Ishwar Chandra Gupta (1812-1859) was a prominent Bengali poet and writer of 19th century. He was known as "Gupta kobi" at that time and his pen name was "Bhromonkari Bondhu" that means "The traveling friend."
He was born on March 1812 at the Kanchanpolli or Kanchrapara village in 24-Parganas which is currently in North 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, India. His father, Harinarayan Gupta, was a medical practitioner of Ayurvedic school. His mother's name was Sreemoti Devi. He lost his mother when he was only ten.
After the second marriage of his father, Ishwar Chandra was brought up by his maternal uncle. Gupta spent most of his childhood in Kolkata. He got married at the age of fifteen with Reba, the daughter of Gourhari Mallick. He was intelligent from his early age and learned Bangla, Sanskrit, and English as well as Vedanta philosophy.
At the time of Ishwar Chandra Gupta, poets were named 'Kobiwala' and it is a matter of fact that the kobiwalas were not so civilized or moderate in language. They used to use Sexual words randomly and clashes were common in their works. But Gupta introduced a different style of poetry which is very much adorable and aesthetic.
He was inspired by Premchandra Tarkavagish, a professor of Sanskrit college. His friend Jogendra Mohan Tagore of Pathuriaghata helped him a lot on his way to become a renowned poet. With Jogendra Mohan Tagore, He started the newspaper "Sambad Prabhakar" on January 28, 1831.
It began as a weekly newspaper and could finally become a daily on June 4, 1839. "Sangbad Prabhakar" played an important role in forming modern Bengali society. There are many prominent Bengali writers who started their careers with that magazine in 19th century. It is Ishwar Chandra Gupta who reintroduced the medieval style with double meaning into Bengali poetry. For example:
Ke bole Ishwar Gupta, byapta charachar,Jahar prabhaye prabha paye Prabhakar..
'Ishwar' means God, 'Gupta' means hidden, 'byapta' means divulged or present and 'Prabhakar' is the sun. So a translation runs:
Who says God is hidden? He is omnipresent
From Him the Sun gets its luminescence.
Also, Ishwar (Chandra) Gupta ran the journal Prabhakar. So a second meaning of the poem, making a tongue-in-cheek reference to the author, runs:
Who says Ishwar (Gupta) is hidden? His reach touches the world
For his brilliance makes the Prabhakar luminescent.
Ishwar Chandra Gupta brought modern era of poetry in Bengali. He could come out from the trend of describing the life of Gods and Goddesses. Rather he dealt with the daily life of human beings. He also wrote biographies of many Bengali poets and musicians. His biographies of Bharatchandra, Ramprasad Sen, Ramnidhi Gupta, Haru Thakur, and other poets are obviously notable contributions in Bengali literature.
Ishwar Chandra is termed as the poet of the transitional period of Bangla literature. He used medieval language, rhythm, and figures of speech. But the fact is that his subjects were rather contemporary. The trend of writing short poems was introduced by him.
He wrote many nationalistic poems. Most of his writings are satiric. He published many short, satiric poems on contemporary events in the 'Sambad Prabhakar'. Many of his composition show his extra-ordinary control over language and rhythm.
Ishwarchandra Gupta's nationalistic view is expressed in many of his composition. He was a nationalist, with strong feelings for his land and his language. He started a movement for the improvement of Bangla and also made it a point to use Bangla words unaffected by English. The so-called modern class people who blindly followed the colonial British power were his subject to satire.
We can mention his satiric approach in his poem 'Nilkor'. For getting rid of the torture of Nillkor, he wrote the following lines addressing Queen Victoria.
Tumi ma kalpataru
Amra shob posha goru
Shikhi ni shing bankano
Khai kebol khol-bichuli-ghash
Jano ranga amla
Na bhange gamla
Ghushi khele bachbo na!
He was highly traditional in his outlook. He was critical of both Young Bengal movement and Hindu College. At first, he also opposed Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar's movement for widow remarriage and wrote many satirical poems on the subject. Then his outlook changed gradually and he tried to understand his time more objectively. After that, he started supporting the idea of the remarriage of virgin widows and women's education.
Though Ishwar Chandra Gupta's contribution to 'Sambad Prabhakar' is edited a number of journals including Sangbadratnabali, Pasandapidan, and Sangbadsadhuravjan. He also edited Kalikirtan (1833) and Prabodh Prabhakar (1858) by Ramprasad Sen. Another great Bengali writer, poet and journalist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay edited some of Ishwar Chandra's writings in Ishwar Chandra Guptar Kavita Sanggraha (Collected Poems, 1885) and Satyanarayan Vratakatha (1913).
His literary works are included in the curriculum of school level, secondary and higher secondary Bengali Literature in the Bengali speaking states of India like West Bengal, Tripura etc and in Bangladesh.For his great contribution, the name of Ishwar Chandra Gupta will remain everlasting in Bengali literature. This great poet breathed his last on 23 January 1859.
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