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12/29/2015

Nationalism in Modern Hindi Literature: Six Portraits | Swarajya

Nationalism in Modern Hindi


Literature: Six Portraits

Just as with so many other facets of Indian life, British rule in India was instrumental in
affecting and shaping the course of Indian literature. Vernacular as well as English
writings of the nationalists displayed an acute awareness of Indian nationalism during
and after the British period. The insights in the modern nationalist writings were
distinct from the past in a sense that ideas which were being presented were more
cohesive and structured. This was due to the benefit of added exposure and also as a
measure of challenge from hostile and competing ideologies.
The genesis of nationalism in modern Hindi literature is a story which has Navyug (new
age) poetry and poets at its centre. Some of these poets also produced marvellous
plays, novels and short stories. With navjagaran (renaissance) as the mission, these
litterateurs sought to bring a reawakening through consciousness about national
identity and Indias glorious heritage. They invoked the valour of native heroes, lofty
ideals which the nation had collectively cherished and above all the dharmic traditions.
If there was a particular genre which could be called the language of navjagaran, it was
chhayawad (romanticism).
Hindi literature, just like its other vernacular counterparts saw some of the finest
writings expounding Indian nationalism through poetry, essays, novels, stories and
plays. A large number of authors who expounded nationalism in Hindi literature also
adhered to tatsama and Tadbhava (a vocabulary drawing from Sanskrit or root words
from Sanskrit). This was also a return to a genre marked by pure and pristine Hindi,
different from Hindustani or Hindi affected by Persian loan words. However some
others deliberately kept the language simple to make the appeal popular.
Here we attempt to chart the course of modern Hindi nationalist writing through the
works of six great authors whose literature centres on nationalism and cultural
consciousness. We try to chart the entire course of modern Hindi literature by
choosing a writer from different eras referred to as yugs.

1. Bharatendu Harishchandra (1850-1885, Bharatendu


Yug)
Bharatendu was born in 1850 in Kashi, the culture capital of north India. He is
considered the Father of modern Hindi literature. For someone who died very young, at
the age of thirty five, Bharatendus contribution to literature is amazing. His prolificacy
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is matched by quality and eclectic forays into different genres and styles. From
affective (bhaavatmak) to satirical (vyangya) to awakening (udbodhan) to metaphoric
his style was varied. With his wide range of writings concerning social, cultural and
political issues he is rightly considered the harbinger of navjagaran (renaissance).

It was however his articles on history in Harishchandra, a periodical he edited, that his
nationalist thoughts found proper articulation. He emphasized the need for history
writing which highlighted a glorious, intellectual, courageous and virtuous Indian past.
Controversially, Bharatendu considered Indias Aryan history to be its true past. He was
critical of the attempts at negating the barbarity of Muslim rulers by historians.
In his book Kashmir Kusum he wrote about the oppression of Hindu subjects in
Kashmir by Muslim rulers. In Badshahdarpan he wrote of the invading Muslim rulers
trampling upon a thriving, happy and prosperous Hindu nation. While criticising Muslim
invaders from Mahmud Ghazni to Aurangzeb he did not spare even Akbar. He called
Akbar a wise enemy but an enemy nonetheless. He picked many an intellectual battle
including the famous Hindi versus Urdu battle with Sir Syed where he argued Hindis
case over Urdu as the more suitable for the country.
Bharatendu was gifted with a unique talent to put out his distilled wisdom in a simple
but hard hitting language. The couplet below is a representation:

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Bheetar bheetar sab ras choosai, baahar se tan man dhan moosai,
Zahir baatan main ati tej, Kyon sakhi saajan, nahin Angrez?
From inside he sucks all the vigour and from outside devours body,
soul and wealth; O dear friend how cunning is he- the British!

2. Shridhar Pathak (1858-1928, Dwivedi Yug)


Pathak was born in a village named Jaunwri which fell in the undivided Agra district of
that time. Even before Mahaveer Prasad Dwivedis usage of khari boli (a hallmark of
the Dwivedi yug) in his magazine Saraswati, Pathak had started using it in his poetry.
All the features of Dwivedi yug poetry nationalism and patriotism, rebellion against
orthodoxy, womens empowerment, humanitarianism, idealism, love for nature, and
surreal, descriptive language were to be found in Pathaks poetry.
His collection of poems Bharat Geet has literary gems such as Bharat Vandana, Jai
Jai Bharat, Bharat Prashansa, Hind Mahima and Desh Geet all works of
inspirational poetry in a simple language which portray Bharatvarsha as God incarnate.
He has two poems dedicated to Gopal Krishna Gokhale Gokhale Prashasti and Shri
Gokhale Gunashtak.
However his best on nationalism as a subject comes out in three translations of Oliver
Goldsmith who was a great inspiration to him. In these three works The Hermit
Ekantvaas Yogi, Deserted Village- Oojad Gram and The Traveller- Shraant Pathik,
Pathak highlights the ills of imperialism and its effect on common Indian lives.

3. Jaishankar Prasad (1889-1937, Chhayawad)


One of the four pillars of romanticism (chhayawad) in Hindi literature (Sumitra Nandan
Pant, Suryakant Tripathi Nirala and Mahadevi Verma being the other three), Prasad
needs no introduction to the world of Hindi readers. His epic Kamayani occupies an
exalted place in Hindi literature. The epic tells the story of Manu and Shraddha Hindu
mythological equivalents of Adam and Eve- traversing a myriad of fifteen cantos
beginning with worry and ending in (spiritual) bliss. His last work of poetry, this epic
took about seven years to materialise from the time of conception.

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Nationalism in Prasads writings is perhaps the most truthful elucidation of Bharatiya


Rashtrawad as it goes beyond the parochial confines usually associated with European
nationalism and expresses itself as an idea for global welfare.
Similarly three of Prasads plays Skandgupt, Chandragupt and Dhruvswami are not
merely reminders of Indias glorious past but a call for wider and more meaningful
cultural awakening. Skandgupt, undoubtedly his is a reminder of how internal strife
and bickering affect the health of a nation making it vulnerable in the face of foreign
invasions.
The play, as some of his other plays, was a pretty straight call to the nation to face
British subjugation with unity and fervour. Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi of Chanakya
fame drew heavily from Prasad and in particular his play Skandgupt. Lehar, his
collection of poems is one of the most understated yet profound collections of
nationalistic poetry ever written. His two short stories Puraskar and Chhaya also
deserve a special mention in his repertoire of nationalistic writings.
Prasads subliminal nationalism is best reflected in his beautiful lines:

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Arun yeh madhumay desh hamara


Jehan pahunch anjaan kshitij ko milta ek sahara
Saral taamras garbh vibha par, naach rahee tarushikha manohar
Chhitka jeevan hariyali par, mangal kumkum saara

4. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar (1908-1974, Uttar Chhayawad)

Born in a village called Simariyaghat in Beguserai, Bihar, Dinkar is arguably the most
revered poet of veer rasa (valour) in Hindi literature. His corpus of literature ranges
from rebellious poetry in the British reign to deep insightful essays on Indian culture
and civilizational evolution. He is best remembered for his firebrand poetry in
collections such as Hunkaar, Kurukshetra and Rashmirathi.
His lines Kshama shobahti us bhujang ko, jiske paas garal ho, Uska kya jo dant heen vish
rahit vineet saral ho convey a pragmatism found over and over in Indian philosophy and
epicswhich is that virtues such as mercy or benevolence are meaningful only when
backed by power and authority. Else it is simply an apology for cowardice.
His book of essays Sanskriti Ke Chaar Adhyaay, puts him in the category of great
thinkers. This Sahitya Akademi award winning work categorises Indian civilization into
four chapters as periods of Aryan/Dravidian influence, Mahaveer and Buddhas
influence, Islamic influence and European influence. Dinkar contends that Indian
civilization is essentially a civilization born out of its first influence, that is,
Aryan/Dravidian influence.
In his preface to the book, Dinkar says that despite the Persian, Turkic and Afghan
Islamic influences, the commonality between Hindus and Muslims in India remains
fundamentally that which is born out of its primary influence. He laments the

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reluctance to admit this fact and failure to comprehend the real basis for unity. It is
significant that Dinkar thinks it is the duty of academicians and intellectuals to address
the problem rather than politicians.

5.Subhadra Kumari Chauhan (1904-1948, Uttar


Chhayawad)
Patriotism inspired by impassioned poetry in Hindi cannot be imagined without the
mention of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan. Every child in Hindi heartland, if he or she has
had the privilege of attending a school, remembers and connects to veer ras with the
lines Chamak uthi san sattavan main, wah talwaar puraani thi. The legend of Lakshmibai
the queen of Jhansi is immortalised, thanks in great measure to Chauhans free
flowing, breathtaking poetry. Born in a village near Allahabad, Chauhan migrated to
Jabalpur after her marriage. One of the finest Hindi poets, Mahadevi Verma was her
childhood friend.

Besides Jhansi Ki Rani, Veeron Ka Vasant Kaisa Ho is her other immensely popular
poem in the patriotic genre. She returns to her personal hero, icon and role model,
Jhansi Ki Rani once again in another short poem titled Jhansi Ki Rani Ki Samadhi Par.
Jalianwala Bagh Main Basant, Senani Ka Swagat, Swadesh Ke Prati, Vidai and
Vijaydashmi are her other notable patriotic poems. She was also a very successful
story writer. Some of her collections of stories saw three to four reprints during her
short life span. Among her stories Heengwala, Raahi, Taangewala and Gulab
Singh touch upon national issues and nationalistic concerns.
Six decades after her tragic death in a car accident Chauhan has had a ship
commissioned in her name by Indian Coast Guard in 2006.

6. Narendra Kohli (1940- )

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Long after Hazaari Prasad Dwivedi, a literary genre was revived by a group of novelists
who started retelling the stories from Indian epics in a new idiom. Realism replaced
mythological hyperbole. Some great writings came from Acharya Chatursen (Vayam
Rakshamah, Vaishali ki Nagarvadhu, Somnath), Amritlal Nagar (Maanas ka Hans)
and Shivaji Sawant (Mrityunjay). But the most successful and perceptive of the lot
has been Narendra Kohli.

Kohli was born in Sialkot (Now Pakistani Punjab) before Partition. His primary
education was in Urdu. He got to study Hindi only after High School. After receiving a
PhD from Delhi University, he taught there from 1963 to 1995. His corpus of work is
unparalleled in Hindi literature. Besides teaching and writing books he has also
contributed articles in almost all leading Hindi newspapers.
Among his massive body of work, three epicsAbhyudaya (published earlier in
shorter forms as Ramkatha, Deeksha and Sangharsh ki Oar), Mahasamar (series
of eight novels on Mahabharata) and Todo Kara Todo (five volume series on the life
of Swami Vivekanada) are of huge significance.
Rama in his works is a nation builder and a democrat. He stresses the importance of
Ram as a crusader against evil and adharma, who takes the persona of a leader of
ordinary people rather than the King of Ayodhya. This is important for Kohli because he
thinks that fundamental change can come only with the participation and involvement
of people in the process and not by a King trouncing another however noble the
motives.

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Ramkatha according to Kohli is more than just the story of Rama defeating Ravana. It
is about purging evil from whole of Jambudweepa with the enthusiastic participation of
people including the hermits. Kohlis Rama is compassionate yet unforgiving;
supremely devoted to dharma but stern while dealing with adharma; at harmony with
nature and as an equal to his people. The crux of Mahasamar is again the victory of
dharma over adharma which is considered imminent in Indian philosophy. In both his
retellings of Ramayana and Mahabharata, Kohli stresses the importance of wars to
uphold dharma and safeguard society from the forces of adharma.
To Hindi literature which had plunged into pessimism, frustration and self criticism
under the inferiority ridden progressivism and experimentalism, Kohli has come as
a breath of fresh air. He is often compared to Premchand for both his quality and
quantity of literary output. He is, without doubt, the largest selling contemporary Hindi
author. Most writers concede that Kohli has ushered in a period of cultural renaissance
and that the current period of Hindi literature should fittingly be described as the Kohli
yug.

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