Dwijendralal Ray

Published:  12:50 AM, 02 February 2019

A star in early modern Bengali literature

A star in early modern Bengali literature

Dwijendralal Ray also known as D. L. Ray was a Bengali poet, playwright, and musician. He was known for his Hindu mythological and nationalist historical plays and songs known as Dwijendrageeti or the Songs of Dwijendralal, which number over 500, create a separate subgenre of Bengali music.

Two of his most famous compositions are 'Dhana Dhanya Pushpa Bhara' and 'Banga Amar Janani Amar'. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in early modern Bengali literature.

Dwijendralal Ray was born on 19 July 1863 at Krishnanagar in Nadia district, in modern-day Indian state of West Bengal. His father, kartikeya chandra roy, was the dewan Chief Officer) of Krishnanagar palace. His mother, Prasannamayee Devi, was a descendant of Adwaita Prabhu. Ray had six elder brothers and a younger sister.

As a child, Ray was temperamental, introvert, thoughtful and a lover of nature although he had a gift of gab. Dwijendralal graduated in arts from Hughli College in 1883 and obtained his MA degree in English from Presidency College a year later as a graduating student of the University of Calcutta. Being a brilliant student, he got scholarship in Entrance and First Arts and stood second in M.A.

He then traveled to London where he obtained the FRAS in agriculture and the MRAC and MRAS from the Royal Agriculture College and Agricultural Society. "His description of the sea-voyage and his keen observation on the manners, customs, food-habits and dresses of British people" was serialized in a weekly named Pataka and later published by his brothers as Bileter Patra (Letters from England). In 1886, he published The Lyrics of Ind, a collection of English lyrical poems written in England.

Returning to India he received training in survey and settlement department in Madhya Pradesh and was appointed a deputy in the department. He was later appointed a deputy magistrate in Dinajpur. In 1890, while serving as a settlement officer at Sujamuta pargana in Burdwan estate, he came into conflict with the government on the issue of peasants' rights.

Dwijendralal composed about five hundred songs on different topics. His first collection of songs, Aryagatha, was published in 1882 with one hundred and eight songs, all composed before the age of seventeen. The themes of these songs are the beauty of nature, a romantic agony, devotion to God and patriotism.

The songs collected in the second part of Aryagatha, published in 1893, include several love songs, written to his wife, Surabala Devi. A number of these songs are composed in kirtan style. Some of these songs combine western tunes with Bangla lyrics. The song 'kemane tui re Jamuna pulin' borrows the tune of a Scottish song, 'Ye banks and braes'. Similarly, 'jao jetha jash achhe' is based on the Irish tune of 'Go where glory awaits thee'.

Among his other books are collections of poems and songs: Hasir Gan (1900), Mandra (1902), Alekhya (1907), and Triveni (1912). His sketches and satires include Ekghare (1889), Samaj Bibhrat O Kalki Avatar (1895), Tryahasparsha (1900), Prayashchitta (1902), and Punarjanma (1911). He also wrote plays, many of which are included in university syllabi. Among his mythical plays are Pasani (1900), Sita (1908) and Visma (1914).

His social plays include Parapare (1912) and Babganari (1916). He also wrote a number of historical plays: Tarabai (1903), Rana Pratapsingh (1905), Mebar Patan (1908), Nurjahan (1908), Sajahan (1909) and Chandragupta (1911). Most of his plays were successfully staged in Kolkata and elsewhere. He is specially remembered for his historical plays.

The death of his wife in 1903 affected Dwijendralal who stopped composing songs of mirth and gaiety. At the same time, the anti-British movement and the Swadeshi movement inspired him to write patriotic and nationalistic songs for the motherland and against the partition of Bengal.

The antipathy of Dwijendralal towards the colonial rulers was mingled with his uncommon musical talent, and this is reflected in many of his patriotic songs. However, he did not reject the west totally as revealed in his melding Bangla lyric and western music. Dwijendralal's songs, characterized by truth and beauty and a sense of joy, have become a part of the Bangla tradition.

This great poet, playwright, and musician died on
17 May 1913 in Kolkata

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