The Rebel Poet of Troubled Times

Chaos and violence erupting around the World have made reality often harder to look forward to. At this point, poetry, music, literature, art can help heal the world through its power of expression and understanding. In between these troubled times, some influential personalities have appeared like a ray of hope to fight off the evil surrounding the circumstances.

Born in Churulia, Paschim Bardhaman District under Bengal Presidency, on 24th May 1899, Kazi Nazrul Islam was a poet, musician, and writer whose writings has been a great influence to many urging them to stand up and fight back. While just studying about religion, at the age of 10, Nazrul lost his father which left him with the responsibility of the only earning member of the family, as young Nazrul had to become the adult his family could rely upon. His interest in folk music from a young age, helped him dive deep into Bengali, Sanskrit literature, and Hindu scriptures like the Puranas with uncle Fazle Karim’s traveling theatrical group or a Leto. Literature was thriving in him, when for the Leto made his initial contributions like Chashar Shong (the drama of a peasant) a folk song and plays like Shokunibodh (the Killing of Shakuni), Akbar Badshah (Akbar the emperor) and Kobi Kalidas (poet Kalidas) which paved the way for a greater work of art. At that time, India was under the British Rule and political and religious tensions were still present in air after the Partition of Bengal in 1905.

Amidst poverty, Nazrul studied till 10th grade but did not appear for the matriculation examination. Enriched with knowledge received from subjects like Bengali, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian literature and Hindustani classical music and with a vivid interest in politics of that time he joined the British Indian Army at the age of 18. His love for literature was not once wavered during his time in the army, as he kept learning from the works of the bests of Bengal, Rabindra Nath Tagore, and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Persian poets like Hafez, Omar Khayyam, and Rumi. The political satire was greatly influencing his style when he wrote the thought-provoking Bidrohi (The Rebel), condemning the British Rule in search of freedom.

He was rising to prominence with the new identity of ‘Rebel Poet’ when his poetry "Anondomoyeer Agomone" published in Dhumketu magazine unnerved the British, and he was arrested with charges of sedition by the police. He maintained his rebellious outlook behind the bars and was released in a year. With Bisher Bashi, he made his intentions clear as to fight against the British Raj and their rising oppressions on natives. Kazi Nazrul went on to protest against religious and political stigmas, as he started a new married life with a Hindu woman named Pramila Devi at a time when prejudices like caste and creed were dominant in the Indian culture. He later contributed, Gazals in Bengali, Parsi and Urdu poetries, shayamasangeet, bhajans contributing 4000 songs in his entire career.

At his later age, he started to lose his speech, as his health started to decline and he was mostly depressed due to Pick’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease, spending his time in the mental asylum of Ranchi. He was brought to newly independent Bangladesh to live in Dhaka with the consent of Indian Govt. and there he concluded his long fight against all on 29th August 1976. Bangladesh Govt. honoured him with the status of ‘National Poet’ in 1972 as he was about to rest the last few years on the Bengal soil irrespective of religious and political turf that raged savagely during the pre-Independence era. Kavi Narzul was a rebel who refused to bow down to oppression and religious disparities created by the British with the plan to divide and rule as his timeless poetries can bring significance at every situation when democracy is under threat.

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