Bhartendu Harish Chandra (1850-1885)

Bhartendu Harish Chandra was born on 09 September 1850 in a distinguished and opulent Agarwal family of Varanasi. From his grand- father and father he inherited material prosperity, Vaishnava traditions and literary talents. Harish Chandra showed love for devotional music and aptitude for composing poetry even at the age of five.

Today Bhartendu Harish Chandra is revered as the father of modern Hindi literature. His writings marked a transition from tradition to modernity. He brought old literature into focus and created a new one, rich and varied in content, wide in range, refreshing in style, and nationalistic, progressive and reformatory in tone. Among his literary works, dramas and love lyrics are most famous. His genius as a poet lay in bringing poetry from the royal courts to the common people and introducing realism into it. He travelled widely in northern India and learnt several other languages such as Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Marwari and Punjabi, which widened his intellectual horizon.

He started a chain of journals such as Harish Chandra Chandrika, Kavivachan Sudha, Balabodhini Patrika and Bhagwadbhaktitoshini. These were not merely excellent literary magazines but also served as a plank on which to express views on diverse issues. His writings typify the agonies of India, unrest of the middle-class, hopes and aspirations of the youth and urge for progress and removal of injustice.

His writings and speeches helped in the evolution of nationalism and advanced the cause of social reform. He deprecated child marriage, encouraged widow remarriage, promoted education and worked for women’s emancipation. Fondly referred to as Bhartendu by his admirers, he was imaginative, large-hearted and lovable, but his aristocracy and extravagance landed him into economic distress. He was barely thirty-five when on 6 January 1885 he breathed his last.