If one were to conduct a survey amongst today's youth on how many names of authors or poets of Haryanvi literature are they familiar with, the results will be disappointing but not surprising. Most of the youth will not be familiar with the names and even less numbers would know about their works and their contribution to Haryana's rich culture. This is a sad, but true fact that despite having had a rich tradition of writers from Haryana, its own citizens are unfamiliar with their contribution. So who is to blame for this mess?
Let us not forget that the greatest piece of writing in India that defines the concept of life and death, the BhagvadGita, was written on this land. From then till now, Haryana has given birth to many a writer of Hindi, Braj, Urdu, Persian and Arabic prose and literature. Right through the ages, we have had writers like Surdas, whose poetry is read in schools even today to Chand Bardai's Prithviraj Raso, where he documented the life and times of Prithviraj Chauhan through poetry.
Today, how many of the current generation would be familiar with their work? Or, of names of writers like Kavi Maldev, Sant Haridas, Sant Udhodas, Nischal Das, Banarasi Dass, amongst many others, who made significant contributions to the evolution of prose and poetry?
Take Haryana's first official state poet, Uday Bhanu Hans, who happens to be one of the finest poets of Haryana and who has spent his life teaching and propagating the richness of poetry and literature in the state. Today's youth is concerned with issues such as corruption, lack of jobs, poverty, the miserable lives people lead, the lack of values in our lives and the same anguish is shared by Uday Bhanu Hans in his famous poem Bhadiyon ke Dhang. If only the youth of today were to read this beautiful work, they will be able to relate and appreciate the poet's contribution and relevance in today's times. But it is a pity that the current generation has not been exposed to such works.
Pre-independence writers like Balmukund Gupta who started off their writing career in Urdu and then graduated to making significant contribution to Hindi under inspiration from Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. He is known for his works as editor of BrahmaMitra as also for his sharp and insightful style of writing. He in fact clashed with Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi on the use of several Hindi words and grammar. His works of satire are being missed by the younger generation today. There were several other writers of the time like Madhav Prasad Mishra and Radhakrishna Mishra, who have made rich contribution to literature.
Today's generation may not be aware that Haryana actually made significant contribution to Urdu, Persian and Arabic through the works of several writers of prose and poetry in these languages. The most famous of them being Altaf Hussain Haali, the great Urdu scholar. Haali was born in 1937 in Panipat and demonstrated his mastery in all the above languages through his beautiful works.
His most famous work is Muqadma-e-Sher-o-Shairi, which is a must read for all young scholars of Urdu poetry. Halli has composed 116 ghazals which comprises of 1,300 shers. There have been several other significant writers like the Muslim saints, Sheikh Bahauddin Chishti, Sheikh-u-Alishah Kalandar, Sannat Sadulla, Sheikh Abdul Qaboos, amongst many others whose early works gave shape and inspiration to later writers. Many of them wrote in Hindi and Braj, as well. Does anyone even remember Anupchand Aftab, who was the first to be honoured as the state poet in Urdu?
It is indeed sad to see that such rich heritage is being missed out by today's generation.
Amongst the more contemporary writers are Khushiram Sharma who has also been honoured with the title of state poet. His major works are Yuddha Charita, Rana Nimantrana and Guru Gobind Singh.
Would people remember the famous Bhoodan Movement of Vinobha Bhave? Do the citizens of Haryana know of the songs composed by Bhai Parmanand from Hissar and the impact these songs had on the people and on the movement? And then, you have the contribution to theatre. People like Tohanvi, Bastiram, Rajaram Sangi and Lakshmi Chand Sangi have created a unique identity for theatre from the state. But the irony is that very few people have read or watched some of their works.
The list is endless.
The richness of literature forms the basis of culture in a society. If English literature is popular the world over, it is because there has been a conscious effort to ensure that the works of people like Shakespeare have reached the masses through stage performances, discussions, critique sessions, adaptations, movies etc., and these have passed on from generation to generation.
We, in Haryana, have failed to use our rich heritage and tradition in our literature and have not brought them to the masses. Just publishing a book is not enough nor will the odd honouring some writer or poet in some ceremony where some speeches are made, help in bringing literature to the people.
The state has to take vibrant initiative to organize festivals of plays, book clubs at every level, community reading sessions, literary discussions, musical adaptation of poetry, etc., of the rich content available and include the masses in these events. Only then will people become aware our rich culture and become involved in passing it onto the next generation. The Jaipur Literature festival is a good example of building awareness with people participation.
Have you seen any of this happening at the grassroot level in the state? The present government has done very little in generating interest and taken very little initiative to creatively promote our rich heritage in literature. It is never too late, provided the state government wakes up and realizes its responsibility in preserving our heritage. Otherwise the future generation will not forgive us.