Kazi Nazrul Islam is one of the most gifted personalities of Bengali literary world. This genius wrote rebellious songs that shunned the stereotypical notions of the society. He continuously attacked the religious fanaticism which attracted criticism from both Hindu and Muslim religious leaders. He was an exponent of humanism always believing in religious harmony. Often his writing style was labeled as ragged but the presence of pure and raw emotions made them immortal.
On his Birth anniversary, here are some of the facts that you must know about this visionary.
1. Where was he born?
He was born in Churulia of Bengal Presidency (present-day West Bengal) on May 24, 1899. His father Kazi Faqeer Ahmed was an Imam of the local mosque, he was born into a Taluqdar or land owner’s family.
2. The funny nickname
Just like every other Bengali, he also had a nickname or ‘daak naam.’ He was called Dukhu Mian, translated it means sad man.
3. Early education
He completed his studies in a madrasa. There he studied Quran, theology, Islamic philosophy, and Hadith (traditions). Due to his father’s untimely death, his studies abruptly stopped. After that, he took the place of his father as mosque’s caretaker at the early age of 10.
4. Introduction to Bengali literature
The free-spirited Nazrul soon joined his uncle’s traveling theatrical group. There he explored writing besides getting introduced to Sanskrit and Bengali literature.
5. Reading Hindu scriptures
His interest pushed him to venture the epic Hindu scriptures like Puranas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. He also composed many folk plays based on stories from the scriptures.
6. Completing his education
He left the troop in 1910 to join High School. Later, he transferred to an English school for better education. Unable to pay his school fees, he soon left school and started working as a cook. Determined to rise above hurdles of life, he again joined the school in 1914. There along with other subjects, he also studied Bengali, Sanskrit, Hindustani classical music, Arabic, and Persian literature.
7. As a part of British Army
Though he studied till 10th but didn’t appear in matriculation examination as he enlisted in British Army before that. At just 18, he was assigned to 49th Bengal Regiment. He joined the army due to two reasons, his interest in politics and passion for adventure.
8. First published poem and novel
His first poem ‘Mukti’ was featured in 1919 in Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Patrika. After 1 year, his first novel ‘Bandhon Hara’ was published too.
9. Why was he called ‘Bidrohi Kobi’?
Translated it means ‘Rebel Poet.’ He earned this name after the publication of his poem ‘Bidrohi’ in 1922. The language along with the imagery of the poem was in accord with the non-cooperation movement which inspired the rebellious youths of Bengal. Following this, he became a household name among those who yearned for freedom.
10. Meeting his love
This was one of the most important changes in his life. While meeting a publisher, he first met Promila. She was the daughter of Tripura’s Nayeb (manager) and a follower of Brahmo Samaj. There was significant controversy regarding their love story and marriage. While he was criticized by Muslim leaders, she received the same from members of Brahmo Samaj. Later he became close to her family.
11. Political career
He wanted to be a part of politics for long and finally joined Bengal provincial congress in 1925. He was very active as a chief editor of the publication who demanded full independence of India.
12. Arrested and jailed
Following his involvement in politics and works supporting Indian revolution for Independence, he aroused the suspicion of British authorities. Later he was arrested after publication of a political poem ‘Dhumketu.’ Accused of sedition, he was jailed where he began his 40-day fast to protest against the mistreatment by jail superintendent. During his period of imprisonment, he created many works which were banned by British authorities.
13. Tribute by Rabindranath Tagore
Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore dedicated his play ‘Basanta’ to appreciate Nazrul’s visionary work. Later as a token of thanks, he wrote the poem ‘Aj Srishti Shukher Ullashe’ for Kobiguru.
14. Musical contribution
Considered as one of his greatest contributions, he composed the first Bengali Ghazal. He transformed his poetry to match the structure used in Persian and Urdu literature. Furthermore, he introduced Islam in Bengali music. His efforts actually made Muslims comfortable with Bengali arts. He also created many ‘Bhajan’ and ‘Kirtan’ besides devotional songs dedicated to goddess Kali. His songs have given birth to a separate genre of Bengali music referred to as ‘Nazrul Geeti.’
15. Faith in the equality
Much like other Bengali visionaries of that era, he supported and promoted women empowerment. He also shunned the stereotypical notions of the society. It’s well-reflected in his work ‘Barangana’ (Prostitute), where he addressed her as ‘mother.’ If we look deeper, he actually considers the prostitute as a human being before anything else.
16. Illness and death
He fell ill and started losing his power of speech, soon his behavior became erratic. Ultimately his disease was diagnosed as Pick’s disease, which was incurable at that time. His health deteriorated further after his wife passed away. The final blow came with the death of his youngest son. After few years in 1976, he said goodbye to this world.