Development of Eastern UP
Pioneer Saturday: Dec 31, 1988
Uttar Pradesh has a world of its own and is the nerve centre and soul of India. Nature has lavished her with hills and fields and bestowed upon her the choicest gifts in the form of rivers—Ganga, Yamuna and Ghagra. History has left its indelible imprint on it has helped in enriching its culture. Its northen part is dotted with picturesque hills and exotic valleys. Densely populated, the central part throbs with inidustrial activity and the eastern part has been the seat of learning that has broadened the horizon of the arts and literature, especially in Sanskrit and Hindi. It has also produced a number of outstanding muscisians, singers and dancers who excelled in the area of their specialization thoughout the country and their reputation has gone across the continents.
Eastern UP covers such major towns as Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh, Jaunpur and Ghazipur. These are desenly populated with a low rate of literacy and health care facilities but in the total desert of cultural poverty there do exist a few oases of cultural and educational advancement such as Varanasi and Gorakhpur. These cities have acquiree and international reputation due to a combination of various factors. Varanasi, which has been aptly descrbed by the saints and seers, poets and philosophers as a city of light, is the cradle of Indian civilization that has kept the torch of creative forces alight since the dawn of human history. The city still radiates her glory, beauty and mysticism around the world. Not only Hindues but people of other faiths also visit this city to get a glimpse of its ancient temples, monuments and to have a dip in the holy Ganges. The city has three major univestities, a number of schools and colleges that cater to the needs of educational facilities of the city of Varanasi, eastern UP and Bihar. The various literary and cultural establishments in these two cities are living evidence of the rick cultural heritage of eastern UP. The important establishements are- Banaras Hindu University, Kashi Vidyapeeth, Sanskrit University, Nagri Prachrni Sabha, Kala Bhawan, the Theosophical Society and Gita Press.
Situated on the left bank of north- flowing Ganges, Banaras is the metropolis of Hinduism and extremely scared to the votaries of that religion. The inhabitants of Banaras area a proud race, found of ancient ways and very impatient of innovation. Its unique culture, taking myriad riuances, has sprung from the ghats of the Ganges. On the staircases of these ghats Kabir was accepted as a disciple of Swami Ramanand. The uneducated Kabir lashed the Hindus and Muslims with the whip of bitter satire. He was primarily a social reformer and with this couplets treid to unite the different sects of the society. On these ghats was written the great epic ‘Ram Charit Manas’ which gave an achor – age to the lives of millions of Hindus all over India. Singing the glory of the Ganges – its ghats, flowing flats, yogis immersed in deep meditation and Brhamins reciting Veda-Mantras- was another genius, Bartendu Harishchandra, who is considered to be the father of modern Hindi prose. He devoted his life and his great wealth in the development of Hindi literature. He produced 175 volumes of writings in just thirty five years. In his verses and essays he uses pungent and illuminating phrases to reveal his judgement. No less splendid was the poetic talent of Jai Shankar Prasad, who had played on these very ghats of the Ganges. Born in a rich family of Kashi, he enriched the Hindi literature with his verses, stories, novels and plays of great imaginative power. His writings reveals a sensitivity gravity of scholarship, idealism of great sages and Hindu culture at its best. He wrote in a manner that recalled poetry to the most elevated and regal conception of its function. His ‘Aansoo’ ‘Lahar’ ‘Kanayani’ are rich gifts to Hindi literature.
The picture of real eastern UP—the poverty of villages, the exploitation of the poor farmers by setha and sahukars, their greed, superstitions and gullibility—ca be seen in the pages of the stories and novels of Munshi Premchand, the Tolstoy of India. Premchand was born in a small village of Banaras. In colloquial language he weaves pathetic stories of poor people. Humor, sentiment, adventure and pathos are thrown together with the same disconcerting incongruity as they are found in life.
A number of prose writers of great eminence, who gave a new insight and gravity to prose writing were associated with Kashi. Dr Shyam Sundar Das was the Head of the Department of Hindi in the Banaras Hindu University. Ram Chandra Shukla, a historian and a critic, was the editor Nagri Pracharni Sabha for eight or nine years. He drew the attention of scholars by publishing his articles in ‘Sarawati’. Hazari Prasad Dwivedi was also a renowned scholar of Hindi in BHU. Dr Sampurnanand, an eminent Congress leader and Chief Minister of UP was an established writer of prose. He was associated with Kashi Vidyapeeth and wrote on Indian history, culture and socialism. Rai Krishna Das was another scholar of Kashi who had profound knowledge of the ancient history and culture of India. ‘Sadhana’ is his greatest work. He was a great art critic. ‘Kala Bhawan’ of Kashi is a moument of his life-long devotion to art.
Religion had always been the keynote of the culture of Banares. In the religious revival that took place during the freedom movement throughout the country, Kashi played an important role. It not only catalyzed the process of religious revival but some of the religious leaders reinterpreted and re-established the perennial values of Hinduism in the context of changing needs of time. This process of re-interpretation produced a new synthesis. Some of the religious leader who are the avant-garde belong to Kashi. Their religious writings played a vital role in bringing the cultural and mythical treasure of India to the doors of devotees and scholars. Swami Shri Karpatriji Maharaj, Gopinath Kaviraj, Padma Bhushan Baldev Upadhya and late Padma Bhushan Thakur Jai Dev Singh are the great mystics of Banaras.
The city of Banares has always echoed with heavenly music. Banares Gharana has produced vocalist, musicians and dancers who have become legends in the Indian classical music. Late Rasulan Bai, Shidheshwari Devi, Bade and Chhote Ramdasji, and Smt Girja Devi with their ethereal music have captivated the hearts of music lovers for long. The world-renowned sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar was born here. He is a living symbol of the harmonious relationship of east and west. Shehnai Shenshah Bismillah Khan is a living active force in Indian classical music. Hhis ‘shehnai’ is a treasured heritage that belongs to entire India. Pandit Ram Sahaiji has the credit of bringing ‘tabla’ to Banares which developed its own individual entity by the endeavours of Pandit Anokhelal, Sankata Maharaj, Pandit Samta Prasad all associated with Banares Gharana. Natraj Gopi Krishna was born in Kashi and Sitara Devi, the famous danseuse belongs to Banares. The Music College of BHU has been glorified by the association of Pandit Onkar Nath Thakur and Lal Mani Mishra.
The flowering of these talents in different fields was result of individual sadhana. But in many cases this was also assisted by their association with the many establishments of great bodes. Though economically weak, eastern UP has astounding wealth in the form of these bodies. They were set up to promote learning and with time have become the monuments of Indian culture. Banaras Hindu University is the dream of the multi-splendoured personalities, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya and Dr Annie Besant. Malaviya was one of those creative geniuses, those great historical forces who, while wrking for the present prepare the future. Established in 1916 BHU this single individual’s createion, is the greatest thing in Asia. It was set up to promote scientific, technical and artistic education coupled with religious instructure. Gradually this great seat of learning grew into a gigantic banyan tree and its leafy branches gave shelter to many a bird that came from hither and thither. Many great scholars were associated with this university. Today, BHU is not merely one of the biggest universities but has become the capital centre of all learning given in an environment of Indian culture to thousands of students. It is estimated that around 80% students in Banaras Hindu University are from eastern UP and Bihar and the rest from the different parts of the country. This university has also a number of Departments which are designated by UGC as Advanced Centre from Research and some are covered under Special Assistance Programme. Close to Varanasi is Sarnath, where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon. An Institute of Tibbetan Studies is engaged in research activities in the area of Buddhism. Students from Buddhist countries, especially from South East Asia, flock to this Institution for higher education.
The famous Nagri Prancharni Sabha was founded by Dr Shyam Sundar Das in Allahabad in 1983. Eventually, it came to Kashi. It is doing exemplary service in promoting literature and art. A unique phenomenon of the Indian spirit, J Krishna Murti founded a school at Rajghat on the banks of the Ganges. Annei Besant was the founder of the Theosophical Society at Kamachha, in Varanasi which still carries the torch of religious learning. She was also the founder of the historic Central Hindu College. ‘Bharat Kala Bhawan’ is known for its rich and rate collection of artefacts, which are symbols of our cultural heritage. It is a gift of Rai Krishna Das to Indians.
Gita Press of Gorakhpur is doing a commendable job in taking the wealth of culture and religion of India to the masses by publishing books at very low prices. It publishes books on the great epics of India like Ramayana, Mahabharata, Gita, Devas, Upanishads, as well as biographies of great men, books on moral conduct and general books for children and women. This Herculean task has contributed a lot in evolving the cultural ethos of India.
Azamgarh, about sixty miles from Banares has been the birth place of great names in Hindi literature- Ayodhaya Singh Upadhya, Rahul Sankratyayan and Shyam Narain Pandey—whose contributions to Hindi literature are profound. The versatile genius of Rahul Sankratyayan gave to Hindi literature stories, novels, essays, biographies, travalogues and religious philosophy. Shyam Narain Pandey is known for his patriotic zeal. His ‘Haldi Ghati’ is a well know poem.
The culture of eastern UP does not cover merely the performing arts but also the artistic crafts especially textile, embroidery and carpet designing. It is relevant to mention that places like Mirzapur, Bhadhohi and Aurai have aquired a reputation for the designing of carpets. These beautiful carpets are in demand not only in India but also all over the world. It is estimated that the country is exporting carpets worth Rs 250 crore. It is no minor achievement for eastern UP to earn foreign exchange from carpets.
Banares has the blessings of goddess Saraswati. Scholars and Scholarship are not a thing of the past, it still flows just as the water of Ganges flows on. Professor Siv Prasad Singh, a creative writer has made his name in the field of short stories. Pandit Rewa Prasad Dwivedi, Pandit Venatachelam, have made a niche for themselves in Sanskrit literature. The violinst Padamshree Dr Rajan and Vocalist Dr Prem Lata Sharma have become names. Many scholars of other disciplines like Prof T R V Murti, Prof Dev Raj, Prof V V Narlikar, Mukut Biharilal, who founded the Numismatic Society in BHU, were associated with BHU. Eastern UP has thus been a bright start in the galaxy of learning. It gave scholars, philosphers, musicians and art lovers who contributed in rehabilitating the culturally displaced and spiritually uprooted people of the country, they have been successful in striking a delicate balance between our ancient cultural tradition and the emerging scientific and technological advancement. The Ganga has not shrunken and Baba Vishwanath still continues to shower his blessings on Kashi.