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The Poet of the East

Written by: Mustofa Munir

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The twentieth century Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam was a genius with outstanding versatility. He was a humanist, lyricist, music composer, singer, director, actor, activist, journalist, editor and a soldier. The Poet left the imprints of his talent both on music and literature equally. He was born on 25th May, 1899 in West Bengal, India and died in Bangladesh in 1976 at the age of 77 as a hero and national poet of that country. He wrote more than four thousand lyrics and composed them with sur, ragas and music. He sang his own songs. At the age of fortythree, he was suddenly inflicted with Alzheimer and Pick's disease and lost his memory. He could not speak or write due to an illness and spent the long 34 years of inactive life till his death.

Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam borrowed many words from Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit languages and used them in his poems, lyrics, dramas, proses and short stories. He introduced many Hindu mythological terms, figures and themes in his poems and lyrics. The words he borrowed are in common parlance in the eastern part of India. He seeped those words into Bengali literature and thus enriched its quality. Poet Nazrul went beyond the limitation of one language used by one group of people. He found a justification to retain those words in Bengali literature that exist in the dialects of Bengali speaking people in the eastern part (West Bengal and Bangladesh) of India. Those words he introduced in his poems and lyrics are reflected on the themes and exploded with rhythms and rhymes. He brought a change to almost a thousand years old trend in Bengali literature and established it genuinely.  

When we read the following verses of his poem ‘The Rebel’  we would certainly perceive  the alluring accommodation of the Sanskrit words ‘Dhurjati’ and ‘Pinak-pani’ as well as the Arabic word ‘Israfil’ in the poem.

The verses:

"I’m torpedo, a floating mine dreadful! I’m Dhurjati,

An untimely summer windy violent storm"

“In the trumpet of Israfil I’m the terrifying roar!

I’m Pinak-pani’s drum, spear three-prong’d,”

Where ‘Israfil’ refers to the name of an angel, the trumpet blower and ‘Dhurjati’ to Hindu mythological god Shiva, the destroyer and rebuilder.

In the poem ‘The Rebel’ below also there are some words used in the parlance of classical music in India. Those words are— ‘hambir’, ‘chayanaut’ and ‘hindol’( the names of the Indian classical ragas):

"I’m the unfettered joy of life, I’m joyful!

I’m hambir, chayanaut, hindol,

A restless, with pomp and glamour instantly I startle

While on the street! I jump and dangle!"

Or when we read the poem ‘Mankind’ we come across with a Turkish word 'molla' (with the roots to Persian and Arabic):

 "The hungry replied, ‘No, father, I pray not.’

The molla yelled:  thou scamp! then get lost,

Holding bread and meat he (molla) locked

 The mosque-door and left!”

Or in the poem ‘Sin’ we find:

"With a smile God spoke to the heaven’s angels-- 'Behold!

 Haruth and Maruth spoiled the earth, a massacre indeed!’

Confidante, in this earth the eyes know the magic!"

 

Here Arabic words ‘haruth’ and ‘maruth’ bear the names of two angels.

 

Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam used the allegorical application of myth as it is a forceful weapon to rejuvenate the subjugated people of India.

 

So he wrote in his ‘Euphoria of Cataclysm’ (Proloyullash):

“Like the furious rampant Mohakal—

There comes the dreadful,

In the dense smoke of incense lamp he kindles

With the flame of thunder!”

 

Where ‘Mohakal’ is the Hindu mythological god Shiva.

 

About the use of mythological words in the poems the English myth scholar and literary critic Maud Bodkin wrote:

“ When a great poet uses the stories that have taken shape in the fantasy of the community, it is not his individual sensibility alone that he objectifies. Responding with unusual sensitiveness to the words and images which already express the emotional experience of the community.”

 

In his poem ‘The Ambidextrous’ (Shabyashachi) we see a kind of  emotional spirit that impacted on the community. When the Poet wrote:

 

“O fear not anymore,

Underneath the Himalaya the East rocks!

Penetrating the snows of mountain-peak

The Shabyashachi gets to his feet!

Stood up the hero of Mahabharata, and

Said, ‘Here I am’.

With youthful vigor the ancient East dances!”

 

There are more poems, dramas, short stories and lyrics wherein Poet Kazi Nazrul introduced many words borrowed from other spoken and written languages of Indian subcontinent and thus enriched the thousand years old Bengali literature.

 

Sources:

  • Nazrul Rochonaboli, vol.1 page 40
  • ‘Nazrul o Arbi-Farshi sobder bebohar’ Syed Shahedullah,  ‘Kazi Nazrul Islam Jonma Sothobarsho sharok grantha’, page 315.
  • Sanchita-selected poems and lyrics of Kazi Nazrul Islam,  2015 USA. Page 3,4, 77-78,83,109.
  • Fiery Lute-- Selected poems and lyrics of Kazi Nazrul Islam, 2018, Nazrul Institute, Bangladesh. Page 21.