Born On: 25th May 1899
Born In: Churulia, Burdwan District of West Bengal
Died On: 29th August 1976
Career: Bengali poet, musician and revolutionary
Nazrul said, "Even though I was born in this country (Bengal), in this society, I don't belong to just this country, this society. I belong to the world." Also known as the 'Vidrohi kobi' or 'rebel' poet' in Bengali literature and 'bulbul' or 'nightingale' of Bengali music, Kazi Nazrul Islam was one of the most inspiring personalities of undivided Bengal between 1920 and 1930. For a significant part of his life, he was considered as the pioneer of post Tagore modernity in Bengali poetry. The several ways in which he expressed himself include poems, short stories, plays and political activities. Most of his works protested against the slavery, communalism, feudalism and colonialism forced upon India by the British rule. To sum it all up, in the 1000 year history of Bengali music, K. N. Islam was the most original and creative. He brought traditional music to the people by fusing different elements of North Indian classical music.
Kazi Nazrul was born on May 24th 1899 in Churulia village in the district of Burdwan, West Bengal. He lost his father, Kazi Fakir Ahmed at an early age and was nicknamed 'Dukhu Mia' or 'sorrow' by the village people because of the hardships and misery he faced in his early life.
He became the muazzin of the village mosque at the age of ten and started teaching at the local school. It was at this point that he leaned about the practices of Islam which led him to join his uncle, Bazle Karim's folk group as a performer and composer. It is believed that his motivation in literature came from this stint.
At 11 years, he resumed his studies only to discontinue them again due to financial crisis and work in a bakery and tea shop in Asansole. However, in 1914, he re-entered school in Mymensingh district and managed to complete class 10.
In 1917, he joined the Indian Army and served it for three years as Battalion Quarter Master Havildar. Nazrul's engagement with a girl called Nargis ended in 1921 owing to her father's unreasonable conditions and he later married Pramila Devi in 1924.
In May 1919, while serving the army, Nazrul composed and published his first piece 'The Autobiography of a Delinquent' or "Saogat". He was already publishing literary periodicals like Parbasi, Bharatbarsha and others from the Karachi Cantonment.
After leaving the army in 1920, he settled in Calcutta and joined the 'Bangiya Mussalman Sahiya Samiti' where he wrote his first poem 'Bandhan-hara' or 'Freedom from bondage'. He kept adding other poems viz., 'Bodhan', Shat-il-Arab', 'Kheya-parer Tarani' and 'Badal Prater Sharab' etc. to the same collection for several years and was critically acclaimed all over the country for these.
Nazrul worked with great writers like Mohammas Mozammel Haq, Afzalul Haq, Kazi etc and also visited the Shantiniketan to meet Rabindranath Tagore in 1921 with whom he maintained close association.
In 1922, he reached the peak with his work with 'Bidrohi' which appealed to the classes and the masses alike. It was published in 'Bijli' (Thunder) magazine and was co-incidentally in accordance with the civil disobedience movement of 1942.
In 1922, a bi-weekly magazine, 'Dhumketu' ('Comet'), published his political poem which led to Nazrul's arrest. On April 14th 1923, he was transferred to Hooghly in Calcutta and was later released in December 1923. While imprisoned, he composed a large number of poems and songs.
Kazi Nazrul Islam became a critic of the "Khilafat" struggle and the Indian National Congress for not embracing political independence from the British Empire. He encouraged people to fight against the British and organized the 'Sramik Praja Swaraj Dal'. On 16th December 1925, Nazrul started publishing the weekly 'Langal' as the chief editor.
In 1926, he settled in Krishnanagar and wrote poetry and songs for the downtrodden and weak classes of the society. His famous poem 'Daridro' ('Pain or Poverty') was written during this time. Nazrul also composed ghazals in Bengali and became the first person to introduce Islam into traditional music. The first record was a huge success. Shamasangeet, Bhajan and Kirtan that combined Hindu devotional music was also created by him.
In 1928, he started working as a lyricist, composer and music director for 'His Master's Voice Gramophone Company'. His songs, together called 'Nazrul geet', were broadcasted over several radio stations and he was enlisted with the Indian Broadcasting Company.
After his mother's demise, Nazrul's works changed from topics of rebellion to religion. He got into mainstream Bengali folk music and explored 'namaz' (prayer), 'roza' (fasting) and 'hajj' (pilgrimage). He devoted works to 'Qu'ran' and the life of Islam's prophet 'Muhammad'.
In 1933, he published a collection of essays - 'Modern World Literature' - which had different themes and styles of literature. He also published 800 songs based on classical ragas, kirtans and patriotic songs in 10 volumes.
Nazrul slowly moved in Indian theatre in the year 1934 and the first picture for which he acted was based on Girish Chandra's story called 'Bhakta Dhruva'. He also composed and sang for this movie. A film "Vidyapati", based on his play, was featured in 1936. One of his biggest moves in the industry was writing songs and directing music for 'Siraj-ud-Daula' - a bioepic play.
1939 was a good year for him where he began working for the Calcutta radio and he started producing music such as 'Haramoni' and 'Navaraga-malika'. He sang predominantly in the raga 'Bhairay'. In 1940, he started working as a chief editor for 'Nabayug', founded by A.K. Fazlul Huq.
When Rabindranath Tagore died on 8th August 1941, he composed two poems dedicated to the veteran.
Nazrul's health started deteriorating as a result of Pramila Devi's paralysis and he underwent several mental treatments after 1941. He even stayed at a mental asylum for four months in 1942 and was re-admitted in Ranchi in 1952. A group of admirers called "Nazrul Treatment Society" along with his prominent supporters, sent Nazrul and Pramila to London and Vienna where Nazrul was diagnosed of Pick's disease. His condition was incurable and he returned to India in 1953. Later, his wife's demise in 1962 followed by his youngest son's in 1974 took a toll on Nazrul and he succumbed to his illness on the 29th of August 1976. In accordance to his last wishes, he was buried on the campus of University of Dhaka near the mosque.
Awards And Accolades
Nazrul was awarded the Jagattarini Gold Medal in 1945, by the University of Calcutta for his work in Bengali Literature.
He got the Padma Bhushan, one of the highest civilian honours, in 1960.
He was conferred the title of 'national poet' and 'Ekushey Padak' by the Government of Bangladesh.
He was also honoured with Honours in D. Litt. by the University of Dhaka.
Kazi Nazrul Islam's works have been acclaimed as well as criticized for egoism, but his admirers who supported him throughout his life, considered this as self-confidence more than ego. They said that he had the ability to defy God and yet be devoted.
As against Tagore's sophisticated style, he was rugged and unique. He used Persian in his works but compensated this with his use of rich and imaginative language for children's works.
He is still regarded for his secularism and was the first person to include the rise of Christians in Bengal in his books. He was regarded for the cultural renaissance that he brought out through his literature.
Several learning centers were opened in his memory including the Nazrul Endowment. Here, large collections of his works are preserved till date. The Bangladesh Nazrul Sena is an organization that works on children education throughout Bangladesh.
1899: Born on May 24th in Churulia of West Bengal.
1917: Joined the Indian Armed Forces.
1919: Wrote 'Autobiography of a Delinquent'.
1920: Left the forces and composed Bandhan-hara, his first poem.
1921: Visited Santhiniketan and met Rabindranath Tagore.
1922: Peaked with his work called 'Bidrohi', 'Agniveena' and so on.
1923: Was arrested for the content in his magazine called 'Dhumketu'
1924: Married Pramila Devi.
1925: Became the Chief Editor of 'Langal'.
1926: Started composing 'mass music' and was known for his poem called 'Daridro'.
1928: Lyricist, composer and music director with 'His Master's Voice Gramophone Company'.
1933: Published 'Modern World Literature'.
1934: Acted and composed music for 'Bhakta Dhruva'.
1936: A play based on his work 'Vidyapati' was released.
1939: Started working for Calcutta radio.
1940: Chief Editor of 'Nabayug'.
1941: Tagore's death which led to writing of 'Rabihara'.
1962: Nazrul's wife died.
1974: Nazrul's son died.
1976: Died on 29th August of an unnatural cause.