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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2396

Reminiscences: Bangladesh National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam

By Rabindranath Trivedi

Forty two years have passed since his great depart of Bangladesh National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in August 1976 at the age of 77. The death anniversary of National Poet falls on the 29 August 2017 Tuesday 12 Bhadra 1424 Bs , Nation pays homage to the great depart of our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam who was born May 24, 1899, in the village of Churulia near Asansol in the Burdwan District of Bengal (now located in the Indian state of West Bengal).

His father Kazi Faqeer Ahmed was the imam and caretaker of the local mosque and mausoleum. Nazrul's mother was Zahida Khatun.

The story of the birth of Kazi Nazrul Islam is more astonishing and important than that of his death. Born in an impoverished family, he lost his father at the age of nine and struggled throughout his life, after which he emerged as a comet into the sky of Bangla Literature.

It's a wonder of the world how he grew up to expand the horizon of the Bangla literature, incorporating an uncommon theme of identity of the common people, through the mass movement against all kinds of oppression in socio-political landscape. His creative life spanned over a period of a little over 22 years. After a sudden attack of paralysis on July 10, 1942, he became silent forever and spent a further spell of 34 years before his death on August 29, 1976, the 12th of the Bangla month of Bhadra ( DS 27/8/17).

Nazrul's creativity diversified as he explored Hindu devotional music by composing Shyama Sangeet, bhajans and kirtans, often merging Islamic and Hindu values. Nazrul's poetry and songs explored the philosophy of Islam and Hinduism. Nazrul's poetry imbibed the passion and creativity of Shakti, which is identified as the Brahman, the personification of primordial energy. He has composed more Shyama Sangeet than saint Ramprosad. Nazrul was a saint – in a different form- otherwise, it is impossible to compose such songs in spiritual affinity and none comes closer to him except Tagore. Tagore realised that the best way to touch the hearts of the people was to utilize the tunes drawn from the soil. Poetry is a thing of joy and a thing of responsibility, and both the streams met in Nazrul. Much has been said and speculated about Nazrul's religious convictions, his spirituality and his ideology. Nazrul brought about a revolution in the genre of devotional songs and poetry.

So, he is our national poet reminiscence with Nazrul remains in my mind for ever. It may be mentioned here that the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra, in its third-time commissioned from Calcutta, was on the birth day of Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam in May 1971. Nazrul's poetry and songs inspired people of the sub-continent during the anti-British movement and embraced Jail also the freedom-loving people of Bangladesh in their struggle for independence. His songs and poems were also a source of inspiration for us, the freedom fighters, during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971.

In April 1976, I was then a Senior Information Officer assigned with a VIP who used to visit his ailing relation at P G Hospital, I was dropped remained with the sleeping ailing poet Kazi Nazrul Islam(25 May 1899, August 1976 at the than P G Hospital (Shah bag) along with a PID photographer Abdul Karim . I sat beside poet’s bed-side chair and felt something new, as if I am in the midst of a nirbaq – saint of tantric school of thought’.

To me, apart from his name as the poet of rebellion and of love, his sufferings and self-pity as much unrestrained as were his anger and defiance.’ He composed songs of multidimensional values. Nazrul’s romantic songs bypassed his devotional songs to some extent, he absorbed in writing words for devotional music for Hindus and Muslims. If he were not live in the 20th century, he would have considered as Kabir, Ramprosad or Vidyapati of bygone days.

Suddenly, Poet Nazrul woke up, and look at me for a minute, I ,too, keep my eyes unturned . He extended his hand , I ,too, kept for some minutes., again he went for sleep. I don’t know why it is happened? I am touched and moved by remembering his spiritual songs . Sadhak Kazi Nazrul is the only secular poet who knows Hindu-Muslim relationship –politically, socially and religiously better than anybody else in Bengal. Bangladesh would discover her true destiny and, would harmonise "all religions, all sciences and philosophies and make mankind one soul".

He also composed large number of songs on invocation to Lord Shiva, Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati and on the theme of love of Radha and Krishna. Nazrul assailed fanaticism in religion, denouncing it as evil and inherently irreligious. His vigorous assault on extremism and mistreatment of women provoked condemnation from Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists. Later his works changed significantly from rebellious expositions of society to deeper examination of religious themes. His works in these years led Islamic devotional songs into the mainstream of Bengali folk music, exploring the Islamic practices of namaz (prayer), roza (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage) and zakat (charity). Nazrul is an integral part of our culture.

Nazrul sent his poem 'Tirtho-Pothik' to Rabindranath expressing his awe and excitement at his writing and for being remembered by him. Rabindranath, in turn, welcomed Nazrul's powerful arrival in Bangla literature and blessed him on the publication of his first bi-weekly literary publication Dhumketu, expressing confidence in Nazrul's ability to banish darkness and awaken people with his writings.Nazrul was shaken by the death of Rabindranath Tagore on August 8, 1941. He spontaneously composed two poems in Tagore's memory, one of which, "Rabihara" (loss of Rabi or without Rabi) was broadcast on the All India Radio. Within months, Nazrul himself fell seriously ill and gradually began losing his power of speech.

Nazrul and his family began living a silent life in India. In 1952, he was transferred to a mental hospital in Ranchi. With the efforts of a large group of admirers who called themselves the "Nazrul Treatment Society" as well as prominent supporters such as the Indian politician Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the treatment society sent Nazrul and Promila to London, then to Vienna for treatment. His condition judged to be incurable, Nazrul returned to Calcutta on 15 December 1953.

On June 30, 1962 his wife Pramila Das Gupta died and Nazrul remained in intensive medical care. In 1972, the newly independent nation of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibue Rahman obtained permission from the Government of India to bring Nazrul to Dhaka in May 1972, accordingly Minister Motiur Rahman went to Kolkata and bring Nazrul to live in Dhaka, Bangladesh Capital and accorded him honorary citizenship, honoured as the national poet of the country. Despite receiving treatment and attention, Nazrul's physical and mental health did not improve. Poetically speaking, Kazi Nazrul is dead in 1944, during this last 32 years till last journey in August 1976 of his life, his body was little more than observing ‘Silence- Samadhi’ like tantric Nirbaq sannyashi.

In 1974, his youngest son, Kazi Aniruddha, an eminent guitarist died, and Nazrul soon succumbed to his long-standing ailments on August 29, 1976, Dhaka, Bangladesh. His eldest son Kazi Sabyasachi came down to Dhaka on date by air from Kolkata to pay his last rights, but could not attend the funeral of his father. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral; In accordance with a wish he had expressed in one of his poems, he was buried beside a mosque on the campus of the University of Dhaka. Bangladesh observed two days of national mourning and the Indian Parliament observed a minute of silence in his honour. Today is the poet's 41st death anniversary. True, death has taken away his physical presence from us. But the legacy that Nazrul has left behind is immense. The poet will stay alive in the hearts of Bangalees forever.

Rabindranath Trivedi, Freedom Fighter, retired civil servant of GoB, author and columnist

- Asian Tribune –

Bangladesh National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam and author R N Trivedi at PG Hospital in April 1976
diconary view
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