Sunday, January 20, 2013

Narail, Bangladesh; Image Gallery

Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta (Bengali: নীহাররঞ্জন গুপ্ত) (6 June 1911 - 20 February 1986) was an Indian dermatologist and a popular Bengali novelist. He is the creator of the fictional detective character Kiriti Roy. 

Gupta came from a prestigious Kabiraj family of Itna village under Lohagara police station, in the district of Jessore, presently in the Narail district of Bangladesh. He was born to Satya Ranjan Gupta and Labangalata Devi on 6 June 1911, in Kolkata where his father used to work. He spent his childhood in Kolkata. Due to his father's transferable job, he had to attend several schools, including Gaibandha High School. In 1930 he passed Matriculation from Konnagar High School. After completing his I.Sc. from Krishnanagar College, he took admission to Carmichael Medical College. While a student at the college, his elder sister died of scorpion bite. Young Gupta vowed to earn higher degree in the medical sciences in order to serve the ill. 

During the Second World War, Gupta served as an army doctor and was posted in different parts of the world. He was posted in Chittagong, Burma and Egypt. After the war, he completed post-graduation in medicine from the United Kingdom, specializing in dermatology. On his return he joined the Calcutta Medical College. In his career as a physician he was associated with several hospitals in India. After the Partition, his family permanently migrated to Kolkata in 1947. 

As a child Gupta always dreamed of becoming a writer. He once went to Shantiniketan to seek the blessings of Rabindranath Tagore and took his autograph. At the age of eighteen he composed his first novel, Rajkumar. After schooling, Gupta took admission in the Calcutta Medical College, then affiliated with the University of Calcutta. During his stay in England he developed a keen interest in detective stories and met Agatha Christie. After coming back to India, he composed his first detective novel, Kalo Bhramar [কালো ভ্রমর] where his launched his detective character Kiriti Roy [কিরীটী রায়]. In his literary career Gupta has composed over two hundred novels, plays, short stories and essays. The most popular among them are Ulka, Badshah, Lalubhulu, Uttarphalguni, Asti Bhagirathi Tire, Mayur Mahal, Devyani, Neeltara, Mayamriga, Komalgandhar and Nishipadma. Forty five of his novels have been made into Bengali and Hindi feature films in Tollywood and Bollywood respectively. He was also the editor of a children's magazine named Sabuj Sahitya. 

In 1988, S.M. Sultan founded the Shishuswarga-2 at the ancestral house of Gupta in Itna. It was officially inaugurated on 24 November 1993, by the Mohammad Ali Hossain, the then District Magistrate of Narail. However, the activities of the children's organization ceased after the death of S.M.Sultan. In 2003, the archeological department of Bangladesh notified the acquisition of Gupta's ancestral house, but has not made any repairs till date. At present the ancestral house of Nihar Ranjan Gupta lies in a dilapidated condition, infested by bats and illegal betting syndicates.

Sheikh Mohammed Sultan (Bengali: শেখ মোহাম্মাদ সুলতান) (1923–1994), better known as SM Sultan(এস এম সুলতান), was a painter from Bangladesh. Sultan was born on 10 August 1923 in Masimdia, Narail district, Bangladesh. He was declared the Man of Asia in 1982 by University of Cambridge. 

After only five years of schooling in Victoria Collegiate School in Narail, Sultan joined his father to work as a mason. He began to draw the buildings his father worked on and developed an artistic disposition. He wanted to go to Kolkata to study art, but his family did not have the means to send him there. Eventually, Sultan went to Kolkata in 1938 with monetary support from the local zamindar (landlord). 

Having inadequate qualifications for admission into the Art School in Kolkata, Sultan only managed to get in through the help of the poet and art critic Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy (1890–1965, Who introduced Jamini Roy to the world) a member of the school's governing body also known as elder brother of Shahid Suhrawardy, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Sultan also stayed at Suhrawardy's house and was allowed use of his library. Sultan, however, never completed his education. 

After three years at the school, his Bohemian nature had the better of him and he went travelling around India and working as a freelance artist. During his travels, he made a living by drawing portraits of allied soldiers who camped at the place he was visiting. In this period, his first exhibition was held in Simla, though none of these works have survived, mainly due to Sultan's own indifference towards preserving his work. After living and working in Kashmir for a while, Sultan returned to Narail in the wake of the Partition of India, Narail now part of Bangladesh. 

A confirmed bachelor, Sultan settled down in an abandoned building in Narail overlooking the river Chitra, where he lived ever since with an adopted family and pets of his own including dogs, mongoose and monkeys. Sultan would later build a mini-zoo near his home. Apart from occasional visits to Dhaka, the capital, Sultan only once left Narail for any substantial period of time. He became interested in a ruined house in Sonargaon, pretty much like his own home in Narail, and lived there for a period. 

Sultan's first exhibition in Dhaka was in 1976, inordinately late for a painter of his stature. Sultan died in 1994. 

SM Sultan won the "Ekushey Padak" in 1982, Bangladesh Charu Shilpi Sangsad award in 1986 and the "Independence Award" in 1993. In 1989, Tareque Masud directed a 54 minute documentary film on SM Sultan's life, called Adam Surat (The Inner Strength). Masud started filming it in 1982 with the help of the painter, and traveled with him all around Bangladesh with Sultan. According to Masud, Sultan agreed to cooperate only on the condition that "... rather than being the film's subject, he would act as a catalyst to reveal the film's true protagonist, the Bengali peasant". Bangladesh government recently completed the construction of Sultan memorial complex though it hasn't yet been inaugurated. Sultan, of course, had a special relation with Narail. He was known to the locals as "Lal Mia", a most informal and homely name only to be given to a close person. Chetona Theatre from Narail has staged Aango Lal Mia (Our Lal Mia) on Sultan. In 2005, famous Bangladeshi photographer Nasir Ali Mamun published a book named Guru with 68 photographs of Sultan. These were selected from thousands of photographs taken by Mamun in the period from 1978, when he first met Sultan until his death.
Kazi Nazrul Islam (Bengali: কাজী নজরুল ইসলাম Kājī Nojrul Islām(25 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 "বিদ্রোহী কবি" Bidrohī Kobi (Rebel Poet). Accomplishing a large body of acclaimed works through his life, Nazrul is officially recognised as the national poet of Bangladesh and commemorated in India. 

Born into one of the Muslim Quazi (Kazi) family in India, 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" "রাজবন্দীর জবানবন্দী" ("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. At the age of 43 (in 1942) he began suffering from an unknown disease, losing his voice and memory. It is often said, the reason was slow poisoning by British Government. 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. 

Kazi Nazrul Islam was born in the village of Churulia near Asansol in the Burdwan District of Undivided Bengal Province of India (now in West Bengal). 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 Miañ (দুখু মিঞা literally "Mr Sad Man" the One with Grief), Nazrul began attending the maktab and madrassa 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. 

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 many folk plays for his group, which included Chāshār Shōng ("the drama of a peasant"), Shokunībōdh ("the Killing of Shakuni," a character from the epic Mahabharata), Rājā Jodhisthirer Shōng ("the drama of King Yudhisthira" again from the Mahabharata), Dātā Kōrno ("the philanthropic Karna" from the Mahabharata), Ākbōr Bādshāh ("Akbar the emperor"), Kobi Kālidās ("poet Kalidas"), Bidyan Hutum ("the learned owl"), and Rājputrer Shōng ("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 lifelong 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 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 Hindustani 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" "মুক্তি" ("Freedom") was published by the "Bangla Mussalman Sahitya Patrika" "বাংলা মুসলিম সাহিত্য পত্রিকা" ("Bengali Muslim Literary Journal") in July 1919. 

Nazrul left the army in 1920 and settled in Calcutta, which was then the "cultural capital" of India (it had ceased to be the political capital in 1911). He joined the staff of the “Bangiya Mussalman Sahitya Samiti” ("Bengali Muslim Literary Society") and roomed at 32 College Street with colleagues. He published his first novel "Bandhan-hara" "বাঁধনহারা" ("Freedom from bondage") in 1920, which he kept working on over the next seven years. His first collection of poems included "Bodhan", "Shat-il-Arab", "Kheya-parer Tarani" and "Badal Prater Sharab" and received critical acclaim. 

Working at the literary society, Nazrul grew close to other young Muslim writers including Mohammad Mozammel Haq, Afzalul Haq, Kazi Abdul Wadud and Muhammad Shahidullah. He was a regular at clubs for Calcutta's writers, poets and intellectuals like the Gajendar Adda and the Bharatiya Adda. Despite many differences, Nazrul looked to Rabindranath Tagore as a mentor and he and Muhammad Shahidullah remained in close association. In 1921, Nazrul was engaged to be married to Nargis, the niece of a well-known Muslim publisher Ali Akbar Khan, in Daulatpur, Comilla. But on 18 June 1921 —the day of the wedding— upon public insistence by Ali Akbar Khan that the term "Nazrul must reside in Daulatpur after marriage" be included in the marriage contract, Nazrul walked away from the ceremony. 

Nazrul started a bi-weekly magazine, publishing the first "Dhumketu" "ধূমকেতু" (Comet) on August 12, 1922. Earning the moniker of the "rebel poet”, Nazrul also aroused the suspicion of British authorities. A political poem published in "Dhumketu" in September 1922 led to a police raid on the magazine's office. Arrested, Nazrul entered a lengthy plea before the judge in the court. 

I have been accused of sedition. That is why I am now confined in the prison. On the one side is the crown, on the other the flames of the comet. One is the king, sceptre in hand; the other Truth worth the mace of justice. To plead for me, the king of all kings, the judge of all judges, the eternal truth the living God... His laws emerged out of the realization of a universal truth about mankind. They are for and by a sovereign God. The king is supported by an infinitesimal creature; I by its eternal and indivisible Creator. I am a poet; I have been sent by God to express the unexpressed, to portray the unportrayed. It is God who is heard through the voice of the poet... My voice is but a medium for Truth, the message of God... I am the instrument of that eternal self-evident truth, an instrument that voices forth the message of the ever-true. I am an instrument of God. The instrument is not unbreakable, but who is there to break God? 

On April 14, 1923 he was transferred from the jail in Alipore to Hooghly in Kolkata, he began a 40-day fast to protest mistreatment by the British jail superintendent. Nazrul broke his fast more than a month later and was eventually released from prison in December 1923. Nazrul composed a large number of poems and songs during the period of imprisonment and many his works were banned in the 1920s by the British authorities. 

Kazi Nazrul Islam became a critic of the Khilafat struggle, condemning it as hollow, religious fundamentalism. Nazrul's rebellious expression extended to rigid orthodoxy in the name of religion and politics. Nazrul also criticised the Indian National Congress for not embracing outright political independence from the British Empire. He became active in encouraging people to agitate against British rule, and joined the Bengal state unit of the Congress party. Nazrul also helped organise the Sramik Praja Swaraj Dal,along with Muzaffar Ahmeda socialist political party committed to national independence and the service of the peasant masses. On December 16, 1925 Nazrul began publishing the weekly "Langal”(Plough), and served as chief editor. 

During his visit to Comilla in 1921, Nazrul met a young Hindu woman, Pramila Devi, with whom he fell in love and they married on April 25, 1924. Pramila belonged to the Brahmo Samaj, which criticised her marriage to a Muslim. Nazrul in turn was condemned by Muslim religious leaders and continued to face criticism for his personal life and professional works, which attacked social and religious dogma and intolerance. Despite controversy, Nazrul's popularity and reputation as the "rebel poet" rose significantly. 

 With his wife and young son Bulbul, Nazrul settled in Krishnanagar in 1926. His work began to transform as he wrote poetry and songs that articulated the aspirations of the downtrodden classes, a sphere of his work known as "mass music." Nazrul assailed the socio-economic norms and political system that had brought upon misery. From his poem 'Daridro' Bengali: দারিদ্র (poverty or pain): 

In what his contemporaries regarded as one of his greatest flairs of creativity, Nazrul began composing the very first ghazals in Bengali, transforming a form of poetry written mainly in Persian and Urdu. Nazrul became the first person to introduce Islam into the larger mainstream tradition of Bengali music. The first record of Islamic songs by Nazrul Islam was a commercial success and many gramophone companies showed interest in producing these. A significant impact of Nazrul was that it drew made Muslims more comfortable in the Bengali Arts, which used to be dominated by Hindus. Nazrul also composed a number of notable Shamasangeet, Bhajan and Kirtan, combining Hindu devotional music. Arousing controversy and passions in his readers, Nazrul's ideas attained great popularity across India. In 1928, Nazrul began working as a lyricist, composer and music director for His Master's Voice Gramophone Company. The songs written and music composed by him were broadcast on radio stations across the country. He was also enlisted/attached with the Indian Broadcasting Company. 

Nazrul's mother died in 1928, and his second son Bulbul died of smallpox the following year. His first son, Krishna Mohammad had died prematurely. His wife gave birth to two more sons — Savyasachi in 1928 and Aniruddha in 1931 — but Nazrul remained shaken and aggrieved for a long time. 

His works changed significantly from rebellious expositions of society to deeper examination of religious themes. His works in these years led Islamic devotional songs into the mainstream of Bengali folk music, exploring the Islamic practices of namaz (prayer), roza (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage) and zakat (charity). This was regarded by his contemporaries as a significant achievement as Bengali Muslims had been strongly averse to devotional music. Nazrul's creativity diversified as he explored Hindu devotional music by composing Shama Sangeet, bhajans and kirtans, often merging Islamic and Hindu values. Nazrul's poetry and songs explored the philosophy of Islam and Hinduism. 

Nazrul's poetry imbibed the passion and creativity of Shakti, which is identified as the Brahman, the personification of primordial energy. He wrote and composed many bhajans, shyamasangeet, agamanis and kirtans. He also composed large number of songs on invocation to Lord Shiva, Goddesses Lakshmi and Saraswati and on the theme of love of Radha and Krishna. 

Nazrul assailed fanaticism in religion, denouncing it as evil and inherently irreligious. He devoted many works to expound upon the principle of human equality, exploring the Qur'an and the life of Islam's prophet Muhammad. Nazrul has been compared to William Butler Yeats for being the first Muslim poet to create imagery and symbolism of Muslim historical figures such as Qasim, Ali, Umar, Kamal Pasha, Anwar Pasha and Muhammad. His vigorous assault on extremism and mistreatment of women provoked condemnation from Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists. 

In 1933, Nazrul published a collection of essays titled "Modern World Literature", in which he analyses different styles and themes of literature. Between 1928 and 1935 he published 10 volumes containing 800 songs of which more than 600 were based on classical ragas. Almost 100 were folk tunes after kirtans and some 30 were patriotic songs. From the time of his return to Kolkata until he fell ill in 1941, Nazrul composed more than 2,600 songs, many of which have been lost. His songs based on baul, jhumur, Santhali folksongs, jhanpan or the folk songs of snake charmers, bhatiali and bhaoaia consist of tunes of folk-songs on the one hand and a refined lyric with poetic beauty on the other. Nazrul also wrote and published poems for children. 

Nazrul's success soon brought him into Indian theatre and the then-nascent film industry. The film "Vidyapati" ("Master of Knowledge") was produced based on his recorded play in 1936, and Nazrul served as the music director for the film adaptation of Tagore's novel Gora. Nazrul wrote songs and directed music for Sachin Sengupta's bioepic play "Siraj-ud-Daula". In 1939, Nazrul began working for Calcutta Radio, supervising the production and broadcasting of the station's musical programmes. He produced critical and analytic documentaries on music, such as "Haramoni" and "Navaraga-malika". Nazrul also wrote a large variety of songs inspired by the raga Bhairav. Nazrul sought to preserve his artistic integrity by condemning the adaptation of his songs to music composed by others and insisting on the use of tunes he composed himself. 

Nazrul's wife Pramila Devi fell seriously ill in 1939 and was paralysed from waist down. To provide for his wife's medical treatment, he resorted to mortgaging the royalties of his gramophone records and literary works for 400 rupees. He returned to journalism in 1940 by working as chief editor for the daily newspaper "Nabayug" ("New Age"), founded by the eminent Bengali politician A. K. Fazlul Huq. 

Nazrul also was shaken by the death of Rabindranath Tagore on August 8, 1941. He spontaneously composed two poems in Tagore's memory, one of which, "Rabihara" (loss of Rabi or without Rabi) was broadcast on the All India Radio. Within months, Nazrul himself fell seriously ill and gradually began losing his power of speech. His behaviour became erratic, and spending recklessly, he fell into financial difficulties. In spite of her own illness, his wife constantly cared for her husband. However, Nazrul's health seriously deteriorated and he grew increasingly depressed. He underwent medical treatment under homeopathy as well as Ayurveda, but little progress was achieved before mental dysfunction intensified and he was admitted to a mental asylum in 1942. Spending four months there without making progress, Nazrul and his family began living a silent life in India. In 1952, he was transferred to a mental hospital in Ranchi. With the efforts of a large group of admirers who called themselves the "Nazrul Treatment Society" as well as prominent supporters such as the Indian politician Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the treatment society sent Nazrul and Promila to London, then to Vienna for treatment. Examining doctors said he had received poor care, and Dr. Hans Hoff, a leading neurosurgeon in Vienna, diagnosed that Nazrul was suffering from Pick's disease. His condition judged to be incurable, Nazrul returned to Calcutta on 15 December 1953. On June 30, 1962 his wife Pramila died and Nazrul remained in intensive medical care. On 24 May 1972, the newly independent nation of Bangladesh brought Nazrul to live in Dhaka with consent of the Government of India. In January 1976, he was accorded the citizenship of Bangladesh. Despite receiving treatment and attention, Nazrul's physical and mental health did not improve. In 1974, his youngest son, Kazi Aniruddha, an eminent guitarist died, and Nazrul soon succumbed to his long-standing ailments on August 29, 1976. In accordance with a wish he had expressed in one of his poems, he was buried beside a mosque on the campus of the University of Dhaka. Tens of thousands of people attended his funeral; Bangladesh observed two days of national mourning and the Indian Parliament observed a minute of silence in his honour. 

Nazrul's poetry is characterised by an abundant use of rhetorical devices, which he employed to convey conviction and sensuousness. He often wrote without care for organisation or polish. His works have often been criticized for egotism, but his admirers counter that they carry more a sense of self-confidence than ego. They cite his ability to defy God yet maintain an inner, humble devotion to Him. Nazrul's poetry is regarded as rugged but unique in comparison to Tagore's sophisticated style. Nazrul's use of Persian vocabulary was controversial but it widened the scope of his work. Nazrul's works for children have won acclaim for his use of rich language, imagination, enthusiasm and an ability to fascinate young readers. 

Nazrul is regarded for his secularism. He was the first person to cite of Christians of Bengal in his novel Mrityukhudha. He was also the first user of folk terms in Bengali literature. He first printed the Sickle and Hammer in any Indian magazine. Nazrul pioneered new styles and expressed radical ideas and emotions in a large body of work. Scholars credit him for spearheading a cultural renaissance in Muslim-majority Bengal, "liberating" poetry and literature in Bengali from its medieval mould. Nazrul was awarded the Jagattarini Gold Medal in 1945 — the highest honour for work in Bengali literature by the University of Calcutta — and awarded the Padma Bhushan, one of India's highest civilian honours in 1960. The Government of Bangladesh conferred upon him the status of being the "national poet". He was awarded the Ekushey Padak by the Government of Bangladesh. He was awarded Honorary D.Litt. by the University of Dhaka. Many centres of learning and culture in India and Bangladesh have been founded and dedicated to his memory. The Nazrul Endowment is one of several scholarly institutions established to preserve and expound upon his thoughts and philosophy, as well as the preservation and analysis of the large and diverse collection of his works. The Bangladesh Nazrul Sena is a large public organization working for the education of children throughout the country. 

Renowned Nazrul Sangeet/Geeti singers include Firoza Begum, Nilufar Yasmin (deceased), Manabendra Mukherjee, Dhiren Basu, Ferdous Ara, Fatema-tuz Zohra, Shahin Samad and Ramanuj Dasgupta.

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