Harivanshrai “Bachchan” Srivastava (November 27, 1907 – January 18,
2003) was a distinguished Hindi poet, perhaps best known for his early
work Madhushala . He is also the father of Bollywood film superstar,
He was born as Harivanshrai Srivastava into a Kayasth family on
November 27, 1907 at a small town (of Patti, in district of
Pratapgarh,U.P.) near Allahabad in the United Provinces (modern Uttar
Pradesh). He was called “bachchan” (meaning ‘child’) at home. He
received his formal schooling in a municipal school and followed the
family tradition of attending Kayasth Paathshaala (कायस्थ पाठशाला) to
learn Urdu as the first step to a career in law. He later studied at
the Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University. In this period,
he came under the influence of the independence movement, then under
the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1926, at the age of 19, Bachchan married his first wife, Shyama,
who was then 14 years old. However she died ten years later in 1936
after a long spell of TB at just 24 years of age. Shortly after his
first wife’s death, Bachchan married Teji Suri, a Sikh, in 1941. The
marriage produced two sons, Amitabh and Ajitabh.
From 1941 to 1952 he taught English at the Allahabad University and
then spent two years at Cambridge University in St Catharine’s
College, Cambridge. There he studied with the famous English
literature don, Thomas Rice Henn, and received a doctorate in English
Literature for his work on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats. It was then,
that he used ‘Bachchan’ as his last name instead of Srivastav.
Bachchan was the second Indian to get his doctorate in English
literature from Cambridge University.
Returning to India, he taught briefly and then worked as a producer
for All India Radio, Allahabad. In 1955, Harivanshrai moved to Delhi
to join the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India
and there he was closely involved with the evolution of Hindi as the
official language of the nation.
Bachchan used to introduce himself as Mitti ka tan, masti ka man,
kshan-bhar jivan , mera parichay. (मिटटी का तन , मस्ती का मन ,क्षण -भर जीवन , मेरा परिचय) (A body of clay, a mind full of play, a moment?s
life – that is me).
Harivanshrai Bachchan died on January 18, 2003, at the age of 95, as a
result of various respiratory ailments.
He is best known for his early lyric poem Madhushala (The House of
Wine), which has been translated into English and many regional Indian
languages including Bengali, Marathi and Malayalam. It forms part of a
trilogy, along with Madhushala (मधुशाला) and Madhukalash (मधुकलश).
Bachchan published about 30 volumes of poetry. He translated
Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Othello, Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, the
Bhagavad Gita (भगवद गीता) and W.B. Yeats into Hindi. His works include
Nisha Nimantran (निशा निमंत्रण), Khadi Ke Phool (कड़ी के फूल), Ekant
Sangeet (एकांत संगीत) and Satrangini (सतरंगिनी). In November, 1984, he
wrote his last poem Ek November 1984 on Indira Gandhi?s assassination.
His autobiography, consisting of four volumes namely Kya bhooloon kya
yaad karoon (क्या भूलूँ क्या याद करूं), Need ka nirmaan fir (नींद का निर्माण फिर),
Basere se door (बसेरे से दूर) and Dashdwaar se sopaan
tak (दशद्वार से सोपान तक) (abridged and translated into English as In
the Afternoon of Time) was chosen for the Saraswati Samman.
Bachchan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the
Indian Parliament in 1966, and received the Sahitya Akademi award
three years later. In 1976, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan and
the Saraswati Samman for his contribution to Hindi literature. He is a
recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award and the Lotus Award of the
Afro-Asian writers conference. In 2003, an Indian postage stamp was
released in his memory.
At present, more people may know Bachchan as being father to India’s
best-known film actor, Amitabh Bachchan, than know his reputation as a
The creator of the great collection ‘Madhushala ‘ is often thought to
be a great admirer of wonder solutions himself. It is wrongly believed
that the creator of one of the most famous poems on wine (Madhushala)
never drank liquor. In reality, he had never drank liquor till the
time he completed Madhushala. He did drink, although sparingly, later
in his life, a fact that he admits to in his autobiography.
One of his inspirational poems, “agneepath” was used as the title and
the theme for the 1991 blockbuster movie Agneepath (translates: path
of fire) featuring his superstar son Amitabh Bachchan as a ruthless
mafia don. This movie was a massive success earning Amitabh Bachchan a
National Award for his performance. You can see Amitabh narrating the
poem through out the movie.
The poem describes the entire gamut of sufferings that the human race
had gone through and is going through.
Here is the actual poem :
Vriksh ho bhale ghane, ho ghane ho bade, Ek pat chhav ki mang mat,
mang mat, Agneepath Agneepath Agneepath.
Tu na thakega kabhi, tu na thamega kabhi, tu na mudega kabhi, Kar
shapath, kar shapath, kar shapath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Ye mahaan drishya hai, chal raha manushya hai, Ashru swed raqt se
lathpath, lathpath, lathpath, Agneepath, Agneepath, Agneepath.
Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan, grandson of Harivansh Rai Bachchan,
was married to Aishwarya Rai April 20th, 2007. One of Harivansh Rai
Bachchan poems regarding new beginnings was enclosed in the wedding