|This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2015)|
27 February 1912|
|Died||10 March 1999
|Occupation||poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, humanist|
|Notable works||Vishaka (1942)
|Notable awards||1974 Sahitya Akademi Award in Marathi
1988 Jnanpith Award
Vishnu Vāman Shirwādkar (Marathi: विष्णु वामन शिरवाडकर) (27 February 1912 – 10 March 1999), popularly known by his pen name, Kusumāgraj (Marathi: कुसुमाग्रज), was an eminent Marathi poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, apart from being a humanist, who wrote of freedom, justice and emancipation of the deprived, In a career spanning five decades starting in pre-independence era, he wrote 16 volumes of poems, three novels, eight volumes of short stories, seven volumes of essays, 18 plays and six one-act plays. His works like the Vishaka (1942), a collection of lyrics, inspired a generation into the Indian freedom movement, and is today considered one of the masterpieces of Indian literature., apart from his play, Natsamrat which has important place in Marathi literature. He was the recipient of several State awards, and National awards including the 1974 Sahitya Akademi Award in Marathi for Natsamrat, and the Jnanpith Award in 1988; he also remained chairperson of the World Marathi Conference in 1989. He was born in the city of Pune and spent most of his life in Nashik, Maharashtra.
Early life and education
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He was born in Pune on 27 February 1912 as Vishnu Waman Shirwadkar though later he adopted, the name 'Kusumagraj'. His primary education was in Pimpalgaon and high school education was in New English School, Nashik, which is now called as J.S. Rungtha High School of Nashik. He passed matriculation from Mumbai University.
At age 20, Shirwadkar participated in a nonviolent resistance march --satyagraha—in support of compelling Brahmin priests in charge of a local prominent temple in Nasik to provide free access to the temple to people who belonged to the suppressed "untouchable" () community. In the past, the priests had not allowed free temple access to that community under the Hindu caste system, which used to be observed much more vigorously then in India. Throughout his life, he either participated in or led many movements in Nasik to counter social or political injustice of some or other kind.
In his twenties, he published His first collection of poems, Jeevanlahari was published while he in his twenties. Soon he also got involved with Marathi cinema in Nashik, as he wrote a script for a mythological film, Sati Sulochana, in which he also acted. He also worked in journalism for while, before coming back to poetry as a mainstay. 1942 was the turning point in the career of Kusumagraj, as a father-figure of Marathi literature, Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar, published Kusumgraj's compilation of poetry, Vishakha at his own expense, and in his preface describing Kusumagraj as a poet of humanity, wrote, "His words manifest the social discontent but retain the optimistic conviction that the old world was giving way to a new one." It came during the Quit India Movement, and carried the message of freedom and stood against slavery, and soon its words became popular with young men and women; in time it was to become his lasting legacy to Indian literature. After 1943, he started adapting the plays by literary giants like Oscar Wilde, Moliere, Maurice Maeterlinck and Shakespeare, especially his tragedies, and which played an important role in boosting Marathi theatre of the period. This continued into the 1970s when his masterpiece Natasamrat was first staged in 1970, with Sriram Lagoo as the lead.
While temperamentally he ranged from reclusive to exclusive, he had a keen social sense and championed the cause of the downtrodden without involving himself in ground level activities. In 1950, he founded the Lokahitawādi Mandal (organisation for social good) in Nashik which is still in existence.
However, Kusumagraj's main claim to fame was his genius as a poet and writer. In 1954, he adapted Shakespeare's Macbeth, as Rajmukut, 'The Royal Crown' to Marathi, it starred Nanasaheb Phatak and Durga Khote (Lady Macbeth) and later he also adapted Othello in 1960 He also worked as a lyricist in Marathi cinema.
His work reflected the changing social milieu, from being the reflection of national uprising during Indian freedom struggle and in the post-independence era it got steeped into rising social-consciousness amongst Marathi writers, which marked the advent of modern Dalit literature.
Awards and recognition
To honour his work in Marathi Literature, every year Birth day of Kusumagraj i.e. 27 February is celebrated as "MARATHI BHASHA DIN" (मराठी भाषा दिन). In 1987, Kusumagraj was presented with the Jnanpith Award—a prestigious literary award in India—in recognition of his literary achievements, and in particular his writing of the play, Natasamrat, an adaptation of King Lear, for which he received Sahitya Akademi Award in 1974 He received Ram Ganesh Gadkari Award of All India Nātya Parishad in 1985. Pune University conferred on him the honorary degree of D.Litt. in 1986. In 1988, he received Sangeet Nātya Lekhan Award.
His original name was Gajanan Ranganath Shirwadkar and he was adopted by his uncle. He founded an organisation named Kusumāgraj Pratishthān was formed in Nasik in 1990 with the objective of encouraging various cultural activities and helping the needy belonging to traditionally suppressed communities. In 1972, his wife Manoramabai died after a brief illness. Kusumāgraj birthday is celebrated as World Marathi Day.
Collections of Poems
- Vishakha (Year : 1942)
- Himaresha (Year : 1964)
- Chhandomayi (Year : 1982)
- Jeewanalahari (Year : 1933)
- Jaicha Kunja (Year : 1936)
- Samidha (Year : 1947)
- Kana (Year : 1952)
- Kinara (Year : 1952)
- Marathi Mati (Year : 1960)
- Wadalwel (Year : 1969)
- Rasayatra (Year : 1969)
- Muktayan (Year : 1984)
- Shrawan (Year : 1985)
- Prawasi Pakshi (Year : 1989)
- Patheya (Year : 1989)
- Meghdoot (Marathi Translation of Kalidas' "Meghdoot", which is in Sanskrit) (Year : 1956)
- Swagat (Year : 1962)
- Balbodh Mevyatil Kusumagraj (Year : 1989)
Edited Collections of Poems
- Rasyātrā, poems chosen by Shankar Vaidya and Poet Borkar, and with a long scholarly introduction by Vaidya.
Collections of Stories
- Chhote Āni Mothe
- Satāriche Bol Āni Iter Kathā
- Kāhi Wruddha, Kāhi Tarun
- Prem Āni Mānjar
- Āhe Āni Nāhi
- Ekāki Tārā
- Wātewaralyā Sāwalyā
- Shakespearechyā Shodhāt
- Kusumāgrajānchyā Bārā Kathā
- Jādoochi Hodi (for children)
- Yayāti Āni Dewayāni
- Weeja Mhanāli Dharateelā
- Doorche Diwe
- Dusarā Peshwā
- Āmche Nāw Bāburāo
- Ek Hoti Wāghin
- Chandra Jithe Ugawat Nāhi
- Becket (Translation of The Honour of God by Jean Anouilh)
- Diwāni Dāwā
- Dewāche Ghar
- Prakāshi Dāre
- Natak Basat Āhe Āni Itar Ekānkikā
- Kalpanechyā Teerāwar
Works in translation
- The Saint in the Cellar: selected poems. Tr. by S. A. Virkar. New Native Press, 2003. ISBN 1-883197-18-X.
Visualisation of Works of Kusumagraj
The translation of Meghadūta by Kusumagraj were visualised by watercolour artist Nana Joshi. These visualisations were published in the Menaka Diwali issue in 1979.
- Modern Indian literature, an anthology, (Volume 2). Sahitya Akademi. 1992. p. 846. ISBN 81-7201-324-8.
- "Kusumagraj is dead". Indian Express. 11 March 1999.
- K. M. George, ed. (1997). Masterpieces of Indian literature, (Volume 1). National Book Trust. p. 927. ISBN 81-237-1978-7.
- Gohkale, Madhav (13 March 1999). "A master craftsman". Indian Express.
- Das, Sisir Kumar (1995). History of Indian Literature: .1911–1956, struggle for freedom : triumph and tragedy (Volume 1). Sahitya Akademi. p. 90. ISBN 81-7201-798-7.
- Shakespeare in India
- Welcome to kusumagraj Pratishthan – Web Site of Kusumagraj / Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar
- "Act of will – Kusumagraj signs off with a flourish". Indian Express. 13 March 1999.
- Joshi, Nana. "A Visual Interpretation of Kalidas' Meghadūta". Joshi Artist. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- http://www.kusumagraj.org (Marathi website)
- http://www.kusumaavali.org (Marathi website)
- Marathi Bhasha Diwas