Exploring Jasim Uddin beyond textbooks


There has al­ways been a stereotypical notion that poets are very sensitive. Our beloved poet Jasim Uddin did a perfect judgement to such notion as he refused the prestigious Bangla Academy Award in 1969 for not recognising his writing in time. However the poet would have been happy to know that in January last year, Bangla Academy introduced a biennial award named ‘Jasim Uddin Literary Award’, to be given to the people for their life-time contribution to Bangla literature. He would have been glad to know that still amidst the celebration of new year and grip of general election, people remember him with due reverence. Apotheosized as ‘Palli Kobi’, or folk poet, Jasim Uddin was a Bengali poet, writer, lyricist and folklorist. He was born in Tambulkhana under Faridpur on January 1, 1903. The 116th birth anniversary of the bard was observed in Faridpur on the New Year’s Day of the Gregorian calendar. However, as this year the whole nation was indulged in its general election, the observation was comparatively unnoticed than that of in previous years.

Bengali literature and culture would have remained unfulfilled without the magic conjured by  Jasim Uddin. 

It is, however, saddening to note that youths of this generation do not read Jasim Uddin as widely as our previous generations used to do. Although ‘Palli Kobi’ survives amongst us as a national icon, people remain unfamiliar with a lot of his works as well as his life. Also it is disheartening to note that we have not adequate research centre to study his poetry. Despite having potentials, his poems are not read that widely comparing to Rabindranath’s and Nazrul’s.

There is no doubt that Jasim Uddin’s poems are popular as a part of the school curricula both in Bangladesh and West Bengal, but these days there is hardly any enthusiast who endeavours to unearth the idyllic magic of the bard.

However, Jasim Uddin still retains his devotees and his poetry still carries a great significance in Bengali culture. Certainly his poetry has the power to guide our youths towards a profound social consciousness. Invoking his philosophy and message of secularism, love and brotherhood, we want our youths to translate his timeless thoughts and messages into reality.

It is inevitable to state that Jasim Uddin was one of the pioneers of modern Bengali literature who introduced the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature. He is regarded as one of the best ambassadors of Bangladesh’s folklore. Introducing a new school of poetry, his words and works divulge aesthetics of pastoral life and pleasure of our artistic faculties. Jasim Uddin’s bucolic rhyme and unique narration of rural life and nature through the eyes of rural people had made him popular. His rhetoric, composition and ornamentation with village pathos and ethos in poetry reflect the identity and fragrance of Bengali folklore. He was the one who instilled the fragrance of soil into poetry. His poetry still has the power to plunge our mind into his obvious virtuosity.

Jasim Uddin started writing poems since early life. He wrote the masterpiece ‘Kabar’ (The Grave) when he was a college student. The poem is regarded as one of the magnum opus of his works for its pathos stilled in the eye line. It reveals a dramatic monologue of an old man talking to his grandson in front of his wife’s grave. Kabar was included in school textbooks while Jasim Uddin was still a student at Dhaka University (DU). Later in 1938, Jasim Uddin joined DU as a Bangla lecturer.

His legendary poem Nokshi Kanthar Math (The Field of Embroidered Quilt) is considered as a master stroke which narrates the pathos of a rural boy and girl in a lyrical and ballad form. Some other masterpieces include Rakhali, Sojon Badiar Ghat and Hashu. 

His writings re-constructed Bengali literature in a way that only a handful of ground-breaking Bengali writers had done before him. After many years of his death, his poem still echoes his presence around in the air. His poems still have the magic to enlighten us and therefore, we envisage our youths to rediscover the magic of rural bard beyond textbook which can guide them to build a profound social consciousness in their philosophy and lifestyle.


Sayeed Hossain Shuvro is a member of the editorial team at Bangladesh Post