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Ray, Annada Sankar

Annada Sankar Ray

Ray, Annada Sankar (1904-2002) novelist, essayist, poet, thinker, bureaucrat. He was born on 15 March 1904, a Shakta family of Dhenkanal, a native state of Orissa. He is popularly known as the last representative of the intelligentsia of the Bengal Renaissance of the previous century. His father was Nimaicharan Ray and mother Hemnalini. His ancestral home was in Kotarang village under Hugli district of West Bengal.

The ancestors of Annada Sankar were liberal, humanist and secular. The family was culturally rich and they cultivated literary activities. His grandfather Srinath Ray, father Nimaicharan Ray and his uncle Harishchandra Ray were all dedicated to literature. They were also patrons of art and culture. Together with a friend, Nimaicharan translated ‘Xri Chaitanya Charitamrita’ in Oriya language. Annada Sankar’s mother Hemnalini hailed from a noted family of Katak. She was inclined in Vaishnavism. Annada Sankar spent his childhood in a different environment of eastern and western culture.

Annada Sankar Ray started his education in the primary school of Dhenkanal. In 1921, he passed Matriculation examination from Dhenkanal High School and got admission in Katak Ravenshaw College under Patna University. In 1923, he stood first in IA examination of Patna University. In 1925, he stood first class first in BA Honors examination in English Literature from Patna University. While studying MA in English, he appeared in ICS examination in 1927 and topped the list of Indian Civil Service examinees. As a part of his early training as an ICS, he had been to the University College of London, Kings College, London School of Economics and London School of Oriental Studies.'

Upon completion of training, Annada Sankar returned home in 1929 and joined as an Assistant Magistrate in Baharampur of Murshidabad district. He served in various positions from 1929 to 1947, spent nine years of his professional life in West Bengal and nine years in East Bengal. During this period he worked in both administrative and judicial services. As a Magistrate and Judge, he worked in Murshidabad, Bankura, Rajshahi, Chittagong, Dhaka, Mymensingh, Kushtia, Nadiya, Tripura, Medinipur, Hugli and Howrah districts of undivided Bengal. After the partition of India in 1947, the life of the British Indian Civil Service ended, and Annada Sankar continued his service as a member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and served in the administrative and judicial departments of the government of West Bengal. Following a conflict with the superior authority regarding political and communal issues, he submitted resignation letter in 1950 and got exemption from the position of Secretary, Judicial department in 1951.

After resigning from civil service, Annada Sankar settled down in Santiniketan. The sacrifice of Bengali people on 21 February 1952 (Language Movement), who fought for the dignity of their mother language made a deep impression on him. Later in 1953, he organized a historic Literary Conference (Sahitya Mela) in santiniketan and invited the renowned writers and intellectuals of East and West Bengal.'

Annada Sankar was a man of versatile genius. He appeared as a writer of Oriya literature at the age of twenty. He wrote his first poem in Oriya language. In his early life, he published a hand-written magazine in Oriya titled Prova. Though he was skilled in Bengali, English, Oriya, Sanskrit and Hindi languages, ultimately he chose Bengali as the medium of his literary writings. In school, he got the opportunity to read the magazines and journals, such as: Shishu, Sandesh, Mauchak, Sabujpatra, Prabashi, Modern Review etc. At the age of thirteen, he became the subscriber of the magazine Epiphany, published from Oxford, and his article would publish in the same magazine.

The magazine sabujpatra, edited by pramatha chowdhury was the inspiration of Annada Sankar to be a writer. rabindranath tagore and Pramatha Chowdhury were the two major contributors of Sabujpatra. Their philosophy of life and literary style made deep impression on Annada Sankar's literary spirit. On the other hand, Tolstoy was his role model. Tolstoy's devotion to truth and Rabindranath's love for beauty made him attracted by them. He translated the story of Tolstoy- 'Three Questions' in Bengali, when he was sixteen years old, and it was published in Prabasi in 1920. The topic of his first original writing in Bengali language was on Women Rights and Independence (an appraisal of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's essay Narir Mulya), which was published in the distinguished journal Bharati. Besides Rabindranath himself got impressed to read the article of Annada Sankar on his drama raktakarabi. Annada's first published article Tarunya (Youthfulness) was appeared in the journal Bichitra in 1928, which gave him a footing as an essayist. The travel narrative Pathe Prabase, based on the experience of his Europe trip made a significant breakthrough in his literary career and he established himself as a writer in Bengali literature. Pathe Prabase was published serially from 1927 to 1929 in the journal Bichitra, edited by Upendranath Ganguli. At the same time, his diary Europer Chithi (Letter of Europe) was published in the magazine Mouchak. Annada Sankar did not belong to any literary group, though he wrote for the magazines Kallol, kalikalam and Parichay on request of the respective editors. He had a close connection to the writers of Kallol, Kalikalam era and the pioneers of Buddhir Mukti Andolan and Shikha Group.

Annada Sankar Ray enriched Bengali literature through his profound essays, novels, short stories, travel narratives, rhymes, poems, plays, letters and autobiographical essays for about seventy years reflecting his life-long experience. He wrote as many as twenty two novels. His first published novel is Aagun Niye Khela (Playing with Fire-1930). He wrote the first epic novel of Bengali literature published in six volume entitled Satyasatya (True on the Surface) chronologically named as: Jaar Jetha Desh (1932), Aggyatobash (1933), Kalabkaboti (1934), Duhkhamochan (1936), Martyer Swarga (1940), Apasaran (1942). Other prominent novels of Annada Sankar are: Asamapika (1931), Putul Niye Khela (1933), Na (1951), Konya (1953), Ratna O Xrimati in three volume (1st vol.1956, 2nd vol.1958, 3rd vol.1972), Sukh (1961), Bishalyakarani (1967), Trishnar Jol (1969), Raaj Atithi (1978) and Krantadarshi, published in four volume (1st vol.1984, 2nd vol.1985, 3rd vol.1985, 4th vol. 1986). His 6-volume epic novel 'Satyasatya' brought a different trend of intellectual novels in Bengali literature. In the vast canvas of this novel, he focused on the complexity of modern life, social, philosophical and political ideas and opinions, modern concept of conjugal life, and a greater perspective of time and space. His universal observation, consciousness regarding the transformation of civilization and humanistic outlook are the inheritance of rabindranath tagore. He followed this trend in the novel Krantadarshi too. This epic novel completed in four volume surveys the history of nineteenth century from the Indian perspective. It contains the course of events, such as: the advent of Second World War to August Movement, the Great Famine of Bengal in the 1940s, the triangle politics of the British and Congress-Muslim League, Hindu-Muslim riots, Partition of India, Quit of the British Raj and the killing of Mahatma Gandhi by the Hindu Maharashtrian. Annada Sankar was the pioneer of 'epic novel' in Bengali. He acquired the concept of 'epic novel' from Jean Christophe of Romain Rolland. The technique of Annada Sankar's novel is Monolithic, and multitude of perceptions is his special characteristic in the novels. In addition, he wrote a number of short stories. His remarkable compilation of short stories are: Prakritir Parihas (1934), Du kaan Kata (1944), Hasonsakhi (1945), Monpaban (1946), Joubanjvala (1950), Kaminikavchan (1954), Ruper Dai (1958), Galpo (1960), Katha (1971), Kahini (1980), Shreshtha Galpo (1984) and Galposamagra (1999).

Annada Sankar's literary creation is multifarious. His prolific writings crossed the time both in style and his inner vision, characterized by his multifaceted thoughts and ideas. His prose writings are enriched with diverse topics like history, theory of literature, philosophy, society and culture, politics and the events of contemporary world. As an essayist, he was the perfect successor of Bankim Chandra and Rabindranath. In spite of being a writer of Rabindra era, his style was different. He was the symbol of liberal thinking, idealism and virtuousness. Throughout his life, he wrote against the partition of India, riots and communalism. His essays are the synthesis of imagination and rationalism, love and conscience, devotion to native country, universal thinking and his scientific attitude.

Annada Sankar's most remarkable essays are: Tarunya (1928), Aamra (1937), Jeebanshilpi (1941), Deshkalpatra (1949), Protyay (1951), Adhunikata (1953), Sahitye Sangkat (1955), Kanthaswar (1956), Rabindranath (1962), Prabandha (1964), Art (1968), Gandhi (1970), Pran Raksa O Bangsha Raksar Adhikar (1970), Banglar Renaissance (1974), Shiksar Sangkat (1976), Kando Priyo Desh (1976), Lalon O Tnar Gaan (1978), Bangladeshe (1979), Satkahon (1979), Tolstoy (1980), Swadhinatar Purbabhas 1980), Jaatiboira (1981), Shiksar Bhabishyat (1981), Sanghatir Sangkat (1984), Sangskritir Bibartan (1984), Shreshtha Prabandha (1986), Juktababger Smriti (1990), Sahityiker Jabanbondi (1996), Setubandhan (1996), Nabboi Periye (1996), Bidagdha Manas (1997), Muktabanger Smriti (1998), Rabindranath, Pramatha Chowdhury O Sabujpatra (1999), Sahitye Sangkat O Anyanya (2000), Aamar Kachher Manush (2001), Shatabdir Mukhe (2001), Aamar Bhalobashar Desh (2001) etc. In advanced age, his creative, artistic and exquisite essays got new dimension endowed with sense of justice, morality, rationality and conscience.'

The collection of Annada Sankar's rhymes are significant in the context of diverse topics. The themes of his rhymes contain social, political issues as well as the ordinary things, including the small creatures of animal kingdom. Through the rhymes, he pointed out the inconsistency of personal and social life of human being with intense irony, simple humour and genuine fun. He uplifted the neglected folk rhymes (Chhele Bhulano Chhara) to the level of aristocrat literature. Among his rhymes, the most significant one is 'Khoka O Khuku' ('Baby Boy and Baby Girl-1947). It has been tuned by the famous composer Salil Chowdhury and sung by many artists. His painful reaction of the Partition of India has been reflected sharply in this rhyme 'Teler shishi bhaabglo bole/ khukur pare raag karo/Tomra Je Shab Buro Khoka/ Bharat Bhebge Bhaag Karo. Tar BelaFoodgrain Many of his rhymes became popular song tuned by the eminent composers. The last rhyme he composed vocally was copied by Surajit Dasgupta. It was published in the Autumn volume of the magazine Sandesh in 2002 titled 'Oirabat'. Annada Sankar introduced Limerick in Bengali poem. He is the pioneer of diversification in modern rhymes. Collections of his famous rhymes are:' Urki Dhaner Murki (1942), Rabga Dhaner Khoi (1950), Dalim Gachhe Mou (1958), Shali Dhaner Chnire (1972), Ataa Gachhe Tota (1974), Kshir Nadir Kule (1980), Hattamalar Deshe (1980), Chharasamagra (First ed. 1981), Rabga Mathay Chiruni (First ed. 1985), Binni Dhaner Khoi (1989), Kolkata Panchali (1992), Chharasamagra (Second enlarged ed. 1993), Saat Bhai Champa (1994), Jadu E To Bara Rabgo (1994), Kheyal Khushir Chhara (1997), Dol Dol Duluni (1998) etc.

In between 1922 to 1926, Annada Sankar wrote 14 poems, 22 essays, one short story titled 'Swapna' and a number of letters in Oriya language. All these writings were published in the magazines Utkal Sahitya, Sahakar and Sabita, and later on complied in a book titled Sabuj Aksar (1966). He was associated with the Oriya literary group named 'Sabujdal'. His name is included in 'Sabuj Yug' chapter of Oriya literature. Moreover, the first three chapters of an Oriya novel titled Basanti (1931) was written by Annada Sankar. His contribution in Oriya language is being recognized and discussed with due respect.

Annada Sankar Ray wrote in English language also. These include Bengali Literature (1942), Flight and Pursuit (1968), Yes, I Saw Gandhi (1976), Companion on the Road (Translation of poems-1976), A Writer Speaks (1977), Woman and Other Stories (Translation of stories-1977), An Outline of Indian Culture (1978), Aspects of Indian Culture (1983), In Retrospect (1989), Tolstoy Goethe and Tagore (1999), Selected Short Stories (Translation of stories-1999).

Annada Sankar was remarkable orator. Among his most influential speeches include the areas of literature, culture, society, education and politics. Some of the speeches are compiled in book form. He delivered Convocation Lectures at North Bengal University (14 December 1971), Jadavpur University (29 December 1978), Visva-Bharati University (7 April 1989), University of Kalyani (9 May 1989), Kolkata University (17 February 1993) and Rabindra-Bharati University (7 Ma7 1994).

In 1930, Alice Virginia Orndorff, a learned woman of Texas came to India to pursue her study on music. She came in touch with Annada Sankar Ray and developed emotional relation with him and later Alice and Annada Sankar got married. During those days, Annada Sankar's pseudonym was 'Leelamoy Ray'. Rabindranath named Alice as 'Leela Ray'. Leela Ray had a great influence on Annada Sankar's life. She was also an author with literary talent, was skilled in various languages and earned fame as a translator. After the liberation of Bangladesh, Annada Sankar visited Bangladesh two times as a state guest, first time in 1974 and then in 1996.

Annada Sankar Ray was the founder member and Fellow of Sahitya Akademi in West Bengal. He was the pioneer and Chairman of Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi since its inception. Annada Sankar received various awards for his literary contributions. In 1979, Kolkata University conferred on him 'Jagattarini Award' and Visva-Bharati honoured him with 'Deshikottama'. He was awarded Honorary D.Litt by Bardwan University, Rabindra-Bharati University and Jadavpur University. He also received 'Sahitya Akademi Puraskar'(1962), 'Ananda Puraskar' (Twice-1983 and 1994), 'Vidyasagar Puraskar', 'Shiromani Puraskar' (1995), 'Rabindra Puraskar', 'Nazrul Puraskar', and the prestigious 'Zebunnisa Award' of Bangladesh. Annada Sankar died in Kolkata on 28 October' 2002. [Shahida Akhter]