Kazi Nazrul Islam
(National poet of Bangladesh)
(24 May 1899 – 29 August 1976)
A BIOGRAPHY OF KAZI NAZRUL ISLAM
Kazi Nazrul Islam was a Bengali poet, musician, revolutionary, and philosopher recognized for pioneering Bengali poetry. Many of his compositions depict an impassioned resistance against human domination via enslavement, hatred, and tradition, earning him the title Bidrohi Kobi — Rebel Poet. He is officially acknowledged as Bangladesh’s national poet and is honored in India. Scholars credit him with launching a cultural revolution in Bengal’s Muslim minority, “liberating” Bengali poetry and literature from its medieval constraints. Kazi Nazrul Islam contributed to his people’s new engagement with modern life by building a bridge from traditional Islam to a modern sensibility.
Freedom, humanity, love, and revolution were all themes in Nazrul’s works. He was against all sorts of religious, caste-based, and gender-based discrimination and extremism. Nazrul created short tales, novels, and essays, but his songs and poetry are his most well-known works. He popularized Bengali ghazal melodies and is noted for his liberal usage of Arabic, Persian, and Urdu terminology in his writings.
Nazrul Geeti is a collection of approximately 4,000 songs that he penned and created the music for (many of them were recorded on HMV and vinyl recordings). He began to lose his voice and memory in 1942, at the age of 43, due to an unexplained sickness. Pick’s disease is a rare incurable neurodegenerative illness that was found by a medical team in Vienna. It led Nazrul’s health to deteriorate over time, forcing him to live alone. He also spent several years at a mental facility in Ranchi, Jharkhand. Nazrul’s family came to Dhaka in 1972 after receiving an invitation from the Bangladeshi government. On August 29, 1976, he died four years later.
Name: Kazi Nazrul Islam
Title: Bidrohi Kobi — Rebel Poet
Pen name: Bengali: ধূমকেতু, romanized: Dhumketu
Nickname: Bengali: দুখুমিয়া, romanized: Dukhumiyan তারাক্ষ্যাপা Tarakhepa
Born: 24 May 1899
Place of Birth:Churulia, Asansol, Bengal Presidency, British India (present-day Paschim Bardhaman district, West Bengal, India)
British Indian (1899 – 14 August 1947)
Indian (15 August 1947 – 18 February 1976)
Bangladeshi (18 February 1976–29 August 1976)
Literary movement: Bengali Renaissance
Searsole Raj High School in Raniganj
Darirampur School (now JatiyaKabiKazi Nazrul Islam University) in Trishal, Mymensingh District.
Father: KaziFaqeer Ahmed
Mother: Zahida Khatun
Spouse: Pramila Devi
Kazi Ali Hussain(Brother)
Song of Eid-ul-Fitr
Padma Bhushan (1960)
Independence Day Award (1977)
Allegiance: British Empire
Service/branch: British Indian Army
Years of service: 1917–1920
Rank: Havildar (Sergeant)
Unit: 49th Bengal Regiment
Battles/wars: First World War
Died: 29 August 1976
Death Age: 77 Years
Death Place: Dhaka, Bangladesh
Resting place: Buried beside a mosque on the campus of the University of Dhaka.
Early Life of Kazi Nazrul Islam:
Nazrul Islam was born on May 24, 1899 in the Bengal Presidency’s Churulia village, Asansol Sadar, Paschim Bardhaman district (now in West Bengal, India). He was the second of three sons and a girl born into a Bengali Muslim Kazi family. KaziFaqeer Ahmed, Nazrul’s father, was the imam and keeper of the nearby Pirpukur mosque and Haji Pahlawan tomb. Zahida Khatun was Nazrul’s mother. KaziSaahibjaan and Kazi Ali Hussain were Nazrul’s brothers, while UmmeKulsum was his sister.
After his father’s untimely death, he was nicknamed ‘Dukhu Mia’ by the villagers because of the hardships he faced in his early life. When he was ten, he started working in his father’s place as a caretaker to support his family, as well as assisting teachers in school.
He went to Raniganj’sSearsole Raj High School and later Mathrun High English School in 1910. However, due to financial difficulties, he quickly dropped out of school and began working as a chef. Later, he worked at an Asansole bakery and tea business.
He continued his studies in 1914 and completed Class X. Bengali, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian literature, and Hindustani classical music were among the subjects he studied.
Nazrul completed grade 10 but did not take the matriculation pre-test examination; instead, at the age of eighteen, he enlisted in the British Indian Army. He joined the British Indian Army for two reasons: one, a teenage thirst for adventure, and second, an interest in the politics of the moment. He was assigned to the Karachi Cantonment as part of the 49th Bengal Regiment, where he composed his first writing and poems. He progressed through the ranks from corporal to havildar (sergeant) and served as quartermaster for his unit, despite never seeing actual combat.
Nazrul read extensively at this time, including works by Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, as well as Persian poets Hafez, Omar Khayyam, and Rumi.
He performed music and followed his literary hobbies while learning Persian poetry from the regiment’s Punjabi Moulvi. In May 1919, he released his first written piece, “Life of a Vagabond” (‘BaundulerAtmakahini’). In July 1919, the Bengali Muslim Literary Journal (BangiyaMussalman Sahitya Samiti) published his poem “Mukti” (“”, ‘Freedom’).
He quit the army in 1920 and joined the ‘BangiyaMussalmanSahiya Samiti,’ where he composed his first poetry, ‘Bandhan-hara,’ or ‘Freedom from Bondage,’ in which he penned his first poem.
He authored the poetry ‘Bidrohi’ in 1922, which was published in the ‘Bijli’ (Thunder) magazine. The poem depicted a rebel who was enthusiastic about his cause and garnered appreciation from people from all walks of life.
In 1922, he published his political poetry ‘AnondomoyeerAgomone’ in the journal ‘Dhumketu,’ which he had founded. This resulted in his arrest at the magazine’s headquarters during a police raid. Until his release in December 1923, he wrote a huge number of poetry and melodies while inside.
He eventually turned against the “Khilafat” movement and the Indian National Congress for failing to negotiate political independence from the British Empire. He also founded the ‘Sramik Praja Swaraj Dal’, which inspired Indians to oppose the British.
He began producing poems and songs for the less fortunate portions of society in 1926. His writings turned from rebellion to religion later in life. He looked into the concepts of ‘namaz,’ ‘roza,’ and ‘hajj’ (pilgrimage). He wrote books about the Quran and the biography of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam.
In 1933, he released ‘Modern World Writing,’ a compilation of articles with many subjects and types of literature. In ten volumes, he also released 800 songs based on traditional ragas, kirtans, and patriotic songs.
In 1934, he entered the Indian theatrical and motion picture industry, making his debut in the film ‘Bhakta Dhruva,’ based on Girish Chandra’s narrative.He began working for Calcutta radio in 1939, producing songs like as “Haramoni” and “Navaraga-malika.” He began working as a chief editor for A.K. Fazlul Huq’s ‘Nabayug’ in 1940.
His revolutionary poetry such as “Bodhan,” “Shat-il-Arab,” “Kheya-parerTarani,” and “Badal Prater Sharab,” among others, garnered critical acclaim from all over.
In 1926, he published one of his most renowned poems, ‘Daridro’ (‘Pain or Poverty’), which was well welcomed by both the upper and lower classes. In 1928, he joined the ‘His Master’s Voice Gramophone Company’ as a poet, composer, and music director. One of his most notable contributions to the profession was creating and directing music for the biopic play ‘Siraj-ud-Daula.’
His novel Pralayshikha was banned in 1930, and the British Indian colonial authorities accused him of sedition. He was imprisoned and freed after the Gandhi–Irwin Pact was struck in 1931. In 1933, Nazrul wrote “Modern World Literature,” a compilation of articles in which he examines various literary styles and issues. He issued ten volumes including 800 songs between 1928 and 1935, with almost 600 of them based on ancient ragas.
Almost 100 of the songs were folk tunes based on kirtans, with another 30 being patriotic songs. Nazrul penned around 2,600 songs between his return to Kolkata and his death in 1941, many of which have been lost.His songs based on baul, jhumur, Santhali folksongs, jhanpan, or snake charmer folk songs, bhatiali, and bhaoaia have a polished lyric with lyrical beauty on one hand and a folk-song music on the other. Nazrul also composed and published children’s poetry.
Nazrul’s popularity quickly catapulted him into Indian theater and the fledgling cinema business. Dhruva Bhakta, his debut film as a filmmaker, made him the first Muslim director of a Bengali film. In 1936, a film based on his recorded drama, Vidyapati (Master of Knowledge), was released, and Nazrul worked as the music director for Tagore’s novel Gora. For Sachin Sengupta’s biographical epic drama based on the story of Siraj-ud-Daula, Nazrul penned songs and directed music.
He worked on MonilalGangopadhyay’s dramas “Jahangir” and “Annyapurna.” Nazrul started working for Calcutta Radio in 1939, directing the station’s musical programs’ creation and airing. “Haramoni” and “Navaraga-malika” are two of his critical and analytic music documentaries. Nazrul has composed a number of songs based on the raga Bhairav.
In Daulatpur, he engaged Nargis, the niece of a well-known Muslim publisher, Ali Akbar Khan. He left the wedding on the day of the ceremony after hearing Ali Akbar Khan’s unreasonable demand.On a journey to Comilla in 1921, he encountered Pramila Devi, a young Hindu woman. They married in 1924 after falling in love.
Krishna Mohammad, his first son, died young, and Bulbul, his second son, perished of smallpox. Savyasachi and Aniruddha were his other sons. His wife became sick in 1939 and was paralyzed from the waist down.
Illness and Death
Rabindranath Tagore’s death in 1941 leftKazi Nazrul Islam distraught. Within months, he became gravely unwell and began to lose his ability to communicate. His mental illness worsened, and he was sent to a psychiatric institution in 1942.
He was admitted to a mental institution in Ranchi in 1952 and subsequently to Vienna for treatment, where he was diagnosed with Pick’s illness. In 1953, he went to India, where his wife died under 1962 while he was in intense medical care.
With the permission of the Indian government, the newly independent republic of Bangladesh brought Nazrul to reside in Dhaka on May 24, 1972. He was granted Bangladeshi citizenship in January 1976. Nazrul’s physical and mental health did not improve despite receiving therapy and care. His youngest son, musician Kazi Aniruddha, died in 1974, and Nazrul succumbed to his long-standing afflictions on August 29, 1976. He was buried alongside a mosque on the University of Dhaka campus, fulfilling a request he had expressed in one of his poems. Thousands of people attended his burial, which was followed by two days of national mourning in Bangladesh and a minute of silence in India’s Parliament.
In 1972, the Bangladeshi government bestowed the title of “national poet” to him. In 1974, the University of Dhaka gave him an Honorary D.Litt., and the President of Bangladesh, Justice Abu Sadat Muhammad Sayem, awarded him the EkusheyPadak in 1976. Many educational and cultural institutions in Bangladesh and India were established in his honor. The Bangladesh Nazrul Sena is a big public organization dedicated to children’s education across the country.
The Nazrul Endowment supports study on Kazi Nazrul Islam’s life and work at universities across the United States, including California State University, Northridge, and Connecticut State University. Nazrul received the Jagattarini Gold Medal, the University of Calcutta’s highest honor for excellence in Bengali literature, in 1945, and the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, in 1960.
Nazrul’s children’s books have been praised for their rich language, inventiveness, excitement, and ability to captivate young readers. Nazrul’s secularism is well-known. English, Spanish, and Portuguese have all been used to translate his poems. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, he has a large road named after him. He is remembered in Kazi Nazrul University in Asansol, West Bengal, India. In Mymensingh, Bangladesh, a public institution named after him is JatiyaKabiKazi Nazrul Islam University. Kabi Nazrul Government College is also named after him in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Nazrul Academy is a cultural organization that has branches all throughout Bangladesh. The first private greenfield airport in India is Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport in Andal, West Bengal. The University of Calcutta has named a chair after him, and the West Bengal government has established a Nazrul Tirtha in Rajarhat, a cultural center devoted to his memory. Google will honor his 121st birthday with a Google Doodle on May 25, 2020.
- Agni Bina (The Fiery Lute), 1922
- Sanchita (Collected poems), 1925
- Phanimanasa (The Cactus), 1927
- Chakrabak (The Flamingo), 1929
- SatbhaiChampa (The Seven Brothers of Champa), juvenile poems, 1933
- Nirjhar (Fountain), 1939
- Natun Chand (The New Moon), 1939
- Morubhaskar (The Sun in the Desert), 1951
- Sanchayan (Collected Poems), 1955
- Nazrul Islam: IslamiKobita (A Collection of Islamic Poems; Dhaka, Bangladesh: Islamic Foundation, 1982)
Poems and songs:
- Dolan Chapa (name of a faintly fragrant monsoon flower), 1923
- Bisher Bashi (The Poison Flute), 1924
- Bhangar Gan (The Song of Destruction), 1924 proscribe in 1924
- Chhayanat (The Raga of Chhayanat), 1925
- Chittanama (On Chittaranjan), 1925
- Samyabadi (The Proclaimer of Equality), 1926
- Puber Hawa (The Eastern Wind), 1926
- Sarbahara (The Proletariat), 1926
- Sindhu Hindol (The Undulation of the Sea), 1927
- Jinjir (Chain), 1928
- Pralaya Shikha (Doomsday Flame), 1930 proscribed in 1930
- Shesh Saogat (The Last Offerings), 1958
- RikterBedan (The Sorrows of Destitute), 1925
- Shiulimala (Garland of Shiuli), 1931
- Byathar Dan (Offering of Pain), 1922
- Bandhan Hara (Free from Bonds), 1927
- Mrityukshuda (Hunger for Death), 1930
- Kuhelika (Mystery), 1931
- Plays and drama
- Jhilimili (Window Shutters), plays, 1930
- Aleya (Mirage), song drama, 1931
- PutulerBiye (Doll’s Marriage), children’s play, 1933
- Madhumala (Garland of Honeysuckle) a musical play, 1960
- Jhar (Storm), juvenile poems and play, 1960
- Pile PatkaPutulerBiye (Doll’s Marriage), juvenile poems and play, 1964
- Shilpi (Artist)
- Joog Bani (The Message of the Age), 1926
- JhingePhul (The Cucurbitaccus Flower), 1926
- DurdinerJatri (The Traveller through Rough Times), 1926
- Rudra Mangal (The Violent Good), 1927
- Dhumketu (The Comet), 1961
Kazi Nazrul Islam emerged as a dominant voice in Bangladeshi literature, eventually becoming the country’s one of the most popular author.