brothers, Kazi Shahebjan and Kazi Ali Hussain, and a sister, Umme Kulsum. Nazrul's nickname was "Dukhu Mia (Sad Man)". He learned of poetry, drama, and literature while he working with theatrical groups. He " began attending the "Maktab (the local religious school runs by the mosque)" where he studied the Quran and other scriptures, Islamic philosophy and theology. In 1908, his family was devastated with the death of his father. At the age of ten, Nazrul began working in his father's place as a caretaker to support his family, as well as assisting teachers in school. Later he became the Muezzin at the mosque. For attraction of folk theatre, Nazrul Islam joined a travelling theatrical group (Name: Leto) run by his uncle Bazle Karim. Working and travelling with them, learning acting, as well as writing songs and poems for the plays and musicals. Through his work and experiences, he began learning Bengali and Sanskrit literature and Hindu scriptures such as the Puranas. The young poet - Kazi Nazrul Islam, composed a number of folk plays for his group, which included "Shakunibadh (The Killing of a Vulture)", "Chasar San (The story of a Farmer)",  "Vidyabhutum (The Learned Owl)", "Raja Yudhisthirer San (The story of King Yudhisthir)", "Rajputrer San (The story of a Prince)",  "Kavi Kalidas (Poet Kalidas)", "Data Karna (Philanthropic Karna)" and "Akbar Badshah (Emperor Akbar)".
From the very earlyhood he expeerinced  the deluge of poverty and deprivation.   Nevertheless he  he enjoyed life  passing childhood in great hardship. He fought   not  for himself but for the downtrodden masses  who were badly off  in the whirlpool of exploitation.  That is why he work for them in his literary works with revolutionary moorings. Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Bengali poet, musician and revolutionary who pioneered poetic works espousing intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. Nazrul rather liked  live in poverty. O poverty, thou hast made me great.
Thou hast made me honoured like Christ
With his crown of thorns. Thou hast given me
Courage to reveal all. To thee I owe
My insolent, naked eyes and sharp tongue.
Thy curse has turned my violin to a sword...
O proud saint, thy terrible fire
Has rendered my heaven barren.
O my child, my darling one
I could not give thee even a drop of milk
No right have I to rejoice.
Poverty weeps within my doors forever
As my spouse and my child.  
Who will play the flute?
In 1921, during his visit to  Comilla Nazrul met a young Hindu woman-Pramila Devi,  with whom he fell in love and they married on April 25, 1924. "Pramila belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, which criticized her marriage to a Muslim. Nazrul in turn was condemned by Muslim religious leaders and continued to face criticism for his personal life and professional works, which attacked social and religious dogma and intolerance. Despite controversy, Nazrul's popularity and reputation as the "rebel poet" rose significantly. In 1926, Nazrul settled in Krishnanagar with his wife and young son Bulbul. His work began to transform as he wrote poetry and songs that articulated the aspirations of the downtrodden classes, a sphere of his work known as "mass music." Nazrul's songs are collectively called as Nazrul geeti."
In 1922, Nazrul Islam reached the peak of fame with the publication of "Bidrohi", which remains his most famous work. It published in the "Bijli" (Thunder) magazine, the rebellious language and theme was popularly received, coinciding with the Non-cooperation movement - the first, mass nationalist campaign of civil disobedience against British rule. Nazrul explores a synthesis of different forces in a rebel, destroyer and preserver, expressing rage as well as beauty and sensitivity. Kazi Nazrul Islam followed up by writing "Pralayollas (Destructive Euphoria)" and in 1922, his first anthology of poems, the "Agniveena (Lyre of Fire)", which enjoyed astounding and far-reaching success. He also published his first volume of short stories, the "Byather Dan (Gift of Sorrow)" and "Yugbani (an anthology of essays)". A poet possessed of extraordinary literary quality and talent Nazrul Was non- matriculate . He  left the troupe and enrolled at the Raniganj Searsole Raj School in 1910 and later he transferred to the Mathrun English High School, studying under the headmaster and poet Kumudranjan Mallik.  For unable to paying his school fees, Nazrul left the school and joined a group of Kaviyals. Later Nazrul Islam took jobs as a cook at the house of a Christian (Railway guard) and at a bakery and tea stall in the town of Asansol. Nazrul Islam studied in the Darirampur School (Present Jatiya Kobi Kazi Nazrul Islam University) in Trishal  the District of Mymensing  in 1914. Amongst other subjects, Nazrul studied Bengali, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit literature and classical music under teachers who were impressed by his dedication and skill.In 1917, Kazi Nazrul Islam did not appear for the matriculation pre-test examination enlisting instead in the Indian Army at the age of eighteen. During this period, Nazrul read widely, and he was deeply influenced by   Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.  Nazrul also influenced by the Persian poets Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. He learnt Persian poetry from the regiment's Punjabi moulavi, practiced music and pursued his literary interests. His first prose work, "Baunduler Atmakahini (Life of a Vagabond)" was published in May, 1919. In July 1919, his poem "Mukti (Freedom)" was published by the "Bangla Mussalman Sahitya Patrika"In the disciplined army life during ist great world Nazrul composed literary works  when he felt relaxed. In 1920, Nazrul Islam left the Indian army and he settled in Calcutta (earlier it was the Cultural capital of India). Later Nazrul joined the staff of the "Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Samiti (Bengali Muslim Literary Society)" and roomed at 32 College Street with colleagues. "In 1920, he published his first novel "Bandhan-hara (Freedom from bondage)", which he kept working on over the next seven years. Nazrul Islam's first collection of poems included "Shat-il-Arab", "Kheya-parer Tarani", "Bodhan", and "Badal Prater Sharab" and received critical acclaim. Nazrul Islam went to Santiniketan with Muhammad Shahidullah and met  The biswas Kabi in October 1921. Despite many differences, Nazrul Islam looked to Rabindranath Tagore as a mentor and the two remained in close association. Nazrul was engaged to be married to Nargis (the niece of a well-known Muslim publisher Ali Akbar Khan) in 1921, in Daulatpur, Comilla. . But on June 18, 1921 (the day of the wedding) upon public insistence by Ali Akbar Khan that the term Nazrul must reside in Daulatpur after marriage be included in the marriage contract, Nazrul walked away from the ceremony."
Nazrul started a bi-weekly magazine, publishing the first "Dhumketu (Comet)" on August 12, 1922. In September 1922, a political poem published in "Dhumketu" led to a police raid on the magazine's office. Arrested, Nazrul entered a lengthy plea before the judge in the court. On April 14, 1923 he was transferred from the jail in Alipore to Hooghly in Kolkata, he began a 40-day fast to protest mistreatment by the British jail superintendent. In December 1923, Nazrul Islam broke his fast more than a month later and was eventually released from prison. During the period, Nazrul Islam composed a large number of poems and songs of imprisonment and many his works were banned in the 1920s by the British authorities.
According to literary critics "Kazi Nazrul Islam professed faith in the belief in the equality of women - a view his contemporaries considered revolutionary. His poetry retains long-standing notions of men and women in binary opposition to one another and does not affirm gender similarities and flexibility in the social structure. However, Nazrul's poems strongly emphasize the confluence of the roles of both sexes and their equal importance to life. He stunned society with his poem "Birangana (Prostitute)". Nazrul addresses a prostitute as "mother" into Birangana. Nazrul accepts the prostitute as a human being, reasoning that this person was breast-fed by a noble woman and belonging to the race of mothers and sisters; he assails society's negative notions of prostitutes."
Something must be added about his publication.  According to reliable sources  before he became paralyzed he was a prolific a poet and composer of music. "Between 1928 and 1935 he published 10 volumes containing 800 songs of which more than 600 were based on classical ragas. Almost 100 were folk tunes after kirtans and some 30 were patriotic songs. From the time of his return to Kolkata until he fell ill in 1941, Nazrul composed more than 2,600 songs, many of which have been lost. Nazrul's wife Pramila Devi fell seriously ill in 1939 and was paralyzed from waist down. To provide for his wife's medical treatment, he resorted to mortgaging the royalties of his gramophone records and literary works for 400 rupees. In 1940, he returned to journalism by working as chief editor for the daily newspaper "Nabayug (New Age)", founded by the eminent Bengali politician A. K. Fazlul Huq."
(Dr. Md. Shairul Mashreque, Professor of Public Administration, Chittagong University)

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