Kazi Nazrul Islam (24 May 1899 – 29 August 1976), sobriquet Bidrohi Kobi (Rebel Poet), known popularly as Nazrul, was a Bengali poet, musician and revolutionary who pioneered poetic works espousing intense spiritual rebellion against fascism and oppression. His poetry and nationalist activism earned him the popular title of Bidrohi Kobi (Rebel Poet). Accomplishing a large body of acclaimed works through his life, Nazrul is officially recognised as the national poet of Bangladesh and highly commemorated in India. He also composed the Bangladesh military march "The Song of Youth", now known as "Chal Chal Chal".
Born into a Bengali Muslim Quazi (Kazi) family, Nazrul received religious education and worked as a muezzin at a local mosque. He learned of poetry, drama, and literature while working with theatrical groups. After serving in the British Indian Army, Nazrul established himself as a journalist in Calcutta. He assailed the British Raj in India and preached revolution through his poetic works, such as "Bidrohi" ("The Rebel") and "Bhangar Gaan" ("The Song of Destruction"), as well as his publication "Dhumketu" ("The Comet"). His impassioned activism in the Indian independence movement often led to his imprisonment by British authorities. While in prison, Nazrul wrote the "Rajbandir Jabanbandi" ("Deposition of a Political Prisoner"). Exploring the life and conditions of the downtrodden masses of India, Nazrul worked for their emancipation.
Nazrul's writings explore themes such as love, freedom, and revolution; he opposed all bigotry, including religious and gender. Throughout his career, Nazrul wrote short stories, novels, and essays but is best known for his poems, in which he pioneered new forms such as Bengali ghazals. Nazrul wrote and composed music for his nearly 4,000 songs (including gramophone records), collectively known as Nazrul geeti (Nazrul songs), which are widely popular today. In 1942 at the age of 43 he began suffering from an unknown disease, losing his voice and memory. It is often said, the reason was slow poisoning by British Government but later a medical team in Vienna diagnosed the disease as Morbus Pick, a rare incurable neurodegenerative disease. It caused Nazrul's health to decline steadily and forced him to live in isolation for many years. Invited by the Government of Bangladesh, Nazrul and his family moved to Dhaka in 1972, where he died four years later.
Honorable National Poet of Bangladesh.
Early Life of Kazi Nazrul Islam:
Kazi Nazrul Islam was born in the village of Churulia near Asansol in the Burdwan District of Bengal (now located in the Indian state of Paschimbanga).He was born in a powerful Muslim Taluqdar family and was the second of three sons and a daughter, Nazrul's father Kazi Faqeer Ahmed was the imam and caretaker of the local mosque and mausoleum. Nazrul's mother was Zahida Khatun. Nazrul had two brothers, Kazi Saahibjaan and Kazi Ali Hussain, and a sister, Umme Kulsum. Nicknamed Dukhu Mian (Sad Man), Nazrul began attending the maktab & madarsa ; the local religious school run by the mosque & dargah where he studied the Qur'an and other scriptures, Islamic philosophy and theology. His family was devastated with the death of his father in 1908. At the young age of ten, Nazrul began working in his father's place as a caretaker to support his family, as well as assisting teachers in school. He later became the muezzin at the mosque, delivering the Azaan and calling the people for prayer.
Attracted to folk theatre, Nazrul joined a leto (travelling theatrical group) run by his uncle Fazl e Karim. Working and travelling with them, learning acting, as well as writing songs and poems for the plays and musicals. Through his work and experiences, Nazrul began learning Bengali and Sanskrit literature, as well as Hindu scriptures such as the Puranas. The young poet composed a number of folk plays for his group, which included "Chashaar Shong" ("The drama of a peasant"), "Shakunibadh" ("The Killing of Shakuni a character from the epic Mahabharata"), "Raja Yudhisthirer Shong" ("The drama of King Yudhisthira again from the Mahabharata"), "Daata Karna" ("Philanthropic Karna from the Mahabharata"), "Akbar Badshah" ("Emperor Akbar"), "Kavi Kalidas" ("Poet Kalidas"), "Vidyan hutum" ("The Learned Owl"), and "Rajputrer Shong" ("The drama of a Prince").
In 1910, Nazrul left the troupe and enrolled at the Searsole Raj High School in Raniganj (where he came under influence of teacher, revolutionary and Jugantar activist Nibaran Chandra Ghatak, and initiated life-long friendship with fellow author Sailajananda Mukhopadhyay, who was his classmate), and later transferred to the Mathrun High English School, studying under the headmaster and poet Kumudranjan Mallik. Unable to continue paying his school fees, Nazrul left the school and joined a group of kaviyals. Later he took jobs as a cook at the house of a Christian railway guard and at the most famous bakery of the region Wahid's/Abdul Wahid and tea stall in the town of Asansol. In 1914, Nazrul studied in the Darirampur School (now Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University) in Trishal, Mymensingh District. Amongst other subjects, Nazrul studied Bengali, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian literature and classical music under teachers who were impressed by his dedication and skill.
Studying up to Class X, Nazrul did not appear for the matriculation pre-test examination, enlisting instead in the Indian Army in 1917 at the age of eighteen. He joined the British army mainly for two reasons: first, his youthful romantic inclination to respond to the unknown and, secondly, the call of politics. Attached to the 49th Bengal Regiment, he was posted to the cantonment in Karachi, where he wrote his first prose and poetry. Although he never saw active fighting, he rose in rank from corporal to havildar, and served as quartermaster for his battalion. During this period, Nazrul read extensively, and was deeply influenced by Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, as well as the Persian poets Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam. He learnt Persian poetry from the regiment's Punjabi moulvi, practiced music and pursued his literary interests. His first prose work, "Baunduler Atmakahini" ("Life of a Vagabond") was published in May, 1919. His poem "Mukti" ("Freedom") was published by the "Bangla Mussalman Sahitya Patrika" ("Bengali Muslim Literary Journal") in July 1919.