Harivansh Rai Bachchan

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Harivansh Rai Bachchan
Bachchan on a 2003 stamp of India
BornHarivansh Rai Srivastava
(1907-11-27)27 November 1907
Allahabad, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, British India (present-day Uttar Pradesh, India)
Died18 January 2003(2003-01-18) (aged 95)
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Pen nameBachchan
OccupationPoet, writer
LanguageHindustani dialects (Awadhi, Hindi, Urdu)
CitizenshipBritish (b. 1907–1948)
Indian (1948-d. 2003)
Alma materAllahabad University
Cambridge University
Notable awardsPadma Bhushan in 1976
SpouseShyama Bachchan (1926–d. 1936; her death)
Teji Bachchan (1941–d. 2003; his death)
Children2 (Amitabh Bachchan and Ajitabh Bachchan)[1]
RelativesSee Bachchan family

Harivansh Rai Srivastava (27 November 1907 – 18 January 2003), known by his pet name Bachchan, was an Indian poet of the Nayi Kavita literary movement (romantic upsurge) of early 20th century Hindi literature. Born in a Hindu Awadhi Indian Srivastava Kayastha family, in Allahabad in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, in British India, he was also a poet of the Hindi Kavi Sammelan. He is best known for his early work Madhushala (मधुशाला).[2] He is also the husband of social activist, Teji Bachchan, father of Amitabh Bachchan and grandfather of Abhishek Bachchan. In 1986, he received the Padma Bhushan in 1976 for his service to Hindi literature.[3] He incorporated vocabulary from several Hindustani dialects, including Awadhi, Hindi, and Urdu, while writing in Hindi script.

Early life[edit]

Bachchan was the eldest son of Pratap Narayan Shrivastav and Saraswati Devi.[citation needed] His ancestral village was Babupatti in the Pratapgarh district, in the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, in British India (present-day Uttar Pradesh, India).[citation needed]

He was called "bachchan" (meaning "Kid") at home.[citation needed] He received his formal schooling in a municipal school and followed the family tradition of attending Kayastha Paathshaalas (कायस्थ पाठशाला) to learn Urdu as the first step to a career in law.[citation needed]

He later studied at Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University.[citation needed] In this period, he came under the influence of the independence movement, then under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.[citation needed]

From 1941 to 1952 he taught in the English Department at the Allahabad University and after that he spent the next two years at St Catharine's College, Cambridge, Cambridge University completing a PhD on W.B. Yeats.[2] He began using "Bachchan" instead of Srivastava. After returning to India he again took to teaching and also served at All India Radio, Allahabad.[2]

In 1926, at the age of 19, Bachchan married his first wife, Shyama, who was then 14 years old.[citation needed] However she died ten years later in 1936 after contracting tuberculosis. Bachchan married Teji Bachchan in 1941. They had two sons, Amitabh Bachchan and Ajitabh Bachchan.[citation needed]

Writing career[edit]

Bachchan came from a Hindu caste that was fluent in several Hindustani dialects (Awadhi, Hindi, Urdu) as well as Persian.[4] He incorporated a broadly Hindi-Urdu vocabulary,[5] written in Hindi script.[4] While he could not read Persian script,[4] he was influenced by Persian and Urdu poetry, particularly Omar Khayyam.[6]

In 1955, Bachchan shifted to Delhi to join the External Affairs Ministry and during ten years there he engaged with the evolution of Hindi as India's official language.[citation needed]

He also enriched Hindi through his translations of major writings.[citation needed] As a poet he is known for his poem Madhushala (a bar selling alcoholic drinks).[citation needed] Besides Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyat, he wrote Hindi translations of Shakespeare's Macbeth and Othello and the Bhagvad Gita.[citation needed] In November 1984 he wrote his last poem 'Ek November 1984' on Indira Gandhi's assassination.[citation needed]

Bachchan was nominated to the Indian Rajya Sabha in 1966 and the Government awarded him the Sahitya Akademi three years later.[citation needed] In 1976 he received the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to Hindi literature. He was also honoured with the Saraswati Samman for his four volume autobiography, Kya Bhooloon Kya Yaad Karoon, Needa Ka Nirman Phir, Basere Se Door and Dashdwar se Sopan Tak.[7] the Sovietland Nehru Award and the Lotus Award of the Afro-Asian writers' conference.[citation needed]

Bachchan died on 18 January 2003, at the age of 95, as a result of various respiratory ailments.[8] His wife Teji died in December 2007 at the age of 93.[citation needed]


Bachchan used to introduce himself like this:

Works used in movies[edit]

Bachchan's work has been used in movies and music. Examples include:

List of works[edit]


  1. ^ Harivansh Rai Bachchan, R (2001). In the Afternoon of Time: An Autobiography. Penguin books. p. 327. When we entered Amit for school, we adopted 'Bachchan' as our family name, registering him as 'Amitabh Bachchan'; and when our second son was born, he was called 'Ajitabh Bachchan'
  2. ^ a b c d Harivanshrai Bachchan, 1907–2003 Obituary, Frontline, (The Hindu), 1–14 February 2003.
  3. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  4. ^ a b c West-Pavlov, Russell (2018). The Global South and Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 167. ISBN 9781108246316.
  5. ^ Williams, Mukesh; Wanchoo, Rohit (2008). Representing India: Literatures, Politics, and Identities. Oxford University Press. p. 73. ISBN 9780195692266. Harivansh Rai Bachchan recalled how some of the Urdu vocabulary used by audiences in appreciating poetic recitals in Hindi kavi sammelans was consciously changed to Sanskritized Hindi creating an artificial Hindi idiom.
  6. ^ Gopal, Madan (1996). Origin and development of Hindi/Urdu literature. Deep & Deep Publications. p. 204. He was influenced by Persian and Urdu poetry, especially by Omar Khayyam and started versifying in the Bachchalian style.
  7. ^ "Saraswati Samman, 1991: Harivansh Rai 'Bachchan'" (PDF). K.K. Birla Foundation. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  8. ^ "South Asia | Thousands mourn poet Bachchan". BBC News. 19 January 2003. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  9. ^ Harivansh Rai Bachchan (1907–2003). IMDb
  10. ^ In the Afternoon of Time: An Autobiography: Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Rupert Snell, Baccana, Harivansh Rai BacHChhan: 9780670881581: Amazon.com: Books. Amazon.com. 1 April 1998. ASIN 0670881589.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  1. Kaveendra, Anil Pushker. Harivanshrai Bachchan Ki Anuvad Drishti (Hindi) (Hardcover) (2013). Ruby Press & Co., New Delhi. ISBN 978-93-82395-20-1