General Introduction: Atal Bihari Vajpayee – Poet, Author, Novelist
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one of the greatest politicians India has ever witnessed. He was a man of words and a renowned Hindi poet. He was a great statesman, beyond the party lines and even opposition leaders have a strong respect for him. He lived his life with values and ethics that were not compromised for anything – the supreme chair itself. His vision and leadership abilities laid the foundation stones for the Indian super-power dreams – an India that could stare into the eyes of the global leaders and stand with pride and self-respect. Most of the Indian population, born in the 80s and 90s will know what is being discussed here. India of today is the vision of this great person who worked so hard in spite of not being in the full majority in the Parliament of India. Many of us know him for his works as a leader but apart from a leader, he was a great Hindi poet, a wonderful and persuasive orator and a prolific literary personality who would have been known as such even if he were not a politician and the prime minister of India. His style of writing was simply amazing. He has written many poems. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is also remembered for his forceful, passionate and wonderful renderings of poems in his own voice. Primarily, his poems are focused on nationalism, patriotism, culture, tradition and deep-rooted Hindu philosophy.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on 25 December in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, in the year 1924. He was born in a Brahmin family and his father was a school teacher in the city. Atal Ji had many skills and he reflected all those in his works and attitude. He was a born leader. He was a patriot and concerned about freedom struggle since childhood. He has done his schooling from Sarwasti Shishu Mandir and later he pursued his bachelor degree in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. He further pursued his masters in Political Science from DAV college Kanpur. He was good in his studies as well as in extracurricular activities. He started writing poems since his early teenage years. He quickly became famous as a poet among his friends and local people because his content was serious and so was his voice, deep and persuasive. He attended many poetry meet-ups and his poetry readings are still popular among lovers of his poems.
Atal Ji was a different poet than others if we compare him with his contemporary poets or even the poets writing today. He was a poet of Veer Ras (in English, we can call it the poetry of valour, patriotism etc) and most among others were writing romantic poems. His writings hold a spark of bravery and guts that can rejuvenate the readers from the core of their heart. He wrote many poems but most of them are patriotic and spiritual. He was a very good speaker as well and he used to recite his own poems very well on various occasions. A connect with the very soul of India can be traced in the lines of most of the poems that were written by the poet. The poet adds references to his humble household, the simple and honest society, religious family, the treasure of Hinduism and so on in his poems and the perfect choice of words make these poems evoke desired thoughts in the readers very easily.
Atal Ji’s Hindi poetry was meant for serious conveying of serious thoughts that should render someone towards becoming a volcano of patriotism, a mountain of faith, ocean of tolerance and turbine of incessant philosophical thoughts. Reading his poems can never force you into a feeling of alienation because the poems originate from the very thoughts which we all should have been growing up listening and discussing. Therefore, it is sure that the poet was very convinced about the methods that he used to connect with the readers. His words are true, genuine and heart-touching. All these qualities make Atal Bihari Vajpayee a wonderful poet who could not be ranked lower to any other poet of his batch. However, we might say that his political affiliations and the constant governments of his political opponents kept his poetry out of the textbooks, college syllabus and also popular culture. Nevertheless, Atal Ji’s poetry has been very popular throughout his life and thereafter as well. There are many poetry collections published with the poems written by A B Vajpayee and many among them are very popular.
“बाधाएं आती हैं आएं
घिरें प्रलय की घोर घटाएं,
पावों के नीचे अंगारे,
सिर पर बरसें यदि ज्वालाएं,
निज हाथों में हंसते-हंसते,
आग लगाकर जलना होगा
कदम मिलाकर चलना होगा।”
Anyone who understands Hindi can be stirred by reading these lines that are taken from one of his most famous poems – Kadam milakar chalna hoga. Yes, motivational poems were also the forte of the poet and his lines are still used by his political friends, his opponents in politics, his well-wishers and many common people who just loved his poetry, minus the political affiliations and with it as well. The lines like Chhote Man se koi bada nahin hota, Aao milke diya jalayen, Geet naya gata hun and many others have become immortal!
Hindu philosophy, tolerance and the ideas that our great civilisation has been carrying for ages unknown often found their way into the poems by Atal Ji. There are many poems that one could point out but the most famous among those are Hindu Tan-Man, Hindu Jeevan and Amar Raag Hai. Here are some lines from his poem Amar Rag Hai:
चकाचौंध दुनिया ने देखी
सीता के सतीत्व की ज्वाला,
विश्व चकित रह गया देख कर
नारी की रक्षा-निमित्त जब
नर क्या वानर ने भी अपना,
महाकाल की बलि-वेदी पर,
अगणित हो कर
सस्मित हर्षित शीश चढ़ाया।
In the lines quoted above, a reader who understands Hindi can easily see how quickly these lines, the selection of words and the whole idea behind this reference strike the minds of the readers. Sita – Ram – Hanuman and Sugriv and the Vanara Sena… wonderful! Atal Ji was not afraid, ashamed or hesitant in doing what many other poets did not do because they think their act could offend the political leaders or people from other communities. However, they all forgot that Milton could celebrate his Gospels in Paradise Lost and Wordsworth could immortalise his ‘beliefs’ in The Prelude very comfortably as they were not confused about their identity and religious sentiments. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was way beyond the mentioned poets and he also sang the tunes of the great Hindu civilisation and we must celebrate the idea:
होकर स्वतन्त्र मैने कब चाहा है कर लूँ सब को गुलाम?
मैने तो सदा सिखाया है करना अपने मन को गुलाम।
गोपाल–राम के नामों पर कब मैने अत्याचार किया?
कब दुनिया को हिन्दू करने घर–घर मे नरसंहार किया?
कोई बतलाए काबुल मे जाकर कितनी मस्जिद तोडी?
भूभाग नहीं, शत–शत मानव के हृदय जीतने का निश्चय।
हिन्दू तन–मन, हिन्दू जीवन, रग–रग हिन्दू मेरा परिचय!
Without being critical about any other section of religious belief, Atal Ji, as a poet, has wonderful summarised our great philosophy of looking inwards and winning over our mind and heart rather than winning lands and forcing others to believe what we believe in…
A scholar has pointed out, about the inspirational poems by Vajpayee Ji, ‘his poems can revitalize even stones’ and it means a lot. He has inspired the nation many times by his poems when it was needed the most. Especially, in the times of Kargil war and also the Nuclear tests in Pokharan. His style and eloquence are incomparable to anyone. However, we can say that Atal Ji’s writings were rather limited to religious references and patriotic vigour. In other words, we can also see no reason for a poet of such heights in thoughts and infinitely rich imagery keeping away from any specific domain of Hindi poetry – it must have been the desired rejection rather than inability of any kind. A poet like Atal Bihari Vajpayee could easily have created romantic lyrics because his words were coming directly from the depth of his rich cultural studies and his love for the concept of music in poetry. So, rather than saying that his poems were limited, we must say that he only paid attention to what was needed the most for that time and focused on writing patriotic, religious and inspirational poems.
It is also to be noted, adding to his greatness as a poet, he did never let his political ideology become a tool for his words lampooning his opponents and making them trivial on the pages. We have all seen what ‘shayars’ like Rahat Indori and Munnavar Rana are doing today (or have done) guided by their blind hatred for a community, a political party and even a person. However, Atal Ji knew that poetry is bigger than petty personal, ideological or any other bias in mind. His poetry was never personal – it was always for the masses only!
And that is why we can distinguish Atal the poet from Atal the prime minister and also Atal the politician. Other than writing poems, Atal Ji also wrote prose but his prose craftsmanship could not be as popular as his poems because he generated such a favour for his verse that it almost ousted any other form of writings he indulged in. He was a well-known expert of foreign policy that’s why he wrote a book ‘New Dimensions of Indian Foreign Policy’ in 1979. Whether it’s prose or poetry, he has reached to a different dimension that is lacking in today’s writers. He believed in national integrity and security and also freedom, liberation and satisfaction that come by studying great Indian past through scriptures, religious books and anthologies.
- Kaidi kaviraj ki Kundalian
- Amar Aag hai
- Meri Ikyavana (51) kavitayen
- Kya Khoya Kya Paya
- Twenty-One Poems
He has also written several prose works.
- National Integration
- New Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy
- Bindu-Bindu Vicara
- Decisive Days
Though he has written many prose and poems these are most famous among them. All the collection of Atal Ji’s poems are filled with enthusiasm, energy and embodiment of truth and power.
Beyond being a Poet:
He was certainly one of the great politicians India has ever witnessed and one of the most loved ones as well. He was the first non-congress prime minister of India to complete the full tenure of five years. He was a great statesman who has done several good works for the country. He was known for his wonderful oratory skills. He was a wonderful person who lived most of his political career in opposition. However, as we witness frequently today, he did never let this impact his political ideology, loyalty to the party and his mission. He was considered to be the voice of the nation at that time and the party in power used to pay considerable attention to his words inside and outside the Indian parliament. In his political and personal career, he has made several friends, critics, competitors but not a single enemy – such was his personality.
- Bharat Ratna (2015)
- Padma Vibhusan (1992)
- Outstanding Parliamentarian Awards (1994)
He has won many awards but these are the major awards won by him. There are no other awards greater than prestigious Bharat Ratna in India.
Poets like Atal Ji are not born or made (nothing in isolation). Poets like Atal Ji are developed by time itself. Time needs someone to embed the immortality of thoughts on its history scrapbooks so that the world can remember the lessons for long.
काल की कपाल पर लिखता-मिटाता हूँ,
गीत नया गाता हूँ, गीत नया गाता हूँ।
Lines like the above or lines from his poem Rag-Rag Hindu Mera Parichay, Atal Ji was a capable poet who could achieve what he wanted to achieve in his poems. His diction was very carefully designed and his references were pulled out of the exact match to match the rhythm, tone, mode and nature of the poem. He was also a well-read man who could understand several languages, human psychology and also an expert in philosophy. To summarise Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a poet in one article would be a foolish exercise which has just been committed here… I am very hopeful that you can at least get introduced to his powerful personality as a poet by reading this article on him. You will also see the links to the reviews of his poetry collections added in the works section once we come across the reviews on the web. To conclude, we do need to add the poems by Atal Ji in the syllabus because children do need to read an Indian poet who was not scared to flaunt his Indianness in his verse in Hindi.
An article by Amit Mishra for The Indian Authors