Harivanshrai Bachchan Srivastava (November 27, 1907 – January 18, 2003) was a distinguished Hindi poet, perhaps best known for his early work Madhushala . He is also the father of Bollywood film superstar, Amitabh Bachchan.
Life of Harivansh Rai Bachchan
He was born as Harivanshrai Srivastava into a Kayasth family on November 27, 1907 at a small town (of Patti, in district of Pratapgarh,U.P.) near Allahabad in the United Provinces (modern Uttar Pradesh). He was called “bachchan” (meaning ‘child’) at home. He received his formal schooling in a municipal school and followed the family tradition of attending Kayasth Paathshaalas to learn Urdu as the first step to a career in law. He later studied at the Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University. In this period, he came under the influence of the independence movement, then under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1926, at the age of 19, Bachchan married his first wife, Shyama, who was then 14 years old. However she died ten years later in 1936 after a long spell of TB at just 24 years of age. Shortly after his first wife’s death, Bachchan married Teji Suri, a Sikh, in 1941. The marriage produced two sons, Amitabh and Ajitabh.
From 1941 to 1952 he taught English at the Allahabad University and then spent two years at Cambridge University in St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. There he studied with the famous English literature don, Thomas Rice Henn, and received a doctorate in English Literature for his work on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. It was then, that he used ‘Bachchan’ as his last name instead of Srivastav. Bachchan was the second Indian to get his doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University.
Returning to India, he taught briefly and then worked as a producer for All India Radio, Allahabad. In 1955, Harivanshrai moved to Delhi to join the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India and there he was closely involved with the evolution of Hindi as the official language of the nation.
Bachchan used to introduce himself as Mitti ka tan, masti ka man, kshan-bhar jivan ? mera parichay. (A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment?s life – that is me).
Harivanshrai Bachchan died on January 18, 2003, at the age of 95, as a result of various respiratory ailments.
He is best known for his early lyric poem Madhushala (The House of Wine), which has been translated into English and many regional Indian languages including Bengali, Marathi and Malayalam. It forms part of a trilogy, along with Madhubala and Madhukalash. Bachchan published about 30 volumes of poetry. He translated Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello, Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, the Bhagavad Gita and W.B. Yeats into Hindi. His works include Nisha Nimantran, Khadi Ke Phool, Ekant Sangeet and Satrangini. In November, 1984, he wrote his last poem Ek November 1984 on Indira Gandhi?s assassination. His autobiography, consisting of four volumes namely Kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon , Need ka nirmaan fir, Basere se door and Dashdwaar se sopaan tak (abridged and translated into English as In the Afternoon of Time) was chosen for the Saraswati Samman.
Bachchan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament in 1966, and received the Sahitya Akademi award three years later. In 1976, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan and the Saraswati Samman for his contribution to Hindi literature. He is a recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award and the Lotus Award of the Afro-Asian writers conference. In 2003, an Indian postage stamp was released in his memory.
At present, more people may know Bachchan as being father to India’s best-known film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, than know his reputation as a poet.
The creator of the great collection ‘Madhushala ‘ is often thought to be a great admirer of wonder solutions himself. It is wrongly believed that the creator of one of the most famous poems on wine (Madhushala) never drank liquor. In reality, he had never drank liquor till the time he completed Madhushala. He did drink, although sparingly, later in his life, a fact that he admits to in his autobiography.
One of his inspirational poems, “agneepath” was used as the title and the theme for the 1991 blockbuster movie Agneepath (translates: path of fire) featuring his superstar son Amitabh Bachchan as a ruthless mafia don. This movie was a massive success earning Amitabh Bachchan a National Award for his performance. You can see Amitabh narrating the poem through out the movie.
The poem describes the entire gamut of sufferings that the human race had gone through and is going through.
Here is the actual poem :
Vriksh ho bhale ghane, ho ghane ho bade, Ek pat chhav ki mang mat, mang mat, Agneepath Agneepath Agneepath.
Tu na thakega kabhi, tu na thamega kabhi, tu na mudega kabhi, Kar shapath, kar shapath, kar shapath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Ye mahaan drishya hai, chal raha manushya hai, Ashru swed raqt se lathpath, lathpath, lathpath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, grandson of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, was married to Aishwarya Rai April 20th, 2007. One of Harivansh Rai Bachchan poems regarding new beginnings was enclosed in the wedding invitations.