Tuesday, February 20, 2018 | ePaper

Michael Madhusudan enriched Bengali literature

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Mahmuda Begum Sinthia :
January 25th, 1824, 194 years ago, Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1814-73), the legendary Bengali poet-playwright and father of Bengali sonnet, was born at Sagardari, on the bank of Kopotaksho River, a village in Keshobpur upozila, in Jessore district, East Bengal. He is addressed as Mohakobi (poet of epics) and Adikobi in Bengali literature. His father was Rajnarayan Dutt, a famous lawyer and his mother was Jahnabi Devi. Throughout his life, he was very much influenced by his mother Jahnabi Debi. He was very eager to hear the story of Ramayana and Mahabharata from his Mother during his early childhood. Madhusudan's formal education started in a school in the village of Shekpura, where he studied Persian. His intellectual and literary talents and imagination were quickly recognized.
Then he was enrolled in Calcutta's prestigious Hindu College in 1833, where he studied Bengali, Persian, English and Sanskrit among other subjects. It was here that he truly began writing and became a part of the prominent College of renaissance Bengal. He won scholarships and even a gold medal for an essay on women's education. In 1834, he attracted a great deal of attention by reciting a poem. He had composed a poem at a public event in the college. By 1842, he was publishing poems in English and Bengali in a number of literary journals in India. While at college, Madhusudan Dutt got his work published in Literary Gleamer, Jvananvesan, Literary Blossom, Bengal Spectator, Calcutta Library Gazette and Comet.
From an early age, Dutt aspired to be an Englishman in form and manner. He strongly desired to belong with their culture, life style and the attitude. In February 9, 1843, he became a Christian from Misssion Church at Mission Row Calcutta and adopted the first name Michael. Therefore, he had to discontinue his study from Hindu College after he changed his religion into Chirstinity. On 1844 he again continued his study in Bishop’s College. Here he got an opportunity to learn many languages including Greek, Latin, Hibru, Farsi, Germany and Italian. He was a fan of William Wordworth, Tennyson and Victor Hugo. He was so enamored by the poetry of Milton and Byron that he wanted to write in English. Then he wrote 'Ratnavali, Rizia', 'The Sultana of Inde', 'The Captive Lady', 'Visions of the Past', 'Rosal o Smornolatika', 'Bongobani', Sonnets and other poems. He was the first to write Bengali plays in the English style, segregating the drama into acts and scenes. In the year 1862, he went to England to study the Law. Then he returned to his country in 1867 in the month of February as a Law Barrister and started his career in Calcutta High Court.
In later life, Madhusudan regretted his attraction to England. His early compositions were in English, but they were unsuccessful and he turned, reluctantly at first, to Bengali. He wrote ardently of his homeland in his poems and sonnets from this period. Gradually the beauty of Kopotakkha River mesmerized him. He confessed this throughout his writings. In addition, he had introduced Omitrakkhor Chhondo or blank verse and the Bengali sonnet in both Petrarchan and Shakespearean and many original lyric stanzas in Bengali literature. He experimented with diction and verse forms in very innovative way.
His principal works, written mostly between 1858 and 1862, included prose drama, long narrative poems, and lyrics. His first play, 'Sharmishtha' (1858), based on an episode of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, was well received. Later he translated it into English. His first comedy, 'Padmaboti' (1860), historical and tragic play in Bangla, 'Krishnakumari' (1861), and 'Mayakanon' (1874), were major works. Among his poetical works, 'Tilottamasamvab Kabyo' (1860) was a sonnet on Omritrakkhor composition and based on the life of an angel of ancient Indian mythology named Tillottomma who was the paragon heavenly beauty. 'Meghnad Bodh-Kabya' (1861) was his most important composition, a tragic epic on the Ramayana theme. It was written in beautiful Omitra composition along with nine cantos. The story was based on a sad end of Meghnad (son of Ravana in Ramayana) by the Laxmana (brother of Lord Rama) in the Nikumbhila temple when praying ritual with fire (This ritual known as Jogyo) happened by the Meghnad for the victory against Lord Rama. Therefore, it is exceptional in terms of both style and content in Bengali literature. Madhusudan widely credited to this famous work. 'Brojangona Kabyo' (1861) was a cycle of lyrics on the Radha-Krisher theme; and 'Birongona Kabyo' (1862), a set of twenty-one epistolary poems based on Hindu mythology. He introduced sonnets calling 'Choturdoshpodi Kobita' a collection of fourteen lined poems, in Bengali in Petrarchan style that was published in 1866, 1 August. 'Ekei Ki Boley Sovyota' (1860) and 'Buro Shaliker Gharey Row' (1860) were his first satirical plays in Bengali.
However, Madhusudan was a translator. 'Hector Bodh' was published in unfinished form in the year 1871, 1 September. He translated Homer's 'lIliad' into Bengali language.
Indeed, his ingenuous contribution in Bengali language and literature in the face of the 19th century Bengal renaissance is immense for his pioneering skill in writing first successful drama, satirical plays, blank verse, heroic poem and sonnets. Therefore, he is renowned for his avowed modernity and ideological dimensions in Bengali literature and language.
He died at the Calcutta General hospital on June 29, 1873. He was buried at Park Street, Kolkata, India. n

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