NIRANJAN BHAGAT’S LOVE OF POETRY HAD NO BOUNDARIES
One of Gujarat’s most acclaimed poets, Niranjan Bhagat, passed away in India last Thursday (1) aged 92.
Bhagat wrote in both Gujarati and English and was awarded the Sahitya Akademy Award in 1999 in recognition for his contribution to literature.
He is reported to have suffered a stroke while attending a literary event last month.
Born in Ahmedabad on April 18, 1926, he spent his childhood in the city, before moving to then Bombay for his higher education.
Following his masters qualification, Bhagat returned to Ahmedabad where he taught at Saint Xavier’s College. In 1975 he eventually retired from there.
Among his other roles, he served as the president of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad in 1997-98 and was also on the advisory board for Gujarati at the Sahitya Akademi in Delhi from 1963 to 1967.
Paying tribute, eminent dance critic Sunil Kothari told Eastern Eye that with Bhagat’s passing, an epoch of Gujarati literature has ended. He will be missed by his admirers and the Gujarati creative literary community, Kothari added.
With Niranjan Bhagat, “Gujarati poetry had seen new efflorescence”, Kothari said.
Along with fellow poet Rajendra Shah, Bhagat ushered in new voices in Gujarati literature – be it songs or poems (in the case of Bhagat) on contemporary issues and chaos of life in cities like Mumbai. Bhagat’s collection of poems, titled Pravaldveep, was most significant.
Describing Niranjabhai as a voracious reader of English literature, Kothari said the literary giant was aware of trends in European literature. Be they French or English poets, or indeed German authors, he enjoyed reading them and passed on the knowledge to the younger generation. He had a large following and admirers.
“Always encouraging young and new talent, Niranjanbhai helped them, guiding them in their creative writing,” Kothari said.
His output was prolific and Niranjanbhai’s poems in Kumar drew the attention of poets such as Uma Shankar Joshi.
His collections of poems Kinnari, Chhandolaya, 33 kavyo, Alpaviram, Punashcha, and critical essays Adhunik Kavita and the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Gujarati Sahitya: Purvardha ane Uttarardha, are all major achievements in Gujarati literature.
The weekly meetings he conducted on literature in Ahmedabad were unique, Kothari recalled. The discussions were stimulating and Niranjanbhai was known to follow the creative work of young poets.
He was especially fond of London, where he was a guest of Asian Media Group’s editor-in-chief, Ramniklal Solanki. Niranjanbhai used to walk a lot and knew London like a back of his palm.
Salil Tripathi, writing for scroll.in, said Bhagat “was a titan, a tiger of Gujarati poetry”.
“He was modest about his own contribution, but it was truly overwhelming, for he embraced modernity without discarding rhythm. Bhagat’s poems dealt with the great themes of our time – independence, violence, and moral corruption – but also stayed close to the grammar of poetry.
“They rhymed and even the ones that did not had an internal cadence, a music of their own, which made you pause at the right syllable, making the experience of reading his poetry aloud an immensely pleasurable experience.”
To Roam I Have Come…
To roam have I come Not to do anything for you Have I come
How sweet the wind on this path How glowing the faces I see! Return,
I shall not I shall slide into my dream
Taking seven happy steps on a trot
Wish I could find the magic
Or love, for a moment or two
Or sing with joy, a verse or two
To bequeath a song of love For the earth’s ears Have I come
- “Hun to bas farvaa aavyo chhu”, translated by Salil Tripathi