Narmadashankar Dave

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Narmadashankar Lalshankar Dave
Narmadashankar Dave (cropped).jpg
Narmad, aged 27. Wood engraving for his publication, after an oil painting. (1860)
Native name નર્મદાશંકર લાલશંકર દવે
Born (1833-08-24)August 24, 1833
Surat, British India
Died February 26, 1886(1886-02-26) (aged 52)
Bombay (now Mumbai), British India
Pen name Narmad
Occupation Poet, playwright, essayist, lexicographer and reformer
Spouse Gulab (m. 1844–53)
Dahigauri (m. 1856–86)
Subhadra (Narmadagauri) (m. 1869–86)
Children Jayshankar (1870-1910)


Narmadashankar Lalshankar Dave (Gujarati: નર્મદાશંકર લાલશંકર દવે) (24 August 1833 – 26 February 1886), popularly known as Narmad, was a Gujarati poet, playwright, essayist, orator, lexicographer and reformer during British India. He is considered as the founder of modern Gujarati literature.[1] Born in Surat and studied in Bombay, he taught at various school. He left his job to pursue literary career. During his prolific career, he introduced many literary forms in Gujarati. He faced economic struggle but proved reformer who voiced against religious and social orthodoxy. His large number of essays, poems, plays and prose were published in collections. His Mari Hakikat, the first autobiography in Gujarati,[A] was published posthumously.[B]

Early life[edit]

Dandiyo, dated 1 September 1864, first issue, page 1

Narmad was born in Surat, Gujarat on 24 August 1833 to Lalshankar and Navdurga.[4] His ancestral home in Amliran, Surat was engulfed in the great fire of 25 April 1837. He joined school of Nana Mehta in Bhuleshwar, Bombay at the age of five. He later joined Fakir Mehta and Ichchha Mehta's school in Surat and later again moved to Bombay where he joined Government Gujarati school of Balgovind Mehta at Pydhonie. He again moved to Surat where he joined school of Durgaram Mehta and Pranshankar Mehta. He joined English School in 1945. He was initiated in Upanayan at age of eight. He joined Elphinstone Institute, Bombay on 6 January 1845. He joined college in June 1850. He delivered his first public speech Mandali Malvathi Thata Labh (Advantages of Forming An Organisation) the same year.[5] His mother died on 23 November 1850. He dropped out.[3][1][6]


He was appointed as a teacher in school of Rander on 1 May 1851. He again recited his early eassay in Swadesh Hitechchhu Mandali and started Gyansagar magazine in July 1851. He was transferred to school in Nanpara in March 1853. After death of his wife Gulab, he left his job and went to Bombay on 2 January 1854. He again joined collegeon suggestion of his friend Jhaverilal Umiyashankar and Buddhivardhak Sabha, a literary group in June 1854. He started learning Siddhant Kaumudi. He got interested in poetry and started writing poetry in September 1855. In 1856, he studied literary metre. He presided Buddhivardhak Granth from March to December 1856.[6] After his second marriage, he left college on 19 August 1856. In February 1857, he wrote Pingal Pravesh and dedicated it to his father. He joined Gokuldas Tejpal Vidyalaya as a teacher in February 1857 and started studying several Sanskrit literary works such as Laghu kaumudi, Chandralok, Nrisimhachampu, Kavyachampu, Prataprudra, Adhyatma Ramayana. He joined Central School as a teacher in February 1858. He resigned from school on 23 November 1858 and decided to pursue literary career.[1][6]

He studied Sanskrit grammar and poetry in Pune from November 1858 to March 1859. He decided to study independently and moved to Bombay on 20 March. He met Dalpatram, a reformist Gujarati poet, on 18 June 1859. He started his reform activities. His wife Dahigauri moved to her parents' home. In 1860, he had discussed widow remarriage with Jadunathji Maharaj. Next year, he was involved in the Maharaj Libel Case. The libel case was filed by Jadunathji against Karsandas Mulji following publication of writing about exploitation of women in his religious sect. He visited Income Tax Commissioner Curtis regarding surcharge on 3 February 1863. With the help of some friends, he started a biweekly newsletter called Dandiyo, modeled after The Spectator, a weekly British magazine on 1 September 1864. It was loudly reformist in its stand and attacked traditional customs of Hindu society.[7] It run till 1869 and later it was merged with The Sunday Review on 16 January 1870.[C][8][9] On 18 January 1864, his father died at age of 56. He moved to Surat in July 1865 and gave residence to Savitagauri, a widow, in his neighbourhood house. He published Narmagadya in September 1865. He was banished from his caste due to reform activities on 18 August but reinstated on 21 November 1866. The same year, he wrote his autobiographical work, Mari Hakikat, the first autobiography in Gujarati. He also published Nayikavishaypravesh and Uttam Nayika dedicated to Dahigauri. In early 1867, he published Narmakavita, a collection of poetry of his 11 years career. He had debt of 10,000 which had made his anxious. He married again in 1869. He published summaries of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Iliad in 1870. His published school version of Narmagadya in 1874 and government edition in 1875.[6]

He moved to Bombay in March 1875. He met Dayanand Saraswati, a reformist and founder of Arya Samaj. He became deeply religious. He published the first dictionary of Gujarati language in March 1876.[6][9] He founded Vedsarasvati in Sarasvatimandir of Surat on 16 April 1877. Aryanitidarshak Mandali performed Draupadi-Darshan play in 1878. He had become fully "believer" by 1880. He had performed Upanayana of his son the same year. He wrote play, Shri Sarshakuntal in 1881 which was performed. He published the translation of Bhagvad Gita in 1882. Due to persistent financial stress, he joined Gokuldas Tejpal Dharmakhata as secretory though he was not happy about breaking his vow to not do work for others. He wrote play, Shri Balkrishnavijay in 1883. His health fell due to mental stress of his work to start a hostel. He left his job on 19 July 1885. After prolonged illness of eight months, he died of arthritis on 26 February 1886 in Bombay.[6][10][11][12][13][14]


Narmad is considered as the founder of modern Gujarati literature. He introduced many creative forms of writing in Gujarati. He wrote pioneering work in such forms as autobiography, poetry, lexicography, historical plays and research in folk literature. He was also an outspoken journalist and a pamphleteer. Narmad was a strong opponent of religious fanaticism and orthodoxy. He promoted nationalism and patriotism with famous songs like Sahu Chalo Jeetva Jang, wrote about self-government and talked about one national language, Hundustani, for all of India, nearly five decades before Mahatma Gandhi or Nehru. He wrote a poem Jai Jai Garavi Gujarat in which he listed with a sense of pride all the cultural symbols that go into constituting the Gujarati identity. These symbols include even the things non-Hindu, implying that Gujarat belongs to all the castes, communities, races, religions and sects that inhabit Gujarat. The poem is now state song of Gujarat. Mahatma Gandhi had acknowledged him for his philosophy of nonviolence.[9][10][11][12][13][14]

His major collected works are Narmagadya (Gujarati: નર્મગદ્ય), collection of prose; Narmakavita (Gujarati: નર્મકવિતા), collection of poems; Narmakathakosh (Gujarati: નર્મકથાકોશ), collection of stories of characters of mythological literature and Narmakosh (Gujarati: નર્મકોશ), dictionary. His Mari Hakikat, the first autobiography in Gujarati, was published posthumously.[14]


His Narmakavita:1-3 (1858), Narmakavita:4-8 (1859) and Narmakavita:9-10 (1860) were collected in Narmakavita:Book 1 (1962). Later Narmakavita:Book 2 (1863) was published. His all poetry were later collected in Narmakavita (1864).[1]

His poem, "Jai Jai Garavi Gujarat" (1873), is used as a de facto state song of Gujarat.[15]


His Rasapravesh (1858), Pingalpravesh (1857), Alankarpravesh (1858), Narmavyakaran Part I and II (1865), Varnavichar (1865), Nayika Vishaypravesh (1866) are his collections of essays on poetics with historical importance.[1]

Rituvarnan (1861), Hinduoni Padati (1864), Kavicharit (1865), Suratni Mukhtesar Hakikat (1865), Iliadno Sar (1870), Mahipatram Rupram Mehta (1870), Mahapurushona Charitra (1870), Mahabharatano Sar (1870), Ramayanano Sar (1870), Sarshakuntal (1881), Bhagvadgitanu Bhashantar (1882) are his prose works. His other writings between 1850 and 1865 collected in Narmagadya (1865) and posthumously published Narmagadya-2 (1936) are his other prose works.[1]

His essays are collected and edited in three volumes. They are Narmadgadya or Narmadashankar Lalashankarna Gadyatmak Granthono Sangrah (1875) edited by Mahipatram Rupram Nilkanth, Narmadnu Mandir-Gadya Vibhag (1937) edited by Vishwanath Bhatt and Narmadgadya(1975) edited by Gambhirsinh Gohil. His fifteen prose were collected in Junu Narmadgadya Part I, II (1865, 1874) are also important.[1]

He had researched and edited several works. Manohar Swami's Manhar Pad (1860), Narmakosh: Issue 1 (1861), Narmakosh: Issue 2 (1862), Narmakosh:Issue 3 (1864), Narmakosh:Issue 4 (1865). Narmakathakosh (1870), Dayaramkrut Kavyasangrah (1865), Stree Geet Sangrah (1870) of songs popular in Nagar Brahmin ladies, Premanand's Dashamskandh (1872) and the complete issue of Narmakosh (1873) are his edited and researched works.[1]

Tusli Vaidhvyachitra (dialogue, 1859), Rmjanaki Darshan (1876), Draupadidarshan (1878), Balkrishnavijay (1886), Krishnakumari are his plays and dialogues. His Seetaharan (1878) is unpublished play. Rajyarang Part I, II (1874, 1876) are his works on ancient and modern history of world. Dharmavichar is his work on philosophy. Gujarat Sarvasangrah (1887) and Kathiawar Sarvasangrah (1887) are his historical works.[1]

Mari Hakikat, his autobiography written in 1866 and published posthumously in 1933, is the first autobiography of Gujarati. His some notes and letters were published as Uttar Narmad Charitra (1939).[3][1][6]


Narmad:Mari Hakikat or Narmad:My Life, a soliloquy based on his autobiography and life, was written and directed by Harish Trivedi while it was performed by Chandrakant Shah. It was premiered in Dayton, Ohio, US in 1995 and later toured India, UK, France.[16][17] It was critically acclaimed.[17] Chandravadan Mehta had also written a play based on his life.[18]


Kavi Narmad Central Library, Surat
Bust near Gujarat University, Ahmedabad

Several places were named after him in Gujarat such as Central Library in Surat. His busts are erected across Gujarat such as in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Surat. In 2004, South Gujarat University was renamed Veer Narmad South Gujarat University in his honour.[15] The literary honour Narmad Suvarna Chandrak is awarded by Narmad Sahitya Sabha, Surat since 1940. A special cover was released by India Post on his 175th birth anniversary in 2008.[19]

Private life[edit]

He married Gulab, daughter of Surajram Shastri, on 29 April 1844. Gulab died on 5 October 1853. In May 1856, he married Dahigauri, daughter of Tripuranand Shastri who left him in 1860. He married Subhadra (later Narmadagauri), a widow of his caste, in 1869 to break taboo of widow remarriage and she gave birth to his son Jayshankar in 1870. Jayshankar never married. He worked as a clerk in Bombay Municipality. Jayshankar died on 31 March 1910 in plague.[6]


  1. ^ In the 1840s, Durgaram Mehta had written his personal diary , Nityanondh but it was not an attempt of autobiography as in western style. Mahipatram Rupram had written a biography, Durgaram Charitra (1879) based on the diary.[2]
  2. ^ Narmad had written his autobiography in 1866 but he had requested it to be published posthumously. It was published in 1933, on his birth centenary. Two autobiographies were published before it, Hu Pote (1900) by Narayan Hemchandra and Satyana Prayogo (1925-1929) by Mahatma Gandhi.[3]
  3. ^ The Sunday Review was also closed after some time. Dandiyo was revived by Natwarlal Mulchand Vimawala in 1936. It was later renamed Prabhakar in March 1947.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "નર્મદશંકર દવે (Narmadashankar Dave)". Gujarati Sahitya Parishad (in Gujarati). Retrieved 25 October 2016. 
  2. ^ Amaresh Datta (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo. Sahitya Akademi. p. 527. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. 
  3. ^ a b c Pandya, Kusum H (31 December 1986). Gujarati Atmakatha Tena Swarupagat Prashno. Thesis. Department of Gujarati, Sardar Patel University. Shodhganga web (in Gujarati). pp. 200–220. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  4. ^ "Narmad remembered on birth anniversary". 13 August 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  5. ^ K. M. George (1992). Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology: Surveys and poems. Sahitya Akademi. p. 122. ISBN 978-81-7201-324-0. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Dave, Narmadashanker Lalshanker (1994). "Apendix XII (Timeline of Life)". In Ramesh M. Shukla. Mari Hakikat (in Gujarati) (1 ed.). Surat: Kavi Narmad Yugavart Trust. pp. 183–184. 
  7. ^ Meghnad Desai (2 August 2011). The Rediscovery of India. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 229–. ISBN 978-81-8475-566-4. 
  8. ^ a b Y. A. Parmar (1987). The Mahyavanshi: The Success Story of a Scheduled Caste. Mittal Publications. pp. 83–84. GGKEY:KEQ4SL0H0RJ. 
  9. ^ a b c Saurabh Shah. "'ડાંડિયા', 'નર્મકોશ' અને જય જય ગરવી ગુજરાત". Mumbai Samachar (in Gujarati). Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Biography of Narmadashankar Dave". Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  11. ^ a b "Poet Narmad". Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Narmad, Gujarati Saraswats, Sangeet Bhavan". Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "Gujarati Language, History of Gujarati Language". Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  14. ^ a b c Amaresh Datta (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 909–910. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. 
  15. ^ a b Bharat Yagnik; Ashish Vashi (2 July 2010). "No Gujarati dept in Veer Narmad, Hemchandracharya varsities". The Times of India. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  16. ^ Kumar, Alok. "India Foundation, Dayton, OH". OoCities. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Narmad". Internet Archive. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 24 October 2016. 
  18. ^ Tevani, Shailesh (1 January 2003). C.C. Mehta. Sahitya Akademi. p. 67. ISBN 978-81-260-1676-1. Retrieved 13 November 2016. 
  19. ^ "Special Cover-Narmadashankar Dave-Surpex 2008". Indian Stamp Ghar. 6 December 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2016. 

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