V. V. Shirwadkar alias Kusumagraj
A highly talented and famous litterateur who created his own genre in Marathi poetry
V.V. Shirwadkar alias Kusumagraj, was equally popular as a talented poet as well as a brilliant dramatist. He adeptly handled different types of literature like poems, drama, novels, stories and short essays and established his name in all of these genres through his proficiency. His original name was Gajanan Ranganath Shirwadkar. His uncle Vaman Shirwadkar adopted him and named him Vaman.
He was born in Pune, but resided in Nashik for his school education. After his Bachelor’s degree in Arts, he worked for a while in the field of movies, by writing short stories, enacting small roles etc. Later he worked as the editor of several newspapers and periodicals like Swarajya, Prabhat, Navyug, Dhanurdhari.
He vehemently attacked social injustice and inequality through his writing. He was a proponent of the principle that a litterateur should abide by social obligations and he proved this through his actions and writings. He participated in the Satyagraha of Kalaram Mandir Pravesh (entry of untouchables to Kalaram temple) in 1932. He established the Dhruv Group in 1933. He participated in many social struggles and Satyagrahas. He also helped tribal children for their education in Nashik district.
Jivanlahari (1933) was his first collection of poems, followed by Vishakha (1942), Kinara (1952), Muktayan, VaadalVel, Paatheya and Marathi Mati (1960), Swagat (1962), Himresha (1964), Vadalvaat (1969) and Maarva (1999), all of which became popular. He also wrote plays like Dusra Peshwa (1947), Vaijayanti, Rajmukut, Kaunteya, Amcha Naav Baburav, Yayati Ani Devyani, Veej Mhanali Dhartila, and NataSamraat. He received the Sahitya Academy award for his play NataSamraat. Even today, Marathi artistes feel blessed in enacting the principal role in NataSamraat, since it’s considered a challenge to enact that role.
Novels like Vaishnav, Janhavi, Kalpanechya Tiravar and collection of short stories like Fulvalee, Kahi Vrudha Kahi Tarun are popular. He has contributed to a vast collection of varied other literature like Samidha, a collection of freestyle poems and Ahe ani Nahi, a collection of short essays.
Using strong inspirational words such as Columbus’s song of pride,
Anant Amuchi Dhyeyashakti, Ananta ana Asha, kinara tula paamraala
(Infinite is our resolve, infinite our hope, may you be beached O Vile )
garja jayjaykar kranticha garja jayjaykar,
(bellow the glory of revolution, bellow the glory)
he filled the fire of revolution in people’s hearts, at the same time he also reached the message of love into the hearts of Marathi people by his infinitely delicate and romantic poems like Pruthviche Premgeet (The love song of the Earth), and verses like
Kadh Sakhe Galyatil Tuzhe chandnyache haat.
(remove your silver arms from around my neck)
He made history come alive through his poem Vedaat Maraathe Veer Daudle Saat (The seven courageous Maratha soldiers rushed madly). With his Swatantradevtechi Vinavni (The entreaty of the goddess of freedom), he put forth the sad state of Mother India and opened people’s eyes.
He was influenced by poets like Keshavsut, Mardhekar, Govindaadraj, Savarkar, and the poets of Ravikiran Mandal. Through this influence and culture, he created his own genre of poetry. He wrote poetry on various subjects like social, patriotic, romance, historical, spiritual, nature.
Marathi connoisseurs loved Vishakha, a collection of poems. This collection contains poems that he wrote spanning the freedom struggle, from 1930 to 1940. These poems are cherished to date. There are people even today who can recite all the poems in this collection from memory, which is a proof of his immense talent and popularity. Well-formed and well-proportioned composition, rich imagination, passion, contemplation, patriotism, and social orientation are the unique features of all his writings. He was suitably honoured for his work by bestowing on him the Dyanpeeth Puraskar in 1987- 88. He is the second Marathi litterateur to have been awarded this highest award in literature.
He also received many other awards. Popularly called Tatyasaheb in Maharashtra, Kusumagraj presided over the first Convention held by the Jagtik Marathi Parishad (International Marathi Society) in Mumbai, in 1989. Before this, he also chaired the All India Marathi Literature Convention (1964, Goa) and the Dramatics Convention (1970, Kolhapur). In 2003, the government issued a new stamp in memory of Kusumagraj; he was the first Marathi litterateur to have received this honour. Under the aegis of the Jagtik Marathi Parishad, his birth anniversary, 27 February, is celebrated as Marathi Bhasa Divas (Marathi language day).
It is appropriately said that Kusumagraj created a new benchmark for Marathi literature and culture. His admirers and Marathi litterateurs have preserved his memory through the Kusumagraj Pratisthan.