Mitti ka tan, masti ka man, kshan-bhar jivan– mera parichay. (मिट्टी का तन, मस्ती का मन, क्षण भर जीवन, मेरा परिचय) (A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life - that is me).
Biography of Harivansh Rai Pratap Narayan Srivastava
Harivansh Rai "Bachchan" Shrivastav (November 27, 1907 - January 18, 2003) was a distinguished Hindi poet of Chhayavaad literary movement (romantic upsurge) of early 20th century Hindi literature. He was also a famous poet of Hindi Kavi Sammelan. He is best known for his early work Madhushala (मधुशाला). He is also the father of Bollywood megastar, Amitabh Bachchan.
Personal life and education
Born in a Srivastava Kayastha family, in the village of Babupatti (Raniganj) in the district of Pratapgarh, U.P. near Allahabad in the United Provinces (modern Uttar Pradesh). He was the eldest son of Pratap Narayan Shrivastav and Saraswati Devi. He was called bachchan (meaning 'child-like') at home. He received his formal schooling in a municipal school and followed the family tradition of attending Kayastha Paathshaalas (कायस्थ पाठशाला) 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.
Realizing that this was not the path he wanted to follow, he went back to the university. However from 1941 to 1952 he taught in the English Department at the Allahabad University and after that he spent the next two years at Cambridge University doing his doctoral thesis on W.B. Yeats. It was then, that he used ‘Bachchan’ as his last name instead of Srivastava. Harivanshrai’s thesis got him his PhD at Cambridge. He is the second Indian to get his doctorate in English literature from Cambridge. After returning to India he again took to teaching and also served at All India Radio, Allahabad. 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. Bachchan again married, Teji Bachchan, in 1941. They had two sons, Amitabh and Ajitabh.
In 1955, Harivanshrai shifted to Delhi to join the External Affairs Ministry as an officer on Special duty and during the period of 10 years that he served he was also associated with the evolution of Hindi as the official language. He also enriched Hindi through his translations of major writings. As a poet is famous for his poem Madhushala (a bar selling alcoholic drinks). Besides Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, he will also be remembered for his Hindi translations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello and also the Bhagvad Gita. However in Nov 1984 he wrote his last poem ‘Ek November1984’ on Indira Gandhi’s assassination.
Harivanshrai was nominated to the Indian Rajya Sabha in 1966 and received the Sahitya Akademi award three years later. In 1976 he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan for his immense contribution to Hindi literature. He was also honoured with the Saraswati Samman, the Sovietland Nehru Award and the Lotus Award of the Afro-Asian writers’ conference, for his unique contribution to the world of letters. But if ever asked to introduce himself, he had a simple introduction: 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.). Bachchan died on January 18, 2003, at the age of 95, as a result of various respiratory ailments. His wife Teji Bachchan died four years later in 2007, at the age of 93.
Teaching careerFrom 1941 to 1952 he taught English Literature at Allahabad University and then spent two years at Cambridge University, at St Catharine's College. 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 and Occultism. It was there that he used Bachchan as his last name instead of 'srivastava. He was the second Indian to get his doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University.
After returning to India, he taught briefly and then worked as a producer for All India Radio,mumbai In 1955, he 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 India.
Bachchan used to introduce himself as “ Mitti ka tan, masti ka man, kshan-bhar jivan– mera parichay. (मिट्टी का तन, मस्ती का मन, क्षण भर जीवन, मेरा परिचय) ”(A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment’s life - that is me).'''
One of his inspirational poems, Agneepath ("Path of fire"), was used as the theme (and its title as the title) for the 1991 blockbuster movie featuring his actor son Amitabh Bachchan, as a ruthless mafia don. This movie was a failure commercially but earned 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 - Agneepath:
अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! वृक्ष हों भले खड़े,हो घने, हो बड़े,एक पत्र-छॉंह भी मॉंग मत, मॉंग मत, मॉंग मत!अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! तू न थकेगा कभी!तू न थमेगा कभी!तू न मुड़ेगा कभी!कर शपथ! कर शपथ! कर शपथ! ये महान दृश्य है, चल रहा मनुष्य है,अश्रु श्वेत् रक्त से,लथ पथ, लथ पथ, लथ पथ !अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! वृक्ष हो भले खड़े, हो घने हो बड़े,एक पत्र छाव भी मांग मत, मांग माँ, मांग मतअग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! तू न थकेगा कभी, तू न थमेगा कभी, तू न मुड़ेगा कभी,कर शपथ, कर शपथ, कर शपथ,अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! ये महान दृश्य है, चल रहा मनुष्य है,अश्रु श्वेत रक्त से लथपथ, लथपथ, लथपथ,अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ! अग्नि पथ!
Awards and honors
Bachchan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament in 1966, and received the Sahitya Academy Award in 1969. In 1976, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan and the Saraswati Samman for his contribution to Hindi literature. In 1994, he was conferred with the "Yash Bharati" Samman by the Government of Uttar Pradesh. 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.
Family Tree of Harivansh Rai Pratap Narayan Srivastava
Pratap Narayan Shrivastav
Photo Album of Harivansh Rai Pratap Narayan Srivastava