Father of the famous Bollywood actor, Amitabh Bachchan, Harivansh Rai Bachchan is one of the most defining poets of modern India. His poems, writing styles, and themes of poetry made him popular as a common man’s poet. He wrote in Hindi on topics of life and related events. He used to write under the pen-name ‘Bachchan’ meaning child-like. As his pen name got popular, he adopted the surname Bachchan.
His works got more popular as many Bollywood movies started featuring his poems.
Haivansh Rai Bachchan was born in the year 1907. He grew up in an era when nationalism was at its peak. 1915 was the year when Gandhi Ji had emerged onto the Indian political scene. He had started a huge wave of nationalism under which people were buying local goods and cherishing forgotten Indian values. Harivansh grew up practising and admiring age-old Hindu traditions. He read religious scriptures like Gita and Ramayan and practised Yoga and meditation. Later in his life, he credits these practices for his long and healthy life.
He went to Cambridge University, London for higher education. Here he completed his doctorate by evaluating the essays and poems of Irish poet W.B Yeats. This got him interested in writing poems.
In his early twenties, Harivansh had mastered multiple languages including English, Hindi, and Sanskrit. But he preferred writing in Hindi because of his nationalist values.
When he came back to India he was greeted by sad news. Harivansh was married before he left for London at the age of 19. His wife had suffered from Tuberculosis, which was incurable in those days. She had passed away days before Harivansh made it back. Years later he got married again to Teji Bachchan with whom he had two sons including Amitabh.
In 1935, he published a collection of poems under the title Madhusala (wine house). This book was met with a celebrated response from the readers. His simple yet thought-provoking wordplay mesmerized everyone. It was also the Hindustani dialect that got him such a large response. This dialect was equally popular with the Hindi and Urdu-speaking community. Using his popularity, Harivansh became a part of the Independence revolution. He along with Mahadevi Verma, Suryakath Nirala, and more started the tradition of ‘Kavi Manch’. Kavi Manch was a way to motivate people gathered to participate in the protests. Poets from all over the country would recite their poems to infuse patriotism in the gathered crowd.
Harivansh Rai Bachchan is a pillar of modern-day Hindi poetry. He and his peers made India fall in love with Hindustani poems once again. His works have inspired a lot of poets. Modern-day poems have hints of his clear and unclouded thought process. His legacy is being carried forward by his son Amitabh Bachchan, who loves writing poems as well as reciting his father’s poems. If the words of Harivansh were not good enough, the enigmatic voice of Amitabh makes it more majestic.