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Diptych in verse: gender hybridity, language consciousness, and national identity in Nirala's "Jago Phir Ek Bar".

"Nirala" (literally "the strange one ) was the pen name of Suryakant Tripathi (1899?-1961), one of the four major twentieth-century Hindi poets associated with Chayavad, the first prominent "movement" in contemporary Hindi poetry. Many critics, both Western and Indian, have stressed Chayavad's parallels with Western Romanticism, mainly because of its preoccupation with individual consciousness and subjectivity. One of the most recurrent criticisms of the movement has been that it lacked a concern with the central political and social issues of its era, the twenties and thirties. While that may be true in general, it does not do full justice to at least some Chayavad poetry. Here it will be argued that, in particular, Nirala's poetry is surprisingly polemical, "this-worldly' and is engaged with such issues as language consciousness, national identity, and gender constructs. This paper presents a close analysis of two of Nirala's representative early Chayavad poems that form a kind of "diptych in verse": they a re both entitled "Jago Phir Ek Bar" (Wake up, once more), numbered 1 and 2 respectively. Both poems date from his early, most Chayavad phase (1920-38) and are included in the first anthology, Par final, which he published in l929. (1) The analysis of these poems reveals how Chayavad techniques were adapted to convey a complex nationalist, Hindu- and Hindi-chauvinist message, and how this was overlaid with gender images. This conflation can be understood against the background of Nirala's life: his search for his own linguistic identity in the light of his experience of growing up in Bengal, his obsession with Tagore, and his marriage and early loss of his wife.


THE TERM Chayavad, or "Shadowism," was originally a derisive term referring to a new style of Hindi poetry that had emerged by the second decade of the twentieth century. What was new in Chayavad was a sense of the self, of love and nature, comparable to that in Western Romanticism, as well as an individualistic reappropriation of the Indian tradition in a new type of mysticism. (2) This mysticism harkened back to medieval devotional literature to some extent, yet it was significantly different because of a more personalized style and the prominent role accorded to the poet's individuality. (3) The mystic penchant of Chayavad poetry gave support to its detractors' reproach of "otherworldliness" and lack of political engagement during the time of the independence movement.

Chayavad has come to be associated with four main "representatives": Jaysankar Prasad (1890-1937), Sumitranand Pant (1900-1978), Mahadevi Varma (1907-87), and Suryakant Tripathi (Sanskritized version of Suraj Kumar Tevari), better known by his nom de plume "Nirala" (l899?-l96l). (4) It is no coincidence that the pseudonym means "the strange one." Nirala indeed was a bit of an "odd man out." Whereas the others lived and worked in the Hindi heartland (Benares and Allahabad), Nirala grew up in Mahisadal in Bengal. His first poetry was in Bengali, though at home he was a Baisvari (Eastern Hindi) speaker. He learned Modern Standard Hindi, or Khari Boli, only in his teens and moved to the Hindi heartland in his thirties, to Lucknow and then to Allahabad.


One of the recurrent criticisms of Chayavad has been that it lacked a concern with the central political and social issues of its era, the twenties and thirties. This criticism was there right from the start, (5) though it represented just one of the many qualms of the early critics. The Chayavads were not their own best advocates in countering this reproach. Their response tended to concentrate on literary issues, and they were especially preoccupied with their critics' accusation that the source of inspiration of Chayavad was "foreign." (6)

The criticism that Chayavad lacked socio-political relevance, however, became ever more vocal. By the end of the thirties, Chayavad had lost its bloom. Prasad had died in 1937, and Mahadevi would soon quit writing poetry (after 1942). The new vogue of the day was Pragativad or "Progressive Writing," a climate hostile to romantic musings. (7) Pant himself had come under the influence of Marxist theories of literature and rejected his former romanticism. (8) Chayavad-bashing became something of the fad of the day. A typical attack on the Chayavadis, representative for the Zeitgeist, is the following:

Their poems are not progressive (pragatisil), but reactionary pratikriyavadi)... This movement of Chayavad has caused Hindi literature as much damage perhaps as the Hindu Mahasabha or the Muslim League have caused India. (9)

Of the major Chayavadis, Mahadevi and Nirala were the only ones left to take offense at this type of statement. Mahadevi reacted in her characteristically thoughtful way, mainly against the reproach of lack of realism. (10) Nevertheless, she would soon stop writing poetry, and the anthologies of poetry she edited (Bangdarsan in 1944) and the prose sketches of Indian village life that she published in this period (Atit ke Calcitra in 1941 and Smrti ki Rekhae in 1943) seem much more progressive in tone. (11)

As regards Nirala's reaction, ironically, it was he who from the start had showed most interest in social and nationalist topics. Now he attended some of the Progressive Writers' meetings, but he was too much of a rebel to identify closely with that association. (12) The main obstacle was Nirala's total aversion to politicians or political theorists meddling with literature and dictating what poets should be writing about. Characteristically, he was not very diplomatic about voicing his aversion and contempt. (13) In the climate of the times, this was not forgiven, and he made many new enemies who wrote in less than flattering terms about his work.

Nirala, with his volatile temper, took the attacks very personally. He was especially upset when a negative evaluation of his work appeared in English. This happened when Vatsyayana (later, the very influential poet "Agyey") wrote in deprecating terms about the "aesthete" type of modern Hindi poet, "obviously a person who does not face reality and who lives a protected and more or less innocuous life." (14) Vatsyayana went so far as to accuse this type of poet of narcissism. He considered Pant to be the prime exponent of the genre, but classified Nirala too under the heading, with a stinging comment:

In fact, the pitfalls to which the aesthete is liable show up more glaringly in his [Nirala's] case. His is another ease of artistic liability gone astray due to overwhelming self-esteem ... (15)

Vatsyayana softens the blow by praising Nirala's early work and lauding his contribution to the use of free verse in Hindi poetry, but he ends on a disconcerting note:

And having given him due credit for this, let us say no more. Nil nisi bonum, and as a literary force, at any rate, Nirala is already dead. (16)

It appears that the main reproach of its opponents was Chayavad's self-absorption and its lack of social and political engagement, which is understandable given the political climate of the times. However, the stigma of escapism seems to have stuck, and even some modern authors perpetuate the tradition of belittling Chayavad poets for their perceived lack of social and political commitment.

A good example is a recent English-language "History of Hindi Literature," where Pant and Nirala are classified as "aesthetes," using the exact language (without acknowledgment) of H. S. Vatsyayana. (17) The author continues with an evaluation in which Vatsyayana's article is reproduced more or less wholesale (again without acknowledgment), providing additionally the Hindi originals for Vatsyayana's quotes and references to the post-1937 poetry of Pant and Nirala. Such "borrowings" from the thirties are not only derivative, but also misleading.

In fact, far from being isolated, all the Chayavad poets participated in the general effort to raise social consciousness, whether in words or deeds, or both. (18) In terms of activism, right from the start, Pant was involved in the Non-Cooperation movement of 1921 and worked for the Indian National Congress, (19) whereas Mahadevi was a supporter of Gandhi and a staunch promoter of women's education, and was involved in several other projects for social uplift. (20)

Chayavad poetry itself may not be as straightforwardly socio-political as that of the period just preceding it, the so-called Dvivedi Yug (Schoolmaster Period), but that does not mean that it was bereft of socio-political significance. It has been suggested that the Chayavad poets were in fact doing something of more importance than trying to use poems as vehicles for nationalist propaganda: they were involved in building national consciousness by an entire cultural identity." (21) Mahadevi herself seems to have been aware of this in describing Chayavad as something like a liberation from the cultural inferiority complex that had resulted from British colonial rule. (22) It is however not only in defensive rhetorical statements that these political concerns surface, but also in Chayavad poetry itself.

It is my contention that, at least in the case of Nirala, Chayavad poetry can carry a complex political message and that it cannot be fully understood if that is ignored. I should, however, briefly point out that Nirala is more than a representative of Chayavad. In contrast to most of the other major Chayavadis, he continued publishing after Chayavad, as a movement, was finished--by the end of the thirties. Naturally, his poetry changed quite a bit in the course of this long, productive career. Nirala's poetic oeuvre is usually divided roughly into Chayavadi (1920-38), satirical (1939-49), and reflective (1950-61) periods.

In contemporary literary circles, it is fashionable to quote Nirala's non-romantic poetry, especially his poems with an obvious social relevance. On this basis, he is actually often hailed as a poet of the people. Examples from recent issues in one of the trend-setting Hindi literary journals, Hamsa, are articles by V. C. Sarma and C. B. Bhgrati. (23) The latter is typical in highlighting approvingly Nirala's "social" poems, such as the famous "Vah Torti Patthar" (She breaks stones).

My aim in this article is not to participate in current literary debates, but to problematize some of the underlying assumptions that are used in their argumentation. In particular, I want to address the stereotyping of Nirala that serves contemporary political needs. I will draw attention to the fact that Nirala's Chayavadi poetry, too, even that of his very first anthology, Parimal, partook of the socio-political debates of the time. I want to make the point that his more romantic poetry also has a socio-political relevance, in its historical context, but that Nirala's messages do not necessarily fit the political agenda dominating the literary scene of the late nineties. In the hindsight of the late twentieth century, Nirala's agenda is often misunderstood because the political issues at the time were to some extent different from today's.

The argument I make is historical, the better to assess Nirala's Chayavadi poetry. I do not seek to judge any of the positions propounded in the current literary debates, and my argument should not be taken as endorsing the view that applauds socially engaged poetry as the only real poetry, even less as defending the political views that Nirala expressed in the poetry I quote.

While I do not wish to take sides, the issues Nirala's romantic poetry raises are very relevant to current debates. Most obviously, the Hindi-Hindu connection is very much in the thick of contemporary political debates, sparked by the rising tide of Hindutva, which spill over into the literary world. The endorsement of the slogan Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan by the influential contemporary Marxist poet Namvar Singh (in the October-December 1997 issue of the journal Kala Prayojan, published from Udaypur) provoked a polemic reaction in Hamsa, as a selling out of Marxism to Hindutva forces. (24) In such a context, Nirala's political ideas take on a new dimension. For example, Nirala's poem "Ram ki Sakti Puja" (1936) has been criticized for being reactionary and for reinforcing orthodox Hindu feudal forces, in an article in which the author deplores the lack of solidarity of Marxist literary critics with the Dalit cause. (25)

The whole issue of the political implications of poetry takes on a special relevance in the light of the soul-searching going on currently in connection with the celebration of fifty years of Indian independence: see, especially, Rajendra Yadav's editorial for the special issue of Hamsa. (26) Finally, Nirala's feeling of inferiority, when it comes to a comparison of Hindi literature with that in Bengali, seems to be echoed by contemporary authors who lament the success of Indian literature in English vis-a-vis that in Hindi.


2.1 Nirala's Nationalism

2.1.1 Nationalist essays. Nirala was from the beginning of his literary career acutely aware of political happenings, and often politically active. He reputedly helped organize local farmer movements in his district. (27) Being on the editorial board of several magazines in those troubled times, he wrote politically loaded editorials. He wrote, for example, in defense of Gandhi's carkha movement for homespun cotton when Tagore opposed it. (28)

The brand of nationalism Nirala propounded in his essays was inspired by one of the Bengali Hindu reform movements, the Ramakrishna Mission. This movement (founded formally in 1897) was inspired by the ecstatic saint Ramakrishna (Ramakrsna), but systematized and in the process substantially reworked by his disciple Vivekananda (Narendranath Datta). The Mission saw itself within the orthodox Vedanta tradition, whose spiritual goal is to realize the ultimate unity that underlies the multiplicity of the phenomenal world. The philosophical school that stresses the ultimate oneness of man, universe, and God, is Advaita or 'non-dualism'. At the same time, the Mission was inspired by tantric ideas, in particular, the theory of the all-pervading cosmic life force or sakti.

The Mission's message took the form of a Hindu chauvinist mysticism that claimed to subsume even Western religions, such as Christianity. Vivekananda encouraged his disciples to take pride in their own tradition and to shed the inferiority complex inherited from the colonial period. The keynote of one of his speeches, taken from the Bhagavad Gita, was "Yield not to unmanliness." While basing his arguments on traditional scriptures, such as the Gita, he preached a "muscular" Hinduism. (29) This was understandably attractive in the climate of nationalist agitation during Nirala's youth.

From the early twenties onward Nirala was at times associated with the Mission. (30) He had been attracted to Advaita philosophy via Svami Premananda, an ascetic who visited the Mahisadal court where Nirala worked at the time. (31) In 1922, after a quarrel, Nirala gave up his work at the court. His independent nature drove him to move to Calcutta, where he was welcomed in the Mission. He earned his living by working on the editorial board of their Hindi monthly Samanvay. (32) In this capacity, he published several essays, mostly on Advaita and in praise of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. (33) Nirala also translated several works by Vivekananda. (34)

Beginning with the very first essay Nirala published in Samanvay, it is clear that his interpretation of Advaita is immediately geared to political ends. (35) The essay, entitled "Bahar aur Bhitar" (Outward and inward), discusses the question whether one should follow an external or internal path to independence/emancipation (svatantrata), that is, one through action or through contemplation. (36) For Nirala, there can be no true emancipation without the latter. He argues that as long as man is still governed by his senses, he cannot claim to be liberated. Without control of the senses, independence is meaningless. This interconnection of spiritual and political liberation is, we shall see, a major theme in the poems to be discussed.

However, this does not mean that Nirala sees the world of the senses as unreal and advises a "splendid isolation"--as is clear from an essay entitled "Pravah" (Stream) that he published in the next issue of the magazine in 1922-23. (37) Here, he defines the ever-changing stream, the world of appearances, as something real and positive, as the great cosmic force or mahasakti. Nirala stresses the dynamism and ever-changing character of the phenomenal world, comparing it with the changing sets of a theatre, an image echoed in the poem we will discuss below. He does not seek to remain outside this whirlwind, but argues that the way to liberation goes right through the ever-changing stream of appearances. (38)

Clearly, Vivekananda was a major source of inspiration for Nirala's philosophical and political ideas. Though Nirala was too much a rebel to follow for long the disciplined life of his ascetic colleagues at the Ramakrishna Mission, the philosophical attraction endured and is reflected in his poetry. The call for awakening in the title of the poems discussed below hints, at the same time, at a spiritual and nationalist awakening.

2.1.2 Nationalist poetry. Whereas Chayavad poets were rarely as straightforward and explicit as those of the preceding patriotic Dvivedi Yug, they too were involved in creating poetry on nationalist themes. In fact, the very first poem Nirala published was a patriotic one. This rather conventional song in praise of his motherland is comparable to Tagore's that became the national anthem. The refrain of this early song may preshadow some of the militancy so prominent in the later poem we will analyze more closely:

vadhir visva cakit bhit sun bhairav vani janmabhumi meri hai jaganmaharani. (39)

The deaf universe startles alarmed, hearing the doomsday proclamation (40)

My motherland is the queen of the world.

The optimism expressed in this early poetry soon gave way to more grave concerns. Gandhi's non-cooperation movement of 1920-21 had started as a hopeful coalition of Hindus and Muslims, but ended unfortunately in bloody riots and general disillusion. When, in the beginning of 1922, Gandhi abandoned the civil disobedience campaign he was to lead in Bardoli, many patriots, especially those imprisoned for the cause, felt deceived. (41) The mood became angry. Nirala was no exception.

This new mood is apparent in some early poems on patriotic themes. (42) Nirala's first anthology, Parimal, contained several nationalist poems. (43) Most obviously patriotic is "Maharaj Sivaji ka Patra" (Letter from emperor Sivaji), (44) in the form of a fictitious letter from the seventeenth-century Maratha chief Sivaji. The letter is addressed to the Rajput king of Jaipur, Jai Singh, on the eve of the latter's departure for the Deccan to fight the Marathas in service of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Sivaji appeals passionately to Jai Singh to stop fighting fellow Hindus and instead turn his arms against the Muslim emperor. He argues that the Hindu kings' self-interest and in-fighting have damaged the Hindu cause and made rule by a Muslim minority possible. (45) Nirala turns the political situation of the seventeenth century into a metaphor for the independence struggle from the British. In effect he is communicating a nationalist message through Sivaji as mouthpiece, calling for an end to internal bickering and for making common cause against the rule of a minority. He casts the plea in a rhetoric of heroism and sacred duty. (46)

Another poem from Parimal with nationalist message makes the most of the favorite Chayavad metaphor of life-bringing storm clouds: "Badal Rag" (Thunder Cloud Symphony). (47) Such passages made excellent recitation material for the political stage. Nirala read relevant parts, apparently to much acclaim, at the occasion of the Faizabad Hindi Sahitya Sammelan of 1937. (48) Similarly, the nationalist poem discussed below, "Jago Phir Ek Bar (2)," was read with considerable success at the Shimla Hindi Sahitya Sammelan in 1936. The ambiguity of Nirala's stance on political poetry is well illustrated by what happened at the latter conference. At first, Nirala had refused to read poetry precisely because of the over-political rhetoric of the organizers, but later he upstaged them by reading a political poem that put their hypocrisy to shame. (49)

"Jago Phir Ek Bar (2)" is pervaded with a strong sense of anger and is clearly intended as a battle cry. According to his biographer, Nirala wrote this poem at the demand of his editor for something inspiring for Hindus. (50) This fits well in the environment of increasing disenchantment with the non-violence of Gandhi's movement. (51)

Nirala's preference for the Hindu and Sikh traditions in this poem, or the rhetoric of "Maharaj Sivaji ka Patra," could be interpreted as anti-Muslim, but that would be a mistake. Nirala also wrote disapprovingly of the anti-Muslim Hindu sectarianism of his times. When compartmentalizing of politics took place along communal lines, the Calcutta weekly which Nirala then published for, Matvala, espoused Hindu sectarian attitudes blended with communist elements. Nirala, however, did not subscribe to the anti-Muslim sentiment of the time, as is clear from a polemic article against this type of myopic sectarianism, "Sahitya ki Samtal Bhumi," published in Samanvay, July-August 1926. (52) Even when, pressed for money, he was writing children's stories on traditional Hindu subjects in the mid-twenties, he made it a point to specify that he wished to contribute to a broadminded education of the public he wrote for and to end the murderous fanaticism (ghatak kattarta) the country had fallen prey to. (53)

Both "Badal Rug" and "Jago Phir Ek Bar" are multi-part poems with separate subdivisions that likely were composed at different times, yet are redacted in Parimal as belonging together. Both start out as poems expressing romantic love by using favorite Chayavad nature images of "renaissance": the breaking of dawn, the opening of flower buds, and the rain clouds bringing new life with their torrential downpour. These images are transformed subsequently into symbols for nationalist awakening and a true torrent of patriotism. Thus Nirala has been able to forge romanticism into a vehicle of nationalist expression. This is in harmony with other Chayavad poems, which are characterized by a strong personal appropriation of traditional images, including nature images. I will proceed below to outline this in detail for the poem "Jago Phir Ek Bar." For now it suffices to indicate that the "awakening" called for by the title amounts, especially in the second poem, to a nationalist battle-cry in the fight against British colonial power.

2.2 Niralas Stance on Political Language Issues

2.2.1 Forging a new medium for poetry: the battle with Urdu and Braj. In addition to such political subject matter in his essays and poetry, one could argue that Nirala's activity as a poet in itself was political. In the first decades of the twentieth century, the very act of writing in Khari Boli Hindi and, especially, creating poetry in that language was a political statement. It amounted to subscribing to a reformist and nationalist political agenda, affirming linguistic preference against two other possible media of expression, Urdu and Braj Bhasa. The rivalry between Hindi and Urdu concerned mainly the recognition of official status in government courts, offices, and in education. The increasing association of Hindi with Hindus and Urdu with Muslims during the second half of the nineteenth century is well documented. (54) When Nirala embarked on his poetic career, this rivalry still loomed large, though by the end of the first decade of the twentieth century Hindi had acquired the upper hand. In any eve nt, the rivalry with Urdu did not preoccupy him much.

The rivalry between standard Hindi and Braj had no such communal overtones and had nothing to do with official status. Here, the arena was that of poetry, always the most prestigious form of literature in South Asia. Braj had been well ensconced for centuries as the poetic standard language. However, its literature tended to be confined to subject matter with Krishnaite and erotic overtones. In the nineteenth century, this was increasingly seen as a handicap. Braj was felt no longer to be an appropriate vehicle for modern poetry. It fell short as a medium in which an enlightened elite could propagate modern ideas. In its place, a new standard, Khari Boli, already popular for prose, should be adopted. In this linguistic controversy, constructs of gender had already come to the fore, as epitomized by Hindi professor Badrinath Bhatt's statement that the sweetness of Braj had turned Indians into eunuchs. (55) When Nirala began to study Hindi, the debate had only just been decided in favor of Khari Boli, (56) whic h thus had emerged as the vehicle proper to both prose and poetry.

While one of the arguments in favor of Hindi had been its suitability for poetry of protest and contestation, ironically Hindi poetry first really acquired prestige in the Chayavad, or Romantic, movement. As pointed out above, Chayavad also was inspired to some extent by medieval bhakti or devotional literature, including the very poetry in Braj that Hindi's defenders were reacting against. Notwithstanding the Braji inspiration, the Chayavadis still saw their act of creating poetry in Khari Boli as a conscious breaking away from "the dream world of Braj." They stressed that the new poetry ought to sound like an invigorating "wake-up call," its mood ought to be one inspiring heroism, instead of eroticism. A classical statement to that effect can be found in Pant's introduction to his anthology Pallav. (57)

Nirala too seeks to distance the heroic objectives of his own poetry from the romantic charm of Braj. This is well exemplified by a short but poignant poem:

hu dur--sada mai dur!


suman-surabhi samir-sukh-anubhav


dekh raha ru bhul--sur

hu dur--sada mai dur! (58)

I am aloof--eternally aloof.

Frolicsome arts, soft sound of water,

flower-fragrance, the pleasant touch of the breeze

novel plays of reaching the tryst in moonbeams

you were engrossed, [now] forget it, (59) hero!

I am aloof--eternally aloof.

This poem begins with a series of alliterative compounds, which echo the standard formulae of Braj for idyllic pastoral poetry. Nirala then interrupts the flow with a "wake-up call" to forget such diverting pleasures. By addressing his reader as a "hero," he intimates that a bigger task awaits him. In the final line, which is the title line, he comes to his main message; he quite literally distances the modern Hindi poet from the Braj poetaster.

Thus, Chayavadis had a complex relation with the medieval Braj tradition: on the one hand they were inspired by it; on the other, they took their distance. In light of this debate, Nirala's "wake-up call" in the refrain of the poems, discussed below, has yet a different dimension. It is also a call for awakening from "the dream world of Braj."

2.2.2 Backing Hindi as national language: the battle with Bengali. While by the twenties the language debates were largely decided in favor of Modern Standard Hindi (MSH), a new rival now appeared on the scene, namely, Bengali. The political issue at stake by this time was the question of national language, rastrabhasa.

One of the desiderata of the rastrabhasa, often voiced by opponents of Hindi, was the existence of a literature that could be compared to that of the colonial language, English. The supporters of MSH had long been acutely aware of its literary shortcomings. (60) Efforts to establish a respectable canon of Hindi literature had been underway since the sixties of the nineteenth century. (61) Hindi speakers, embarrassingly, had to point to the bigwigs of "Early Hindi" literature in Braj and Avadhi, the very languages they had only just branded as "unfit for modern poetry."

The lack of quality literature was still urgently discussed in the second decade of the twentieth century, at gatherings of a volunteer organization for the promotion of MSH, the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, which took place from 1910 onwards (first in Benares, later in Allahabad). When it came to contemporary literature, defenders of Hindi could soon point to Maithilisaran Gupta's Bharat-Bharati and Ayodhya Simh Harioudh's Priyapravas, both published in 1914, and the by then respectable track record of Mahavir Prasad Dvivedi's (1864-1938) magazine Saraswati, which had for its agenda precisely the publication of MSH poetry. However, the relative dearth of literate poetry in MSH remained a weak factor.

In 1913, the promoters of Bengali as the national language were heartened, for they could now boast of a Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore. Gandhi himself compared Hindi literature unfavorably with Bengali. (62) Nirala, for one, felt compelled to respond vehemently to this kind of statement and devoted several editorials to the defense of Hindi literature. (63)

Also in his poetry, Nirala sings the praises of Hindi as national language, as in "Gae Rup Pahcan," the first line of which is:

suni rastrabhasa ki jab se bhavy manohar tan,

miti moh-maya ki nidra gaye rup pahcan (64)

Since the magnificent luring tune of the national language resounded,

Erased is the dream of illusion and maya. Its [true] form has been recognized.

Interestingly, Nirala's argumentation with Bengali is cast in gender imagery. Nirala equates Hindi with virility, and Bengali with femininity. This is the theme of the very first article he ever published, namely "Vamga Bhasa ka Uccaran" (The pronunciation of the language of Bengal), published in the prestigious Sarasvati in October 1920. (65) The article was a passionate attack on the "effeminate" Bengali language, reverberating with political implications. As background for understanding Nirala's poetry, this article deserves close attention.

Nirala begins by praising the beautiful language of Bengal and its rich literature, using the metaphor of a beautiful woman (sarvanga-sundari) in reference to the language. However, he quickly comes to his pungent point: the lady has a "beauty spot"--Bengali has a major flaw, which lies in the way it is pronounced:

The Bengali language, [like] a lady beautiful in every respect, has her flaws too. The flaw is in her pronunciation ... In this respect great Bengali scholars hold that this flaw merely enhances the beauty of the Bengali language, just like the black beauty spots on the moon. But I cannot support this. However, I will surely confirm that, just as the moon cannot get rid of her stain, similarly, Bengali [cannot get rid of] this stigma. (66)

Nirala explains the problem as mainly lying in the lack of distinctive pronunciation of long and short vowels in Bengali (elsewhere he also cites Bengali's failure to pronounce conjunct consonants and to differentiate sibilants and nasals, see below). The lack of distinction in vowel length constitutes, in his view, a problem for poetry, since it makes the language unreceptive to the dicta of moric meter, or matrik chand, in which vowel length plays a major role. Nirala "proves" his point by a metrical analysis of a Bengali poem that he finds wanting. The poet was none other than Tagore. Nirala goes so far as to suggest an alternative to the first line of Tagore's poem, which would fulfill the criteria of matrik chand. Needless to say, the alternative is in Hindi. (67)

Finally, Nirala levels his main charge: the phonological features of Bengali are not "innocent." They have a major, nefast impact on the psyche of Bengalis:

Because the bulk of Bengali verse is based on short syllables, the influence this has had on the language is extensively soft and sweet. This softness of the language has permeated everything: Bengali people's outfit and attire, their food and drink, their way of life, mannerisms and life, has so transformed Bengal into the capital of softness (komalta ki rajdhani). (68)

Having thus "shown" the pervasiveness of this feature in the Bengali lifestyle, Nirala then characterizes it in gender terminology. He presses the charge that Bengali is basically a feminine language and not a proper vehicle for male expression.

However, softness is women's duty, whereas men strive for dignity (gambhirya) ... In order to express sufficient masculinity (paryapt paurus), one needs to dignify the words needed. If the voice does not become firm, heavy and loud (thes, bhari ya uci), then the dignified sentiment (gambhir bhav) does not get expressed via language. (69)

The channel through which Nirala might have been exposed to such colonial views likely was the Hindu "reformist" reactions to them, in particular the writings of Svami Vivekananda (see above, [section]2.1.1). (72) Interestingly, the latter subscribed to a "muscular" Hinduism and reacted against his own guru Ramakrishna's "effeminate" behavior. (73) Still, Nirala's argument against the effeteness of Bengalis is built quite differently from colonial and reformist arguments. He does not blame the climate of Bengal, nor ethnicity measured in muscular power, nor lack of physical education or discipline tout court, nor deficient diet, "superstitious habits," nor even the "overemotional" Vaisnava tradition, (74) but nothing less than language itself.

Such rhetoric is reminiscent of the colonial criticism of Bengalis as effeminate, (70) but it is not immediately clear through which channel this might have reached Nirala. He did not belong to the Anglicized elite, but grew up in a provincial (though relatively privileged) milieu, as son of a Brahmin functionary at the small local court of Mahisadal. Even when he later moved to the hub, Calcutta, and began his journalistic career, he lived in penury and did not have access to the intellectual elite of the city. (71)

Nirala has yet more to say in his article. He stresses that Bengali pronunciation is impossible to learn for someone who has not grown up in the area. (75) Hereby Nirala has identified another major disqualifying characteristic for a language aspiring to be the national language.

Clearly, the major agenda behind Nirala's "linguistic" musings is political. First, he makes the point that a language lacking distinction between long and short vowels is not a fit vehicle for poetry, thus tarnishing Tagore himself. Second, he establishes that Bengali pronunciation has an effeminizing influence on the Bengali psyche. Finally he has made it clear that the language is unfit to be learned by other Indians. In short, Nirala has managed to "prove" that on three counts-literary, ethical, and pedagogical-Bengali fails to qualify as the national language. His article was very timely: just one month before its publication, in September 1920, the Calcutta session of the Congress had declared for Hindi as the national language.

It is not surprising, given such beginnings, that Nirala continued taking an active part in the debate concerning the prerequisites of a national Indian language, and the rivalry of Hindi and Bengali in that respect. In a negative vein, he strongly condemned the idea that a national language must have a high-quality literature. (76) On the positive side, he described his vision of what should be done to improve Hindi to make it suitable as a national language. Here, Nirala pointed out, among other things how widely Hindi is understood and how easy its pronunciation is. He called for a simple and powerful. (tejasvi) use of the language (77) and for "speeding up" its slow rhythm. (78)

The interconnection between gender imagery and political-linguistic issues that emerged in Nirala's very first article was not merely a dilettante's eccentricity: it kept resurfacing in his later writings. The most explicit statement may be found in the introduction to the anthology Parimal. It could be read nearly as a programmatic purpose for his poetry:

A language of which the pronunciation is totally un-aryan (anarya), in which there is no realization of long and short [vowels], in which conjunct consonants are pronounced separately, which has no indication for differentiating its sibilants and nasals, no matter how sweet it may be, or how much influence it has on litterateurs, nevertheless it can never be India's universally respected national language. . . I know too that the national language will be the one that has to obtain that title by means of its literary virility (sahityik paurus). (79)

In addition to issues of gender, there is a racial factor underlying these statements, which Nirala makes more explicit later in the same text: "People who are secretly considering ways to promote Bengali,.. . don't know what the difference is between an Aryan pronunciation and Bengali's Mongolian pronunciation." (80) This amounts to nothing less than declaring all supporters of Bengali un-aryan and, by implication, hostile to Hinduism, with even a hint of collaboration with Islam. At this point, again, we may suspect Nirala has imbibed some of the colonial discourse, this time on ethnicity.

In any case, from the above it is clear that, in Nirala's mind, gender, nationalism, and linguistic identity were closely interwoven. He argued vehemently for the superiority of Hindi over Bengali. In doing so, he steered clear of the tricky literature criterion, but rather stressed phonological features and identified an agenda for Hindi writers to strengthen the case of Hindi. Among the elements that, in Nirala's opinion, supported Hindi's case were Hindi's perceived "heroic character" and "masculinity" as opposed to Bengali's "softness" and "femininity."

Against the background of the national language debates, it is clear that merely by creating "mature" high-quality Hindi poetry, Nirala was involved in an explicitly political activity, namely strengthening the case for Hindi as rastrabhasa.


Nirala's passionate engagement with these political issues, especially the national language issue, and his vehement "Bengali-bashing" are best understood against the background of his personal life. Two factors play a role: his growing up as a Hindi speaker amongst Bengalis and his life-long rivalry With Tagore. The latter factor is also connected with his engagement with the Ramakrishna Mission, but the full extent of his philosophical commitment to Vedanta can only be understood against the backdrop of a third factor, namely the early demise of his wife.

3.1 Between Two Worlds: A Hindustani in Bengal

In order to understand Nirala's attitude toward Bengali, it is important to keep in mind that he spent most of his first thirty years in Bengal. Nirala's family originally hailed from the Hindi heartland (Garhakola, near Unnav), but lived in the small kingdom, Mahisadal, in Bengal, where his father worked at the local court. Nirala thus grew up in a bilingual situation: the language spoken at home being an Eastern Hindi dialect, Baisvari, while that of his public environment was Bengali. As a result, he was very much an outsider. In Bengal, he stood out as a "Hindustani." For instance, in local productions of Bengali plays he would be cast in that role. (81) Nirala himself comments quite bitterly on the Bengali chauvinism he experienced during his youth in an essay published in 1925-26:

By contamination from Bengalis, the poison of regionalism (prantiyata ka zahar) had spread all over my veins, but instead of rendering me unconscious in this intoxication, it started to alert me--every minute--to each and every trick of the Bengalis. That was the benefit I got from the Bengalis. I started to get comfortable at seeing through each element of their twisted rhetoric (pecida bat asani se suljha lene laga). (82)

The adult Nirala claims that his youth spent among arrogant Bengalis has "inoculated" him against or rendered him immune to Bengali chauvinism. He claims to have come to know the Bengali mindset quite intimately and as a result to see through its rhetoric. The bitterness, though, of his childhood experiences still reverberates in this passage.

On the other hand, back in his "homeland" near Unnav, Nirala could not claim to be an insider or "local" either. He felt this acutely during the several visits back to the ancestral village of his family, and especially when he got married to Manohara Devi, who hailed from the Hindi heartland, from the village of Dalmau. Initially, Nirala seems to have felt proud of his "city-slicker" attire. He had taken over wholesale the Bengali arrogance he later so despises. This comes through in his description of his journey to the village of his new bride in his tongue-in-cheek autobiographic comedy Kulli Bhat (written in 1937):

Preparations were made to leave by the four o'clock evening train ... Following my dad's advice, I set out around 2:30. Bengali fashion: loincloth, shirt, shoes, and umbrella. In my eyes, too, Bengali pride (Amkh me bhi Bamgal ka pani). Other areas seemed jungle or desert. Like the Bengalis, I too held that the Aryans had become civilized in the true sense of the word only after reaching Bengal, more particularly since after the coming of the English. In the shade of the Mahua trees and inside moisturized shelters, one did not have to cope with U.P.'s heat. Only outside, traversing the ditches, did the hot wind hit with such a jolt that one's Kundalini energy seemed to rise simultaneously. Just as Ravi Babu [Tagore] has written in praise of Sarasvati's graceful glance hitting her chosen son: "eko bare sakal parda glucie dao tar" (as if simultaneously she brushes aside all veils). Such a light appeared that all illusion was gone. But there is a difference of personality: Ravi Babu got to see it from his armcha ir, Blessed Moses from the mountain, and I on the road (galiyare me). She kept saying, opposing the hot wind: "Now you have obtained knowledge, go back home." (83)

In this passage, the adult Nirala reflects on how his youthful Bengali ways melted like snow under the hot sun of the United Provinces. There are several interesting points in his description. First, by linking his dress and attire with Bengali chauvinism, he politicizes it. One can even detect a racial slur when he implicitly marks Bengalis as un-aryan and English-loving, collaborators with the colonizer. Further, he describes the melting away of his Bengali pride as a "transformative" experience, comparing it to a spiritual and poetic awakening. Though the passage is ironical, the undertone is dead serious: Nirala could become a truly enlightened poet only upon shedding his Bengali "shell." His poking fun at Tagore, the "arm-chair" mystic-poet, here is in no way accidental: Nirala never missed a chance to slight the man who won a Nobel Prize for Bengal (see also sections] 3.2 below). What is clear, even underneath the irony of the adult reminiscences, is that Nirala had imbibed Bengali ways of thinking and had come to equate those with a cosmopolitan outlook. However, he was challenged severely, and not just by the hot climate of the Hindi heartland.

Upon arrival in his wife's village, he did not get to be the respectable "babu" he had set out to play. Instead, he was caught up in a psychological struggle to get the upper hand over his in-laws, which the groom traditionally is supposed to have. Nirala was not always successful. Soon he had to cope with humiliations even from his own wife, who would poke fun at his lack of knowledge of "proper Hindi." Significantly, these snubs are what seem to have driven Nirala to learn Khari Boli Hindi. Previously, as a Baisvari speaker "in exile in Bengal," he had been largely ignorant of the newly emerging standard MSH and its political implications. It was apparently only in 1913 that he started to take an interest. (84) Nirala himself relates how this was occasioned by a quarrel with his young wife during their honeymoon (or rather, gavahi, stay of the young husband at the house of his bride's parents, to confirm publicly the new marriage). He provides details of the marital tiff in Kulli Bhat:

...I did not manage to get my Mrs. fully under my sway (Srimati ji mere adhikar me puri tarah nahi a rahi thi), or she did not agree that she had to learn from me. She understood me to be, whatever else I might know, a total nitwit (pura gavar) when it came to Hindi.... One day it came to a tiff. I said: "You always go on about Hindi. What's so great about Hindi?" She said: "When you don't even know [the language], you can't get it." I said: "I don't know Hindi?" She said: "Your [own] words say so: you speak Baisvari, you have read Tulsi's Ramayan, that's it. What do you know about Modern Standard Hindi?" (85)

Manohara Devi was making a distinction between "proper" MSH and Nirala's Baisvari speech. She even disparaged his knowledge of Tulsidas' Ramcaritmanas, of which he was quite proud, having tried to impress his mother-in-law with it, and on which he would write extensively. (86) Nirala clearly had no notion of what she was getting at. He had to confess that he had not even heard of Pandit Mahavir Prasad Dvivedi or any of the pioneers of Hindi poetry whose names his wife recited for him gleefully. (87) Keen on rehabilitating himself in her and his own eyes, Nirala began to decipher the grammar of the language on his own. As soon as he got back home, he started studying the two Hindi journals he had access to, namely Dvivedi's trend-setting magazine Sarasvati and Maryada (edited from Benares):

A fire raged in my heart: I had not studied Hindi. In Bengal there was not much knowledge about Hindi, where I lived, in the countryside.... At that time there were two magazines of Hindi: Sarasvati and Maryada. I started to order them both.... Just reading, I began to understand the meaning without difficulty, but I had difficulties in writing. But effort can accomplish everything. Every night till 2 or 3 AM, I worked on analyzing each sentence of Sarasvati according to Sanskrit, English, and Bengali grammar. Where the [past participle] verb forms [of 'to say' in masc. sg. and pl. and fem. sg.] kaha, kahe, kahi were used, I started attentively looking for the reason.... And I found out what the reason was. That joy, which I felt when realizing the reason, cannot be described as anything less than the joy of spiritual unity with God (brahmanand se kam nahi kaha jd sakta).... I considered Acarya Dvivedi my guru, though I had not received instruction [regularly, with the guru's consent] like Arjuna, but [furtiv ely, without the guru's active instruction] like Ekalavya. (88)

Every beginning Hindi student can sympathize with Nirala's difficulties in unraveling the intricacies of the so-called agentive construction in Hindi. (And with the relief in finally getting the hang of it.) What is interesting is that the metaphors he uses are borrowed from the Hindu tradition: he refers to spiritual enlightenment and the heroes of the Mahabharata. As we will see, Nirala does something similar in his poem "Jago Phir Ek Br (2)." Though the autobiographical passage is tongue-in-cheek, these metaphors betray his perception that this episode in the "war of the sexes" plays against a Hindu-nationalist background. Nirala's regional identity as a Baisvari, traditionally identified with heroism and virility, (89) was subsumed in his newfound virile Hindi identity.

If we take Nirala's own word for it, his early Bengali cosmopolitan identity was questioned in the Hindi heartland, in a situation where he was struggling to establish superiority over his in-laws. More particularly, his initiation into standard Hindi was motivated by a desire to prove his superiority as a male over his wife. We might further speculate that the urgency to prove himself in his and her eyes must have grown when he failed his exams the next year and was sent away by his father to earn his own bread. As a consequence, the young couple was compelled to seek temporary refuge with her parents, (90) which is regarded as a humiliation for the man. Clearly, the young Nirala's taking up Hindi coincided with an identity crisis in which his masculinity was at stake. This may explain some of the vehemence in his anti-Bengali and pro-Hindi activities and certainly sheds a light on why language identity was so closely connected to gender identity in his work. The "awakening" called for in the title of the po ems under consideration takes on a very personal tone: perhaps Nirala is calling for his own personal awakening from an "effeminate" Bengali youth to a virile Hindi manhood.

3.2 Creative Crisis: Accused of Plagiarizing Tagore

The personal element behind Narala's crusade for Hindi becomes even more prominent in the light of his rivalry with Tagore. By virtue of his knowledge of Bengali, Nirala was familiar with Rabindranath Tagore's work in a more direct way than any of the other Chayavad poets. (91) In the beginning of his career, when his star was on the rise and he had no peer as a Hindi poet who knew Bengali, Nirala translated poems by Tagore and wrote some of his own that were clearly inspired by Tagore. These poems were published in the February, April, and May 1924 issues of Matvala. (92) Some carried the specification Mahakavi Sri Ravindranath Thakur ke bhavo (Inspired by the great poet R. N. Tagore), but others did not. It did not take long before he was accused of plagiarizing the Bengali poet, which soured his original admiration and his aspiration to become the "Tagore of Hindi," and turned them into jealousy and a life-long obsession.

The accusation of plagiarism was formulated for the first time immediately after the poems were published in 1924. Nirala was accused of "theft" for publishing translations of Tagore in his own name. Against what one might expect, the attacks came not from Tagore supporters, but from Hindi poets of the old Dvivedi school, who felt themselves attacked by the Chayavad movement and, especially, by Nirala's success. First there appeared a sarcastic editorial in Manorama, a magazine from Allahabad, in which Chayavad, in general, and Nirala, in particular, were accused of unintelligibility. And worse: it dismissed Chayavad as derivative of Bengali and English poetry.

The allegations were countered in a defensive editorial in Matvala that called Nirala the first great national Hindi poet. (93) Nirala himself also published a letter in which he admitted to being inspired by Tagore, but stressed his own independence. (94) Both replies challenged Nirala's detractors to provide evidence of the alleged plagiarism.

The opponents' camp promptly obliged, in an article that was published in September 1924, in Kanpur-based Prabha, the very magazine that had been the first to publish a poem by Nirala. The title of the article was "Bhavo ki Bhiranta" (Clash of inspirations), and the author wrote under the pseudonym Sriyut Bhavuk. However, the likely author was none other than Maithilisaran Gupta, the "national poet" or rastrakavi himself. Gupta may have been piqued, first, by Nirala's earlier aggressive writings lamenting the absence of "natural" poetry in Hindi, which might be construed as an indirect reproach to Gupta. (95) Second, that Matvala had declared Nirala the "first great poet of the national language Hindi" must have seemed to challenge Gupta's own "crown." (96)

Be that as it may, after a sarcastic introduction, the unidentified author provided a detailed comparison of two of Tagore's poems and the corresponding ones by Nirala. He concluded that both poems were as alike "as the Ravi and Surya in the poets' names" (both meaning "sun"), a clever pun on the names Ravindranath and Suryakant. To make it worse, he stressed that Nirala's creations were inferior to Tagore's. Subsequently, more bitter polemical articles appeared in Matvala and Manorama. (97)

Nirala was shattered. This series of accusations resulted in a dramatic loss of prestige in the Hindi literary world, where his star had been on the rise, and even in his circle in Calcutta. In the words of his biographer, this was the end of the spring of "the Jasmine bud." (98) Nirala interrupted his work as a contributor to Matvala and seems to have been engaged in a struggle to regain his self-confidence and credit in the eyes of his friends and readers. True to character, he fought hard to reestablish his credentials. He felt compelled to enter "the lion's den" and visit the offices of Prabha in Kanpur to show the editor Balkrsna Sarma "Navin" his "original" poetry. New poems that Nirala created during this difficult period show the impact of the event, especially "Patonmukh" (Facing the downfall). (99)

This crisis may well underlie the desire for "resurrection" expressed in the two poems under discussion, "Jago Phir Ek Bar" (Wake up, once more). The first, with its imagery of the bee drunk with honey, can be read as a reflection on the ambiguity of "intoxicating" success, which is contrasted with spontaneous poetic creativity (the arrival of Sarasvati) that comes about only after a period of incubation characterized by pain and frustration. The second poem could be read as an exhortation of the poet to himself, to take his humiliation philosophically and gather his strength in a consolidated effort to reassert himself. One could even read into the poem less-than-flattering references to his detractor, Gupta (see below, [section]4.2).

More attacks on Nirala's ego were in the offing, which stung all the more when again the Tagore factor was involved. Even before Nirala's first anthology, Parimal, was published, his old friend Pant joined the chorus. In the foreword to his anthology Pallav (1926), Pant openly criticized Nirala's use of syllabic meter or varnik chand rather than moric meter or matrik chand.

...In this way, the song of the meter too swings on the swing suspended by language (chand ka rag bhi bhasa ke taro par jhulta hai) and where both are not in harmony, the meter simply loses its "voice" (svar). Take, for example, the meters of my friend Nirala. Hindi's Sensitive connoisseur poet (bhavuk sahrday kavi). Some of his meters move on a syllabic musical meter's song (matrik rag) like Bengali...(100)

This comes close to the still-wounding accusation that Nirala was plagiarizing Bengali poets. And Pant continues rather tactlessly by quoting a poem by Tagore to demonstrate how this type of meter works well in Bengali, which does not distinguish between long and short syllables. Then he takes two examples from Nirala's poems from Anamika (1) (both later republished in Parimal), and unfavorably compares one ("Pancavati") with the other ("Adhivas") so as to demonstrate that Nirala's use of meter in the former does not work in Hindi because of its lack of musicality.

In light of Nirala's own theories about Bengali, as quoted above, and of the still-fresh lesion caused by the accusation of plagiarizing Tagore, one can imagine how this public denunciation must have hit home. [101] Moreover, Nirala was in bad financial straits at the time due to the interruption of his editorial work, Ironically, the first job that he, in his penury, managed to get was precisely to write a book in Hindi on Tagore, guaranteed to be a best-seller for the publisher. Small wonder that Nirala would remain preoccupied with Tagore (and the issue of meter) for the rest of his life. (102)

Nirala's enmity with Tagore had a politico-philosophical dimension. It was reinforced by the antagonism between the two major Calcutta-based reform movements: the Brahmo Samaj, the elite religious movement in which the Tagores played a leading role, and the Ramakrishna Mission, with which Nirala was associated (see [section]2.1.1 above), Both movements claimed to be a form of Vedanta based on indigenous Indian writings. The Brahmo Samaj was the older movement (founded under the name Brahmo Sabha in 1828), which concentrated mainly on the reform of what were perceived at the time as the "irrationalities" of the Hindu religion. The Ramakrishna Mission took the form of a Hindu chauvinist mysticism that claimed to subsume even Western religions, such as Christianity.

Nirala, in an essay published for the Mission's Hindi magazine, Samanvay, argues that the genius of Vivekananda's Advaita is that it subsumes all religious differences, and, rather than taking over Western elements, it has even a lesson to teach to the West. He sees this as proof of the superiority of the Ramakrishna Mission's doctrine to that of the Brahmo Samaj, which was both badly divided and Westernized. (103)

The latter remark is not random, and there is a clear connection with Tagore. It occurs in a polemic against Tagore that Nirala had written in defense of Gandhi's carkha movement. This article, entitled "Carkha" (Spinning wheel), was written in 1925-26 (104) Nirala clearly was still reeling from the accusation that he had plagiarized Tagore, as the article hardly dwells upon the pros and cons of Gandhi's campaign for homespun textiles, but is rather an ad hominem attack on Tagore. Nirala analyzes the whole Gandhi vs. Tagore controversy in terms of a clash of regional interests. In his view, it is a matter of Bengalis against Gujaratis, and Nirala sees himself, of course, as opposing the Bengali camp. What is of interest to us is that in the context of rivalry with the Brahmo Samaj, Nirala's old antagonism to Bengali surfaces yet again. The bitter remarks regarding Nirala's youth spent among arrogant Bengalis, which I have quoted above ([section]3.1), came from this essay. It appears that even when ostensibly writing on nationalist issues, Nirala is driven by his personal vendetta against Bengalis and, in particular, Tagore. The whole issue is, moreover, wrapped up with his religio-philosophical identification with the Ramakrishna Mission's nationalist spiritualism and antagonism toward the more Westernized Brabmo Samaj. While the article is ostensibly in defense of homespun textiles, Nirala is actually engaged in weaving a rich fabric from nationalist, regional, and religio-philosophical strands with a strong fil rouge of anti-Bengali and, especially, anti-Tagore sentiments.

3.3 Personal Tragedy: An Irretrievable Loss

Nirala's philosophical attitude, his subscribing to the monistic Advaita philosophy, should not be considered merely a factor in his rivalry with Tagore. Nirala's understanding of the phenomenal world as fleeting, as maya, had a real dimension of lived-through experience underlying it. He had been confronted with the transience and fragility of human existence early in his life. He lost his mother when he was only three, and his father when he was about thirteen. But the most tragic incident occurred when he was in his early twenties. An influenza epidemic, which plagued U.P. in 1918, wiped out nearly all of the rest of his family. Nirala lost his young wife after only a few years of married life. Tragically, Manohara Devi died when she was away from him: he was working in Bengal and she was visiting her parents in Dalmau. To add to the horror, during the same epidemic Nirala also lost several other family members who had been residing near Dalmau, in his ancestral village of Garhakola. When Nirala arrived th ere, shell-shocked by the death of his wife, he saw the body of his elder brother, Badluprasad, being carried away for cremation. His brother's wife died shortly after, and their baby girl died in Nirala's arms. His paternal uncle too died, which left Nirala as the sole adult male in what was left of the joint family. That meant that the full responsibility of providing for his own and his brother's young children fell now on his shoulders. (105)

Most of all, Nirala was affected by the death of Manohara Devi. While she was alive, he had not realized the full extent of their love. As described above, he had often been at odds with his wife and had felt the need to establish his authority over her. During their brief life together, there had been many domestic tiffs. (106) However, after her death Nirala was overcome with a strong feeling of loss. The depth of his feelings is clearest from his poetry. The theme of the lost beloved haunted the poems Nirala wrote during the twenties. (107) In the poem discussed below, "Jago Phir Ek Bar (l)," the call for awakening is, on one level, a desperate plea for revival of the lost beloved.

Nirala gives a brief but powerful prose description of his feelings after the death of his wife and most of his family in the autobiographic Kulli Bhat:

A telegram came: "Your wife is seriously ill, come so as to meet her a last time." I was twenty-two. Only then I was given to understand my love for my wife, when she was about to quit being my wife. I had learnt about the terror of death from the newspapers. The Ganges seemed to be a river of corpses ... The feelings of that time are the strangest of [my] life. My house was emptied out as I looked on helplessly....But even in the midst of such pain and woe, the mind triumphs. Every day I used to go and watch the Ganges. Sitting on a high hill I would look at the sight of the corpses. My mind's state beyond words. Ascetic's Hill (Avdhut tila) in Dalmau is quite high, a famous place. The Ganges takes a turn there. Corpses would pile up. Seated on that hill, I would look at that sight for hours. Sometimes I thought about the ascetic, sometimes about the transience of the world (Samsar ki nasvarta). (108)

This passage seems to be a prose version of the first poem we will discuss below, where Nirala also links his personal loss with the realization of the transience of human life. Nirala's biographer describes the sublimation of his love for his wife into something pure and purged of lust as a transformation of the image of Manohara Devi into that of the goddess of art, the Muse Sarasvati. The same transformation is apparent at the end of Nirala's "Jago Phir Ek Bar (1)." (109)

Nirala seems to have made up his mind not to get entangled anymore in the snare of marital love and chose not to remarry. The question of a possible second marriage was raised around the time of the creation of the "Jago Phir Ek Bar" poems, in 1924. Nirala had returned to U.P. to recover from the accusation of plagiarism and to visit his children and his in-laws. He reportedly gave the horoscope of the prospective bride to his little daughter to play with, well knowing she would tear it to pieces. (110) In any case, he refused to remarry, but was again confronted with memories of his short-lived marital bliss with Manohara Devi. Such reflections about his lost love and the (im)possibility of it being reawakened might have been the immediate inspiration for the poems discussed below, which were created around this time. Their poetic expression, however, goes far beyond that.


From Nirala's biography and his thoughts as expressed in poetry, fiction, and prose essays, it is quite clear that he took active part in the nationalist and linguistic debates of his times. He did so passionately, and it appears that his political convictions were intimately linked with personal crises and tragedies.

The brand of nationalism Nirala defended was colored by his association with the Ramakrishna Mission and took the form of a chauvinist Hindu mysticism, although he steered well clear of anti-Islamic propaganda. Nirala's chauvinism was rather directed against the--in his eyes--Westernized Bradhmo Samaj, and this in turn was colored by his enmity with Tagore. Nirala's message, that political freedom has to go hand in hand with spiritual liberation, also had its roots in his personal experiences, in particular the confrontation with the transience of existence after the tragic loss of his wife and many family members during the influenza epidemic of 1918.

In the debate regarding the national language for the new nation, Nirala threw in his lot on the side of standard Hindi, rejecting Braj and vehemently opposing Bengali. This opposition was tied up with his situation as a "Hindustani" living among Bengalis for much of the first thirty years of his life. It was also reinforced by his struggles to emerge "from the shadow of Tagore." In Nirala's mind, the language issue was intimately connected with gender images. In his defenses of Hindi, he explicitly championed Hindi's virile heroism in contrast to the effeminate softness of Braj as a medium for poetry and, especially, of Bengali. The connection of language and gender issues may be tied to personal factors, as he wanted to prove his masculinity and virility vis-a-vis his wife and in-laws.

Naturally, these political ideas and personal factors are reflected in Nirala's poetry. Nirala's creative identity as a Chayavad poet is, on the one hand, much influenced by the Hindu chauvinist mysticism of Vivekananda. On the other hand, he drew inspiration from Tagore, yet at the same time sought to distance himself from the great Bengali poet, whom he was accused of plagiarizing. In the wake of this accusation, Nirala also sought to distinguish himself from his detractors, other Hindi poets, such as the star of the previous generation of Dvivedi-Yug poets, Maithilisaran Gupta, but also from his fellow-in-Chayavad, Sumitranand Pant.


Having identified the different ingredients of the complex messages Nirala tries to convey in his poetry, it is important to turn to the poetic process itself and examine how Nirala manages to work his messages into a poem of high quality. I have selected for analysis two early poems, both entitled "Jago Phir Ek Bar" (Wake up, once more). These poems were originally published in the Calcutta-based weekly Matvala in 1926. (111) In 1929 they were collected in the bundle Parimal. (112) Though the poems were originally published separately, there is good reason to treat them as a unit. Not only do they have a title in common, but this title functions also as a refrain repeated throughout the poems. Moreover, they share formal stylistic characteristics and are built in parallel fashion. What makes the poems so interesting for our purpose is that, as the title makes clear, they deal with the theme of "awakening," and they do so in a more or less explicitly nationalist context. As we shall see, Nirala uses typical C hayavad techniques to communicate this nationalist message, and has overlaid it with gender images.
4.1 Romanized text and translation of the poems (113)


 1. Wake up, once more (1). Jago Phir Ek Bar (1)
 2. Beloved, all stars are wasted pyare jagate hue hare sab tare
 at waking you up. tumhe
 3. On dawn-red wings, a tender beam arun-pankh tarun-kiran
 4. appears, to open up the door. khari kholti hai dvar--
 5. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


 7. In what kind of honeycombs akhe aliyo-si
 6. did [these] eyes, like bees, get kis madhu ki galiyo me phasi,
 9. Are they drinking the nectar in bandh kar pakhe
 8. their wings closed, pi rahi hai madhu maun
10. or have they fallen asleep in ya soyi kamal-korako me?--
 the lotus-buds,
11. their buzzing dying out? band ho raha gunjar--
12. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!

13. On the Western peak the sun astacal dhale ravi,
14. The moon's luster sasi-chavi vibhavari me
15. is painted onto the night, citrit hui hai dekh
16. The Night's Fragrance (114) has yamini-gandha jagi,
17. The unwavering halo of cakora ek tak cakor-kor darsan-priy,
17. impatient to behold,
18. full of expectations, silent, asao bhari, maun
 in a language birmming with bhasa bahu bhavmayi
19. embraces the moon, eagerly, gher raha candra ko cav se,
21. The flowers, bent over, sisir-bhar-vyakul kul
20. depressed by the burden of khule phul jhuke hue,
21. have come to bloom again.
23. An ambrosial outburst of youth, aya kaliyo me madhur
 wild at heart,
22. surged in their buds. mad-ur yauvan-ubhar--
24. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


25. A pair of papiha birds cry out piu-rav papihe priy bol rahe,
 for their beloved.
26. The young bride on the bridal Sej par virah-viadagha vadhu
 bed, consumed by passion,
27. remembers yesterday's words, yad kar biti bate, rate man-milan
 nights of meeting hearts. ki
28. She closes her tender eyelids, mud rahi palke caru,
29. tears flowing down nayan-jal dhal gaye,
30. to relieve the burden of pain. laghutar kar vyatha-bhar--
31. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


32. Like a consoling breeze, sahrday samir jaise
33. wipe away [my] tears, beloved. pocho priy, nayan-nir
34. Let arms, lax with sleep, sayan-sithil-bahe
35. embrace in a sleepy bhar svapnil aves me,
 impulse. (115)
36. Free [your] eager breast of its atur ur vasan-mukt kar do,
 bonds. (116)
37. Let drowsiness turn into bliss sab supti sukhonmad ho;
 and passion.
38. Give way, [my] languid chut chut alas
 [beloved]. (117)
39. Loosen, on [your] back, phail jane do pith par
40. [your] hairlocks, softer than kalpana se komal
41. straight and curly, eager to rju-kutil prasar-kami kes-gucch.
42. Exhaust [your] body and soul tan man thak jay.
43. in delicately perfumed wind. mrdu surabhi-si samir me
44. Let mind release in mind, buddhi buddhi me ho lin,
45. heart in heart, wish in wish: man me man, ji ji me,
46. only one experience left, ek anubhav bahta rahe
47. through two souls. ubhay atmao me,
48. For so long, I have been kab se mai rahi pukar--
 calling out for this.
49. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


50. On the dawn-red mountain, uge arunacal me ravi
 the sun rose,
51. Bharati's (118) love has come ayi bharati-rati kavi-kanth me.
 into the poet's voice.
52. Moment after. moment, ksan-ksan me parivartit
53. the screens of the world hote rahe prakrti-pat
 keep turning.
54. Day went, night came. gaya din, ayi rat,
55. Night went, bloomed open day. gayi rat, khula din,
56. In that way passed in cycles, aise hi samsar ke bite din,
 paks, mas
57. days, fortnights, months, year, vars kitne hi hazar--
58. so many thousands.
59. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


1. Wake up, once more (2). Jago Phir Ek Bar! (2)
2. Make the soul immortal in samar amar kar pran,
 the killing-fields.
3. Sing (119) songs like the gan gaye mahasindhu se
 mighty ocean,
4. seaside and rivershore dweller! sindhu-nad-tirvasi!--
5. On the oceanic horses, saindhav turamgo par
6. with an army of four caturang camu sang;
 divisions, (120)
7. against every hundred sava-sava lakh par
 five-and-twenty thousand,
8. I will lead an attack of one, ek ko carhauga
10. when I make them pronounce govind simh nij
9. the password: Govind nam jab kahauga
 Singh. (121)
11. Who drummed that kisne sunaya yah
12. hero-intoxicating, vir-jan-mohan ati
13. invincible war-beat, durjay samgram-rag,
14. the playground of [mad] Holi, phag ka khela ran
15. in the midst of [sad] baraho mahino me?
17. Nowadays, the jackal sneaks sero ki mad me
16. into the lions' lair. (122) aya hai aj syar--
18. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


19. True is the holy sat sri akal,
 Timeless. (123)
20. The palpitating fire[-eye] bhal anal dhak-dhak kar jala
 in the forehead burnt
21. to ashes ... time, bhasm ho gaya tha kal--
22. the three gunas, and the triad tino gun--tap tray,
 of burning pain.
23. You became fearless, abhay ho gaye the turn
24. like the subduer of dealth, mrtyunjay vuomkes ke saman,
 Vyomkes, (124)
25. Immortality's offspring! (125) amrt-santan! Tivra
26. splitting the seven-layered bhedkar saptavaran-maran-lok,
 world of mortals,
27. relieving sorrow, you have sokhari! Pahuce the vaha
 reached there,
28. where the throne is thousand- jaha asan hai sahasrar--
 petaled. (126)
29. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


31. Tell me, who would snatch the simh ki god se
30. from the lioness's lap? (127) chinta re sisu kaun?
32. Does she too keep quiet, maun bhi kya rahti vah
33. as long as she draws breath? rahte pran? Re ajan
 (128) Fool! Don't you know
34. Only a sheep-mother ek mesmata hi
35. looks on without an eye's rahti hai nirnimes--
36. she's helpless-- durbal vah--
37. her lamb snatched away, chinti santan jab
39. she sheds burning tears janma par apne abhisapt
38. upon her cursed life. tapt asu bahati hai;--
40. But what? kintu kya,
41. 'Survival of the fittest' yogya jan jita hai
42. is no saying of the West, pascim ki ukti nahi--
43. it is the Gita, the Gita. gita hai, gita hai--
44. Meditate [on that], more and smaran karo/bar bar--
45. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!


46. You are no cattle, but heroes. pasu nahi, vir tum,
47. Braveness in battle does not samar-sur krur nahi,
 mean cruelty.
48. Today, merged in the whirl of kal-cakra me ho dabe
49. you are the prince, the aj tum rajkuvar!--Samar-sartaj!
 crestjewel of war.
50. But what is that? par, kya hai,
51. All is maya, is maya. sab maya hai--maya hai,
52. You are forever free, mukt ho sada hi tum,
53. boundless, yet bound like badha-vihin bandh chand jyo,
 meter, (129)
54. drenched in bliss, in the dube anand me saccidanand rup.
 form of Truth, Power, and
 Glory, (130)
55. The great mantre of the seers mahdmanra rsiyo ka
56. whispered in patricles and anuo-paramanuo me phuka hua --
57. 'You are great, you are forever "tum ho mahan,
 great,' "tum sada ho mahan,
58. Transient is this inferiority, hai nasvar yah din bhav,
59. cowardice, sensuality. kayarta, kamparta,
60. You are Brahrna. brahm ho tum,
62. The whole burden of the pad-raj-bhi hai nahi
61. is not even a dust speck of purd yah visva-bhar --"
 [your] feet, (131)
63. Wake up, once more. jago phir ek bar!

4.2 Close Reading of the Poems

At first glance these poems may seem rather traditional but, when we take a closer look, we find Nirala doing exciting new things. He makes use of typical Chayavad techniques to communicate his nationalist message, and has overlaid it with gender images. First I shall concentrate on the Chayavad qualities of Nirala's message which both poems share ([section]4.2.1). Then I will provide a close reading of each poem separately ([section]4.2.2 and 3). 1 have made use of "affective stylistics," which has already been applied with much success to other Chayavad poetry. (132)

4.2.1 Chayavadi renaissance images and appropriation of the tradition in both poems. It becomes immediately clear from the title-refrain that both poems share a typical Chayavad concern with "renaissance" images. The general theme is one of awakening, and this is echoed throughout in the images of dawn, spring, and symbols of spiritual awakening, such as the thousandpetaled lotus. The awakening is both romantic and mystic with Advaita overtones: the poet seeks to realize this awakening in the spiritual union of man and God. This is typical of Chayavad: the poet becomes a seer. Throughout, we find a preoccupation with sound, speech, and the poetic process itself, including references to poetry and its Muse, the goddess of speech herself. (133)

We note also a typically Chayavad use of paradox and contrasting images -- in particular, nature images -- to mirror human emotions, and a playful reappropriation of medieval formal elements and metaphors. These elements merit a general description at the outset.

We find, first of all, a series of contrasts running through both poems. In the first, these are awakening vs. sleep, with related themes of opening vs. closure and spring vs. winter. (134) These are parallel with the second poem's set of contrasts, victory vs. defeat and courage vs. cowardice. (135) In both poems, but most explicitly in the second, these contrasts stand for the pairs immortality vs. mortality and liberation vs. bondage. (136) They suit the general theme, typical for Chayavad, of "awakening" to the ultimate unity underlying all apparent contrasts.

Very Chayavadi, too, are the formal, rhythmic characteristics of the poems. Both poems seem to be set up like songs: Nirala makes use of a refrain, which rhymes always with the line just preceding it, and many lines seem to fit a musical meter of the type matrika chand. Especially at the outset of the first poem, the poet has done his best to create the illusion of a song. By starting with the refrain, which has twelve morae or matras, he creates an expectation of a musical meter, which is immediately reinforced by the twelve + fourteen-matra structure of the second line. The internal rhyme (pyaretare- hare) strengthens the impression that a poem of melodic sing-song quality is to follow, and the first stanza fits more or less a twelve-matra pattern.

For Nirala's audience this song-like setup is closely associated with the genre of devotional songs (pada), which have a returning refrain or teka, have end rhyme, and are usually in matrika chand. Hence, merely by the use of this form, Nirala has created the expectation of a devotional song. This is reinforced thematically, because according to Indian classificatory principles, the dominant mood of the first poem is srngara rasa (erotic sentiment) and, in particular,. its sub-theme is viraha or yearning for an absent (in this case, deceased) beloved. This theme dominates many devotional songs, where it is seen as an allegory of the human soul's yearning for God.

However, Nirala does not fulfill his audience's expectation of a familiar devotional song. While keeping the illusion alive, he also intentionally breaks the conventions. Merely on a formal level he manages to throw us off balance. Matra counters, who expect after the first stanza a consistent pattern of twelve-matra lines, will be disappointed. In fact, many lines of the poem cannot be made to fit any pattern at all, though, tantalizingly, lines in twelve matras keep surfacing throughout. (137) They provide the listener with moments of metrical satisfaction, which alternate with puzzlement at the irregular lines in between.

Similarly, the poems are rich in internal rhyme, (138) but avoid--nearly studiously--the pattern of end-rhyme so intrinsic to the medieval pada. (139) Rather, Nirala rhymes where one would least expect it; he tends to rhyme the final or penultimate word of a line with the first word of the following, which has a syncopating effect with shift of stress onto the rhyme word. (140) If not iconoclastic, at least this insistence on inconsistent rhyming seems calculated to shock the reader again and again out of his complacency.

Finally, Nirala cultivates the medieval devotional "feel" by the use of stock images and figures of speech typical of bhakti and riti-kal poetry. This is particularly true of the first poem, with the images of the bee and the lotus (stanza 2), the cakor and the moon (stanza 3), the papiha bird separated from his beloved and the "sad heroine" or virahini nayika (stanza 4), the meeting of lovers and their merging together (stanza 5). In the second poem such images are rare--only the references to Holi and the romantic barah mahina songs (stanza 1) provide such a link.

In summary, one could say that by selecting such a form for his poem, Nirala ensures that the tradition hovers in the background; yet, at the same time, he keeps his distance: though he consistently makes use of the refrain, he does not adhere strictly to any traditional metrical pattern, nor does he follow the conventions of rhyme. As we shall see, a straightforward reading of the traditional imagery is undermined time and again. Nirala manages to evoke the tradition, and yet to infuse it with a whole new individual perspective. He does this in a very Chayavadi fashion, with special attention to diction, to the etymology of the words he selects, and through meaningful use of alliteration and rhyme. Also typical is his use of figures of speech, especially puns and apparent contradictions, in a meaningful way so as to underline his message of ultimate coincidence of opposites. This is best explored by a close line-by-line reading of the poems.

4.2.2 Close reading of "Jago Phir Ek Bar (1)." The first poem immediately immerses us in typical "renaissance" imagery, starting in the refrain with a plea for awakening and continuing to describe the breaking of the dawn. Nirala describes the fading of the stars as a defeat, but the stars are not, as poetic tradition might have it, fading in comparison to the beauty of the beloved. Nirala shifts focus: their defeat lies in their trying, but failing, to wake the beloved. In that context, the coming of a new dawn, the natural cause for the stars' fading takes on a poignancy of its own, which he elaborates upon: a new morning has come, new doors have opened, yet the beloved does not wake up, her eyes remain closed, as the refrain implies. We come to realize that what seemed to be a moment of "renaissance" is in fact one of the realization of death: this is a morning of mourning.

The next stanza starts out seemingly to confirm the traditional metonymy of bees with eager eyes (1. 6), which are expected to be attracted to the lotus-face of the beloved. Nirala however teasingly postpones the confirmation of this expectation and does not refer to a lotus till line 10 (kamal). Instead he asks a question, "in which honey-combs?" (kis madhu ki galiyo me, 1. 7), as if he is setting up a riddle. He ends the line with the slightly unexpected verb phasi "did they get stuck," focusing the image on bees unable to pull away from the heavy nectar of a flower. This image can stand for the lover transfixed by the beauty of his beloved, but also for man stuck in the beauties and delights of samsara. Nirala's audience is conditioned to expect that hedonistic delights inevitably have dire consequences--in this case, to suspect that the poor bee will get trapped when the flower closes. Nirala seemingly confirms that suspicion at the beginning of line 8, "closing" (band kar), but again he surprises us, bec ause it is not the lotus that closes, but instead the wings or pakhe of the bees (1. 9). The choice of words is deliberate: pakhe rhymes with akhe in line 6 above, suggesting subtly the identification of closed wings with closed eyes. The full impact of this identification will come to us only later; at the moment we merely enjoy the unexpected rhyme.

The adverb "silently" (maun) though in anomalous position as last word of the line, seems at first innocent; it is not until the following lines that it acquires a morbid tone. Nirala uses again a traditional figure of speech, "[affected] confusion" or sandehalamkara. The poet affects confusion, and offers a second interpretation of the bees' silence: perhaps they have fallen asleep in the lotus-buds? (1. 10). This brings us back to our earlier suspicion that the bees are trapped in a closing bud. Nirala seemingly confirms this, by using again the word "closed" (band) at the beginning of line 11, only to shift focus yet again in the rest of the line: it is not the lotus that closes, but the buzzing that reaches closure, that stops.

By twice using the word "closed" (band) in prominent position, at the beginning of a line, Nirala has created a strong contrast with the references to "opening" in the previous stanza (kholti hai dvar, 1. 4). The theme of dawn and awakening is contrasted in the image of closing buds and sleeping bees soyi, 1. 10). When we hear the refrain again, we realize that the eyes, for which the bees stand, are not those of the eager lover-author of the poem, but rather, are those of the beloved who does not wake up. The identification of pakhe (1. 8) with akhe (1. 6) is now confirmed: the closed wings of the bee are like the closed eyes of the beloved--they will not open again. The image of the bee stuck in its nectar turns out to have been misleading after all: the beloved is no longer among those stuck in samsara. Or should we take it that what the bereft poet has his beloved drink is not the fleeting joys of the world, but amrta, a life-giving nectar of a spiritual kind, one that makes immortal, one that might make reunion possible? What we cannot doubt is that Nirala has put the figure of speech of confusion sandehalamkara) truly to a meaningful use.

The third stanza is in harmony with our discovery that the poem is really not about awakening, but about dying: the dawn of stanza one finds its counterpart in the sunset at the beginning of stanza three and the following elaborate, sensual description of the night. For a minute Niralas audience may be under the impression that what follows will be merely a classical enumeration of descriptive circumstances (vibhava) enhancing the poetic mood, so common in medieval Riti poetry in Braj. But Nirala draws us into the very picture he has painted (citrit hui) with the unexpected imperative "look" (dekh, at the end of line 15). The simple device of this imperative transforms the whole passage into direct speech. We realize that the poet is indulging in no routine cliches for the audience, but is pleading to his beloved to wake up to all the beauty surrounding them. This plea echoes in the word choice: "awakened" jagi (I. 16). Nirala has carefully selected the Sanskrit word yamini for "night," meaning "that which ha s watches (yama)." Such creative use of Sanskritic vocabulary is a typical Chayavad technique. Everything speaks about the poet's waking in the hope of the awakening of the beloved. Desperately he tries to appeal to his beloved's senses, first by a vivid visual picture. Then he appeals also to her sense of smell (I. 16).

However, what is lacking is sound: again that word maun, stressed even further by the oxymoron "silent, a language full of feeling" (I. 18). This time, clearly, it is the poet-lover who is speechless, unable to cry out loudly enough to wake her. He declares himself failed even in the midst of his alliterations and internal rhymes (cakor-kor, I. 17; bhari maun bhasa bahu bhavmayi, I. 18;. candra ko cav se, I. 19), etc. The description of the night then gives way to another favorite Chayavad metaphor for the much-desired awakening: the coming of spring with its opening flowers and juices surging in buds (II. 20-23). Our poet may feel defeated, but he has not given up. He avoids cliches and comes up with some highly original wordplay, such as the playful analysis of madhur "sweet" (I. 22) as mad ur "drunk-hearted" (I. 23), as if it were a bahuvrihi or possessive compound.

And then, for the first time in this poem, a sound is uttered. For a minute we think our poet has managed to cry out for his beloved, at the beginning of stanza four. The onomatopoeic piu for the cry of the papiha bird is also an intimate word for "beloved" in Braj Bhasa. But again Nirala has misled us; it is only nature crying out. Bereft lovers can only remember past words (yad kar biti bate I. 27). Relief comes, again silently, in tears.

Tears streaming down (I. 29) from eyes, closed again (I. 28), form a contrasting parallel with the rising juices (II. 22-23) and opening flowers (I. 21) from the previous stanza. And the relief that comes with the lightening of the heart's burdens vyatha bhar and laghutar kar; I. 31) echoes contrastingly with the sweet swollen hearts (yauvan ubhar and madhur mad-ur, II. 22-23) of the spring flowers in the previous stanza. Nirala is weaving a skilful pattern with stock Chayavad imagery. These harmoniously structured contrasts create an anticipation of harmony for his reader, a foretaste of a resolution of duality in the ultimate harmony of Advaita.

Stanza five resumes the plea for the beloved to wake up, this time not so much by appealing to her senses, but to her sympathy. Nirala starts appropriately with the word sahrday "compassionate" (I. 32). His audience savors another connotation, as the term can also refer to a connoisseur of art, someone with esthetic appreciation. It would not be farfetched to read this as an appeal to the beloved's esthetic sense. This is shortly followed by the imperative cum vocative: pocho priy "wipe away, beloved" (I. 33). The tears to be wiped away, rendered with the Sanskritic compound nayan-nir (I. 33), lead via rhyme and alliteration to another Sanskritic compound sayan-sithil "lax with sleep" (I. 34). Both are favorite Chayavad words. The "drowsiness" does not have the negative connotation one might expect from a yogic point of view, but alludes rather to a state of subconscious responsiveness, a readiness spontaneously to move and be moved. Chayavad's mystical ideal is one of "responsive vibration" in sympathy and u nion.

This spontaneous impulse, aves (I. 35), continues the image of surging youth in spring and Nirala reinforces this image by his word choice atur ur "eager heart" (I. 36), which evokes the mad ur "wild heart" of line 23. He continues ambiguously by begging his beloved either to free this "eager heart" from its abode, setting it free so that it can find love, or, more erotically, begging her to bare her breast. Again Nirala exploits in Chayavad fashion the possibilities of Sanskrit compounding: the respectable looking vasan-mukt can mean "freed from abode" or, indeed, "freed from cloth." His main message however is unambiguous: the desired transformation of sleep to passion (sab supti sukhonmad ho, I. 37, underscored with alliteration).

The poet then entreats his beloved to give way to passion via the traditional image of letting down the hair. It forms a nice parallel to the downward motion of the tears in the previous stanza. Nirala adds an extra dimension to the image: in this entreaty to let go of her dreamy lassitude (chut chut alas I. 38) there is a hint that something far better than dreams will be gained kalpana se komal, I. 40), a hint of fulfillment of desire prasarkami, I. 41), of the solving of duality (rju-kutil, I. 41), all projected onto the image of long tresses let loose. The poet suggests again a transformation: drowsiness will give way to a different state of relaxation tan-man thak jay). to nothing less than the melting of lover and beloved in final union (II. 43-47). Nirala's audience will remember the medieval devotional theme of longing for union with God, expressed in terms of human love. Indeed, the way the union is depicted makes it clear that not merely the meeting of lovers, but something more philosophical is int ended. "Only one experience, flowing through two souls" II. 46-47) is reminiscent of Braj descriptions of the union of man and God in the divine pair Radha and Krsna "one breath in two bodies" (eka prana dvai deha). The term buddhi (I. 44) has overtones of spiritual awakening, and so does atman (I. 47), which immediately evokes the "atman is brahman" of Advaita philosophy.

However, this happy ending in union is only an imagined one: the poet rudely interrupts his own dream by the desperate: "How long have I been crying out" (kab se mai rahi pukar, I. 48; the copula is left out in this line, which expresses an even stronger sense of frustration). This line rhymes with the earlier band ho raha gunjar (I. 19), and reminds us again of the death of the beloved and the impossibility of union. In fact, the illusory character of the union was foreshadowed in the poet's subtle use of verbal forms, restricted throughout this stanza mostly to imperatives and optatives.

The coming of a new dawn, in stanza six, is harmoniously parallel with the sunset at the beginning of stanza three. We realize that we have run the full course of the poet's experience, his moments of hope followed by those of deep despair. Now, with the new dawn, arrives the poet's Muse, the goddess of speech, Sarasvati or Bharati. This climax has erotic overtones: not merely the goddess, but her erotic passion or rati enter the poet's "throat" (I. 51). The period of viraha finally gives way to union, but not with the beloved, rather with the Muse: yearning is transformed into creativity.

The long silences which dominated the first stanzas finally have given way; our poet has found his voice again. Like the beloved, his creative powers seemed dormant. And like the bee (in stanza two), caught in sandeha, confusion, he perhaps was drinking rather the nectar of immortality, feeding his power of expression, before bursting out finally in song.

With the arrival of the goddess Bharati a cosmic dimension enters the poem. The poet's Muse, his regained force of expression, is implicitly identified with the allpervasive cosmic force, sakti. But more explicit is the philosophical catharsis, foreshadowed by the description of an ecstasy beyond all duality (stanza five). All changes and transformations we have experienced are brought into perspective: merely ripples on a cosmic screen (parivartit hote rahe prakrti-pat, II. 52-53) where days and nights come and go (II. 54-55); awakening and dying play their eternal shadow-game of duality, called samsara (I. 56). When we hear the refrain again, at the end of the poem, we realize that the wakeup call is no longer addressed to a beloved, but to the poet himself. The sleep he needs to wake up from is that of the illusory world of maya.

The closure of this poem is like that of a medieval devotional poem: a sudden shift of perspective to a cosmological vision, a sudden epiphany. (141) Yet, whereas in the tradition of devotional poetry the intention was to provide a divine darsana (vision), Nirala's purpose is to situate his most individual experience of self-expression against the background of the All-encompassing. By the contrast with hazar "thousand" in the last line of the stanza, the ek "one" of "one more time" of the refrain acquires a new connotation. The keynote on which the poem ends is, in contrast with the medieval tradition, one of individuality: what does infinity mean for one who would give all for one more meeting with his beloved? Again, true to Chayavad, Nirala has succeeded in appropriating the tradition in his own individual way.

The appearance of Sarasvati serves as an important link to the second poem. It is meaningful that the poet refers to the goddess of speech as Bharati This epithet evokes one of the traditional names for India, Bharat, and strikes a nationalist chord. Perhaps it also evokes one of the most famous nationalist Hindi works of the second decade of the twentieth century: Maithilisaran Gupta's ha rat Bharati. It is difficult not to read here a reference to Gupta, who was likely the author of the article accusing Nirala of plagiarism (see 3.2 above). Nirala may well be referring to his own personal "struggles with the Muse," affirming the authenticity of his aspiration. At the same time he affirms his right to the title of "rastrabhasa Hindi ke prathama mahakavi: by the very act of writing a nationalist poem. In any case, the choice of the epithet Bharati rather than the better known Sarasvati, forges a connection between the themes of awakening and nationalism, the explicit subject of the second poem.

As this analysis shows, Nirala's preoccupation has been with reappropriating the poetic tradition. In doing so, he is making a political statement, affirming Hindi as the preferred poetic idiom, capable of adopting Braj images and forms for its own more modern purposes. At the same time, he is engaged in a polemic with the poetry of the Dvivedi-Yug, affirming the versatility of the new Chayavad style. The refrain does not simply represent a plea for the return of a lost love, lost creativity, or lost cosmic feeling. It has also a political dimension: it is a call to leave behind both the "Dreamworld of Braj" and the didactic simplicity of the Dvivedi-Yug.

4.2.3 Close reading of "Jago Phir Ek Bar (2)." The musings about death and awakening from illusion on which the first poem ends are continued in the second. In addition, the second poem fully develops the nationalist theme that was obliquely touched upon at the end of the first.

The link between philosophy and resistance to oppression is made by evoking the Bhagavadgita. Although explicit mention of the Gita does not occur till late in the poem (1. 43), there are references to it throughout, as we shall see. The Gita's message, as Gandhi never tired of affirming, is that spiritual and political striving need not be mutually incompatible; in fact, they go together. This fits Nirala's purpose well. (142)

Nirala's style, too, is reminiscent of Krsna's speech exhorting Arjuna to fight, before the start of the great war on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. The whole poem is in direct speech; it is presented as an exhortation with second person pronouns (II. 23, 46, 49, 52, 57, 60), imperatives (notable the refrain and smaran karo, 1. 44), and vocatives (sindhu-nad-tirvasi, 1. 4; amrt-santan, 1. 25; rajkuvar sartaj, 1. 49; re ajan, 1. 33). The Gita is addressed to a ksatriya warrior, Arjuna. Nirala seems to echo the Gita when he says "today, you are the prince" (1. 49), "you are a hero" (1. 46). By thus identifying his audience with the hero Arjuna, Nirala's message gains power and partakes in the authority of the Gita.

The poem begins with a vigorous exhortation to fight, echoing Krsna's exhortation. (143) The philosophical depth of Nirala's first line is underscored by a pun: the words for "battlefield" (samar) and for "immortality" (amar) seem etymologically related, both evoking the Hindi verb mar- "to die." (144) This is more than a clever rhyme or a demonstration of etymological erudition; the main message is that mortality can be overcome precisely by exposing oneself to it. Only by facing up to the possibility of death can one conquer it. The figure of speech is an oxymoron virodabhasa, neatly condensing the Gita's message.

This first line of the second poem also marks a shift of tone. Whereas in the first poem the dominant mood had been erotic desire, srngara rasa, now heroism, virya rasa, is the main theme. The first line of the first poem was about defeat, but the second poem begins with a promise of victory. Not simply a victory in the battlefield, but a victory over the ultimate condition of human existence: morality. Throughout the poem the possibility of victory and the fear of defeat take alternate turns, much like the dreams of union and the desperate longing for the beloved's resurrection in the first poem.

The second poem starts off with the volume control on maximum, so to speak: we are immediately overwhelmed with sound play, evoking the "songs" of the mighty ocean. The image of oceanic violence is typical of Chayavad (see, in particular, Jaysankar Prasad Ka mayani), and so is the preoccupation with sound. Nirala skilfully conflates the violence of crashing waves with the waves of "oceanic horses" (saindhav turango par, 1.5) on the battlefield; note the clever near-homophony of the word for "wave," tarang, and that for "horse," turang. Like the surf of the waves comes the echoing rhyme caturaug--sang, a typical Chayavad use of word-end rhyme, antanupras.

The cosmic forces of the ocean evoke a battle with a mythological enemy who has a clear numerical advantage (sava sava lakh, 1.7), but the sudden mention of a single hero (ek, 1.8) in all his individuality, Govind Singh (1.9), works like a signal beacon in a storm. The Sikh leader's courageous confrontation with the central power of his time, the Mughals, is evoked as a historical precedent. More than that, Nirala evokes the name as a battle cry, or even a mantra to overcome fear (nam jab kahauga, II. 9-10). The struggle with central power is on again, this time in the form of a struggle for liberation from the British colonial power.

Parallel with the question in the first poem (kis madhu ki galiyo me, 1. 7), there is one also in the second: "who drummed...the war beat?" (kisne sunaya yah...samgram-rag, 1. 11). More than a mere formal parallelism, in both cases a fatal attraction is suggested. In the first poem, the lotus pollen has trapped the bee; in the second, the war beat has lured the hero to his death. The ambiguous adjective durjay, "difficult to conquer," implies at once irresistibility and a foreshadowing of defeat. This link between the two poems, notwithstanding their quite different tones, is confirmed in the next lines, where the poet compares the war songs to vigorous Holi interrupting sad romantic songs, barahmasi (145) (phag ka khela ran, baraho mahino me, II. 14-15). A switch of tone from romantic to vigorous is exactly what takes place between the first and second poems. The mention of Holi, the boisterous spring festival, is also parallel with the references to the excitement of nature in spring in stanza 3 (II. 20-23) of the first poem.

The first stanza of the second poem ends with another foreshadowing of defeat: the presence of cowards among heroes, jackals among lions (sero ki mad me, aya hai aj syar, II. 16-17). This metaphoric utterance itself functions as a battle cry, calculated to arouse the passion of heroes (vir jan mohan, 1. 12) and is hard to ignore, "difficult to defeat" (durjay, 1. 13). Perhaps Nirala means to imply that the anger of the heroes should be directed to romantic poets (perhaps hinting at poets in the Braj Bhasa idiom), who cowardly shy away from the "higher" function of Hindi poetry, that of raising political and economic consciousness. Or does Nirala intend to imply that some hypocrites among the nationalist Hindi poets themselves are merely pretending "to play a war tune," whereas in reality they are engaged in indulgences of a Holi or Barahmasa (viraha) kind? Perhaps it is not too farfetched to see here an attack on Maithilisaran Gupta himself, who was engaged in a major epic on viraha at the time: the first fiv e cantos (sarga) of his Saket had already appeared in serial form in Sarasvati by 1918, though the complete work was not published till 1931.

Whether Nirala's audience knew about these personal rivalries is uncertain, but it cannot have missed the shift in mood. By the time the refrain returns at the end of the first stanza, it has acquired a totally new content, replete with social and political implications. Nirala's wake-up call here is directed towards himself and his compatriots; it has become a cry to take up arms and fight, whether the battlefield be social, political, or literary.

The second stanza starts with another mantra from Sikhism that serves as a battle cry: "true, auspicious, timeless" (sat sri akal, 1. 19). The "timeless" or "immortality" principle is contrasted in the next lines with "time" or "mortality" (kal, 1. 21). This reminds us of the very first line of this poem, where exposing oneself to death on the battlefield was recommended as a sure way to conquer mortality. The rhyme in this stanza (akal-kal is used meaningfully to emphasize this coincidentia oppositorum.

Meanwhile, the focus has shifted to Saiva mythology, or so we are led to believe. The reference to the fire in the forehead (bhal anal, 1. 20) seems to be to Siva's third eye. Nirala teasingly withholds confirmation of this assumption for a few lines, until he mentions Siva's lesser-known epithets Mrtyanjaya Vyomakesa (I. 24). However, we get another clue: when the eye's fire is said to have turned something into ashes, we are naturally led to suspect an allusion to the mythological incident of Siva's burning Kama, the god of love. However, at the end of the line comes a surprise: burnt is not Kama but Kala, "death" or "time" (1. 21). This is no mere witticism of our poet: hasn't he himself at the end of his first poem shifted his philosophical perspective from the subject of desire, kama to that of coming to terms with death by transcending the illusory dualities of life, most notably the vicissitudes of time, kala?

At this point, we may also revise our interpretation of the previous lines. Beyond mythology, we can now read them as a reference to tantric meditation. "The fire in the forehead" may also refer to the cakra between the eyes (ajna cakra). This interpretation makes sense, especially in the light of the following lines: the fire burns not only time, but the three gunas of the material world and the three forms of suffering (1. 22; note the chiastic structure of the line). Not only that, it renders one fearless (abhay, 1. 23) and immortar (mrtyunjay, 1. 24). And this is within reach of every human being, as is indicated by the unexpected "you" (turn, at the end of 1. 23), which shifts the perspective from the mythical to that of the individual. The fire, we realize, is the transformative fire of tapas, generated by tantric yoga.

Immortal like Siva (1. 24), adds Nirala playfully acknowledging that he willfully led us astray. And as if that wasn't explicit enough, he continues with an exhortation to break open the seven-layered world of mortality--this vale of sorrow--reminiscent of Siva's mythological role in breaking open the three-layered city of the demons. Nirala intentionally uses the parallel, underscoring it by using rhyme of -varan with maran and sok- with lok. This is not a case of internal inconsistency: Siva, after all, is lord of yogins.

Throughout, Nirala uses contrasting pairs for mortality and immortality: mrtyunjay (1. 24), amrt (1. 25), maran (1. 26). Appropriately, the tantric techniques for spiritual liberation are expressed in heroic language (such as abhay in 1. 23). The heroic and spiritual are welded most felicitously at the end of the stanza, where the hero/spiritual aspirant is said to have reached the goal (pahuce the vaha, 1. 27). On the heroic level we might have expected a royal throne, simhasana or lion's throne, on the spiritual level, the highest cakra, the level at which the yogin experiences moksa, namely, the sahasrara cakra. Nirala combines both in one: asan hai sahasrar. The diction, with the anomalous position of the copula, emphasizes the identification. It emphatically confirms the coincidence of heroic and spiritual victory, of national and religious aspirations. Again, the refrain has taken on a deeper meaning: we need both a spiritual and a national awakening; the two go hand in hand.

The expectation of the simhasana, the lion's throne looming in the background, is fulfilled in the third stanza, though in a different context (simh, 1. 30). This stanza takes up again the theme of the lion's lair of line 16 or, more precisely, the lioness's lap (simh ki god, 1. 30). Two rhetorical questions set the stage: "Who would [dare] snatch a lioness's cub?" (1. 31; with evocation of the daring suddenness of the act by placing the verb chinta in relief at the beginning of the line); "Would she remain silent, as long as she could breathe?" (11. 32-33). The image of the lioness bereft is parallel with that of the separated lady, the bereft virahini of the fourth stanza of the first poem. However, the mood is not erotic love, srngara, but mother love, vatsalya.

The virahini in the first poem, with her closed eyes and streaming tears (mud rahi palke caru, 1. 28; nayanjal dhal gaye, 1. 29), seems also to have a contrastive parallel in the mother sheep who does not bat an eye (11. 34-35) and sheds hot tears (1. 39). Nirala draws attention to those passages by rhyming (abhisapt-tapt, 11. 38-39) and punning on the homophony of mes "sheep" and (nirni)mes "without eye-wink" (11. 34-35). Clearly, it is the lioness's active resistance that is to be emulated, not the sheep's whining. In retrospect, that seems to be a not-so-flattering comment on the sobbing lady of the first poem. Is Nirala again lashing out against needless whining, like that of traditional Braj Bhasa poets mired in the intricacies of traditional viraha poems? The sneer perhaps is aimed at Maithilisaran Gupta, who had strayed, in his work Saket, from nationalist poetry to concentrate on the viraha of Laksman's bereft wife, Urmila? Or perhaps Nirala is aiming more broadly at the whining of his fellow-poets mi red in self-pity. In any case, what is held up as a role model is the roaring lioness and her outcry against injustice.

As he did in the first poem (1. 48), Nirala here too interrupts himself (kintu kya, 1. 40). This time, it is as if he is answering an unidentified debating opponent, purvapaksin, a stance which fits the general feel of the poem as a philosophical discourse. The interruption fits well with the poet's goal, which is to wake up, or rather shake up, his audience. Beyond the mythological level, he now urges his audience to abandon the fable world he had conjured up. Without further ado, he confronts them with a political context, the fight with "the West" (pascim, 1. 42). Gone are dreams of loving embraces. Instead he preaches active resistance.

Nirala seems also to have abandoned Gandhi's nonviolence and to favor the approach of the Bengali nationalists, some of whom propounded violent means (see also [section]2.1.2). In doing so, he foresees being accused of being non-traditional, of aping Western aggressive ways. Hence, he feels compelled to present his version of "survival of the fittest" as quintessentially Hindu by rooting it firmly in the Gita (1. 43). Nirala recommends repeated meditating on the Gita in the traditional way: smaran karo (1. 44). However, this may be tongue-in-cheek, because the repetition of recitation (barambar, 1. 44) is contrasted with the refrain's "once more" (ek bar, 1. 45). Perhaps he means to say that it is well and good to recite holy verses from the Gita, if only we were illuminated and could wake up to their true meaning. The refrain has gained yet another overtone: we are encouraged to "wake up" to the true meaning of the tradition, in particular to the and use it for political as well as spiritual gain.

At the beginning of the fourth stanza, too, an apparently Western-inspired statement is given a traditional, Gita-esque twist: humans are not animals, blindly following the herd, but have the capacity to act heroically (pasu nahi, vir turn, 1. 46). Nirala is not thinking of the "do what you want" type of free will; rather, he has in mind the profoundly Hindu injunction of "do what you are," with reference to the theory of svadharma, or sacred duty conforming to one's social role.

Nirala continues with another oxymoron, virodhabhasa: the hero on the battlefield is not cruel (1. 47). Like the sandehalamkara in the first poem, this figure of speech is again used meaningfully, because what Nirala hints at is that the killing is indeed just an abhasa, appearance. According to the Gita, killing is also an illusion and, indeed, the illuminated ksatriya is not cruel, but merely enacts a pre-determined role. Only if beguiled by the dizzying wheel of time (1. 48) would he be swept away by greed and self-interest into being cruel, or indeed even to imagine there were killers or victims. That is all maya (1. 51), because in reality each soul or atman is part of the eternal and, consequently, is free and beyond the limitations of material life (11. 52-53), partaking in the nature of the divine (1. 54). All a man needs to do to become a hero is to realize as much. This is, more or less, the message of Bhagavadgita 2:17-33. (146)

Notwithstanding the philosophical subject matter, Nirala has worked in a little and seemingly playful pun: he quite unexpectedly compares the bonds of samsara with the restrictions of meter (chand, 1. 53). Here he follows the poetic tradition of punning on the name of the meter in which a poem is set. Nirala indeed writes in free verse or mukta chand. (147) This draws attention to the poetic process itself, and lends an extra dimension to the message; Nirala seems to suggest that the type of poetry he is writing, freed from the straitjacket of (in particular, Braj) meter and cliche, is a liberation poetry in both the spiritual and political sense of the word. We can trace the transformation back to the end of the first poem, where the Muse arrived to bring Nirala release, and he could finally transform his personal loss into creative utterance. Now, it seems, Nirala's free-spirited Muse heralds a more encompassing liberation: that of the soul and that of the nation.

Nirala's interpretation of the Gita is clearly inspired by his Advaita sympathies, which become explicit in his Hindi restatement of the upanisadic tat tvam asi equation (esp. 11. 57 and 60), presented as an ancient mantra (11. 55-56). Nirala translates this as tum ho mahan (1. 57), infusing the philosophical statement with a hint of nationalist pride. Venerated scriptures are invoked to overcome the feeling of inferiority after years of colonial domination. Nirala might well have taken his cue from Vivekananda, who also sought to fuse the philosophical and colonial needs to recover a "lost selfhood." (148)

This last stanza again has its parallels in the first poem, with the dream of an Advaita type of union with the beloved in stanza five (esp. 11. 44-47). But whereas this was presented as a dream, an illusion that did not last, the second poem ends on a triumphant note. Men may be dragged down by unworthy emotions (din bhav, 1. 58)--in their spiritual struggle, by desire (kamparata, 1. 59), and in their political struggle, by cowardice (kayarta, 1. 59, which is reminiscent of the jackal in 1. 17 and the sheep-mother in 1. 34). However, that is temporary and can be overcome (nasvar, 1. 58). Through realization of one's true identity with the principle behind the universe (1. 50), a major shift of perspective can occur, a dwarfing of ordinary concerns (11. 61-62). Whereas, in the first poem, tears could succeed merely at "lightening the load" of viraha (nayan-jal ... laghutar kar vyatha-bhar, 11. 29-30), now the load of the universe (visva-bhar, 1. 62) is as light as a speck of dust. At this point, everything be comes possible--most importantly, spiritual and political victory, but only if, now chimes the refrain, we would wake up and realize.

The analysis of the technique in the second poem shows that Nirala has again engaged in a creative reworking of the tradition in tandem with a modern concern, now India's freedom struggle. Nirala refers to historical and mythological models, such as Govind Singh, the courageous Sikh guru; Siva, the lord of yogins; and Arjuna, instructed by Krsna on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. He seems to recommend tantric meditational practices, but manages to fit it all into the frame of an Advaita philosophy. This well suits the Ramakrishna model we know he was influenced by. All in all, he has presented us with a combination of traditional myth and history, philosophy and meditational praxis, mixed and blended into a coherent message. The refrain of the poem has acquired now the connotation of that message in a nutshell: it has become an appeal for combining national and spiritual awakening.

4.3 Gender Analysis

Given what we found earlier about the way political and language issues were entwined for Nirala with gender issues, it may be worthwhile to look in detail at how he has used grammatical gender in the two poems we have discussed. This discussion has an extra dimension, in light of the fact that one of the frequently voiced criticisms of Chayavad focused on its laxity in observing the rules of grammatical gender agreement. This and other objections had been answered by Chayavad apologists, such as Pant, by postulating that grammatical concerns should remain secondary to expressive power. (149) As we shall see, in the poems under discussion, Nirala does indeed consciously play with grammatical gender and its ambiguities in order to attain maximum expressive effect.

4.3.1 Ambiguity of gender identity in "Jago Phir Ek Bar (1)." The dominant mood of the first poem, according to Indian aesthetic terminology, is viraha rasa, or "the yearning for an absent beloved." This yearning is usually (though by no means exclusively) described from the point of view of a woman, a virahini. By Indian poetic convention male poets can assume this "female voice." This practice is common, in particular, for poets expressing their love for the divine Krsna in Braj Bhasa devotional songs (pada), where male poets sing of the feelings of Krsna's abandoned female lovers. Nirala gives his audience the impression that this may be his theme, signaling such with formal characteristics of the pada-type, as we have seen above. He seems quite consciously to be cultivating for his reader or listener a Braji feeling, but at the same time the refrain also foreshadows that from this Braji dream world a rude awakening is to come.

In any case, the audience has, right from the beginning of the first poem, been presented with a feminine perspective. Nirala exploits the potentialities of grammatical gender. The very first word of the poem after the refrain, pyare, most naturally is to be interpreted as a vocative masculine, "dear!" (150) For an Indian audience, such invocation by a male poet of a male beloved does not cause surprise; it is simply assumed that the poet has taken on the persona of a woman, crying out for her beloved. In short, the poet leads us to think that he has taken on a female persona.

Interestingly, feminine grammatical gender prevails in the first three stanzas, which evoke a feminine atmosphere. The morning sun's ray of the first stanza (khari kholti hai, 1. 4) and the bee in the second one (phasi, 1. 7; pi rahi hai, II. 8, 10) have feminine verb forms and thus are imagined as female. The first verb with masculine ending is in an important phrase, one that stands out ominously: "the buzzing is dying out" (band ho raha gunjar, 1. 19). In the third stanza, Nirala exploits fully the feminine associations of the night (vihavari, 1. 14; yamini, 1. 16), in the process even managing to make the moon undergo a gender change by compounding the masculine noun for "moon," sasi, with a feminine word for "glow," chavi. The compound cakor-kor, besides rhyming, is used to forge a similar gender change for the partridge (cakor, grammatically masculine). The symbol for the lover of the moon here stands for the virahini and has, as such, become feminine.

Significantly, whenever verbs have masculine grammatical gender, they seem to express an anticipation of release: the cakora bird circling the moon (gher raha, 1. 19), the blossoming flowers (khule phul, 1. 21), the birds that cry out (papihe. . . bol rahe, 1. 25), and the stream of tears (nayan-jal dhal, 1. 29). In stanza four, finally, we get a glimpse of the virahini, whose presence we have anticipated all along: she is depicted as the young bride (virah-vidagdha vadhu, 1. 26) on the bridal bed.

Stanza five, however, is ambiguous throughout; it is not clear whether the poet addresses a female or male beloved. Given the image of the bride in the previous stanza, the audience may initially assume that these are her words to her absent groom. This assumption seems to be confirmed by the vocative priy (1. 33), which can be either masculine or gender-neutral. However, more and more it seems that the poet is addressing the lonely bride sleeping on her bed, especially when he refers to "loosening the hair." Still, we aren't certain, because most verbs are in the imperative or subjunctive, and as such unmarked for gender. The only form that is marked as masculine is "flowing" (bahta, 1. 46), which pictures the moment of utter release, the erotic union, when male and female "flow" together. However, in the last line of this stanza, simultaneous with the shattering of the illusion of union, our poet unexpectedly assumes again the voice of a woman, saying, "I have been crying out for so long" (kab se mai rahi p ukar, 1. 48).

However, immediately afterwards, the feminine endings disappear. The last stanza, which represents the final catharsis of the poem, begins startlingly with a verb with masculine ending: uge, unusual in its position at the beginning of the sentence, referring to the rise of the grammatically masculine sun. It may not be too farfetched to read into it an intended gender-transformation of the poet, who, in identifying with the sun, finally sheds his female persona. The rhyme of the words for the sun, ravi (1. 50), and the poet, kavi (1. 51), would support such an interpretation. Perhaps we should also keep in mind that Nirala's first name, Suryakanta, means "beloved of the sun." The reference to "Sarasvati's love" and to kantha (voice), a near-homophone of kanta, may be intended as a complicated pun on his name. After all, Nirala has throughout the poem played with the conventions of the medieval poetic tradition, and here he may well be following its practice of inserting his poetic signature (chap) at the end of the poem. It is quite possible that Nirala is referring here to his own poetic crisis. As we have seen, those who accused him of plagiarism had punned that his poetry was as derivative of Tagore's as the "Surya" of his name echoed the "Ravi" of Rabindranath's. Is Nirala here anticipating a second rising of his "sun" at the poetic firmament? One that will eclipse his Bengali namesake?

If such is the case, it is significant that, only with the arrival of the goddess of Speech, Sarasvati, can the poet's masculinity break through. The goddess Sarasvati is identified implicitly with the all-pervading cosmic force sakti, also grammatically feminine. When she comes the poet can assume his masculine identity. The reunion with the beloved has been achieved at a level of sublimation: it is a union with the Muse-sakti, rather than the human beloved. The poet has regained the force of expression and realized spiritual awakening and now can assume his true male identity. The period of yearning or viraha, which was described mainly in feminine terms, has had an invigorating effect. As soon as it is transformed into creativity, the masculine gender "takes over."

So far, the plays on gender in the poem seem very distant from any political reference. If anything, the audience was transported back to a Braj-like dreamscape. However, here at the end, Nirala manages to evoke a whole new world of heroic nationalism. He does so merely by referring to the Muse with the epithet Bharati, which evokes a traditional name for India, the Bharat of the Hindu nationalists and the new goddess, Bharat Mata. Nirala had written essays on the theme of how women's beauty can inspire men, not only poetically, but also in their nationalist struggle. (151) The lost beloved has been regained not merely in the form of the Muse, or the philosophical principle of sakti, but also as nationalist vigor personified. Nirala has reassumed his true masculine identity not in an antagonistic way, but harmoniously, confirming the interdependence of masculinity and femininity. It is as if Nirala is saying that by inspiration from woman, man can reach his true potential--in creativity, spirituality, as well as in national strivings.

4.3.2 Masculinity in Jago Phir Ek Bar (2)." The second poem focuses on this theme of nationalism, merely alluded to in the first. According to Indian classifications the dominant mood of the second poem is virya rasa (heroism), which clearly has masculine overtones. In contrast to the first poem there is no gender ambiguity: the person addressed, the turn, in this poem is clearly and consistently a male. Appropriately, verbs throughout the poem show masculine grammatical gender. The only verb forms with feminine endings are in the third stanza: "remains (silent/unblinking)" (rahti, II. 32, 35), "is snatched" (chinti, I. 37), "sheds (tears)" (bahati, I. 39). These verbs describe the reactions of the mother sheep when her offspring is snatched from her, in particular her dumbfounded helplessness and her tears. Significantly, it is only in this context of victim-ization and powerlessness that feminine verb endings occur.

In the first stanza, there is a faint echo of the femininity of the viraha theme in the reference to (sad) barahmasa songs (I. 15). Here Nirala contrasts the erotic longing, marked as feminine in the previous poem, with the zealous passion of the Holi-festival. The poet skillfully assumes the association of the latter with the prevailing mood of virya by word choice, diction, and stylistic devices that weave an intricate net of associations. First, he rhymes the sangram rag (war tune) of the previous line with phag, the term used for the raga of Holi-songs. His syntax, placing phag at the beginning of the line, reinforces the effect: it hits the reader, one can well imagine, much as does a blow of Holi-powder. Further, he chooses a word ran ("playing-ground" but also "battle-ground") with martial connotations. Throughout, it seems, the poet identifies heroism with masculinity and romantic nostalgia with femininity.

There is, however, some ambiguity in this poem, too, which is interesting for our investigation of Nirala's preoccupation with femininity. The ambiguity regards the image of the lion, which is first introduced at the end of the first and reappears in the third stanza. In the first stanza, the lion's lair is intruded upon by a jackal, a contrast implying courage vs. cowardice. (152) However, whereas the jackal is masculine (aya hai aj syar, I. 17), the lion's lair is feminine (sero ki mad, I. 16). Equally surprising, the paragon of courage and righteous anger in the third stanza is not the lion, but the lioness. Nirala uses the powerful image of the mother lion when she sees her cub attacked, which resonates with the notion of sakti. It is in this context that femininity has acquired a positive connotation, as did the coming of the Muse, the sakti of creativity, in the previous poem. The next stanza, however, returns to male symbolism: the dominant word is rajkuvar (prince). (153)

These shifts do not seem arbitrary. It seems quite clear that Nirala consciously exploits grammatical gender to get his ideas across. The play on gender polarity has a threefold relevance in that it fits well what we know about his linguistic, political, and philosophical concerns. For all three levels of reference, there is a macro-dimension in the political situation of the times, and a micro-dimension in the life of Nirala. In the first place, the contrast between virya and srngara has to be seen against the background of the ongoing linguistic debates, in particular, the Hindi concern for "awakening out of the world of sweet little dreams of medieval poetry." In addition, there is Nirala's concern with remaking Hindi into an appropriate medium so as to become the national language. Here the rivalry with "effeminate" Bengali is in the back of his mind, as is clear from the quotations from the preface of Parimal (see [section] 2.2.2 above). Significantly, in his references to heroes, Nirala does not draw up on the successful Bengali novels of Bankimchandra Chatterjee, so often quoted in the context of Hindu nationalism. Instead he uses imagery from the mythology and history of Sikhism (Govind Singh) and pan-Indian Hinduism (Siva, Gita), much more in the line of non-Bengalis like Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Secondly, the dichotomy male-female is allegorical in the political situation. Nirala's references to the inertia of the one who laments are meaningful in the climate of the time and the growing impatience with constitutional means for gaining self-governance. (154) At the same time, Nirala's message is that full victory can be gained only in a traditional way, by harnessing the feminine power, the sakti, of the tradition for political ends. Finally, the major message of the poems lies on a philosophical plane. Nirala preaches a Hindu chauvinist, Advaitic mysticism. The solution lies in a resolution of all contrasts, an overcoming of all duality, gender or other.

4.3.3 The Ardhanarisvara. From this gender analysis, it appears that the poems are mirror images of each other. In the first, Nirala develops the prominent classical theme of viraha with its many layers of meaning, to arrive at the concept of sakti in a new, individualized sense. Feminine symbolism, mostly in connection with unfulfilled longing, prevails, and masculinity is associated with the unattainable, the elusive moment of union. In the second poem, generally virility prevails. Femininity, as it relates to viraha, is negatively valued, but the sakti theme is still there and has acquired a more explicit political sense. Both poems form a diptych; they are interrelated and belong together, even in their contrasting oppositions.

This duality is more than superficially parallel to the duality present in the mythology of the god Krsna as adolescent lover in Braj, on the one hand, and heroic philosopher in Kuruksetra, on the other. Nirala's first poem is highly evocative of the romantic Krsna of Braj because of its pada-like form with refrain, its theme of longing or viraha, and its symbolism. The second poem is a miniature Gita, in its discourse form, its preaching that martial activity and spirituality can go hand in hand, and in its use of certain formulaic expressions. Quite clearly we see at work a reconstruction of traditional categories in terms of particular nationalist and linguistic needs.

Nirala has not limited his sources to Krsna mythology. He has also incorporated more or less explicit references to the mythology of Siva and to the concept of sakti. Perhaps it is apt to see the poem as a verbal incarnation of the iconic form of Siva-sakti called Ardhanarisvara, "half woman, half man," with both halves merged into one. If we look at it that way, it turns out that our poet has indeed succeeded in suffusing traditional imagery with new meaning, at the same time relevant on both personal and national levels.

The poem's Ardhanarisvara form mirrors the poet's own struggle with contradictions. First, the poetic process itself, with its moments of creativity alternating with lack of inspiration. Second, love requited, yet lost. Finally, Nirala speaks as a political observer, drawn towards active resistance, leaving behind immobility. In the background looms large the national language debate, which from Nirala's particular perspective seemed to be about the superiority of Bengali or Hindi. All these contradictions are expressed in terms of the basic duality of masculinity and femininity. What Nirala proposes in the end is a dialectic synthesis in Vedanta terms, a solution of all apparent contradictions in a mystical merging of the individual with the one force pervading the cosmos.


In this paper, I have tried to show how Nirala's Chayavad poetry is profoundly political. First, the sheer act of writing Hindi poetry was a political statement in favor of Hindi as rastrabhasa. Second, the techniques of Chayavad consist of a personal reappropriation of the poetical and religious tradition of both Braj and Sanskrit, in itself a political act in that it seeks to establish a national and Hindu identity apt for the times. Third, these techniques are used to maximum advantage to convey a complex message of nationalism, of Hindi and Hindu chauvinism.

This paper was originally inspired by two courses on Hindi poetry that I had the good fortune to attend, one by Prof. Michael Shapiro at the University of Washington, and one by Prof. Monika Boehm-Tettelbach at the Universitat zu Koln. It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to both and to express special thanks to Prof. Shapiro for reading through and commenting on what seems now an endless number of drafts of this paper in its various stages since 1991.

(1.) Strictly speaking, Anamika (I), published in 1923, was his first anthology. However, it was not circulated widely, and most poems from Anamika (I) were published again in Parimal in 1929, along with additional new poems; see Nirala, Parimal.

(2.) For a full comprehensive introduction into Chayavad, see K. Schomer, Mahadevi Varma and the Chayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry. 19-123. See also the special Jaya Shankar Prasad Issue of the Journal of South Asian Literature 14.1-2 (Fall 1978-Spring 1979).

(3.) See Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 35-43.

(4.) Nirala himself is responsible for creating some confusion concerning his date of birth. See R. V. Sarma, Nirala ki Sahitya Sadhana, 1: 495-97.

(5.) Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 97-98.

(6.) Ibid., 106-20.

(7.) Ibid., 263-65.

(8.) Ibid., 109-10.

(9.) From the essay "Bharat me Pragatisil Sahitya ki Avasyakta" (The need for progressive literature in India), published in the March 1937 issue of Visal Bharat, by Sivdan Singh Cauhan, a graduate of Allahabad University. In addition, the author considers the Chayavadis followers of Tagore, a much-repeated reproach, implying that their poetry is derivative of this Bengali model. This essay is quoted in Sarma, Nirala, 1: 334.

(10.) Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 265-69.

(11.) Ibid., 269-70.

(12.) A description of Nirala's first contacts with the Progressivists in 1936 can be found in Sarma, Nirala, 1: 325-27.

(13.) An example is his run-in with Purusottam Tandan during the regional Hindi Sahitya Sammelan held in Faizabad in 1937; see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 346-50. Nirala's interpretation of the incident, which appeared in the short-lived magazine Cakallas in 1938, can be found in N. K. Naval, ed., Nirala Racanavali, 6: 202-10.

(14.) S. H. Vatsyayana, "Modern (Post-War) Hindi Poetry," 148.

(15.) Ibid., 151.

(16.) Ibid.

(17.) K. B. Jindal, A History of Modern Hindi Literature, 305.

(18.) D. Rubin, The Return of Sarasvati: Translations of the Poetry of Prasad, Nirala, Pant, and Mahadevi, 10.

(19.) Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 102-3.

(20.) Ibid., 201-39 and 269, resp.

(21.) Ibid., 98.

(22.) Ibid., 115-16.

(23.) V. C. Sarma, "Daga ki Sabhyata me Phasa kavi," 44-45, and C. B. Bharati, "Dalit Sahitya ka Saundarya-Sastra," 70.

(24.) A. Simh, "Nimvar Simh kit Hindi-Hindu 'Mirksvad'" 57-58.

(25.) O. Valmiki, "Kab Tak in Prasno se Bacega Marksvad," 49.

(26.) R. Yidav, "Vah Subah Kabhi to Aegi," 4-5; see also, in the same issue, V. Kumar, "Sabd ki Talas me Kavita," 121; and B. D. Pandey, "'Svadhinata aur Kavita': Ek Purani Tippani," 42-44.

(27.) Sarma, Nirala, 2: 14.

(28.) For some examples of Nirala's political editorials, presented within a Marxist frame, see Sarma, Nirala, 2: 75-85, 143-59. For Nirala's article "Carkha," see Sarma, Nirala, 1:113; see also below [section]3.2.

(29.) In an address in Madras in 1897, Vivekananda reportedly said: "You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger," as quoted in H. W. French, "Swami Vivekananda's Use of the Bhagavadgita," in Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita, ed. Robert Minor, 142.

(30.) Nirala would break away from the Mission during his Matvala period, but there was a rapprochement in 1925 (see Sarma Nirala, 1: 117).

(31.) After the death of his father in 1917, the financial burden of supporting his joint family fell on Nirala's shoulders. He had initially followed in his father's footsteps in Mahisadal; see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 34-36.

(32.) Sarma, Nirala, 1: 52-59. The title of the journal means "Confluence."

(33.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 30-47, 55-59, 73-74, 80-99.

(34.) See O. Sarad, Nirala Granthavali li, 1: 598.

(35.) Interesting for the contemporary relevance of these issues is the recent publication (with introduction by the editor, in Hamsa of a political statement by Svami Vivekananda, under the title "Maim Samajvadi Hum" (I am a socialist); Hamsa 134 (October 1997): 15-18.

(36.) This article was first published in Samanvay in 1922; see Naval, Nirala Racandvali, 6: 34-37.

(37.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 3 8-40.

(38.) The Hindi reads sadhan se siddhi tak ka rasta pravah ke hi bhitar hai (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 40).

(39.) Published in a monthly from Kanpur, called Prabha, on 1 June 1920; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 29.

(40.) Literally: "the terrible sound" or "the speech of Bhairava." The latter may be a reference to a particular musical tune or raga, or, especially, to the fearsome, destructive aspect of the god Siva. It implies a doomsday-type of event, which is supported by the last strophe, which evokes the cataclysmic imagery reminiscent of Siva's cosmic dance (tridas koti nar samaj, madhur-kanth-mukhar aj; capal caranbhamg nac taragan suryacandra, cum carantal mar garaj jaladhi madhur mandra).

(41.) S. Wolpert, A New History of India, 207.

(42.) See, e.g., his "Raksa Bandhan" published in Matvala on August 26, 1923. Relevant here are the lines: dekh kartut aisi virvar saputo ki / bharat ka gary se uthega ya jhukegd sir "Look at the deeds of such choice heroic sons. Will India's head rise proudly, or will it lower?" (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 54-55). Another poem is "Khandhar ke Prati," first published in Matvala on December 8, 1923 and later collected in Anamika (2); see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 68-69. Here, Nirala transforms the description of monuments of India's past glory into an exhortation for the present.

(43.) Poems that could be interpreted as having a nationalist theme are the following: "Jalad ke Prati" (Nirala, Parimal, 62-63; see, esp., II. 11-14: ma ki dasa dekhkar tumne, tab vides prasthan kiya; vaham hosiyaro ne tumko khub parhaya, bahkaya: 'da'-jor gred barhaya, turn par, jal phut ka phailaya. 'jal' se 'jalda' kaha samjhaya, bhed tujhe uce baithal ..., II. 21-22: kintu tumhare caru citt par, khice sada ma ki tasvir, ksin hui mukh, chalak raha, nalini-dal-nayano se dukh-nir, II. 27-32) and "Vasant Samir" (ibid., 68-70, see, esp., the two last couplets). The poem "Vidhva" (ibid., 98-99) is about a social problem (the plight of the Hindu widow) in a nationalist context.

(44.) This poem was published first in five parts in the Calcutta-based weekly Matvala in 1926 and later collected in Parimal. See Nirala, Parimal, 166-82 and also Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 145-58.

(45.) "A handful of Muslims" (mutthi-bhar musalman), Nirala, Parimal, 176.

(46.) Some examples are vir sermard "heroic lion males," Nirala, Parimal, 171 and sanatan dharm dhara suddh "purifying stream of eternal sacred duty," ibid., 180.

(47.) See, esp., part 3 of this multi-part poem. This poem was first published in Matvala in 1924; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali. 1: 117-18. The imagery of the rain cloud is also found in "Maharaj Sivaji ka Patra": badal ke dal milkar / gherte dhara ko jyo, / plavit karte hai / nij jivan se jivo ko...(Nirala, Parimal, 178) "The flocks of clouds gather like a stream; they drench living beings with their life force."

(48.) According to Nirala himself in an interview; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 206-7.

(49.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 359-60.

(50.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1:115.

(51.) The Marxist critic and biographer of Nirala, Ramvilas Sarma, quotes parts from this very poem to document what he perceives to be Nirala's growing distance from "Gandhivad" (Sarma, Nirala, 2: 80).

(52.) See, Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 5: 156-61. Also, in a poem published in 1923 on the occasion of the festival of raksa bandhan (quoted above, n. 42), Nirala seems to make an antiriot statement: kamgalo ka katl aho is rakhi ke ramg me chipa "in the color of this rakhi is hidden the blood of the poor" (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 54-55).

(53.) Sarma, Nirala, 1: 123; see also Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 7:19 for Nirala's introduction to the story of Dhruva.

(54.) For the most recent publications on the topic, see C. King, One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India, and V. Dalmia, The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bharatendu Harischandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras.

(55.) In 1991, see King, One Language, Two Scripts, 36.

(56.) By 1914, see King, One Language, Two Scripts, 33-36.1

(57.) S. Pant. Pallav, 15-26.

(58.) First published in the Calcutta weekly Matvala on 22 December 1923, later included in Gitika; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 71.

(59.) This line is ambiguous; it could either mean "you were watching engrossed" (taking bhul as an absolutive for bhulkar) or "you were watching. Forget!" (taking bhul as an imperative).

(60.) A good example is found in the memorial presented to the Education Commission in 1882, still in rivalry with Urdu; see Dalmia, Nationalization, 222-23.

(61.) Ibid., 174-79.

(62.) References to Sammelan reports in the magazine Sudha can be found in Sarma, Nirala, 2: 65.

(63.) A good example is Nirala's defense against Susilkumar Basu (see Sarma, Nirala, 2: 64, 66). For an interview with Nirala on his efforts to lecture in defense of Hindi against Bengali, see Naval, Nirala Racanavali 6:199-201.

(64.) First published in the Calcutta weekly Matvala on 8 Sept. 1923; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 55-56.

(65.) See Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 27-30; a description of this article and the circumstances in which it was written and published can also be found in Sarma, Nirala, 1: 40-44.

(66.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 27.

(67.) The poem in question is "Baner Pakhi Gache Bahire Basi Basi," and Nirala proposes an alternative refrain line: Sakala khaga kula bahata basi basi.

(68.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 29.

(69.) Ibid.

(70.) See J. Roselli, "The Self-image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-century Bengal," 121-48, and M. Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century.

(71.) After Nirala moved to the big city, he tried to eke out a living by translation jobs and writing for the Ramakrishna Mission magazine, Samanvay, and for Matvala. He would move back to Garhakola, his ancestral village, whenever he had no work. In 1930 he more or less definitely gave up living in Calcutta, when he found a job with the magazine Sudha in Lucknow.

(72.) Nirala had read Svami Vivekananda's "The East and the West" and written short reviews of literature published by the Ramakrishna mission (Sri Ramkrsna asram ki pustake): see Sarad, Nirala Granthavali, 2: 509-14.

(73.) J. Kripal, Kali's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna, 26 and 319.

(74.) For the first arguments, see Roselli, "Self-image of Effeteness"; for the last, see Kripal, Kali's Child, 360, n. 6.

(75.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 27.

(76.) For an example, see Nirala's "Bharat ki Rastra-Bhasa" (India's national language), a June 1930 editorial for the Lucknow monthly Sudha, as quoted in Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 297-99.

(77.) See his "Hindi Bhasa Kaisi Honi Cahiye" (What the Hindi language should be like), published in Samanvay, May-June 1923; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 47-50.

(78.) See his "Bhasa ki Gati aur Hindi Ki Saili" (The flow of language and the style of Hindi), published in the same monthly in Oct. 1923; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 50-54.

(79.) Nirala, Parimal, 8, bhumika.

(80.) Ibid., 7, bhumika.

(81.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 22.

(82.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 68-69.

(83.) Nirala, Kulli Bhat, chap. 3; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 24-25.

(84.) Sarad, Nirala Granthavali, 1: 9.

(85.) Nirala, Kulli Bhat, chap. 8; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 48.

(86.) The incident with his mother-in-law is related in Kulli Bhat, chap. 5; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 31. Nirala wrote several articles on Tulsidas, which were published from 1922 onwards. For some samples, see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 5: 125-37, 161-64, 278-300 (a favorable comparison with Tagore), 463-65, 475-79 and 6: 233. His famous and very interesting poem on the topic, Tulsidas, was created a bit later, in 1934 (published first in five installments in Sudha in 1935; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 267-89).

(87.) Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 48.

(88.) Kulli Bhat, chap. 9; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 51.

(89.) Bharatendu Hariscandra reportedly stated that every Baisvari considered himself to be a Bhima or Arjuna (Sarma, Nirala, 1: 10).

(90.) Sarma, Nirala, 1: 28-29.

(91.) The question of the extent of Tagore's influence on Chayavad is a much-debated matter (see Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 23-26, 100-101, 112-20).

(92.) The poems are quoted in a separate appendix in Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 368-69, 376-79. This appendix has also Nirala's translations of poems by Vivekananda and by the medieval poets Govindadas and Candidas. One of the ways he tried to make a living in Calcutta was by taking on translations from Bengali into Hindi.

(93.) Rastrabhasa Hindi ke prathama mahakavi; see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 97.

(94.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 96-99.

(95.) An example of Nirala's attacks on Dvivedi poets is his article "Kavivar Sri Sumitranandan Pant," published on March 5, 1924; see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 78-79.

(96.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 104-5.

(97.) Ibid., 1: 99-103.

(98.) "Juhi ki Kali" was the title of one of Nirala's first and most popular poems, now translated in Rubin, Return of Sarasvati, 76-77.

(99.) For Nirala's struggle to regain his self-esteem, see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 105-8. "Patonmukh" was published first in Matvala Oct. 24, 1925 (see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 134; for a translation, see Rubin, Return of Sarasvati, 88). Another poem from the period that may be interpreted in this way is "Vrtti" (Event), which was published in Matvala Jan. 23, 1926 (see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 139; translated by Rubin, Return of Sarasvati. 89).

(100.) Pant, Pallav, 44.

(101.) The circumstances of Nirala's discovery of Pant's criticism are described in his biography; Sarma, Nirala, 1: 127-28.

(102.) Nirala's strong reaction to the article by Vatsyayana quoted above was no doubt reinforced by the fact that it was published in a magazine of Tagore's Santiniketan, and that Vatsyayana had unfavorably compared the Chayavadi "aesthetes" with Tagore (see above, [section]1).

(103.) See Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 46 and 71. Nirala argues similarly in an article for Matvala, see ibid., 6: 60.

(104.) It was published in four issues of Sri Krsna Sandes in 1925-26: see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 6: 61-73. See also Sarma, Nirala, 1: 113. Nirala writes a near word-for-word rebuke of Tagore's equally biting response to Gandhi in a Calcutta monthly Sabuj Patra. For a contextualization of the Tagore-Gandhi polemic, see H. Trivedi, Colonial Transactions: English Literature and India, 55.

(105.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 32-33.

(106.) One of the domestic tiffs was a typical one, regarding the issue of vegetarianism; see Sarma, Nirala, 1: 25-30.

(107.) To quote just a few titles of poems collected in Parimal: "Priya ke Prati" (To the beloved), an undated poem (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 190; Nirala, Parimal, 49-50; translated by Rubin, Return of Sarasvati, 84-85); "Saratpurnima ki Bidai" (Goodbye to the full moon of autumn), published Jan. 12, 1923 in Matvala (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 67-68; Nirala, Parimal, 107-8); "Anjali" (Prayer), published Dec. 15, 1923 in Matvata (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, I: 70-71; Nirala, Parimal, 109-10), "Viphal Vasna" (Unfulfilled desire), published March 15, 1924 in Matvata (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 85-86; Nirala Parimal, 124-25; translated by Rubin, Return of Sarasvati, 86-87). Throughout Nirala's poems of the period runs the motif of the flower wilted after only one night of bloom. For an example, see "Sephalika (Flower blooming one night), published Sept. 26, 1925 in Matvata (Naval, 1: 133; Nirala Parimal, 146; translated by Rubin, Return of Sarasvati, 79).

(108.) Kulli Bhat, chap. 9; Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 4: 52-53.

(109.) Sarma, Nirala, 1: 37. Identification of the beloved and the Muse seems to be also the theme of "Rekha" (Line), a poem created on Feb. 2, 1927 and published in the April 1928 issue of Sudha (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 159-64; Nirala, Parimal, 147-53).

(110.) See Sarma, Nirala, 1: 108.

(111.) On January 9 and March 27, resp.; see Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 138 and 143.

(112.) Nirala, Parimal, 154-58.

(113.) For the Devanagari text of the poems see Nirala, Parimal, 154-58 or Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 136-38 and 141-43. The romanized transcription follows the original in sequence, but the translation has sometimes required lines to be switched around; hence the numbering is not always sequential for the translation.

(114.) Yamini-gandha refers probably to the rat ki rani, a fragrant flower blossoming at night.

(115.) The whole passage is ambiguous, as the Hindi has no possessives. In this line, the ambiguity of the verb bharna, which can be intransitive as well as transitive, renders many interpretations possible. One could read: "Let [your/my] arms embrace [me/you] in a sleepy impulse." An alternative would be: "let [your] arms fill with a sleepy impulse."

(116.) Vasan can mean "dress" as well as "dwelling place." This double entendre with erotic undertone is typical for Chayavad.

(117.) The intransitive verb chutna is interpreted as a reflexive verb: "to lose one's self."

(118.) Bharati is a name of Sarasvati, the goddess of speech. The Hindi is ambiguous: intended might be "love for Bharati" or "love of Bharati."

(119.) I have interpreted the verb gaye as a subjunctive: "he should sing." An alternative would be as past perf. part.: "songs were sung." However, that verb form would require an agent with the postposition ne and instead sindhu-nad-tirvasi looks like a vocative because it is followed by the exclamation mark.

(120.) The four divisions of the traditional Indian army are the cavalry, infantry, elephants, and chariots.

(121) I am grateful to an anonymous reviewer of this paper for suggesting this translation, interpreting nija as "special." Govind Singh (1675-1708), the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, was the founder of the Khalsa. Nirala is clearly hinting at his fighting the then imperial power, the Mughals, which is emphasized in Sikh hagiography.

(122) A similar image occurs in "Maharaj Sivaji ka Patra," where Nirala has Sivaji write: "Does a lion ever take the guise of a jackal?" simh bhi kya svamg kabhi / karta hai syar ka? (Nirala, Parimal, 170).

(123) This reference to a popular Sikh utterance is intended to evoke a sense of vigor.

(124.) Literally, "sky-haired," an epithet of Siva.

(125.) An ambiguous compound, which may be taken as a tatpurusa, "offspring of immortality/nectar," or as a bahuvrihi, "having immortality/nectar for his offspring." In either case it seems to be a vocative, intended as an exhortation to his compatriots. Whether by referring to them as "offspring of Siva, lord of yogis, who dispatches immortality," or as tantrikas engaged in the process of creating an immortal body, Nirala gets across his message that fear of death is out of place.

(126.) Conflation of the image of the royal throne, simhasana (lion's throne), and the cakra of moksa, the sahasrar cakra, imagined as a thousand-petaled lotus.

(127.) This image is a favorite of Nirala: it appears also in "Path" (published first in Samanvay in Nov.-Dec. 1923, later collected in Git Gunj); dahsat tumhe kya thi prakrti ki is ukharpachar ka? / dudh pita chin gaya bacca abhi jis serni ka / mad se uski kathor dahar ki? (Naval, Nirala Racanavali, 1: 67) "What would you fear this turmoil of nature? The lioness' harsh roar when her milk-sucking whelp has been snatched away?"

(128.) This phrase, complete with the enjambement, is also found in Nirala's most explicitly nationalist poem "Maharaj Sivaji ka Patra": charo kab ksatriyo ne apna bhag?--/ rahte pran--kati me krpan ke? (Nirala, Parimal, 174) "Have warriors ever given up their [rightful] share? As long as they draw breath-have a sword at their girdle?"

(129.) This line contains a pun on the name of the meter, mukta chand or "free verse."

(130.) A free formulaic translation for Saccidananda, a term describing God, whose essence consists of being (sat), consciousness (cid) and bliss (ananda).

(131.) The Hindi is ambiguous in that it does not need to specify a possessive. This line could be translated as "His feet" (i.e., Brahma's) as well as "your feet."

(132.) See K. Schomer, "'Playing with the Infinite': Structures of Conflation in the Hindi Chayavad Lyric," 215-36.

(133.) References to speech and sound in the first poem: "language" (bhasa 1. 18), "cry for the beloved" (piu-rav 1. 25), "crying Out" (rahi pukar 1. 48), in contrast with "silent" (maun 11. 8, 18), "the humming is dying out" (band ho raha gunjar 1. 19). In the second poem: "When I will call Out the special name" (nij nam jab kahauga 11. 9-10), "Who played this... war tune" (kisne sunaya yah... samgram-rag 11. 11-13). in contrast with "silent" (maun 1. 31), "saying" (ukti 1. 42), "great mantra" (mahamantra 1. 55). References to poetry in the first poem: the reference to the goddess of speech, Bharati (1. 51). In the second poem "would sing songs" (gan gaye 1. 3), "romantic songs" (baraho mahino 1. 15). "like poetry" (chand jyo 1. 53).

(134.) The theme of awakening is most emphasized through the recurring refrain's jago, but is also prominent in the first poem: "waking up" (jagate 1. 2), "morning ray" (tarun kiran 1. 3), 'arose" (jagi 1. 16), "sunrise" (uge arunacal me ravi 1. 50), "Night went, day broke" (gayi rat, khula din 1. 55). It is contrasted with "slept" (soyi 1. 10), "sunset" (astacal dhale ravi 1. 13), "night" (vibhavari 1. 14 and yamini 1. 16), "drooping eyes" (mud rahi palake 1. 28), "sleepy" (svapnil 1. 35), "drowsiness" (supti 1.37, alas 1.38), "get tired" (thak jay 1.42), "day passed, night came" (gaya din, ayi rat 1.54). Similarly "opening" (kholti hai 1.4, khule 1.21) and the contrastive "closing" (band kar 1.8, band ho raha 1.11). Spring images occur in 11. 20-23.

(135.) Some examples are "hero" (vir II. 12, 46; sur I. 47), "lion" (sero I. 16, simh I. 30), "fearless" (abhay I. 23), "survival of the fittest" (yogya jan jita hai I. 41), "jewel of the battle" (samar sartaj I. 2), in contrast with "difficult to overcome" (durjay I. 13), "jackal" (syar I. 17), "mother sheep" (mesmata I. 34), "weak" (durbal I. 36), "herd-animal" (pasu I. 46), "cowardice" (kayarta I. 59). Also, in the first poem, "defeated" (hare I. 2).

(136.) See in the second poem, "immortal" (amar I. 2), "timeless" (akal I. 19), "Time/Death was burnt to ashes" (bhasm ho gaya tha kal I. 21), "conqueror of death" (mrtyunjay I. 24), "nectar-offspring" (amrt-santan I. 25), "as long as life lasts" (rahte pran I. 33). in contrast with "killing fields" (samar II. 2, 47, 49), "mortal world" (maran-lok I. 26), "the wheel of time" (kalcakra I. 48); words for spiritual liberation are "liberated" (mukta I. 52), "without obstacles and bondage" (badha vihin bandh I. 53), "bliss" (anand I. 54), "God" (saccidanand I. 54), and for delusion (maya I. 51), "transient" (nasvar I. 58). In the first poem notions of liberation are found in the imagery of the union with the beloved: "liberated" (mukt I. 36), "let go" (chut chut I. 38), "absorbed" (lin I. 44), and for delusion notably in the imagery of the bee: "stuck" (phasi I. 7).

(137.) Examples are the refrain and in the first poem: II. 9, 14, 16, 20-21, 23, 30, 32-33, 45, 52-54 (I. 18 can be analyzed as 12-12 matras); in the second poem: II. 4, 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 23, 31, 34-35, 42-44, 47, 52, 55, 62.

(138.) Examples of intra-line internal rhyme are in the first poem: arun-tarun I. 3, bate-rate I. 27, jal-dhal I. 29, laghutarkar I. 30, atur-ur I. 36; in the second poem: samar-amar-kar I. 2, caturang-sang I. 6, jan-mohan I. 12, saptavaran-maran I. 26, sur-krur I. 47.

(139.) Apart from the rhyme of the refrain with each line before it, straightforward end-rhyme is found only in II. 36-37 do-ho in the first poem, and carhauga-kahauga in II. 8-10 and jita hai-gita hai in II. 4 1-43 in the second poem.

(140.) Examples of inter-line rhyme are in the first poem aliyo-galiyo II. 6-7, ankhe-pankhe II. 6-8, ravi-kavi II. 50-51, samsar-hazar II. 56-57; and in the second poem chandanand II. 53-54; thyme of the last or penultimate word of the line with the first of the next are ravi -(sasi)chavi II. 13-14, madhur-mad ur II. 22-23, nayan-sayan II. 33-34; in the second poem rag-phag II. 13-14, akal-bhal-kal II. 19, 20, 21, trayabhay II. 22-23, saman-(amrt)santan II. 24-25, lok-sok(hari) II. 26-27, kaun-maun II. 3 1-32, abhisapt-tapt II. 38-39.

(141.) See K. Bryant, Poems to the Child-God: Structures and Strategies in the Poetry of Surdas, 35.

(142.) Nirala is, in his interpretation, obviously much indebted to other modern Gita interpreters, such as Svami Vivekananda. For an accessible study of the latter's interpretation of the Gita, some elements of which are strikingly similar to points made in Nirala's poem, see French, "Swami Vivekananda's Use of the Bhagavadgita," 131-46.

(143.) This is reminiscent of Svami Vivekananda's message, with its keynote "Yield not to unmanliness, O Son of Pritha"; see French, "Swami Vivekananda's Use of the Bhagavadgita," 142.

(144.) This seems to be Nirala interpretation, though in Sanskrit they are respectively from the roots r and mr. I am grateful to Prof. Edwin Gerow for drawing my attention to the correct etymology.

(145.) For a study of this type of folksong, see C. Vaudeville, Barahmasa.

(146.) See also echoes of Bhagavadgita 2: 40 and 45(... trayate mahato bhayat and nistraigunyo bhava) in 11. 22-23

(... tino gun ... abhay ho gaye the tum), and of 3:16 (pravartitam cakram nanuvartayati) in 1.48 (kal cakra me ho dabe).

(147.) For a discussion of theoretical matters of free verse see Sarma, Nirala, 2:442ff. and 490ff.

(148.) See French, "Swami Vivekananda's Use of the Bhagavadgita," 142.

(149.) See Schomer, Mahadevi Varma, 95-96.

(150.) More common would be the nominalized priya (voc. masc.) or priye (voc. fern.), but the rhyme with tare and hare may have influenced word choice. As it stands, pyare could also be interpreted as an adjective to tare: "dear stars," but the word order would be unusual and would suggest extra Stress on the word, which does not seem very meaningful.

(151.) See his article "Rup aur Nari," as quoted in Sarad, Nirala Granthavali, 2: 497-99.

(152.) Ramvilas Sarma quotes these lines from this poem, to make the point that though India can boast heroes like Sivaji and Guru Govind Singh, who fought for independence, the present generation seemed to have forgotten this type of heroism (Sarma, Nirala, 2: 145).

(153.) The poem ends with the same opposition of cosmic experience (in the last, Vedanta-inspired lines) and individuality (the refrain) as in the first poem. In Jago Phir Ek Bar (2)," however, the cosmic experience clearly prevails.

(154.) One could also read a rejection of more effeminate Krsna bhakti poetry in favor of militant Sikhism, especially in the light of the reference to Govind Singh in the second poem. However, there is no evidence in Nirala's essays for such a reading.


1. Hindi Sources: Text Editions, Biography, and Criticism

Bharati, C. B. "Dalit Sahitya ka Saundarya ka Sastra." Hamsa 121 (Aug. 1996): 70-72.

Kumar, Vijay. "Sabd ki Talas me Kavita." Hamsa 133 (Sept. 1997): 120-24.

Nirala [Suryakanta Tripathi]. Kulli Bhat. 6th ed. Lucknow: Gaga Pustakmala, 1964.

_____. Parimal. Ed. Ramkrsna Tripathi. New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakasan, 1978 [1929].

Naval, Nand Kisor, ed. Nirala Racanavali. 8 vols. New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakasan, 1983.

Pandey, Bhavdev. "'Svadhinata aur Kavita': Ek Purani Tippani." Hamsa 137 (Jan. 1998): 42-44.

Pant, Sumitrananda. Pallav. New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakasan, 1977 [1926].

Sarad, Omkar, ed. Nirala Granthavali. 2 vols. Lucknow: Prakasan Kendra, n.d.

Sarma, Ramvilas. Nirala ki Sahitya Sadhana. 3 vols. New Delhi: Rajkamal Prakasan, 1969.

Sarma, Visnu Candra. "Daga ki Sabhyata me Phasa kavi." Hamsa 141 (May 1998): 44-45.

Simh, Ajay, "Namvar Simh ka Hindi-Hindu 'Marksvad.'" Hamsa 141 (July 1998): 57-58,

Valmiki, Omprakas. "Kab Tak in Prasno se Bacega Marksvad." Hamsa 142 (June 1998): 49-50.

Yadav, Rajendra. "Vah Subah Kabhi to Aegi." Hamsa 133 (Aug.-Sept. 1997): 4-5.

2. General Literature

Bryant, Kenneth E. Poems to the Child-God: Structures and Strategies in the Poetry of Surdas. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1978.

Dalmia, Vasudha. The Nationalization of Hindu Traditions: Bharatendu Harischandra and Nineteenth-century Banaras. Delhi: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997.

French, Harold W. "Swami Vivekananda's Use of the Bhagavadgica." In Modern Indian Interpreters of the BhagavadGita, ed. Robert Minor. Pp. 131-46. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1986.

Jindal, Kailash Bhushan. A History of Hindi Literature. 2nd ed. New Delhi: Mushiram Manoharlal, 1993.

King, Christopher R. One Language, Two Scripts: The Hindi Movement in Nineteenth Century North India. Bombay: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994.

Kripal, Jeffrey L. Kalli's Child: The Mystical and the Erotic in the Life and Teachings of Ramakrishna. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997.

Roselli, John. "The Self-image of Effeteness: Physical Education and Nationalism in Nineteenth-century Bengal." Past and Present 86 (1980): 121-48.

Rubin, David. A Season on the Earth: Selected Poems of Nirala. New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1976.

_____. The Return of Sarasvati: Translations of the Poetry of Prasad, Nirala, Pant, and Mahadevi. University of Pennsylvania Studies on South Asia, no. 7. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania, 1993.

Schomer, Karine. "'Playing with the Infinite': Structures of Conflation in the Hindi Chayavad Lyric." Journal of South Asian Literature 19.2 (1984): 215-36.

_____. Mahadevi Varma and the Chayavad Age of Modern Hindi Poetry. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1983.

Sinha, Mrinalini. Colonial Masculinity: The 'Manly Englishman' and the 'Effeminate Bengali' in the Late Nineteenth Century. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1995.

Trivedi, Harish. Colonial Transactions: English Literature and India. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1995.

Vatsyayana, S. H. "Modern (Post-War) Hindi Poetry." Visva Bharati Quarterly (Aug.-Oct. 1937): 148.

Vaudeville, Charlotte. Barahmasa. Delhi: Motilal Banarssidas, 1986 [1965].

Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India. 4th ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1993.
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Title Annotation:Hindi poetry
Author:Pauwels, Heidi
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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