Kolkata Literature Festival commemorates Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s 200th birthday.

At an event held at the Kolkata Literature Festival in collaboration with The Telegraph, the 200th birthday of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, the 19th-century poet who popularized amitrakshar chanda, sometimes referred to as Blank Verse, in Bengali poetry, was commemorated.

Dutt was also the first to introduce humanism in Bengali poetry in place of the traditional deva mahima, or ode to the deity. In his renowned 1861 book Meghbad Kabya, he deified Ravana, the demon god, rather than Ram.

On January 25, Dutt’s 200th birthday was celebrated with a talk entitled Michael-er Amitrakshar: Bangla Padye Natun Swar. The discussion shed light on the poet’s continued relevance and relatability.

On Dutt’s legacy in Bengali literature, academic Sakti Sadan Mukhopadhyay, poet Agni Roy, and poet-literary critic Aveek Majumdar spoke.

“It is only appropriate that we are talking about Michael’s amitrakshar chanda just a day after his 200th birth anniversary. He was a 19th century poet and playwright who introduced the sonnet, or chaturdashpadi kabita, in Bengali literature. In 1860, he used amitrakshar in his work Padmabati. And then of course he wrote his epic Meghnad Badh Kabya in amitrakshar,” said Majumdar.

“During much of that period, Bengali poetry’s structure and rhythm were dominated by mitrakshar, or what is known as payar chanda, where every stanza had to have a fixed rhythm and every stanza had to have a complete meaning. Michael broke that. He laid more stress on meaning than rhythm,” the academic said.

Roy mentioned that Satyendranath Dutta, a different poet from Bengal, praised Dutt for his achievement in “leaping over payar’s rhythm and creating a new way of writing poetry where meaning is the main force.” He reminded us that prose poetry would never have been feasible without Amitrakshar.

Mukhopadhyay said of payar: “In those days it was said that Chinese girls would be forced to wear iron shoes to keep their feet small and beautiful. Similarly, payar was like an iron shoe as it forced poets to follow some strict rules. Michael freed Bengali poetry from that iron rule.”

The worship of the gods, or deva mahima, had dominated Bengali poetry for eight hundred years, from Bharatchandra to Charjapad. Being a poet of the Bengal Renaissance in the 19th century, Dutt replaced that with humanism. For him, Ravana was the hero—not Ram.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *