Michael: the immortal aspirant

Dhrubo Sadiq | Published: 22:39, Jun 28,2020 | Updated: 20:17, Jun 29,2020


Michael Madhusudan Dutt

As a result of introduction of English education in the Indian subcontinent in the nineteenth century, Bengalis became acquainted with European civilisation and culture. This created excitement among the Bengalis, leading to the awakening in Bengali life and literature with far-reaching results. Michael Madhusudan Dutt, born 25 January 1824, is the son of the spirit of the nineteenth century modernism. Today is the 147th death anniversary of Michael Madhusudan Dutt.

As Michael witnessed the renaissance, he felt infinite joy, an absolute peace within himself and his heart was taken over by an overwhelming urge to create. In his works, human life appears to be infinitely mysterious. The universe is present in its consciousness with all its beauty and sweetness. This beauty and sweetness drove him to leave a permanent mark on Bengali literature.

Michael's early education began with Imam Mufti Lutful Haque of Sheikhpura Mosque, a village near Sagardari. He studied Bengali, Persian and Arabic with the learned Imam. Besides, Jahnavi Devi made him well acquainted with Ramayana, Mahabharata, Purana etc.

Michael left home to become a poet. For that reason he did not care about his family, dignity or even religion. In his 49 years of life (1824-1873) Madhusudan was so restless! In the first half of the nineteenth century, the eventful mood of Bengal adapted to his temperament.

The fact, that Madhusudan's desire to become a great poet also played a big role in the backdrop of the inclusion of 'Michael' before his name. While studying in a Hindu college, the talented student sees that his master writes poems himself, edits books of English poetry, and his desire to write, publish and become a poet will strike a chord in his mind! Madhusudan's early English poems appeared in the old-fashioned Calcutta Literary Gliner, Literary Gazette, Comet, Bengal Herald, Oriental Magazine, and he sent his poems to London's famous Bentley's Miscellany. But at the end of the day, he realized that in order to become a great poet in his time in English, he should not have stayed in Calcutta, he should have crossed the sea and gone to Britain at any cost. In his poems, therefore, he longs to see the high mountains, the green valleys, on the shores of distant Albion, across the Atlantic, sighing for a nameless tomb in exile without relatives. The boy wrote a letter to his dear friend in college, quoting the poet Alexander Pope: If you want to become a poet, you have to leave your parents, your house ... everything. He opens the bundle of dreams to his friend, one day he will be a great poet. On that day, his dear friend Gaur Chandra Basak wrote the biography of the great poet! Mere youthful passion? This boy's ambitions also have to be respected.

Madhusudan Dutt first entered the field of Bengali literature as a playwright. While translating the play 'Ratnabali' written by Ramnarayan Tarkaratna into English, he felt the lack of suitable plays in Bengali drama. He became interested in writing plays with the aim of filling this gap. In 1859, he wrote the play 'Sharmistha'. This is literally the first original play written in Bengali. In 1860, he wrote two farces namely: ‘Ekei Ki Bole Sabhyata’ and 'Buro Shaliker Ghare Roan' and the complete play ‘Padmavati’. He first used blank verse in Padmavati. In 1860, he wrote the poetry 'Tilottamasambhav' in Blank Verse. Then in the year 1861 he penned the epic poems called 'Meghnad Badh Kavya', 'Brajangana' Kavya, 'Krishnakumari' Natak, and in 1862, 'Birangana' Kavya and 'Chaturdashpadi Kavita'.

The greatest achievement of Michael, based on the Ramayana anecdote in Blank Verse the epic Meghnadabadha Kavya, has divided the poetry into more than eight cantos, and according to Sanskrit rhetoric it has also included cities, forests, groves, rocks, seas, mornings, evenings, wars, consultations etc. But he did not use new verses in the sermon, nor did he suggest the next verse in the sermon. Although he said, he will compose a hymn floating in heroism, yet in poetry, tragic juice has won. Meghnadabadha Kavya is not a repetition of the Ramayana-derived story; it is a wonderful lyric-poem in the form of a compassionate epic of the visionary destiny-humiliated neo-humanity of the awakened Bengalis. Meghnadabadha Kavya is the only creation in Bengali poetry. In this respect Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar said: Meghnad Badh is a supreme poem.

Madhusudan had created epic poems in a very surprising way, which in the words of Sri Aurobindo, 'All stormiest passions of man's soul he [Madhusudan] expressed in grand language.'  Due to his construction skills, the significance of this poem is the symbolism of Ravana's character. Absolute arrogance was not manifested in the character of Ravana created by him. The epic that he wrote in the light of his humanity, the Ramayana, is in fact a romantic epic. For this reason, although ‘Meghnadabadha Kavya’ is epic in form, its soul is completely romantic and the triumph of life in this poem by Madhusudan is not of heroism, but of compassion.

The name of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, one of the most powerful poets of Bengali and world literature, has to be mentioned for the creation of new ideas and forms in Bengali literature. Every single one of his literary work is glorious in expressing this novelty. He composed wonderfully beautiful poems, strengthening the sense of the East by carrying hints of form and style from the West. He was simultaneously the first successful Bengali playwright, the promoter of blank verse, the first sonnet composer, the first tragedy composer, the first farceur in Bengali literature and what not.

Michael, who has elevated the Bengali language and literature to unparalleled heights, once Michael came to Dhaka on the occasion of a case, he was received by the appreciative citizens of Dhaka. In response to the reception, he said, ‘I am not just a Bengali, I am a Bangal. And if I forget that, that's why I put a mirror in my bedroom and the mirror says that I am swarthy!'

Michael, the bangal, passed away on June 29, 1873.

The belated tribute was a tomb erected at his gravesite. His epitaph, a verse of his own, reads:

Stop a while, traveller!

Should Mother Bengal claim thee for her son.

As a child takes repose on his mother’s elysian lap,

Even so here in the Long Home,

On the bosom of the earth,

Enjoys the sweet eternal sleep

Poet Madhusudan of the Duttas.

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