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Harivansh Rai Bachchan

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Name- Harivansh Rai Srivastava

DOB- 27 November 1909 Babupatti, Raniganj tehsil, Pratapgarh, United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, British India

Father- Pratap Narayan Shrivastav

Mother- Saraswati Devi

Death- 18 January 2003 (aged 95) Mumbai, Maharashtra, India



Early Life and Education

Harivansh Rai 'Bachchan' Srivastav was born in the year 1907 in the village Babupatti near Allahabad in a Kayastha family to Pratap Narayan Shrivastav and Saraswati Devi. He was their eldest born. As a child, he was fondly called 'bachchan' because of his child-like ways. The moniker stuck with him, thus becoming one of the most recognizable names. Harivansh Rai Bachchan started his education from a municipal school. It was the same time that he also started learning Urdu from Kayasth Paathshaalas. Later, he pursued his higher education from Allahabad University and Banaras Hindu University. In 1941 he joined the English department of Allahabad University as a faculty and taught there till 1952. He then went to Cambridge for two years to do his doctoral thesis on W.B Yeats and occultism, becoming the second Indian to get a Ph. D. in English Literature from this university. It was also during this time that he dropped Srivastav from his name and used Bachchan as his last name. He then came back to India and took up teaching, while at the same time, serving sometime at the Allahabad Station of All India Radio.


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From 1941 to 1952 he taught English Literature at Allahabad University and then spent two years at Cambridge University, at St Catharine's College. It was there that he used Bachchan as his last name instead of Srivastava. He was the second Indian to get his doctorate in English literature from Cambridge University.

After returning to India, he taught briefly and then worked as a producer for All India Radio, Mumbai. In 1955, he moved to Delhi to join the Ministry of External Affairs of the Government of India and there he was closely involved with the evolution of Hindi as the official language of India.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan is best remembered for his 142 verse lyrical poem "Madhushala" (The House of Wine), which was published in 1935. This work catapulted him as the foremost Hindi poet and was subsequently, translated into English and a number of Indian languages. The poem became a craze and was even performed on stage. "Madhushala" was a part of his poetic trilogy, the other two being Madhubaala and Madhukalash. It is on this trilogy that his fame rests. In 1969, he published the first of his four part autobiography 'Kya bhooloon kya yaad karoon'. The second part 'Need ka nirmaan fir' was published in 1970, the third 'Basere se door' in 1977 and the last part 'Dashdwaar se sopaan tak' in 1985. The series was well received and an abridged English translation by Rupert Snell, 'In the Afternoon of Time', was published in 1998. It is now considered to be a landmark in Hindi literature. Throughout his teaching career and while working in the External Affairs ministry and later, Bachchan published about 30 poetry collections as well as other works in Hindi like essays, travelogues and a few songs for the Hindi film industry. He also read his poems to large audiences. His last poem 'Ek November 1984' based on Indira Gandhi's assassination was written in November 1984.


Personal Life

Bachchan first married in the year 1926 when he was just 19 years old and his wife, Shyama, was 14 years old. In 1936, she passed away succumbing to TB. Five years later, Bachchan married Teji Suri with whom he had two children Amitabh and Ajitabh.


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Bachchan died on 18 January 2003, at the age of 95, as a result of various respiratory ailments. His wife Teji Bachchan died nearly five years later in December 2007, at the age of 93.



1976- Padma Bhushan



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