Jai Shankar Prasad

The Hero of Neo-Romanticism

Jai Shankar Prasad, a most celebrated personality related to the modern Hindi literature and Hindi theater, was born at 30th January in the year 1889. He was a great Indian poet, novelist and dramatist, born in the simple Madheshiya Teli Vaisya family of the Varanasi, UP, India. His father (named Babu Devki Prasad, also called as the Sunghani Sahu) has his own business related to the tobacco dealing. However, the family’s condition deteriorated over the years after the death of Jaishankar Prasad’s father, when the future litterateur was still young. Because of such financial problems, he could not study further than 8th class. However, he was so keen to know many languages, past histories and Hindi literature, that he continued his study at home. Mastering the grammar and literature and the evolution of many a languages. It was language that interested Jaishankar Prasad, but he later shifted his attention to the study of the Vedas, an aspect that reflected in his writings that were penned later. Apart from writing poetry from a very early age, Jaishankar Prasad also had an interest in reciting poems. As a child and in his later life, he spent much of his time playing chess and doing gardening work at home. At the age of 5, he was initiated for learning and sent to pathashala run by ‘Master Mohinilal Rasmaysidh’ for teaching him Braj Dialect poetry and Sanskrit. Later on, he was admitted in Queens College for formal education in school. At home, eminent teachers were engaged in teaching him Hindi, English, Sanskrit and Persian. He studied these languages with great zeal and diligence.

If Dharamvir Bharati is referred to as the Father of Hindi Literature, Jaishankar Prasad cannot be too far behind for he too needs to be credited for making Hindi language popular amongst the present generation. Jaishankar Prasad is truly one of the most notable figures in the world of modern Hindi literature. He is considered one of the Four Pillars (Char Stambh) of Romanticism in Hindi Literature (Chhayavad), along with Sumitranandan Pant, Mahadevi Verma and Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’.

He started writing poetry from a very early age. It is to be remembered that this ace Hindi litterateur was a philosopher as well, apart from being a writer. Therefore, this aspect too releected in his poems. He started writing poetry with the pen name of ‘Kaladhar’ at the famous shop of Sunghani Sahu. The first collection of poem that Jai Shankar Prasad penned, named, Chitradhar, was written in Braj dialect of Hindi but his later works are in Khadi dialect or Sanskritized Hindi. Later on he promulgated ‘Chhayavad’ a literary trend in Hindi literature. It is romanticism with a spiritual base and universalism, which touches every core of humanism.

“The indelible foot-prints on the ageless rocks of time”

The depth of his work, examine the realm of philosophy most artfully with wonderful dynamism. He says that men’s salvation lies in the unification of desire, knowledge and action.

No discussion on the whole Hindi literature can ever be completed without a special reference to his incomparable work – “Kamayani”, this work is, most certainly, one of the most prominent creation of this century in India and the best Mahakavya (Epic) that Hindi literature has ever witnessed. Hindi language gained strength by his work, more ever, as days passed by, it laid deep impact on the generations of writers that followed!

His dramas are considered to be most pioneering ones in Hindi. The majority of them revolve around historical stories of Ancient India. Some of them were also based on mythological plots.

He wrote short stories as well. The subjects were mixed – ranging from historical and mythological to contemporary and social. Mamta (motherly love) is a famous short-story based on an incident where a Mughal Badshah gets refuge in a Hindu widow’s home whose father was killed by Badshah’s army. Another one of his well-known short stories called Chhota Jadugar (little magician) portrays the life of a child who learns to earn his own living by performing small skits with his dolls on streets.

His most prominent patriotic poem of his career is known as the ‘Himadri Tung Shring Se’, which he had written before the independence of country from the British Jai Shankar Prasad was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva and had no trace of bigotry of fanaticism. Shaiva philosophy of prativijana darshan was deeply imbedded in the religious consciousness in him. Repeating the name of Lord Shiva, he breathed his last and entered into ‘Samadhi’ of infinite transcendental bliss. The luminous sun of Hindi literature set on its zenith leaving for posterity a rich cultural values at a very early age of 47 on January 14 of 1937.The great Hindi litterateur is survived by three wives and their children. After his death, Shanta Gandhi, a 1960s professor of ancient Indian drama at the National School of Drama in New Delhi, took the initiative to stage several of Jaishankar Prasad’s plays for the modern Indian theater. Shanta Gandhi took note of the fact that not many changes were made in the original writing of Jaishankar Prasad so that the modern generation gets a taste of the real Jaishankar Prasad writing. The first play staged by her was ‘Skandagupta’ which was written by the Hindi litterateur in 1928.

Though the city has not witnessed his birth, but has definitely paid tribute to him in the form of Jai Shankar Sabhagar, which is an integral part of Rai Umanath Bali Auditorium. As one walks from Safed Baradari (Qaiserbagh) towards Parivartan Chowk, there stands a tall building next to Bhatkhande Music University, which is known for taking forward the city’s cultural tradition. Painted in red and yellow and decked up with lights, Rai Umanath Bali Auditorium completed its 27 years on 27 March 2014. The back portion of the building stands there since the period of Wajid Ali Shah (1847-1856) whereas the front auditorium has been developed in the recent years as the glorious monument got almost ruined during the Revolt of 1857. The auditorium’s development is to be credited to Pandit Vishwa Narayan Bhatkhande and Rai Umanath Bali and hence, the auditorium is named after him.

It was on March 27, 1987, Department of Culture, Uttar Pradesh dedicated the auditorium to the people of the state. The idea of an auditorium was mooted since the building owed a historical and archaeological importance and was home to many theatre artists. In the past 27 years, there have been many cultural performances by prominent artists.

The auditorium has seen both good and bad days. In the past years, the auditorium has got a hi-tech sound system, air- conditioners have been installed and seats have been replaced. What is unfortunate is that the artists preparing for their performances in the green room have no access to drinking water. The canteen is closed. But whatever it is, there is an air of excitement in the people working in the auditorium.

Mohammad Rehan

Writer is a business graduate and active social worker

(Published in The Lucknow Observer, Volume 1 Issue 10, Dated 05 January 2015)

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