Kazi Nazrul Islam was the “Rebel Poet (Bidrohi Kobi) of Bengal” who used his songs and poems to express his spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. Due to his primary contributions in the areas of poetry and music, including classical music he was known as the “Bulbul” or “Nightingale” of Bengal. He also wrote a good number of novels and prose.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was born to Kazi Faqeer Ahmed and Zahida Khatun on May 24th 1899 at Churulia village in Bardhaman district of West Bengal.
Kazi Nazrul was born in a Muslim Taluqdar family and was the second of three sons and a daughter. Nazrul went to the maktab & madarsa the local religious school run by the mosque & dargah for primary education. Here he studied the Qur’an and other scriptures, Islamic philosophy and theology. Devastated by his father’s death in 1908 he began working as a caretaker and started assisting his teachers to support his family when he was only ten years old. Later he became the muezzin of the mosque and delivered the Azaan calling the people for prayer .
As folk music attracted him he joined his uncle Fazl e Karim’s leto(travelling theatrical group) and working and travelling with them he learned acting as well as writing songs and poems for the plays and musicals. Some of his early works are
- “Chashaar Shong” (“The drama of a peasant”),
- “Shakunibadh” (“The Killing of Shakuni a character from the epic Mahabharata”)
- “Raja Yudhisthirer Shong” (“The drama of King Yudhisthira again from the Mahabharata”),
- “Daata Karna” (“Philanthropic Karna from the Mahabharata”),
- “Akbar Badshah” (“Emperor Akbar”),
- “Kavi Kalidas” (“Poet Kalidas”),
- “Vidyan hutum” (“The Learned Owl”),
- “Rajputrer Shong” (“The drama of a Prince”).
His experiences helped him to learn Bengali and Sanskrit literature, hindu scriptures like the puranas. In 1910 he left the troupe to join Searsole Raj High School in Raniganj and here he came across the revolutionary and Jugantar activist Nibaran Chandra Ghatak, and initiated life-long friendship with fellow author Sailajananda Mukhopadhyay. He later transferred to Mathrun High English School studying under the headmaster and poet Kumudranjan Mallik but again discontinued school due to financial crisis and work in a bakery and tea shop in Asansol. He again joined school but instead of appearing for the class10 pre test exam he joined army at the age of eighteen. Thus young Nazrul adopted the nickname ‘Dukhu Mian’, as he has experienced the harsh realities of life from the very early days of childhood. Being deeply influenced by Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay as well as the Persian poets Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam, he wrote his first prose, “Baunduler Atmakahini” (Life of a Vagabond) which was published in 1919.
Works and contribution:
He started a bi-weekly magazine “Dhumketu” and in which he wrote against the injustice, the oppression, the exploitation and the violence that was carried out all over India. He wrote his famous revolutionary poem “Bidrohi” in 1921 and also bhangar Gaan, Proloyollash and Kamal Pasha some of which were published in “Agnibina” which created a stir in Bengali literature and proved to be the turning point in Bengals history . In the year 1922, for his anti-colonial writings Kazi Nazrul was arrested and was sentenced to a year of rigorous imprisonment. Nazrul went into a 40 day hunger strike to protest against the mistreatment of political prisoners in jail. During this time, Rabindranath Tagore sent his famous telegram to Nazrul saying “Give up hunger strike, our literature claims you.”
Towards the end of 1925, Nazrul formally joined politics and started attending political meetings all over Bengal. On 16 December 1925 he became the chief editor of “langal” the mouthpiece of Sramik-Praja-Swaraj Dal which aimed to end class differences in society and full independence of India. At this time Nazrul published his book “Samyabadi O Sarbahara” which contained songs for workers and peasants. He composed short stories Rikter Bedan, and four anthologies of poems and songs Chittanama, Chhayanat, Samyabadi and Puber Hawa. Chittanama a collection of songs and poems were composed in the memory of the sudden death of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das in 16 June 1925 pioneer of the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity. Nazrul was an exponent of humanism. Although a Muslim, he named his sons with both Hindu and Muslim names: Krishna Mohammad, Arindam Khaled (bulbul), Kazi Sabyasachi and Kazi Aniruddha.
Kazi Nazrul Islam was awarded the Jagattarini Gold Medal in 1945, by the University of Calcutta for his work in Bengali Literature.
He got the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honours, in 1960.
He was conferred the title of ‘national poet’ and ‘Ekushey Padak’ by the Government of Bangladesh.
Nazrul’s famous and rhythmic song “Chal Chal Chal…” was declared as the battle song of Bangladesh.
He has received the prestigious honour “D. Litt.” from “University of Dhaka”.
Kazi Nazrul Islam went through a lot of mental pressure when his wife Pramila Devi was suffering from paralysis during the year 1941 and his health was started deteriorating. He underwent several mental treatments and stayed at a mental asylum for four months in 1942 and was readmitted to Ranchi at 1952. The death of his wife and son shattered him completely and he succumbed to his illness on 29 August 1976.
He used Persian in his works but compensated this with his use of rich and imaginative language for children’s works.
He was also the first person to use ‘Folk terms’ in Bengali literature.
Impact on Bengal:
Nazrul was a revolutionary & literary figure who voiced his opinion against all kinds of narrow-mindedness and exploitation in the name of any religion or ideology including Islam. He is a symbol of ever fresh youth, valor, creativity, freedom and indomitable human spirit. He was one of the most original and creative people of Bengal. He brought traditional music to the people by fusing different elements of North Indian classical music.