Remembering the Jankavi, Baba Nagarjuna

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Born Vaidya Nath Mishra on 30 June, 1911, at Satlakha Village, Madhubani District, Bihar, Baba Nagarjun was a major Hindi and Maithili poet who has also penned a number of novels, short stories, literary biographies and travelogues, and was known as Janakavi- the People’s Poet. He died on November 5, 1998 (aged 87).

Nagarjuna has left behind over a dozen books. His well-known collection of poems include Yugdhara, Satrange Pankhon Wali, Talab ki Maghhliyan, Khichri, Vipalva Dekha Humne, Hazar Hazar Bahon Wali, Purani Juliyon Ka Course, Tumne Kaha Tha, Akhir Aisa Kaya Kah Diya Maine, and Is Gubare Ki Chhaya Mein.

The famous novels of Baba Nagarjuna include Rati Nath Ki Chachi, Balachnama, Baba Bateshar Nath, Nai Paudh, Varun Ke Bete, Dukh Mochan, Ugratara, Jamania Ka Baba, Kumbhi Pak, Paro and Asman Mein Chanda Tare. Nagarjuna’s collection of essays which gained fame are Anan Hinam Kriyanam. His books in Maithili are Patrahin Gachh (collection of poems)’ and Hirak Jayanti (novel). His work on culture has been published in the form of books entitled Desh Dashkam and Krishak Dashkam.

Baba also wrote in Bangla very regularly and his writings appeared in leading Bangla newspapers and magazines. He wrote a lot for children, too.

Nagarjuna received a number of awards. He was given the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969 for his historic book Patarheen Nagan Gachh. He was honoured by the Sahitya Akademi by appointing him its fellow in 1994. In addition to that he was honoured with the Bharat Bharti Award by the U.P. Government, the Kabir Award by the Madhya Pradesh Government and the Rajender Shikhar Award by the Bihar Government, besides other literary and social awards by various organisations.

Baba’s simple lifestyle, soul-stirring poems and philosophy based on realities will always be remembered for long in Indian literary world. Behind his deep and searching eyes, there was an ocean of intellect which was manifest in his works.

A great scholar of Hindi, Sanskrit, Maithili, Bangla and Pali, Baba represented the mainstream of Hindi and Maithili creative writing which finds its origin in the whole tradition of Kalidas and Bhavbhuti, on the one side, and Suryakant Tripathi ‘Nirala’, on the other. The poet in Baba was an aesthete as well as a nurturer of people’s sentiments.

A wanderer by nature, Nagarjuna always strove for the awakening the masses against exploitation, social injustice and suppression. Baba’s unique satirical style of saying things and expressing his views in a very simple way will be remembered by the coming generations. Little wonder that his Dukhmochan was the first and finest novel to be broadcast in a serialised form by the All India Radio.