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Born in 1820 in a Brahmin family, Dalpatram grew up to the resonant chanting of 'mantras' and recitations of religious scriptures. He was a child prodigy and displayed his extraordinary literary skills by composing 'hondulas' at the age of 12. He mastered the structures of rhyme, poesis and 'Vrajbhasha' as a Swaminarayan devotee under Brahmanand Swami, and later moved to Ahmedabad at the age of 24.[unreliable source?]
Dalpatram, who knew no English, was a Sanskrit scholar and poet. Dalpatram taught Gujarati language to Alexander Kinloch Forbes, a British colonial administrator to Ahmedabad. Gujarati was considered at the bottom of language hierarchy during those times. So he preferred to write his poems in Brijbhasha instead of Gujarati, his mother tongue. Forbes encouraged him to write in Gujarati. They became close friends. He inspired Dalpatram to write Laxmi Natak published in 1849, the first play in Gujarati, based on Greek drama Plutus.
Forbes who wanted Gujarati literature develop, had helped found the Gujarat Vernacular Society. He served as its first assistanst secretory and started Biddhiprakash periodical in 1850. He edited the periodical till 1878. When Forbes died in 1865, Dalpatram composed Farbesvirah, a Gujarati elegy, and Farbesvilas, his account of the gathering of bards, both dedicated to him. At the end of the 19th Century He was entitled Mahakavi (Great Poet) by Shahjanand Swami, the founder of Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Unlike Narmad, another prominent Gujarati poet of the same period, Dalpatram supported British rule for the benefits it gave India. Dalpatram also supported social reforms such as opposition to child marriage, allowing widows to remarry. Both Dalpatram and Narmad were the first Gujarati poets to address subjects connected to common life in their verses. Dalpatram's poems had subjects like English law, how to write an essay, and even "trees in a college compound". His verse often reflected his sense of humour.
Dalpatram was an authority on meters and wrote a treatise, Pingal ("Prosody"), used by scholars as a sourcebook for many decades.
Statue and Memorial
In tribute to Dalpatram's work, AMC and citizens of Ahmedabad proposed a memorial at the site of his house, which was destroyed in 1985. With very few references or photographs available, it was really difficult to recreate the house. References were then taken from the memories of residents and the architectural design of surrounding houses to create a memorial in the form of facade of the house and statue of Kavi Dalpatram in the year 2001.
In the year 2001, the memorial became a part of Heritage walk of Ahmedabad. The design of statue was debated before they came up with the idea of sitting posture of Kavi with a book in his lap.
The statue is made of bronze and weighs 120 Kg. Another key feature of the statue is the empty shoe of kavi which is very dear to the children. The children call him 'Dada' or grandfather with love and have deep emotions attached to the statue.
The platform behind the statue displays the plan of the original house. The yellow stone on the floor indicates the walls, grey stone indicates the rooms and the black stone represent the open courtyard. The staircase is also marked with yellow stone.
The memorial also serves as a platform for community gatherings. His plays and recitations are also enthusiastically performed on various occasions including his Birthday. The Heritage department has taken the responsibility of maintenance of the Dalpatram Memorial.
He was a progressive thinker and advocated the upliftment of oppressed classes and women empowerment. He utilized his literary skills to bring about changes in society. At the end of 19th century, he was entitled Mahakavi or the great poet by Shahjanand Swami, the founder of the Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Years have passed but the poems of Mahakavi still resonate in the hearts of people, inspiring them to move ahead in life, bringing peace to disturbed minds and questioning the social structure and system. Dada's poems also aim to teach moral values to the children through rich imagery and simple language.
Kavi Dalpatram's voice was the voice of the people of their dreams and conscience – soft but firm, simple yet rich.
- Laxmi (play)
- Shrey (play)
- Bipani Pinpar (poetry)
- Buddhiprakash (anthology)
- Mithyabhiman (play)
- Farbesvirah (elegy)
- Farbesvilas (poetry)
- Mohan, Sarala Jag, Chapter 4: "Twentieth-Century Gujarati Literature" (Google books link), in Natarajan, Nalini, and Emanuel Sampath Nelson, editors, Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, ISBN 978-0-313-28778-7, retrieved December 10, 2008
- Unnithan, Chitra (2014-02-22). "Briton inspired Dalpatram to write in Gujarati language". The Times of India. Retrieved 2014-02-22.
- Datta, p. 1071
- Mukherjee, p. 83
- Sujit Mukherjee (1 January 1998). A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings-1850. Orient Blackswan. p. 83. ISBN 978-81-250-1453-9.
- Amaresh Datta (ed.) (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: devraj to jyoti, Vol. 2. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 8126011947.
- Sujit Mukherjee (1999). A Dictionary of Indian Literatures: Beginnings -1850. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 8125014535.
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