Kazi Nazrul Islam: A Secular Poet Born in India died in Bangladesh

In the month of May 25 in 1899 a great patriot as well as a poet was born in Burdwan District of undivided Bengal which presently comes under West Bengal. He was none other than Kazi Nazrul Islam. Due to his powerful writing mainly through his poems reflecting Hindu-Muslim unity and patriot feeling British was always scared of him as sequel imprisonment him several occasions. Nazrul’s father Kazi Faqeer Ahmed was an Imam and caretaker of a local mosque and mausoleum and his mother Zahida Khatun, was a house maker. Kazi Nazrul Islam studied up to Class X and then joined in army in 1917 at the age of 18 years but left the army in 1920 and settled in Calcutta (present Kolkata), and involved in journalism. . He assailed the British Raj in India and preached revolution through his poems “Bidrohi” (“The Rebel”) and “Bhangar Gaan” (“The Song of Destruction”), as well as his through his publications in “Dhumketu” (“The Comet”). His continuous support in Indian freedom movement antagonized the British and often led to his imprisonment by the British authorities. On April 14, 1923 he was shifted from Alipore jail to Hooghly jail in Kolkata and he began a 40-day fast to protest against ill-treatment by the British jailer. Nazrul broke his fast more than a month later and was released from prison in December 1923. He composed a large number of poems and songs during this period of imprisonment and many his works were banned in the 1920s by the British authorities.  

      He never tolerated any fundamental activities. In his ‘Kandari Husiar” poem he specifically wrote, “Hindu or Muslim should not be an issue. We should fight to save our motherland”. He was a secular and broad-mined person and married to Pramila Devi, (belonged to Brahmo Samaj), on April 25, 1924. Nazrul wrote an editorial in Joog Bani in 1920 about religious pluralism, “Come brother Hindu! Come Musalman! Come Buddhist! Come Christian! Let us transcend all barriers, let us forsake forever all smallness, all lies, all selfishness and let us call brothers as brothers. We shall quarrel no more”. In another article entitled Hindu Mussalman, published in Ganabani on 2 September 1922, he wrote the religious quarrels were between priests and Imams and not between individual Muslims and Hindus.

     He was also feeling for the women and poor echelons of the society which is reflected in his poem ‘Daridro'(Poverty). Few lines may be quoted here (keeping in view of the meaning are translated in English).

“O my child, my darling one
I could not give even a drop of milk
No right have I to rejoice.
Poverty weeps within my doors forever,
as my spouse and my child.
Who will play the flute?”

      In those days in Bengal dowry, exploitation of women etc., were also major issues and keeping in mind of these issues he wrote the poem Nari (Woman), where he has mentioned, “I don’t see any difference between a man and woman. Whatever great or benevolent achievements that have taken place in the world half of that was by woman and the other half by man.”

         His secular feeling is reflected in many of his songs and poems where he explained lucidly about the power Hindu God and Goddess. His poem ‘Indrapatan’ is a marvellous one. In addition, he wrote and composed many devotional songs like Shama Sangeet (about Goddess Kali Mata), Bhajans and Kirtans and while listen these songs by any Hindu person, the person will be astonished whether these are written by a Muslim or a Hindu poet. He equally gave importance to Islamic songs where he explained importance of Islamic practices like Namaz (prayer), Roza (fasting), Hajj (pilgrimage) and Zakat (charity). His poem ‘Eid Mubarak” is awesome creation.  Nazrul’s secularism is reflected in his personal life when he kept his sons name keeping in mind both Hindu and Muslim background-  Krishna Mohammad, Arindam Khaled(bulbul), Kazi Sabyasachi and Kazi Aniruddha.

    Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Narul Islam had special likings to each other. Tagore called Nazul, “the mutinous child of the Goddess of the Universe”. Nazrul had also special respect for Rabindranath Tagore and was shaken by the death of Rabindranath in August 1941. He composed two poems in Tagore’s memory, one of which, “Rabihara” (loss of Rabi) was broadcast in All India Radio during that time. After creation of Bangladesh, then Government invited him with his family members where Nazrul and his family moved in 1972, and he died on 29 August 1976. He is officially recognized as the National poet of Bangladesh and his song “Chal, Chal, Chal” (move, move, and move) is the national song of Bangladesh. As a mark of respect for his death, Bangladesh observed two days national mourning, and the parliament of India observed a minute of silence.

Dr. Shankar Chatterjee

Former Professor& Head (CPME)

NIRD &PR (Govt. of India),

Hyderabad-500 030

Telangana, India

Email <shankarjagu@gmail.com>

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