We have already discussed the lives and works of some of the major cultural figures in the biography section. However, there are many more important personalities who have contributed to the growth and development of the literature and culture of Bangladesh. What follows are brief notes on some of the cultural personality of Bangladesh.
Cultural Personality of Bangladesh
Farrukh Ahmed lived between 1920 and 1975. He was a modern poet and wrote on the theme of Islamic rejuvenation. He is widely known as the poet of the Islamic Renaissance in Bengal.
Farrukh was a student of Philosophy at university, but he discontinued his studies dues to his excessive love for poetry. Some of his popular writings include Hatem Taiee, Pakhir Basha, Rajrajra, and Koran Monjusha.
Abbasuddin Ahmed was born in a conservative Muslim family in 1901. From childhood, he was very religious and a firm lover of music. Abbasuddin never had any formal training in music.
During Abbasuddin’s time, music and its practice were rare in Muslim homes. Music was considered more of a Hindu tradition in Bengali society, and as such, most singers during those times were Hindu and rarely Muslim.
Yet, Abbasuddin persevered and the two songs of his first gramophone record, ‘Kon birohir ayan jole badol jhare go’ and ‘Sharan parer ogo priyo’, made him popular all over Bengal.
Abbasuddin reached the climax of his career when Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote songs for him to sing. One such song was Snighdha Shyam Beni Barna, which is still one of the most popular songs of Bengal.
It greatly disappointed Abbasuddin that although the Hindu community had many songs to celebrate their festivals, the Muslims had none. This led him to write the popular Eid song ‘Rmjaner Oi Rojar Sheshey Elo Khushi Eid’.
During the British period, most political meetings used his popular songs. He took the active part in the anti-colonial upheaval in British India. Abbasuddin died in 1959, but the melodies of his songs have remained fresh.”
Munier Chowdhury is one of the most famous playwrights of the post-1947 period.
He is also remembered for his role as a pioneer in the Language Movement. Even today, Munier’s play Kabar(Grave) is one of the most popular and successful plays in the history of Bengali performing arts.
Michael Madhusudan Dutt
Michael Madhusudan Dutt was born in 1824 and is renowned for his work on classical and contemporary dramas. The dramas he wrote were influenced by Sanskrit, Greek and English Plays. His first play, ‘Sharmishtha’, written in 1859 brought him into the limelight.
In 1860, he wrote ‘Padmavati’, and then ‘Krishnakumari’ in 1861, the first historical play in Bangla where he followed the style of a Greek tragedy.
Madhusudan was a brilliant man and it is said’ that he would have several writers sitting around him, each responsible for a different piece of work, to whom he would dictate his creation, one after the other, during the same writing sessions.
Jibananda Das (1899-1954) was a contemporary of Kazi Nazrul Islam. He was a remarkable poet and was the one who influenced many poets of the 1960s and 1970s. Jharapalak, written in 1927, was his first book of poems.
Banalata Sen written in 1942 is one of his most famous poems, so is Ruposhi Bangla, which was a posthumous publication in 1957. After Rabindranath and Nazrul, Jibananda Das appears to be the most well-read poet of his generation.
Ahsan Habib (1917-1985) was a poet and journalist. Ahsan Habib started writing while still a student. His first poem, Mayer kabar pade Kishor, was published in the school magazine in 1934 when he was the student of Class X. His first collection of poems was Ratrishes (1947).
He wrote a number of children’s books, among them Jyotsna Rater Golpa, Bristi Pore Tapur Tupur (1977), and Chhutir Din Dupure (1978).
He received several awards for his literary achievements, among them the UNESCO Literary Prize (1960-61), the Bangla Academy Award (1961), Adamjee Literary Prize (1964), Ekushey Padak (1978) and Abul Mansur Ahmed Memorial Prize (1980).
Begum Sufia Kamal
Begum Sufia Kamal (1911-1981) is an important poet and social worker, Sufia’s first poem, Basanti, was published in 1956. Her first book of poems, Sanjher Maya, was published in 1938, which won her literary acclaim in Bengal.
Kazi Nazrul Islam penned the foreword of her book and commended Sufia as the ‘new star on the horizon of Bengali poetry.
Even Tagore, in a letter to Sufia, wrote ‘You have a high place in Bangla literature, as constant and fixed as the Pole Star. In 1948, Sufia became the first editor of the magazine ‘Begum’, one of the most widely acclaimed and oldest women’s magazines in Bangla. Later, she went on to become the co-editor of another weekly magazine, Sultana.
Apart from writing more than a dozen volumes of poetry, Sufia wrote short stories, travelogues, and an autobiography called Ekale Amader Kal.
Begum Kamal was also an active social worker. In 1929, she joined a Muslim women association called the Anjuman-i-Islam’ founded by Begum Rokeya. The association gave women a platform to discuss matters relating to them, promote education and bring about social reform” Begum Sufia Kamal actively took part in the Language Movement to protest against the suppression of Bengali culture and Bangla by the ill-motivated Pakistani government.
At the time of war, Sufia penned the incidents going around her in the war, her thoughts, feelings, and emotions in two diaries, Ekattarer Diary (Diary of 71) and Mor Jaduder Smadhi Pare (Where my Darlings Lie Buried).
The latter diary was a poetic one, recalling the barbarity of the Pakistani army and the burning desire of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh to liberate their country.
Hasan Raja (1854-1922) was a mystic poet and folk singer. Hasan Raja composed about a thousand mystic songs in regional dialects and simple but engaging tunes. Local Bauls and Fakirs performed his songs which made him nationally famous.
Like the songs of Lalon Shah, Hasna Raja’s songs rise above communalism and are true for both Hindu and Muslims.
Zahir Raihan was the pioneering film-maker of Bangladesh and made films in Urdu and English as well in Bangla. The first film directed by him, Kakhono Asheni, was released in 1961 and was followed by at least seven more films in quick succession.
But this untimely death after the birth of Bangladesh (in fact, the disappeared mysteriously) brought an end to a great career.
Zahir Raihan’s most famous film was Jiban Theke Neya, which depicted the autocratic rule of Pakistan and inspired people to rise up against the Pakistani rulers.
Mohammed Shiahidullah made an important contribution to our understanding of the history of Bangla language and literature. Soon after the birth of Pakistan in 1947, the central government of Pakistan planned to impose Urdu as the state language of West Pakistan and East Pakistan, ignoring Bangla which was spoken by more than 98 percent of the population.
Dr. Shahidullah said It is a reality that we are Hindus and Muslims’ but the greater reality is that we are all Bengalis.”
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