Jai Shankar Prasad
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Jai Shankar Prasad was born in Varanasi in 1890. The family was a business family known as Sughani Sahu. Sughani was a brand of tobacco sold by his great grand father and so the family became known as its sellers. His son from his wife Kamala Devi is Ratna Shankar. Jai Shankar Prasad passed away on November 15, 1937 of tuberculosis at age 48.
Jai Shankar was interested in music and visited often the renowned musician Siddheshwari Bai, who was subject to the social convention to live as a courtesan of Benaras, a social position which ostracized women from respected society. Prasad, a true artist with a vision for modern India that would out grow such conventions, lived a life challenging such societal chains of convention. Himself a devotee of Shiva he had no trace of bigotry or fanaticism.
'Kaladhar' was the pen name he used in 1907 in writing for the journal 'Saraswati' managed by Acharya Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi.
In 1909 his nephew Ambika Prasad Gupta published a literary journal 'Indu', for which he wrote from 1909 to 1916.
His early works were in Braj Bhasha. He was a regular at the library called Naagari Pracharini Sabha studying the works of Bharatendu Harishchandra, Chaudhary Badrinaarayan 'Premghan', Pt. Balkrishna Bhatt and other literatures of the times. The librarian was Pt. Kedarnath Pathak.
He then began to write in Khari Boli. His works heralded romanticism in Hindi poetry with 'Jharna', 'Aansoo' and 'Lahar'. Then of course is the incomparable work 'Kamayini'.
We know of 36 works. Of these 12 works were plays and 'Skandagupta', 'Chandragupta', and 'Rajashree' are masterpieces of Hindi drama. In 1910 he wrote 'Sajjan', (the gentleman), in 1912 'Kalyani Parinay', (Kalyani's marraige), in 1913 'Praayashchitta', (Penance), in 1914 'Rajashree', in 1921 'Vishaakh', in 1922 Ajaatshatru, in 1926 'Janmajaya ka Naagayagya', (the serpent sacrifice of Janmajaya), in 1927 'Kaamana', (desire), in 1928 Skandagupta, in 1929 'Ek Ghoont', (one sip), in 1931 'Chandragupta', and in 1933 'Dhruva Swamini'.
His works of poetry are 'Urvashi', 1909, 'Vana Milan' (Tryst in the forest) 1909, 'Prem Rajya' (Realm of love) 1909, 'Ayodhya ka Uddhar' (deliverance of Ayodhya) 1910, 'Babhru Vahan' 1911, 'Kanan Kusum' 1913, 'Prem Pathik' (traveler of the love path) 1913, 'Karunalaya' (Abode of Compassion) 1913, 'Maharana ka Matwa' 1914, 'Jharna' (the Spring) 1918, 'Aanso' (Tears) 1925, 'Lahar' (Ripples') 1933, 'Kamayini' 1936.
His novels are 'Kankaal' (Skeleton) 1929, 'Titli' (the Butterfly) 1933, 'Irawati' published posthumously.
His short stories are 'Chhaya' (Shadow) 1912-18, 'Pratidhwani' (Echo) 1926, 'Aakash Deep' (Heavenly Lamp) 1929, 'Aandhi' (the Storm) 1929, 'Indrajaal' (Spell of Illusion) 1936.
The depth of these works examine the realms of philosophy most artfully with wonderful dynamism. He says that man's salvation lies in the unification of desire, knowledge and action. His classical Essays are 'Kaavya Aur Kala' (Art and Poetry) and 'Naatakon ki Bhoomika' (Basis of Plays).
Kamayini and Other Works
Kamayini opens with the occurrence of the flood of doom, deluge submerges the whole earth and destroys the deity race. This is a vision related in many Vedic and Puranic scriptures. Manu, is shown sitting with tearful eyes on an Himalayan peak lamenting the destruction of the deity race. To Manu then in penance in Saraswati Cave in the Himalayas appears Shiva, the dancing lord from whom he seeks blessings. Here Prasad's poetry describes the mountain as 'Silver Mountain Kailasa' and that of the pilgrimage to lake Mansarovar on reaching as the feeling of perfection and bliss.
Prasad is the best of Chhayavad poets who use vivid similes and imagery drawn from nature in their expression. The expressions of the 9 Rasas of love 'Shringaar' (erotic), 'Haasya' (comic), 'Karuna' (compassion), 'Raudra' (furious), 'Veer' (heroic), 'Bhayanak' (terror), 'Vibhatsa' (odious), 'Adbhutta' (marvelous), 'Shaant' (peaceful), 'Vaatsalya' (filial) is mastered by this writer.
Some of his masterful expressions in which he draws imagery from nature are, in translation:
Canto II Asha
Canto XV Ananda
In Ananda, the pilgrims movement with children, cows and all is described when Ida tells the questioning child that the place they are going to is world's realm of pure adoration, someone's place that is cool and calm, of penance, austerity and meditation. Where, there is a big lake, pure, unsoiled, and which quenches all thirst of mind. The Lake is called Mansarovar where bliss attains to one who goes to its shrine. Reaching the shrine is to fill the empty vase of life with pure water nectarine. Thereafter, all weariness, pain of journey disappears in a moment. Facing you will be the Silver mountain, glorious, gleaming magnificent. Kailash will seem is on a bed of emerald, shining pearls' liquid lustre, looks a little mirror of Nature or queen moonlight stretched in slumber. As the sun rolls down behind the mountain, the moon rises toward the heaven. Mount Kailash in crimson evening looked as if in constant meditation. The evening draped in saffron apparel had drawn near that lake celestial. Her locks were with stars embellished, bound her waist with blossom's girdle. Multitude of birds were chirping, lovely swans amused in water, sang resounding nymphs heavenly, flowed their strange new notes in air.
This imagery in Hindi literature of pure perfection by Jai Shankar Prasad is deeply embedded in Indian thought. Hindi language gained strength by his works which have a profound impact on the reader.
Ras in Indian Painting