(Last Updated on : 18/01/2013)
Jaishankar Prasad was a Hindi author who was born in a rich Vaisya household of Varanasi
. Born in 1890 he acquired respect for knowledge, religion, and the arts. His father Babu Devki Prasad was a businessman. He was also known as Sunghani Sahu. He lost his parents and elder brother by the time he was 16, which brought the entire responsibility of the family business and family feuds on him, making him introverted but mature at an early age.
Jaishankar Prasad was very interested in learning. He soon acquired proficiency in Sanskrit, Urdu, Bengali, and English, and did extensive reading in archaeology and history. He was greatly influenced by Vedas. He had also inclination towards ancient relics. All these knowledge reflected in his playwriting subsequently. He is known primarily as a pioneer of chhayavadi or romantic poetry of great sensitivity to nature and human emotions. His long poem Kamayani in 1935 remains unparalleled for its cosmic questions. His deep understanding of the Indian people, psyche, and way of life also made him a leading fictionist, along with Munsi Premchand
As a dramatist and successor of Bharatendu Harishchandra
, he was profoundly inspired by D. L. Roy, whose historical plays modeled on Western dramaturgy. He had occasion to see, by the Parsi theatre
around him, and the Sanskrit drama he read. Idealism and nationalism governed his choice of plots, their treatment, and their Indian world-view. He composed his first one-act play, Sajjan i.e. 'Noble' in 1911. This was based on the Mahabharata
with prose dialogue in Hindi and verse in Brajbhasha like Bharatendu. He used Sanskrit theatre conventions like the nandi
, bharatavakya, and sutradhara. In 1915 he wrote his first significant drama. That was the historical Rajyasri, in modern idiom and structure, but emphasizing history and establishing the greatness of Indian culture through the protagonist. There followed a series of plays. The names can be mentioned as Visakh in 1921, Ajatsatru
in 1922, Jamnejaya ka nagyajna or 'Janmejaya's Nag Sacrifice' in 1926, Kamna or 'Desire' in 1927, Skandagupta
in 1928, Chandragupta in 1931, Dhruvswamini in 1932. All these displayed a staggering range of the social, religious, political, and personal issues of his times.
An interweaving of cultural nuances, ramifications of contemporary political upheavals within the historical framework can be found. Prasad's poetic sensibility imparted a complex philosophical view and a sensitive, multilayered portrayal of the characters and their conflicts. Although very close to Indian tradition in vision and purpose, he was also influenced by Western dramaturgy in language, structure, and treatment, which appear reminiscent of Shakespeare. His diction exalts his dramatis personae above the ordinary, includes nature in the human drama, and provides the rare insights into situations and emotions that only great poetry can offer. His portrayal of strong women was quite unusual for his times. Ironically, while he reacted vehemently against the sensationalism and superficiality of Parsi theatre
, he unconsciously resorted to many of its stage devices.
As a poet he earned a lot of fame. From his young age he started writing poetry. He was one of the pillars of Chhayavad movement in Hindi Literature along with Sumitranandan Pant
, Mahadevi Verma
and Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala'.
He crafted Vedas philosophy and art in his writings. He mixed mainly Tatsam and Tatdbhav words in his poetry, which was considered as Khadi dialect or Sanskritized Hindi. But his first poem anthology- Chitraadhar, was in Braj dialect of Hindi. He wrote poems in various subjects. His patriotic poem, 'Himadri Tung Shring Se' was very popular during the Freedom Movement in India. But his best work in poetry was Kamayani. It got several literally acclaim. It is considered as one of the best works in Hindi epic poetry.
Unfortunately, Prasad's plays were not performed in his lifetime because they had too vast a canvas for amateur groups to afford, and too serious a scope for the resourceful Parsi theatre to attempt. The impression of their unstageability continued on the grounds of flowery language, numerous scene changes and characters. Insufficient theatricality was also there until directors like B. V. Karanth and Shanta Gandhi took up Skandgupta, Dhmvswamini, and Chandragupta.
Apart from his writing he was a philosopher, historian and a sculptor. He had also great interest in chess, gardening, shashtrarth and poetry recitation. He passed away on January 14, 1937.