Jaishankar Prasad (1890-1937) was an Indian poet who is known as one of the four pillars of the Chhayavad style of Hindi Literature. His poems, stories, novels, and plays were derived from historical Indian figures and Indian mythological events. He is also credited as one of the first poets who popularised the Khadi Boli dialect of the Hindi language.
Jaishankar Prasad was born in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India (then Benaras in United Province, British India). According to some sources, he was born on Thursday, 30 January 1890 (age 46 years; at the time of death), and according to another source, he was born on 30 January 1889 (age 47 years; at the time of death). His zodiac sign was Aquarius. He learnt Sanskrit and Hindi at home under his teacher Mohini Lal Gupta. His interest in writing was visible to his family as he wrote a poem for his teacher Rasmay Sidh at the age of 9. His father was a generous man who always helped the poor. His father passed away when he was 11, and his mother passed away when he was 15; however, his elder brother took upon the responsibilities of family and Jaishankar kept on studying different languages like Braj, English, Urdu, and Arabi and India’s past history and Vedas. He also studied for a brief time at Queens College in Varanasi (then-Benaras) till 8th standard after which he started working in his family business to look after the family after the death of his elder brother when he was 17.
Height (approx.): 5′ 10″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
He was born into a Madheshiya Teli Vaisya family.
Parents & Siblings
His father’s name was Babu Devki Prasad Sahu, and his mother’s name was Munni Devi. His father dealt in the Tobacco business and was also known as the Sunghani Sahu due to the tobacco his father traded. He had an elder brother named Shambhuratan Sahu.
Wife & Children
He got married to Vindhvansani Devi in 1908 who passed away due to Tuberculosis. He then got married to Sarasvati in 1917 who also passed away due to Tuberculosis in 1917. He then married Kamala Devi. They became parents to a boy named Ratan Shankar Prasad.
He is credited as one of the four pillars of the Chhayawad style of Hindi literature. He wrote initial works under the pen name Kaladhar in Braj language; however, he gradually shifted towards the Khadi Boli dialect of Hindi and used Sanskrit words in his writings and wrote under the pen name Prasad. His writing style is considered simple, illustrative, decorative language, and emotional and leans towards love, nature, human emotions, and representation of old Hindu traditions and history in comparison to present-day scenarios. His poems are widely praised for establishing the Khadi Boli dialect of the Hindi language as the language of Hindi literature. His famous poems and poetry collections include Himadri Tung Shring Se, Peshola Ki Pratidhvani, Sher Singh Ka Atmasamarpan, Gunda, Madhur Madhavi Sandhya Mein, Prem Pathik (The Love Wanderer) in 1913, Jharna (The Waterfall) in 1918, Ansu (The Tear) in 1925, Lahar (The Wave) in 1933, Aatmkathya (Autobiography), and Kamayani (An epic about Manu and the flood) in 1936.
He wrote a total of 13 plays which include 8 historical plays, 3 mythical, and 2 emotional plays. The timelines and themes of his plays range from Mahabharata to Harshavardhana and the national consciousness of Indian history. His plays include Skandagupta based on Emperor Skandagupta, Chandragupta based on Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, Dhruvaswamini, Rajyashri (Royal Bliss), Ajatashatru based on Emperor Ajatashatru, Janmejay ka Naag-Yagy based on King Janmejaya, Ek Ghoont (A sip), and Kaamna (A wish).
His stories depict mostly Indian historical figures and stories in Hindi language comprising Sanskrit words. His stories include Puruskar (The Award), Gulam (The Slave), Pratidhvani (The Echo), Akashdeep (Internal Lamp), Indrajal (Hypnosis), Sandeh (Doubt), Mamta, Chhota Jadugar, and Daasi (Maid).
He wrote three novels in his career. His novel Titli (The Butterfly) is based on rural life, and his novel Kankal (The Skeleton) is based on human civilization. He was writing the novel Iravati which remained incomplete as he died in 1937 and was later published in 1940.
He started writing in the monthly magazine Indu published by his nephew Ambika Prasad Gupta in 1909, and his earliest works can be found in editions of this magazine.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Awarded Manglaprasad Award by Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Prayag in 1938 for Kamayani
He died due to Tuberculosis in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India (then Benaras in United Province, British India). According to some sources, he died on 15 November 1937 (age 47 years), and according to another source, he died on 14 January 1937 (age 46 years).
- Interest in his plays was revived by Shanta Gandhi, Professor of Ancient Indian Drama at the National School of Drama, Delhi who staged his play Skanda Gupta written in 1928 with very few changes to the original script in the 1960s.
- He liked playing chess and gardening at his home.
- He had a great memory and memorized Amarkosh and Laghu Kaumudi at the age of 9.
- His family was very wealthy and was second to only the King of Varanasi.
- He had a very close friendship with Indian novelist Munshi Premchand.
Jaishankar Prasad (left) with Munshi Premchand