Bihar’s Hindi Literary Traditions

Vimal Kumar

Unlike Bengal, Maharashtra and southern states, pride over one’s language and culture can not be seen here. Today’s generation is unaware of its rich literary past. The state has sadly forgotten its legacy left behind by figures like Sadal Mishra, the first prose writer in Hindi, Ayodhya Prasad Khatri who was the first poet of Khari Boli, Mahesh Narayan who pioneered the use of “Mukt Chhand”, Babu Shivnandan Sahay who produced the first biography to have been written in Hindi, a unique stylist like Raja Radhikaraman Prasad Singh, a great editor and writer like Shivpujan Sahay, Benipuri, who was regarded as a magician of the pen and Dinkar who composed evocative verses.  

The wave of Hindi renaissance had been sweeping across Bihar prior to its getting statehood in 1912. Muzaffarpur, Arrah and Patna had become prominent centres of literary activity. Devkinandan Khatri belonged to Muzaffarpur, though he later settled down in Benares. In his seminal work on the history of Hindi literature, Acharya Ramchandra Shukla mentioned Sadal Mishra, Ayodhya Prasad Khatri and Raja Radhikaraman Singh but omitted the names of many other important writers. These include Shivpujan Sahay and Jainendra Kishore – the latter having many plays to his credit in the early 20th century but forgotten by the people of his own hometown of Arrah. Patna’s Khadgavilas Press, where Balkrishna Bhatt’s “Brahman” and books of Bharatendu were published, Arrah’s Nagri Pracharini Sabha and Laheriya Saray’s Pustak Bhandar were three centres which helped emergence of many literary talents. People like Babu Shivnandan Sinha, Sakal Narayan Sinha, Ishwari Prasad Sharma, Jainendra Kishore, Brajvallabh ji, Shivpujan Babu, Raja Radhikaraman Prasad Singh were associated with the Nagari Pracharini Sabha. The Pracharini Sabha had published “Hariaudh Abhinandan Granth” and “Rajendra Abhinandan Granth”. According to Maithili Sharan Gupt, it was Brajvallabh who wrote the first Hindi novel in 1910. Bihar also produced satirists like G P Chaturvedi and Radha Krishna Prasad.

Bihar played an important role in enrichment of Hindi literature. While Raja ji wrote immortal stories like “Kaanon Mein Kangana” and “Daridra Narayan”, Shivpujan ji penned a memorable tale like “Kahani Ka Plot”. Both these writers predated Premchand. Raja ji also had a huge novel like “Ram Rahim” to his credit while Shivpujan babu came up with “Dehati Duniya”, which can be called the first “aanchalik” (zonal) novel. Benipuri’s works include short story collection “Maati Ki Moortein”, historical play “Ambpali” and essay collection “Genhu Aur Gulab”, which is regarded as a literary milestone. Bihar also produced a scholarly romantic poet Janaki Vallabh Shastri, who was one of the proponents of the “Chhayavad” movement. He also had to his credit an epic poem based on Radha and a novel based on Kalidasa.

Dinkar and Gopal Singh Nepali were two prominent poets of nationalistic  consciousness who hailed from Bihar. Dinkar received the Sahitya Akademi Award for “Sanskriti Ke Char Adhyay” and Jnanpith Award for “Urvashi”. He established Hindi on an international level and penned noted books like “Hunkar”, “Kurukshetra” and “Rashmirathi”. Nepali achieved fame as a song writer for Hindi films but his literary accomplishments did not get due attention. His anthology is now available. Mohanlal Mahto Viyogi too was an important story writer and playwright of that era.

Post-Independence, Bihar birthed two more important litterateurs. Baba Nagarjun and Phanishwar Nath produced many notable works, carrying forward the tradition of Shivpujan Sahay and Benipuri. While Nagarjun wrote novels like “Ratinath Ki Chachi” and “Balchanama”, Renu penned the acclaimed “Maila Aanchal”. Renu also gave immortal stories like “Thes”, “Raspriya”, “Panchlet” and “Mare Gaye Gulfam Urf Teesri Kasam” on which a film was also made. Renu was awarded the “Padma Shri” which he returned during the J P Movement. “Parti Parikatha” is another acclaimed novel of his. Renu’s contemporary Himanshu Srivastava was known for novels like “Lohe Ke Pankh” and “Phir Nadi Bah Chali”. Anup Lal Mandal also wrote a few novels. In the sixth decade, Rajkamal Chowdhury demonstrated his talents in prose and poetry with equal facility through works like “Mukti Prasang” and “Machhli Mari Hui”.

Hailing from Renu’s native district of Purnea, Madhukar Gangadhar carved a niche for himself through books like “Heerna Ki Aankhein” and “Dhibri”. He was associated with the All India Radio and brought out a journal called “Naya”. From Arrah town emerged Madhukar Singh and Mithileshwar both of whom received acclaim on a national level. Another well-known writer of that era was Vijay Mohan Singh, though he lived mostly out of Bihar.

The eighth and ninth decades witnessed the advent of story writers like Robin Shaw Pushp, Bindu Sinha, Usha Kiran Khan, Rita Shukla, Ramdhari Singh Diwakar, Vijay Kant, Chandra Kishore Jayaswal, Karmendu Shishir, Prem Kumar Mani, Shaival, Hrishikesh Sulabh, Hemant, Suresh Kantak, Awadhesh Preet, Shekhar and Sanjay Kundan. The decade also saw the emergence of Surendra Snigdh who wrote “Chhadan”, a novel of Dalit discourse.

In poetry, the post-Chhayavad era was marked by the emergence of poets like Kedar Nath Mishra Prabhat, Manoranjan Prasad Singh, Aarsee Prasad Sigh, Collector Singh Kesri and Ram Gopal Sharma Rudra. Also came to the fore poets of “Nakenvaad” like Kesri Kumar, Nalin Vilochan Sharma and Naresh. Hindi poetry was enriched by poets like Kumarendra Parasnath Singh, in the seventh decade, and Alok Dhanwa, Gyanendra Pati, Padmasha and Arun Kamal in the eight decade. Earlier, the J P Movement spawned poets like Surendra Singdh, Madan Kashyap, Ravindra Bharati and Rashmi Rekha. In the lyric genre, important contributions were made by Rajendra Prasad Singh, Umakant Verma, Umashankar Verma, Shanti Suman and Nachiketa.

Hindi literary criticism has been enriched by critics like Acharya Nalin Vilochan Sharma, Lakshmi Naryan Sudhanshu, Acharya Devendra Nath Sharma, Surendra Chaudhary, Dr Nageshwar Lal, Chandra Bhushan Tiwari, Dineshwar Prasad, Siddhanath Kumar, Ram Nihal Gunjan, Nand Kishore Nawal, Khagendra Thakur, Dr Manager Pandey, Kedarnath Kaladhar, Ramvachan Rai, Nand Kishore Nanda, Revatiraman and Gopeshwar Singh. Literary contributions to Hindi have also been made by Ramdayal Pandey, Chhavinath Pandey, Shivchandra Sharma Adbhut, Ranjan Suridev and Nishantketu. Shankar Dayal Singh and Jabir Husain were known for their beautiful memoirs. Husain also published a literary journal “Doaba”.

Numerous magazines have been published from Bihar which include Bihar Bandhu, Desh, Janata, Yuvak, Yogi, Balak, Manoranjan, Lakshmi, Paatal Drishtikon, Sahitya, Himalay, Nayee Dhara, Parishad Patrika, Jyotsana, Vaam Dharatal, Uttarshati, Shodh Patrika and Mukt Kanth. Excellent work has been done by the Bihar Rashtrabhasha Parishad and the Bihar Hindi Sahitya Sammelan. But today, Bihar is bereft of a litterateur like Shivpujan Babu who was capable of channeling literary activities across the state.

(Vimal Kumar is a senior journalist with univarta and a leading contemporary Hindi poet and writer.)

Top