A Scholarly Poet And A Great Reformer
by Dr. B. N. Sharga
takes birth on this mother planet has to go one day, but some people are
remembered even after their death for their deeds and their valuable
contributions for the welfare of the mankind. Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast was
one such personality whose name is still taken in high esteem by the lovers of
Urdu literature all over the world for his soul-inspiring compositions. Some
Urdu critics even compare his poetic genius to that of Allama Iqbal and place
him on the same footing.
This great Urdu poet, scholar and social reformer of
the 20th century had a humble beginning. He was born in 1882 in an ordinary
middle class Kashmiri Pandit family in Faizabad and had his early schooling
there. The name of his father was Pandit Udit Narain Chakbast. Later on, this
Chakbast family shifted from Faizabad to Lucknow and settled down in Kashmiri
Mohalla where there was a big concentration of Kashmiri Pandit families in those
days. The ancestral house of Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast was situated at a
stone's throw from the historic haveli of Kaul Shargas, the traditional
Wasikedars of Oudh, whose family was the first to settle down in Kashmiri
Mohalla in 1775 when Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula shifted his seat of government from
Faizabad to Lucknow.
Pandit Brij Narain Chakbast made Lucknow, the city of
Nawabs, as his real "Karma Bhoomi". He was a man with a vision. His
elder brother, Pandit Maharaj Narain Chakhast, was an executive officer in the
Lucknow Municipal Board in the beginning of the 20th Century. Chakbast did his
B.A. in 1905 and L.L.B. in 1907 from Canning College which was at'filiated with
Allahabad University at that time and subsequently became a practising lawyer.
He started writing poetry from a very young age and
generally his poetic comrositions used to be very short, crisp and meaningful.
He always used a very simple language in his Urdu compositions and used to
describe the complexities of life in the shortest possible sentence in plain
words. His style of writing can be judged from the following Urdu couplet in
which he described the meaning of life and death in a most scientific manner:
'"Zindagi Kya Hai, Anasir Mein Zahoore
Maut Kya Hai Inhi Ajza Ka Pareshan Hona''.
Life is an arrangement of senses in a proper form
whereas the disintegration of this arrangement of senses is death.
Chakbast was a highly sensitive poet and was very
emotional by temperament. He wrote a number of articles on topics of social
relevance in various reputed Urdu journals of his times which were all widely
appreciated. The collection of his poetic compositions is known as 'Subah Watan!
Its latest edition was published about 10 years back by his granddaughter, Ms.
Uma Chakbast, which was released by the then Governor of U.P. Shri Usman Arif,
who was himself a renowned Urdu poet.
The fast changing social scenario had a great influence
on the life of this sensitive Urdu poet who took up social reforms in his
community as a mission in those days when the members of his own community were
practising very rigid social customs and traditions.
After the 'excommunication' of Mohan Lal Kashmiri in
1834 from the Kashmiri Pandit community for undertaking extensive tours of the
Arabian countries and later on the excommunication' of Pandit Bishan Narain Dar
for undertaking sea voyage against the wishes of the community, and after his
return to Kashmiri Mohalla in 1884 from England, by orthodox Pandits forced the
broad-minded and well-educated members of the community all over North India to
start the process of bringing certain reforms in the biradari so that it could
move with the times and the community could be saved from its complete
disintegration due to outdated beliefs and conventions.
There was already a sharp division in the community
into the Dharam Sabha and the Bishen Sabha over this most sensitive issue in
Kashmiri Mohalla in those days.
As Kashmiri Mohalla of Lucknow was the nerve centre of
the activities of the Kashmiri Pandits in the first half of the 20th century,
naturally the Kashmiri Pandits living in this locality took up this challenge
and in 1872 Shri Sheo Narain Bahar probably for the first time started a caste
journal Mursala-e-Kashmir to bring social awakening in the community through his
forceful writings in this journal. He was ably assisted by Shri Shyam Narain
Masaldan and Shri Srikishen Tikoo in this stupendous task.
After the death of Shri Bahar, Pandit Brij Narain
Chakbast became the main architect of this movement of bringing social reforms
in the community. Chakbast established a 'Kutubkhana' (library) of rare Urdu and
Persian books and manuscripts in Kashmiri Mohalla exclusively for the Kashmiri
Pandit boys and used to guide these young boys of the community in different
disciplines so that they could become good citizens of the country.
Chakbast used to organise all-India Mushairas almost
every year in Kashmiri Mohalla on a big plot of land adjacent to his house in
which famous Urdu poets from all over the country used to come to recite their
Chakbast also established a very meaningful
organisation with the name Kashmiri Young Men's Association to propagate his
revolutionary ideas among the youth of the community through this body. Probably
Chakbast was the only Urdu poet who had no "Takhallus".
Unfortunately, this great visionary of the 20th century
died in 1926 at the prime of his youth. After his death, his friends and
admirers formed a Chakbast Memorial Trust to keep his legacy alive. At present,
Shri Ram Nath Mattoo who retired as Chairman of the Income Tax Department is the
president of this charitable trust which gives stipends to the deserving
Kashmiri students and financial assistance to the economically weaker Kashmiri
widows and destitutes.