23rd September 1908 – Hindi Poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar is born

India is a land of numerous languages and a vibrant literary culture. Each of the languages of India has renowned writers and poets who have enriched the cultural fabric of India with their creative expressions. One such great poet of India is Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, who was born on September 23rd 1908.


Ramdhari Singh Dinkar is considered one of the most significant Indian poets who wrote in the Hindi language. His inspirational and affecting poems continue to be recited by young and old who appreciate Hindi literature today. During his lifetime, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's poems inspired many and continue to do so in the present time. In 1975, during the Emergency period in India, when civil rights were under threat, the political activist Jayaprakash Narayan memorably used the words of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's poem 'Singhasan khaali karo ke janata aati hai' (Leave the throne, the people are coming) to inspire a crowd of 100,000 people in Delhi's Ramlila grounds. The poem found resonance again in 2102 during rallies by civil rights activists in New Delhi. The words of this national poet or 'Rashtrakavi' continue to provide a source of inspiration and promote patriotic fervour among listeners.


Born in a small village in Bihar, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was keen to study and improve himself, however, the poverty of his family circumstances made it difficult for him to do so. The nearest school was across a river and Dinkar had to leave school early in order to return home. His family was too poor to pay the fees for a hostel or buy him a good pair of shoes. However Dinkar persevered with his studies and qualified for the Patna College in 1929. Here he was caught up in the patriotic movement against the Simon Commission and his first poem was published in 1924/25 in a paper titled Chhatra Sahodar (Brother of Students). Inspired by the peasants non-violent movement led by Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Dinkar composed 10 poems which were published in his first slim volume titled Vijay-Sandesh (Message of Victory). By this time Dinkar was frequently publishing his poems in the Hindi magazines Desh and Pratibha.


Dinkar's first noteworthy collection of poems Renuka was published in November 1935. A copy of this book was presented to Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindi editor, Banarsi Das Chaturvedi. Dinkar was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and considered himself a Gandhian, however, having grown up in poverty, he identified with the anger of the youth and his works were written in the heroic mode or Veer Rasa. Dinkar also published some of his works under the nom-de-plume Amitabh in order to avoid trouble from the British authorities.


Dinkar wrote poems, essays and academic papers and was known for his role as both a poet and an academic. His detailed work on the socio-cultural history of India Sanskriti Ke Chaar Adhyay summarizes the influences on India of external beliefs, invaders and internal social and religious movements. He concludes that India is unique in that while cultural intermingling exist in some other countries such as Ancient Greece and Mexico, there has never been such an intermingling of ideologies, religions and beliefs as in India. The history of Indian civilization is one of humane values and cultural tolerance which is an example for the rest of the world.


As a writer Dinkar is remembered for his works which were mostly in the Veer Rasa mode. His narrative poem, Kurukshetra, is a re-telling of the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata. Krishna ki Chetavni reflects on the events prior to the great battle at Kurukshetra. Dinkar's use of mythological themes to reflect on events of his time such as World War II is a hallmark of his work. Some of his other well-known works are Parshuram ki Prateeksha, Rashmirathi, Samdheni and Urvashi, which differs from his other work since it explores the theme of the man-woman relationship.


His anthologies include Lokpriya Kavi Dinkar, Dinkar ki Suktiyan, and Sanchayita. His prose writings include Mitti Ki Or, Chittaur Ka Saakaa and He Ram. He also wrote biographies of Sri Aurbindo and Pandit Nehru.


The pinnacle of Dinkar's academic career was his role as Vice-Chancellor of Bhagalpur University in the early 1960s. Dinkar was a also member of the Rajya Sabha from 1952 to 1964. In recognition of his contribution to Hindi literature Dinkar was conferred with the Padma Bhushan and the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1959, and the Bharatiya Jnanpith award in 1972.


Ramdhari Singh Dinkar passed away on April 24 1974, an honoured poet and man of letters. In 2008, the centenary of his birth, the Prime Minster Manmohan Singh unveiled Dinkar's portrait in the Central Hall of Parliament. An award, the Rashtrakavi Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar' Sahitya Ratna Samman, has also been instituted in his name in recognition of his role in exploring new aspects of Hindi literature, his role in the freedom struggle and his contribution to the cultural life of India.


Also on this day:


1803: The British East India company defeated the Maratha Army at the Battle of Assaye.


1863: Rao Tula Ram, one of the leaders of the Revolt of 1857, passed away in Kabul.


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