Harivansh Rai Bachchan
(Rajpal and Sons, Delhi; 1965)
(Sahitya Academy Awardee-Hindi-1968)
"Sri Harivansh Rai Bachchan (born 1907) was born in a middleclass family at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Dr. Harivansh Rai, better known to his readers as Bachchan; graduated from the Allahabad University in 1929 and was soon drawn into the vortex of the freedom struggle. After a brief career as a journalist, he was appointed as a teacher in the local Agrawal Vidyalaya. Continuing with his studies, he obtained the MA and B.T. degrees and joined the Allahabad University as a research scholar and later as a lecturer in English Literature in 1941.
Sri Bachchan began his poetic career early and published his first collection of lyrics, Tera Haar, in 1932. With the publication of his work Madhushala in 1935 his position as a major Hindi poet was firmly established. He has more than forty published works to his credit, including verse renderings of the Gita and Shakespeare's plays.
In 1954 Sri Bachchan received the degree of Ph.D. from Cambridge University for his research work on the poetry of W.B. Yeats, and after working as Producer at Akashvani, Allahabad, for sometime, joined the Union Ministry of External Affairs as a Special Officer. In 1966 he was nominated by the President of India to the Rajya Sabha and the same year was awarded the Soviet Land Nehru Award for his Hindi translation of Russian poems.
The Award book, Do Chattanen, was first published in 1965 and contains, along with a number of other poems, the long title poem contrasting Sisyphus, the symbolic character from Greek mythology, with Hanuman. For its vigour of expression and maturity of outlook, the book has been hailed as an outstanding contribution to contemporary Hindi literature" (Citation)
Harivansh Rai Bachchan is a popular poet of the post-Chhayavadi Hindi lyrical poetry. The book Do Chattanen contains fifty-three poems written between 1962 and 1964. The most important poem of this collection is "Do Chattanen or Sisyphus Vs Hanuman”" In this long poem, Bachchan has presented two points of view of life by using Sisyphus and Hanuman as symbols. Both Sisyphus and Hanuman aspire to become immortal, but their means are different. Sisyphus imprisons death to become immortal. His act of imprisoning death and becoming immortal proves to be a curse. He lives an endless suffering, incessantly rolling a huge stone up to the top of a hill. This is the symbol of meaningless life full of torture and agony. Sisyphus symbolizes the faithless western man of the twentieth century. Contrary to Sisyphus, Hanuman becomes immortal through devotion. He is full of faith and humility. His immortality is not a curse, but a boon. He lifts Dronachal but once, and this mountain bears Sanjivini. Hanuman symbolizes the power that is directed towards Shiva (the good). This is the Indian view of life. Do Chattanen will be remembered for this long poem. It does not mean that the other poems are of no significance. They are significant because they reflect the mental activity and attitudes of the poet during his seventh decade. In these poems he has reacted to many things, such as the Chinese aggression, Nehru's death, anger of youth, poet's old age, contemporary literary scene, academics, etc. The poet has reached there where hesitation, fear, anxiety, success and failure have no meaning. He has started contemplating death. He feels that the time has come to depart from this world. The poems of Do Chattanen represent the clarity of meaning and lucidity of expression of Bachchan's poetry.
(Source: Sahitya Academy Awards – Books and Writers – 1955-1978
Published by Sahitya Academy. ISBN 81 7201 014 1)