You must have heard of Umashankar Joshi, a renowned poet and writer of Gujarati literature. He is considered one of the greatest poets and writers of the Gandhian era and was the first writer to receive the Jnanpith Award in Gujarati literature.
In 1967, Joshi was awarded the Jnanpith Award for his distinguished contribution to Gujarati literature. His life was heavily influenced by the ideas of Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, and he made significant contributions to various fields of Gujarati literature. Today, let’s delve into the life and poetry of this remarkable writer, Umashankar Joshi.
Umashankar Joshi Profile
|Nickname (upnam)||Vasuki, Sravan|
|Birth Date:||21 July 1911|
|Birth Place:||Bamana Village in Sabarkantha District (Gujarat)|
|Father’s Name:||Jethalal Joshi|
|Mother’s Name:||Navalben Joshi|
|Children:||Nandini and Swati – two daughters|
|Profession:||Poet, novelist, short story writer|
|Awards:||Ranjitram Suvarnachandrak (1939)|
Narmad Gold Medal (1943)
Uma-Sneharashmi Award (1963-64-65)
Jnanpith Award (1967)
Sahitya Akademi Award (1973)
|Death:||19th December 1988 (aged 77), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India|
Early Life of Umashankar Joshi:
Umashankar Joshi was born on 21st July 1911 in Bamla village, located in Idar taluk of Sabarkantha district. His father’s name was Jethalal and his mother’s name was Nawalben. He was the third of a total of nine children. In 1937, Umashankar Joshi got married to Jyotsnaben and they had two daughters together named Nandini and Swati.
Umashankar Joshi studied up to standard four in Bamana. But as there were no further educational facilities available there, he went to Eider for further studies. He studied with Pannalal Patel in the hostel till standard seven. He then passed his matriculation examination from Gujarat College in Ahmedabad in 1928. From 1928 to 1930, he pursued higher studies in Gujarat College, Ahmedabad.
During his intermediate years, he joined the Satyagrahi struggle. In the last six months of 1931, Kakasaheb Kalelkar became the last resident of Gujarat Vidyapith. Umashankar Joshi participated in the Satyagraha struggle until 1934.
In 1936, he completed his Bachelor’s degree in History and Economics from Ahmedabad. He then went on to complete his Master’s degree in Gujarati and Sanskrit from Elphiston College, Mumbai in 1938. He passed the exam in first class.
Career as a Writer:
In 1936, while continuing his studies, Umashankar Joshi joined Goklibai High School in Vileparle, Mumbai as a teacher. In 1938, he worked as a lecturer at Sydenham College. He settled in Ahmedabad in 1939 and worked as a teacher and researcher of Gujarati in the postgraduate class of Gujarat Vidyasabha, Ahmedabad until 1946. He started the monthly magazine ‘Sanskriti’ in 1947. He served as a voluntarily appointed traveling teacher until 1953.
Inspired by the nature of the hilly region and the social life, fairs, and festivals of the villages in North Gujarat where he was born, Joshi developed a strong connection to his roots. Upon joining Mahatma Gandhi’s freedom movement, he gained a deeper understanding of history and the wider spectrum of societal issues.
In his work, Joshi sought to address the many manifest forms of violence in the 20th century, from social inequality to the challenges of nuclear war. Throughout his life, he published poetry, short stories, one-act plays, essays, travelogues, character sketches, books of criticism, and numerous articles on education, society, politics, and contemporary affairs. He edited the magazine ‘Sanskriti’ for nearly four decades (1947-1984). Under the auspices of the Gangotri Trust, which he founded, he also published translations of books in Indian and foreign languages.
Joshi was an integral part of the public life of Gujarat and the country for more than half a century. He served as a Professor of Gujarati at Gujarat University, Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University, Member of the Rajya Sabha, President of the Sahitya Akademi, and was a member of several literary, cultural, and educational institutions in the country.
Umashankar Joshi poems
- “Dharti na Dukhama” (In the Pain of the Earth)
- “Himalayano Pravas” (Journey to the Himalayas)
- “Nishith” (Night)
- “Janmabhoomi” (Birthplace)
- “Chitralipi” (Handwriting)
- “Vasantotsava” (Spring Festival)
- “Ghazal” (Ghazal)
- “Adwaita” (Non-Dualism)
- “Atma-nivedan” (Self-Surrender)
- “Mela” (Fair)
Umashankar Joshi Books list
- “Vishwashanti” – his first poetry collection published at the age of 20
- “Nishith” – a poetry anthology that won him the Jnanpith Award in 1968
- “Gangotri” – a collection of philosophical poetry
- “Atithya” – a collection of poems about hospitality and friendship
- “Vasantvarsha” – a collection of poems about the arrival of spring
- “Abhijna” – a collection of poems that explore the mysteries of life
- “Satapada” – a collection of poems about the journey of life
- “Dharavastra” – a collection of poems about the human psyche and emotions
- “Ek Chusayelo Gotlo” – a collection of poems about the struggle for independence
- “Prachina” – a verse drama based on the Mahabharata
- “Mahaprasthan” – a verse drama that explores the concept of death and afterlife
- “Parka Jeyya” – a novel that examines the conflicts between tradition and modernity
- “Samgr Kavita” – a compilation of all his poetry collections
- “Shravani Melo” – a collection of short stories
- “Ishan Bharat” – a collection of essays on Indian culture and civilization.
Umashankar Joshi Books & Poems
Umashankar Joshi, a renowned Indian writer and poet, published his first poetry collection “Vishwashanti” at the age of 20. The collection conveyed the message of world peace. One of his most famous works, the poetry anthology “Nishith” (God of Midnight), won him the Jnanpith Award in 1968. Other notable poetry collections include “Gangotri,” “Atithya,” “Vasantvarsha,” “Abhijna,” “Satapada,” and “Dharavastra,” which have been compiled under the title “Samgr Kavita.” Joshi’s yearning for independence is evident in the collection “Ek Chusayelo Gotlo.”
Joshi’s works also include verse dramas such as “Prachina” and “Mahaprasthan,” solo collections like “Sapna Bhara,” “Shaheed,” and “Haveli,” and a novel, “Parka Jeyya.” He was also a talented storyteller, with notable works such as “Shravani Melo,” “Three Ardhu Be,” “Antaraya,” and “Visamo.” He was known for his insightful essays and research articles, including “Gujarat in the Puranas,” “Akho,” “Gujarat in Puranas,” “Samayrang,” “Ishan Bharat,” and “Tahukya Mor in Andaman.”
In addition to his original works, Joshi also translated various works, including “Gule Poland,” “Uttarramcharit,” “Shakuntal,” and “Ekottar Shati.” His other writings include the contemplative article “Ishavasyopanishad,” the travel article “Europayatra” (English), and children’s songs like “So Varasano Tha.”
Awards won by Umashankar Joshi:
- Ranjitram Suvarnachandrak in 1939
- Narmad Gold Medal in 1947
- Uma-Sneharshmi Award in 1963
- Jnanpith Award for his anthology “Nishith” in 1967, making him the first Gujarati writer to receive this award
- Soviet Land Nehru Award in 1973
- Gaurav Award of Vishwa Gurjari in 1981.
Umashankar Joshi Gyanpeeth Award:
Umashankar Joshi was awarded the Jnanpith Award, one of India’s highest literary honors, in 1967 for his contribution to Indian literature, particularly Gujarati poetry. The Jnanpith Award is presented annually by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, a literary and cultural organization in India, to recognize outstanding contributions to literature in any of the official languages of India. Joshi’s literary works were deeply rooted in Indian philosophy and mythology, and his poetry was noted for its lyrical beauty, metaphysical depth, and philosophical insights. His Jnanpith Award is a testament to his immense literary talent and contribution to the literary landscape of India.
Memberships/Positions Held by Umashankar Joshi
- Umashankar Joshi became a member of the National Book Trust in 1965.
- He was appointed to the Central Language Advisory Committee in 1966.
- Joshi served as the Chancellor of Gujarat University for two terms from 1966.
- In 1968, he was elected as the President of the Gujarati Sahitya Parishad.
- From 1979 to 1981, he was also appointed as the Chancellor of the Vishwabharati Institute in Calcutta.
- Joshi was a member of the Rajya Sabha during 1970-1976.
- From 1978 to 1982, he served as the President of the Sahitya Akademi Award.
- From 1978 to 1983, he held the position of President of Delhi Sahitya Akademi.
Umashankar Joshi passed away on December 19, 1988, at the age of 77, due to cancer in Mumbai, Maharashtra. With his death, a bright light in the world of Gujarati literature was extinguished
Some interesting facts about Umashankar Joshi:
- Umashankar Joshi’s name is written in the history of Gujarati literature as one of the best poets of the Gandhi era, with the epithet of “Suvanim Akshar”.
- Joshi wrote stories under the pen name “Vasuki”.
- At the young age of 20, his first collection of poetry, “Vishwashanti”, was published.
- He made history as the first Gujarati writer to receive the Jnanpith Award in 1967, for his collection of poems, “Nishith”.
- Joshi is known as the “Poet of World Peace”.
- He wrote poems in the form of “Sat Samvad”, taking inspiration from the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Katha, and other such works.
- Joshi ran a monthly publication called “Sanskruti” for 37 years.
- Joshi and Pannalal Patel studied together at Eder.
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