“[Sumitranandan Pant] was, thus, a pioneer who won new frontiers of theme and expression for Hindi poetry.”
~ Dr. B N Prasad, in his article in the Triveni Magazine in 1978.
Sumitranandan Pant, born on 20 May 1900, in a village in the Almora district of Uttarakhand named Kausani, is renowned among readers in the Hindi language as an eminent poet whose words stirred not only the nature lovers, but also patriots and intellectuals. His entire repertoire of work provides one a glimpse to his life, his surroundings, and the age of political awakening, socialist ideologies, and philosophical sentiments. Pant won several honours and awards for his inspiring works, including the Jnanpith Award (for his collection of poems named Chidambara) in 1968, Sahitya Academy Award (for his poetry collection Kala Aur Budhdha Chand) in 1960, Padma Bhushan (for all his works) in 1961, and even the Nehru Peace Prize honoured by the Soviet Union (for Lokayatan).
Youngest among eight children, Pant had a motherless childhood, as she died a few hours after his birth. He was brought up by his grandmother. Pant was originally named Gosain Dutt by his family. He detested the name so much that he changed it to Sumitranandan Pant.
Pant did his schooling from Almora and then from Kashi, where he completed his matriculation. He, then, got admission into the Allahabad University to study further. In those days, the charisma of Mahatma Gandhi had captured the imagination of the youth in the country. When Gandhi declared the beginning of the Satyagraha Movement, Pant, like many youngsters of his age left his studies in support of the movement. He, although, taught himself through several literary works in English, Bengali and Sanskrit.
In his later years, Pant’s temper became more contemplative and he began to look for answers about life. Through his association with Udayshankar, the well-renowned Indian dancer and film-maker, he travelled to South India, where he met Sri Aurobindo in his ashram in Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo helped him with his philosophical questions, consequently giving his thinking a direction.
The works of Pant showcase the different phases of his life, from a nature loving Himalayan boy to a Gandhi-supporting patriot, to a contemplative philosopher, humanist, and a socialist.
Phase one: Chayavad
Pant's career in poetry started as early as 1907, when he was just seven years old. Living amidst the natural beauty of the Himalayas, greatly influenced his poems. It is also believed that he was highly inspired by the poetry displaying Romanticism by Rabindranath Tagore, P B Shelley, William Wordsworth, and John Keats.
According to the Hindi literary school, the kind of poems Pant wrote, were popularly known as Chayavad. He is in fact, considered among the “Big Three” Chayavad poets, others being Nirala and Prasad. His best works in the Chayavad poetry include, Pallav (Leaf Buds), Jyotsna (Rays of the Moon), and Gunjan (Murmurings).
Phase two: Pragativad
Patriotism ran high in the veins of the Indian youth after the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi and the beginning of the Satyagraha Movement. Pant was no different. He took inspiration, for his next set of poems, from not only Gandhi but also Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Karl Marx. Although, Karl Marx was a source of temporary inspiration. Pant did not accept Marx’s theory that, “art and culture were superstructures on the economic base.”
According to the Hindi literary school, the patriotic and social poems Pant wrote during this time are popular as Pragativadpoetry. His best works displaying the social reality include Yugant (End of an Age) and Gramya (Village Girl).
Phase three: Navchetnavad
As Pant grew in age, another change came into his life. His mind became more drawn towards life’s ‘big’ questions. After meeting and talking to Sri Aurobindo, Pant found some clarity and he took to the path of spirituality and attempted to unite his “outer and inner worlds.”
According to Hindi literary school, Pant’s poetry that described this ‘new sense of realisation’ is known as Navchetnavad. The popular poem collection titles he published during this phase are; Swarna Dhuli (Golden Dust), Shilpi (Creator), Swarna Kiran (Golden Light Rays), and Raja Shikhar (Silver Peaks).
Sumitranandan Pant’s biggest achievement is his inspirational poems that have the essence of timelessness to them. He has also written other kinds of literary works including drama poetry, song lyrics, and short stories, but none are more famous than his poetry. Jayati Jayati Vidya Sansthan, composed by him is used as the kulgeet in the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee.
Apart from the accolades he received, Pant also made life-long friends, including Harivansh Rai Bachchan. After his death in December 1977, Pant’s house was turned into a museum to help people connect with him, his life, and his works.
Also on this day:
1498 – Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, reached Calicut (now Kozhikode) after discovering the sea route to India
1894 – Chandrashekarendra Saraswati, Indian spiritual guru, was born
1983 – N T Rama Rao Jr., Indian actor and singer, was born
Sumitranandan Pant, an article in the Triveni Magazine by Dr. B N Prasad, 1978.