Friday, April 22, 2011

Kazi Nazrul Islam - The Naitonal Poet Of Bangladesh

Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Bengali poet, musician and revolutionary who pioneered poetic works espousing intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. He was born in the village of Churulia in the Burdwan District of Bengal (now located in the Indian state of West Bengal) on 25 May 1899 (Bangla Year; 11 Jystha, 1306 Bongabdo). He is the national poet of Bangladesh, who generally known as “Bidrohi Kobi (Rebel Poet)”. His poetry and nationalist activism helped him to earn this popular title. Accomplishing a large body of
acclaimed works through his life, Nazrul is officially recognized as the national poet of Bangladesh and commemorated in India.

Nazrul was born into a Muslim “Kazi (justice)” family who is second of three sons and a daughter. His father Kazi Fakeer Ahmed was the imam and caretaker of the local mosque and mausoleum. Nazrul also worked as a Muezzin {who regularly calling the people for prayer (Azan)} at a local mosque. Nazrul's mother was Zaheda Khatun. He had two brothers, Kazi Shahebjan and Kazi Ali Hussain, and a sister, Umme Kulsum. Nazrul’s nickname was “Dukhu Mia (Sad Man)”. He learned of poetry, drama, and literature while he working with theatrical groups.

Kazi Nazrul Islam began attending the “Maktab (the local religious school runs by the mosque)” where he studied the Quran and other scriptures, Islamic philosophy and theology. In 1908, his family was devastated with the death of his father. At the age of ten, Nazrul began working in his father's place as a caretaker to support his family, as well as assisting teachers in school. Later he became the Muezzin at the mosque. For attraction of folk theatre, Nazrul Islam joined a travelling theatrical group (Name: Leto) run by his uncle Bazle Karim. Working and travelling with them, learning acting, as well as writing songs and poems for the plays and musicals. Through his work and experiences, he began learning Bengali and Sanskrit literature and Hindu scriptures such as the Puranas. The young poet – Kazi Nazrul Islam, composed a number of folk plays for his group, which included "Shakunibadh (The Killing of a Vulture)”, "Chasar San (The story of a Farmer)”,  "Vidyabhutum (The Learned Owl)”, "Raja Yudhisthirer San (The story of King Yudhisthir)”, "Rajputrer San (The story of a Prince)”,  "Kavi Kalidas (Poet Kalidas)”, "Data Karna (Philanthropic Karna)” and "Akbar Badshah (Emperor Akbar)”.

Kazi Nazrul Islam left the troupe and enrolled at the Raniganj Searsole Raj School in 1910 and later he transferred to the Mathrun English High School, studying under the headmaster and poet Kumudranjan Mallik.  For unable to paying his school fees, Nazrul left the school and joined a group of Kaviyals. Later Nazrul Islam took jobs as a cook at the house of a Christian (Railway guard) and at a bakery and tea stall in the town of Asansol. Nazrul Islam studied in the Darirampur School (Present Jatiya Kobi Kazi Nazrul Islam University) in Trishal, Mymensingh District in 1914. Amongst other subjects, Nazrul studied Bengali, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit literature and classical music under teachers who were impressed by his dedication and skill.

In 1917, Kazi Nazrul Islam did not appear for the matriculation pre-test examination enlisting instead in the Indian Army at the age of eighteen. During this period, Nazrul read widely, and he was deeply influenced by Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.  Nazrul also influenced by the Persian poets Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. He learnt Persian poetry from the regiment's Punjabi moulavi, practiced music and pursued his literary interests. His first prose work, "Baunduler Atmakahini (Life of a Vagabond)” was published in May, 1919. In July 1919, his poem "Mukti (Freedom)” was published by the "Bangla Mussalman Sahitya Patrika (Bengali Muslim Literary Journal)”.

In 1920, Nazrul Islam left the Indian army and he settled in Calcutta (earlier it was the Cultural capital of India). Later Nazrul joined the staff of the “Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Samiti (Bengali Muslim Literary Society)” and roomed at 32 College Street with colleagues. In 1920, he published his first novel "Bandhan-hara (Freedom from bondage)”, which he kept working on over the next seven years. Nazrul Islam’s first collection of poems included "Shat-il-Arab", "Kheya-parer Tarani", "Bodhan", and "Badal Prater Sharab" and received critical acclaim. Nazrul Islam went to Santiniketan with Muhammad Shahidullah and met Rabindranath Tagore in October 1921. Despite many differences, Nazrul Islam looked to Rabindranath Tagore as a mentor and the two remained in close association. Nazrul was engaged to be married to Nargis (the niece of a well-known Muslim publisher Ali Akbar Khan) in 1921, in Daulatpur, Comilla. But on June 18, 1921 (the day of the wedding) upon public insistence by Ali Akbar Khan that the term "Nazrul must reside in Daulatpur after marriage" be included in the marriage contract, Nazrul walked away from the ceremony.

In 1922, Nazrul Islam reached the peak of fame with the publication of "Bidrohi”, which remains his most famous work. It published in the "Bijli" (Thunder) magazine, the rebellious language and theme was popularly received, coinciding with the Non-cooperation movement — the first, mass nationalist campaign of civil disobedience against British rule. Nazrul explores a synthesis of different forces in a rebel, destroyer and preserver, expressing rage as well as beauty and sensitivity. Kazi Nazrul Islam followed up by writing "Pralayollas (Destructive Euphoria)” and in 1922, his first anthology of poems, the "Agniveena (Lyre of Fire)”, which enjoyed astounding and far-reaching success. He also published his first volume of short stories, the “Byather Dan (Gift of Sorrow)” and "Yugbani (an anthology of essays)”.

Nazrul started a bi-weekly magazine, publishing the first "Dhumketu (Comet)” on August 12, 1922. In September 1922, a political poem published in "Dhumketu" led to a police raid on the magazine's office. Arrested, Nazrul entered a lengthy plea before the judge in the court. On April 14, 1923 he was transferred from the jail in Alipore to Hooghly in Kolkata, he began a 40-day fast to protest mistreatment by the British jail superintendent. In December 1923, Nazrul Islam broke his fast more than a month later and was eventually released from prison. During the period, Nazrul Islam composed a large number of poems and songs of imprisonment and many his works were banned in the 1920s by the British authorities.

In 1921, during his visit to Comilla, Nazrul met a young Hindu woman (Pramila Devi), with whom he fell in love and they married on April 25, 1924. Pramila belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, which criticized her marriage to a Muslim. Nazrul in turn was condemned by Muslim religious leaders and continued to face criticism for his personal life and professional works, which attacked social and religious dogma and intolerance. Despite controversy, Nazrul's popularity and reputation as the "rebel poet" rose significantly. In 1926, Nazrul settled in Krishnanagar with his wife and young son Bulbul. His work began to transform as he wrote poetry and songs that articulated the aspirations of the downtrodden classes, a sphere of his work known as "mass music." Nazrul's songs are collectively called as Nazrul geeti.

Kazi Nazrul Islam professed faith in the belief in the equality of women — a view his contemporaries considered revolutionary. His poetry retains long-standing notions of men and women in binary opposition to one another and does not affirm gender similarities and flexibility in the social structure. However, Nazrul's poems strongly emphasize the confluence of the roles of both sexes and their equal importance to life. He stunned society with his poem "Birangana (Prostitute)”. Nazrul addresses a prostitute as "mother" into Birangana. Nazrul accepts the prostitute as a human being, reasoning that this person was breast-fed by a noble woman and belonging to the race of mothers and sisters; he assails society's negative notions of prostitutes.

Between 1928 and 1935 he published 10 volumes containing 800 songs of which more than 600 were based on classical ragas. Almost 100 were folk tunes after kirtans and some 30 were patriotic songs. From the time of his return to Kolkata until he fell ill in 1941, Nazrul composed more than 2,600 songs, many of which have been lost. Nazrul's wife Pramila Devi fell seriously ill in 1939 and was paralyzed from waist down. To provide for his wife's medical treatment, he resorted to mortgaging the royalties of his gramophone records and literary works for 400 rupees. In 1940, he returned to journalism by working as chief editor for the daily newspaper "Nabayug (New Age)”, founded by the eminent Bengali politician A. K. Fazlul Huq.

Nazrul also was shaken by the death of Rabindranath Tagore on August 8, 1941. He spontaneously composed two poems in Tagore's memory, one of which, "Rabihara (loss of Rabi)” was broadcast on the All India Radio. Within months, Nazrul himself fell seriously ill and gradually began losing his power of speech. His behavior became erratic, and spending recklessly, he fell into financial difficulties. In spite of her own illness, his wife constantly cared for her husband. However, Nazrul's health seriously deteriorated and he grew increasingly depressed. He underwent medical treatment under homeopathy as well as Ayurveda, but little progress was achieved before mental dysfunction intensified and he was admitted to a mental asylum in 1942. In 1952, Nazrul was transferred to a mental hospital in Ranchi. On June 30, 1962 his wife Pramila died and Nazrul remained in intensive medical care. In 1972, the newly independent nation of Bangladesh obtained permission from the Government of India to bring Nazrul to live in Dhaka and accorded him honorary citizenship. After extended suffering, Nazrul breathed his last on August 29, 1976 in Dhaka. In accordance with a wish he had expressed in one of his poems, he was buried beside a mosque on the campus of the University of Dhaka.


  1. Kazi Nazrul Islam was a brilliant poet in the Bangladesh's history, i respect him.

  2. Kazi Nazrul Islam is a real rebel poet in the world. I like him so much.

  3. I think Kazi Nazrul Islam was so meritorious more than Rabindranath Tagore.

  4. the translation of ''Birangana' in the parenthesis.. is damn wrong. this sort of translation should mislead other languages's people.

  5. Kazi Nazrul Islam is our rebel poet. We are proud of his activities. I also love his all poems, novels, songs, drama. Thanks for your writing.

  6. Nazrul Islam is agreat rebel poet. i love all his writings...