Born On: January 30, 1889
Born In: Varanasi, India
Died On: January 14, 1937
Occupation: Poet, Novelist, Playwright
If you are interested in Hindi literature, then you surely must have heard the name of Jaishankar Prasad. 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. Although he had to drop out of school at a very early age due to financial problems that his family faced, his love for literature never died down. Apart from Hindi, Jaishankar Prasad was interested in a number of languages and their evolution. However, it was Hindi that he chose while penning his thoughts in the form of poems and novels. He was one of the greatest literary figures during his time and the best modern Hindi writer.
Jaishankar Prasad was born in a well-to-do madheshiya vaishya family of Varanasi. However, the family's condition deteriorated over the years after the death of Jaishankar Prasad's father, when the future litterateur was still young. His father Babu Devki Prasad earned a living by buying and selling tobacco in the markets of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Jaishankar Prasad's family was always known as one of the elite units in Varanasi. His father passed away when he was still in school and thus, had to leave his studies after the eighth standard to help the family which was then affected by financial problems. This, however, did not mean that Jaishankar Prasad gave up on his studies. He thoroughly read books at home, mastering the grammar and literature and the evolution of many a language. 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.
Jaishankar Prasad was interested in the Vedas. The content as well as the writing pattern of the Vedas thus influenced him deeply, while he penned his own poetry, plays and novels. The first collection of poems that Jaishankar Prasad penned, named 'Chitraadhar', was written in the Braj dialect of Hindi, a dialect that is widely used in Uttar Pradesh. The entire collection of poems written by Jaishankar Prasad can best be described as touching and emotional. Not only did he pay attention to the language of his poems, but also look at their philosophic content. It is to be remembered that this ace Hindi litterateur was a philosopher as well, apart from being a writer. Therefore, this aspect too reflected in his poems. The content of Jaishankar Prasad's poetry ranged from the romantic to the patriotic. 'Himadri Tung Shring Se' is the most famous patriotic poem written by Jaishankar Prasad in the length of his career. It was written before India won its independence from the British, and was successful in popularizing the name of Jaishankar Prasad among the common masses.
During the middle of his career as a novelist, playwright and poet, Jaishankar Prasad was highly influenced by Sanskrit and other languages which originated from Sanskrit. According to reports, he read a lot of Bengali and Persian works to seek inspiration before penning his own. Jaishankar Prasad's most famous dramas 'Chandragupta', 'Skandagupta' and 'Dhruvaswamini' are inspired from Persian and Bengali plays. During the later stages of his career, Jaishankar Prasad wrote in the Khadi dialect of Hindi. The stories of the plays written by Jaishankar Prasad were most often based on true incidents taken from the history of India. The writer loved reading books on history and therefore his writings were influenced by historical incidents and also mythology. Jaishankar Prasad wrote a couple of short stories as well during the span of his brief career as a writer of Hindi literature. Expectedly, the plots of his short stories were also based either in Indian history or mythology. 'Mamta' and 'Chhota Jadugar' are two of the most popular short stories written by Jaishankar Prasad.
No discussion on the collection of writings by Jaishankar Prasad is complete without a special reference to 'Kamayani'. 'Kamayani' is, by far, not only the most popular work of Jaishankar Prasad; it is also one of the best collections of poetry that the Hindi literary circuit has ever seen. 'Kamayani', which has received popular and critical appreciation ever since it was published some decades ago, is still the most popular and best mahakavya that the Hindi language has witnessed. The epic poem may be described as an amalgamation of knowledge, desire and action, the three basic elements in the life of a human being. The central characters of the mahakavya, Manu, Ida and Shradha describe through their actions in the poem, the evolution of culture in humans and the mythological story of the great flood. The three characters Manu, Ida and Shradha represent human psyche, rationality and love respectively in 'Kamayani'.
Death and Beyond
Jaishankar Prasad died 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. Jaishankar Prasad is still fondly remembered as one of the pillars of Hindi literature, the other two being Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla and Munshi Premchand. Jaishankar Prasad was not only a great writer; he also made a mark as a historian and a philosopher.
1889: Jaishankar Prasad is born on January 30.
1915: He wrote his first significant drama, 'Rajyasri'
1928: Wrote his famous play 'Skandagupta'.
1935: The long poem 'Kamayani' was published
1937: Died on January 14 aged only 47.
1960s: The National School of Drama staged plays written by Jaishankar Prasad.