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Nagarjun

Nagarjun (Baba Nagarjun, Vaidya Nath Mishra, Yatri) (1911-1998), was a major Hindi and Maithili poet who has also penned a number of novels, short stories, literary biographies and travelogues.

Biography

He was born into a maithil brahmin family in a small village of Satlakha in Madhubani District of Bihar, India. His original name was Vaidya Nath Mishra. He started his literary career with Maithili poems by the pen-name of Yatri in early 1930s. By mid 1930s, he started writing poetry in Hindi. This is when he adopted the name Nagarjun. A wanderer by nature, Nagarjun spent a considerable amount of his time in the 30s and the 40s traveling across India. He was influenced by Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan and Swami Sahajanand Saraswati. He also participated in many mass-awakening movements before and after independence. Between 1939 and 1942, He was jailed by the British courts for leading a farmer's agitation in Bihar. For a long time after independence he was involved with journalism. He played an active role in Jaya Prakash Narayan's movement prior to emergency, and therefore was jailed during the period of emergency. He was strongly influence by Leninist-Marxist ideology. This was one of the reasons that he never found patronage from the mainstream political establishments. Coupled with this, his own vagabond way of life, became the cause of his extreme poverty. He spent his last days in illness and poverty in the poor localities of Delhi and Darbhanga. He died in 1998 at the age of 87 in Darbhanga.

Style and influence

The subjects of his poetry are varied. Effects of both his wandering tendencies and activism, is evident in his middle and later works. His famous poems like Badal ko Ghirate Dekha hai, is a travelogue in its own right. He often wrote on contemporary social and political issues. Him famous poem Mantra Kavita, is widely considered the most accurate reflection of a whole generation's mindset in India. Another such poem is "Aao Rani Ham Dhoenge Palaki", which sarcastically humiliates the then prime minister of India, Pt. Nehru, for the extravagant welcome thrown by him for Queen Elizabeth.
Besides these accepted subjects of poetry, Nagarjun found poetic beauty in unconventional subjects. One of his most astonishing works is a poem based on a female pig called paine daanto wali. Another such creation is a series of poems on a full-grown jack fruit.
Because of the breadth of his poetry, Nagarjun is considered the only Hindi poet, after Tulsidas, to have an audience ranging from the rural sections of society to the elite. He effectively freed poetry from the bounds of elitism.

Languages

Maithili was his mother tongue and he authored many poems, essays and novels in Maithili. He was educated in Sanskrit, Pali, and Hindi. Hindi remained the language of the bulk of his literature. The Hindi of his works varies from highly sanskritized to vernacular forms. He was a poet of the masses, and preferred to write in the language of immediate local impact. Therefore he never adhered to specific bounds of languages.
He also had good grasp of the Bengali language and used to write for Bengali newspapers.

Awards

Nagarjun was given the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1969 for his historic book Patarheen Nagna Gachh. He was also honored by the Sahitya Akademi by appointing him its fellow in 1994.
 


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