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Harishvansh Rai Bachchan: an English professor who left a mark in the Hindi literary world

Today marks the 114th birth anniversary of the legendary Hindi poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan. Father of megastar Amitabh Bachchan, Harivansh Rai was conferred with ‘Padma Bhushan’ in 1976.

Harishvansh Rai Bachchan birth anniversary an inspirational story of an English professor who left a mark in the Hindi literary world drb
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Mumbai, First Published Nov 27, 2021, 7:00 AM IST
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Harivansh Rai Bachchan continues to live even today through the legacy of his poems. Every piece of his writing is fresh in the minds of all – whether it is his poem ‘Madhushala’, ‘Agnipath’ or ‘Ruke Na Tu’. The man has left his poems that keep him alive even today and will continue to do so for generations to come. On the 114th birth anniversary of the legendary poet, we present you with some known and lesser-known facts of the life of the famous Indian poet who is celebrated even today.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan was born on November 27, 1907, in Pratapgarh district’s small village called ‘Babuatti’, near Allahabad (now Prayagraj). His early education took place in Kayastha Pathshala where he also learnt the Urdu language.

In the year 1926, Harivansh Rai Bachchan got married to Shyama Bachchan at the early age of 19. However, due to tuberculosis, Shyama Bachchan passed away in 1936, 10 years after their marriage. A few years later, Harivansh Rai Bachchan married Teji Bachchan in 1941 and had two sons with him – Ajitabh Bachchan and megastar Amitabh Bachchan.

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Not many would be aware that Harivansh Rai Bachchan was an English teacher before he became a Hindi poet and created some exceptional pieces of poetry for the world. From 1941 to 1952, Harivansh Rai Bachchan worked as a teacher in the English Department of Allahabad University.

He then went to Cambridge University in England in 1952 for further studies in English Literature. It was during his days in Cambridge that Harivansh Rai Bachchan started writing poetry, and changed his surname from ‘Shruvastava’ to ‘Bachchan’. ‘Bachchan’ was the pen name that he would use for his poems, literally meaning a small boy.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan got a doctorate in English Literature from Cambridge University, becoming the second Indian ever. When Harivansh Rai Bachchan returned to India in 1955, he got a job as a Hindi specialist in the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.

With a strong command over English as well as Hindi, Harivansh Rai Bachchan translated William Shakespeare’s great works of English literature – ‘Othello’ and ‘Macbeth’ into Hindi. Harivansh Rai Bachchan was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in the year 1966. He was one of the close friends of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Sumitranandan Pant – the other legends of the Hindi literary world.

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Amitabh Bachchan’s famous song – ‘Rang Barse’ from the movie Silsila was written by his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan. In fact, the famous couplets from the 1990 film ‘Agnipath’ starring Amitabh Bachchan, were also written by Harivansh Rai Bachchan. It was on January 18, 2003, when Harivansh Rai Bachchan breathed his last after fighting a prolonged respiratory illness.

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