Bharatendu Harishchandra (Hindi: भारतेन्दु हरिश्चंद्र) is one of the most heard names in the history of modern Hindi literature. He was an imminent poet of the 19th century who also wrote several novels and plays. It was the subject and pattern of his writings which caught the attention of the critics and the masses and made Bharatendu Harishchandra such a popular name in Hindi literature. Harishchandra possessed a revolutionary spirit and made known all his nationalistic feelings through his writings. Almost every piece of work from the hands of Bharatendu Harishchandra spoke about the exploitation which existed in the Indian society during his times, the inhuman conditions that the poor and needy had to live in and the subjugation that the lower and middle classes of the society had to face in the hands of the elite ruling class. Most of his poems were an urge to the people of India to join hands in a n effort to better the living conditions in the country.
Bharatendu Harishchandra was born on September 9, 1850 in Varanasi. His father Gopal Chandra was also a poet (by the pseudonym of Girdhar Das) and it was from his father that Bharatendu Harishchandra derived the inspiration to write in his later life. The national movement in India during the British rule moved Bharatendu Harishchandra to a great degree even when he was young. He and his family visited the Jagannath Temple in Puri in the year 1865 when Bharatendu Harishchandra was a mere 15 year old kid. But even as a child, the Bengal Renaissance deeply touched him and he was influenced into being a part of the movement by introducing the concept in Hindi literature. After returning to his native Varanasi from Puri, Bharatendu Harishchandra conducted an in-depth study of the plays, novels and poems that were being written to bring about social and historical changes during the Bengal Renaissance. And it was this study of Bengali literature that led Bharatendu Harishchandra to translate an important Bengali play 'Vidyasundar' to Hindi in the year 1868. Bharatendu Harishchandra's parents died when he was still very young, another incident which touched him and inspired him to get more involved with poetry, prose and drama writing.
Life & Works
After the death of his father, Bharatendu Harishchandra got completely immersed in Hindi literature and always adopted ways to contribute better writings for the development of Hindi literature. He introduced new concepts and ideas in Hindi prose and drama and is thus considered the pioneer of the modern age Hindi writing. However, Bharatendu Harishchandra's contribution was not just limited to the field of writing prose and poetry. He was in fact also involved with the development of Hindi journalism. He worked as an editor in magazines like Harishchandra Patrika, Kavi Vachan Sudha, Harishchandra Magazine and Bal Vodhini. It was in recognizing his efforts towards the development of the Hindi language that renowned scholars in Hindi during his age bestowed on him the title of 'Bharatendu' at a public event organized in the year 1880. It was their way of showing respect to the person who had broken new grounds and ushered in a new era of Hindi literature, thus making him the rightful owner of the title 'Father of Modern Hindi Literature'. Bharatendu Harishchandra was a notable member of the Chowdhury family residing in Varanasi. His forefathers, on the other hand, were members of the Agrawal community who were rich landlords in Bengal. Bharatendu Harishchandra wrote extensively on the life and times of his great grandfathers from the Agrawal community. His family indeed had a flourishing history to boast of and several accounts of it were highlighted in the prose and essays written by Bharatendu Harishchandra.
Bharatendu Harishchandra was not only a playwright but also a director and actor in plays. In fact, it was acting that first brought Bharatendu Harishchandra to theater. He later chose to write and direct plays as well.
Bharatendu Harishchandra passed away on January 6, 1885 at the age of 35, at his hometown Varanasi. His writings are still held in high regard by Hindi literature lovers all over the world.
Bharatendu Harishchandra is such a respected name in Hindi writing that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India still honors accomplished original writings in Hindi by bestowing upon the writers the Bharatendu Harishchandra Awards instituted in the year 1983. Popular Kannada scriptwriter and director Prasanna paid tribute to his chief inspiration Bharatendu Harishchandra by preparing the play 'Seema Paar', which was staged at the National School of Drama in New Delhi. 'Seema Paar' focuses on Bharatendu Harishchandra's early life in the ghats of Varanasi and the highpoints of his career in Hindi writing. Hindi scholar and critic Ramvilas Sharma famously commented that Bharatendu Harishchandra ushered in an era of "great literary awakening" in Hindi literature. His unique approach to writing earned his the name of 'father of modern Hindi literature'.