Kazi Nazrul Islam is known as the national poet of Bangladesh. He brought about revolutionary changes in the spirit and style of Bangla literature and music.
A twentieth-century poet and musician who became the National Poet of Bangladesh and who revolutionized the style of Bangla music and literature. He was imprisoned for his anti-British writing but continued to flourish until 1942 when he was seriously disabled by illness.
Early struggles of Kazi Nazrul Islam
Nazrul was born on 24 May 1899 at Churulia village in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. India Nazrul’s family was poor and his father died when he was only nine. Therefore, he had not even completed his primary education before he had to go through a lot of struggles for existence.
Later he worked as a teacher of a village Maktab, a custodian of the shrine of a saint, and as a muezzin in a village mosque before he joined a Leto Group. Leto was a mobile musical troupe that roamed around singing and action in the countryside. He soon became the main poet of the group and made his place thereby composing a number of folk plays.
Between 1910 and 1917, Nazrul was able to return to school and studied until class X, However, he could not pursue his education further because he did not like the rules and regulations and he had financial difficulties.
During this time, he worked as a cook at the house of a railway guard and later at a tea stall at Asansol. Thus the young Nazrul, aptly nicknamed ‘Dukhu Mia’, experienced the harsh realities of life in the very early days of his life.
The beginnings of his literary activate
During the First World War, in 1917, Nazrul joined the Bengal Regiment of the British Indian Army. He was in the army for two and a half years and rose from an ordinary soldier to a havildar (battalion quartermaster). His literary activities began when he was posted in Karachi Cantonment.
During his stay in the army, Nazrul learned Persian from the regiment’s Punjabi moulvi, and practiced music with other musical-minded soldiers to the accompaniment of local and foreign instruments.
At the same time, he pursued literary activities in both prose and poetry which were published in different literary magazines. Baunduler Atmkaini (Autobiography of a Vagabond), his first prose work, was polished in Saogat, a reputed literary magazine in Kolkata. His first poem to be polished was Mukti (Freedom).
With the end of the war, Nazrul returned to Kolkata to start a career in literature and journalism. In 1920 he became a joint editor of Nabjug, an evening daily published by A.K. Fazlul Haq, a well-known politician.
While Nazrul worked as a journalist, he wrote numerous poems in different literary magazines and secured his place in the literary world of Kolkata. At the same time, he met with prominent writers, poets, and other literary figures of the time, including Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore and Nazrul maintained close contact till the former died in 1941.
Influences on him
During this time, the political situation was very volatile in India. Everywhere, the Indians were involved in the non-cooperation and khilafat movement against the British Raj led by Mahatma Gandhi. He wrote many poems and articles in support of the struggle against the British.
He wrote against the injustice, oppression, exploitation, and violence that was carried out all over India. He was concerned about landless farmers and workers and fought against social injustice through his writings. In this, he was influenced by the socialist revolution in Russia that took place in 1917.
He wrote his famous revolutionary poem, Bidrohi (The Rebel) in 1921. He also wrote Bhangar Gaan, Proloyollash, and Kamal Pasha. Some of these poems were published in his famous book of poems, Agnibina (The Fiery Lute).
Agniina created a stir in Bangla literature and proved to be a turning point in Bangla poetry, in terms of both content and style. Its first edition was sold out soon after publication, and several editions in quick succession had to be printed.
Reactions of Kazi Nazrul Islam
Nazrul was arrested in 1922 for his anti-colonial writings. He was sentenced to a year of rigorous imprisonment. While in jail, he went on a 40-day hunger strike to protest against the mistreatment of political prisoners.
During this time, Rabindranath Tagore sent his famous telegram to Nazrul that said: Give up hunger strike, our literature claims you. So he stopped and continued to write while he was in jail.
Nazrul married Pramila, a girl who forms a Brahmo family in 1924, despite a lot of disapproval from society, Many of his love songs and poems, some of them being collected in his first book of poetry. Dolon Champa was inspired by his relationship with Pramila.
Political involvement of Kazi Nazrul Islam
Towards the end of 1925, Nazrul formally joined politics and attended political meetings all over Bengal. Apart from being a member of the Bengal Provincial Congress, he played an active role in organizing the Sramik-Praja-Swaraj Dal.
On 16 December 1925, Nazrul started publishing the weekly Langal, with himself as chief editor. The Langal was the mouthpiece of the Sramik-Praja-Swaraj Dal, which aimed to end class differences in society. The manifesto of the party, which was published in the paper, demanded full independence for India.
At this time Nazrul published his published paper, demanded full independence for India. At this time Nazrul published his book Samyabadi O Sarbahara containing songs for workers and peasants. Among Nazrul’s other publications about this time were an anthology of short stories, Rikter Bedan, and four anthologies of poems and songs: Chittanama, Chhayanat, Samyabadi, and Puber Hawa.
Chittanama was a collection of songs and poems that Nazrul had composed after the sudden death on 16 June 1925 of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, pioneer of the cause of Hindu-Muslim unity.
A flourishing career
Nazrul’s career continued to flourish, and he was involved in a variety of activities ranging from a recording artist, a composer, a music director, a singer, a poet, and a story writer. He also acted in films, and plays, and performed on the radio.
Nazrul was particularly keen on composing various forms of songs and he is said to write even more songs than Rabindranath Tagore had.
A long illness and honors
In 1942, Nazrul became ill and this led to the loss of his voice and memory. He was treated at home and abroad, but his condition became worse. Financially, Nazrul’s family went through a lot of hardship as he was the only earning member.
Nazrul was awarded the Jagattarini Gold Medal by Kolkata University. He was awarded the Padmabhushan title by the Government of India in 1960. In 1972, when Rabindranath’s Amar Shonar Bangla was declared as the National Anthem of Bangladesh, Nazrul’s famous and rhythmic song, Chal Chal Chal, was declared as the battle song of Bangladesh.
In the same year, Nazrul and his family were brought to Dhaka, by an agreement between the governments of Bangladesh and India. During the War of Liberation, the Freedom Fighters were inspired by the rebellious and patriotic songs of Nazrul which were aired by the Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra (Independent Bangla Radio Station), a radio station that was set up in India to inspire the freedom fighters.
He was conferred an honorary DLitt degree by the University of Dhaka in 1972. He was granted citizenship in Bangladesh n January 976 and came to be known as the National Poet of Bangladesh. In February of the same year, he was awarded the Ekushe Padak, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Bangladesh.
Nazrul died on 29 August 1976, but in reality, he had remained completely silent and inactive for 34 years since his illness in 1942. He was buried at Dhaka University Mosque as he had wished, with one of his ghazals (Moshjideri Pashey Amar Kobor Dio Bhai).
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