Acharya Surendra Jha 'Suman' (1910-2002)
Acharya Surendra Jha 'Suman' was born at Ballipur (Samastipur) in1910. His father Bhubaneswar Jha was an Ayurvedic practitioner. Traditionally the family belonged to Sanskrit Scholars. He was educated at Dharmaraj Sanskrit College, Muzaffarpur and was a graduate in literature (Sahityacharya) and was also a Kavyatirtha (Bengal).
He was an erudite Scholar and a sensitive poet. He was one of the most illustrious Litterateur of Maithili of our times. He was a multi faceted personality. He was a poet of poets, an experienced journalist, Sanskrit scholar and a politician. He was an elected member of Bihar Legislative Assembly. Later on he was elected as a member to Indian Parliament He was a strong pillar of modern Maithili language. He prepared a band of devoted Maithili scholars and trained them to write in the various genres. He has a facile pen and master artist .He wrote in Maithili, Hindi, Sanskrit and English. Lyrical poetry was his forte. He has to his credit about 35 collected works. His self-effacing nature deserves emulation by others of his like. He was the Head of the department of Maithili in Bihar University.
This prolific writer, both in the realm of prose and poetry, has a superb command over the language and this qualification brought him a reward from the then President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Besides the Sahitya Akademi award, in 1981 Maithili Akademi, Patna Awarded him Vidyapati Puraskar.
He was the Maithili representative in Sahitya Akademi and a member of its Maithili advisory board. He was president of All India Maithili Sahitya Parishad. He was associated with Vaidehi Samiti Darbhanga also.
He occupies a very prominent place in the modern Maithili literature. His choice of words, alliterations, metaphor and similes, use of prosody and description of seasons, are unique in modern Maithili literature.
His Payasvini (1969), a collection of 25 poems about beauty of nature, colorful imagery and simplicity of rural life has won for him the Sahitya academy award for 1971.Here we find metrical experiment to metaphor. He dedicated this work to his contemporary writers namely Sitaram Jha, Kavisekhar Badrinath Jha and Bhola lal Das.
Payasvini is based on the idea of comparing poetry with a milch cow, as described in the Prithvisukta of Atharvaved and Brihadaranyakopnishad, where Vakdhenu has been described in Vth chapter VIIIth Brahman.
Here Pavas (Rainy Season) is as good asTamasi, Mrityunjaya and milch cow and the river has been compared with rasvanti (charming succulent woman), vanita (woman) and kavita (poetry). The mountain has been compared with an old man, a youth and a child.
Sumanji's poetry Dattavati (1962) describes the Chinese aggression and contains patriotic fervour as in Bharat vandana (1970) and Antarnad (1970).
His Uttara (1980) is a Khandakavya (miniepic) the story has been taken from the Mahabharat it doesn't focuses the compactness of the character of Uttara only. In fact his style and verve of poetry is loaded with Sanskrit words, simile, Alankar and imagery of old Sanskrit poetry hence at times not relished by modern readers, not much acquainted with Sanskrit prosody.
His publications include Pratipada (1948). The very name suggests the new start, a new direction in Maithili poetry. Its introduction and dedication is also in poems. All the other 16 poems were composed before India achieved independence. It expresses suffocation felt by the poet under foreign rule. Similarly Kavitak Ahvan shows poetic inspiration and patriotic fervour. Samsan shows philosophical reflection on the cremation ground. The favorite topics of Sanskrit poets are treated with new imagery in Asadhasya pratham divase, Yamuna, Asuryampasya and Sharad. Similarly, the poet exalts the feelings of 'Haldhar' (ploughman) of today, higher than Balaram and Janaka of the Yore days of Dwapar and Treta...
His 'Ode to Tree' can favorably be compared with anyone of the best lyrics of any literature. Here he compares and admires the services, dedication and sacrifices of 'Tree' to mankind and associates them with those of an ascetic. Yugnirman visualises the future and Uktipratyukti reaches out to the heart of the down trodden. All these poems have since been collected in his anthologies of poems 'Pratipada'which is a landmark in modern Maithili.
His other collections of poetry areSaon-Bhado (1965), Archana (1961), Kathayuthika (1976) and many others. His Lalana Lahari (1969) is a vivid description of the peculiar characteristics of love making by girls of different provinces of India
His song in praise of the Ganga in Gangavtaran (1967) is superb.
He has made himself memorable by writing on a number of topics. With his steadfast adherence to classical poise and dignity has produced literature of permanent value.
His excellent poetic qualities can be seen in the following lines: -
"The jungles on all sides are thick with the smell of Bakul flower; the Ketaki flower has filled the wind and made it dense.
In every home the she-peacock is dancing;
Everybody's eyes feast upon the dark clouds (meaning also Lord Krishna), but it is in my home alone where the flame of love remains unquenched.
This is the young lady of Alaka agonized on account of unrequited love."
(A Survey Of Maithili Literature-R.K.Choudhary Pp.199)
As a translator in to Maithili he has chosen both poetry and prose. Mainly he translated from Bengali and Sanskrit. His translations from Bengali are: -
Sarat Chandra's Baradidi (Barakidai)
Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali (1969)
and Rabindra Nibandhabali(1994)
From Sanskrit: -
Puruspariksha of Vidyapati
Vedic hymns (Richalok, 1970)
Sankaracharya's Anand Lahari (1969)
and Saundarya Lahari (1972)
Durgasaptasati (Chandicharya, 1950)
Shivamahimna Strotra (1969)
Kalidas's Raghuvamsa (1970) and Ritusamhar
Sringar Tilak (1969)
Sumanji has also tried on fiction writing. In fact one of his short stories 'Brihaspatik Shes' (The inauspicious afternoon of Thursday) has been popular. He published his first anthology of short stories Kathamukhi. His novel 'Uganak Diyadvad ' deals with the Khavas (bonded labour) system of feudalistic society and the changes occurring in society in the light of modernity.
His contribution as a journalist is more remarkable. He edited erstwhile edition of the Mithila Mihir (Old edition)
His calibre as an editor can be seen in the Mithilank of Mithila Mihir published in 1935.He has also edited: -
Swadesh first a monthly and then a daily. He has the credit to bring out first daily in Maithili, for which he suffered a heavy loss, spent his provident fund and devoted time and labour to publish this daily newspaper.
He successfully edited Prachi, a periodical published by Sahitya Akademi, regional office, Kolkata.It consisted of English translation of literature published in eastern India, namely, Assamese, Bengali, Maithili, Manipuri, Nepali and Oriya.
He was the editor of a popular monthly magazine named Vaidehi first a fortnightly and later on published monthly.
He compiled Maithili Prachin Geet (1977) a research work with Dr. Ramdev Jha.His other research work includes, a critical study, Maithili Kavya Par Sanskritak Prabhav (1977)
He also published abridged edition of Lal Das's Ramayana and Chanda Jha's Ramayana.
He has written the biographies of Maithili writer Kumar Ganganand Singh(1991) and Mahakavi Raghunandan Das(1996)
He also brought out Jyotiriswar's Varnaratnakar.
He edited Anand Vijaya (1971) by Ramdas Jha, And Umapati Upadhyay's Parijat Haran (1965), dramas of medieval period and Manbodha's Krishnajanma (1970), a Khanda kavya.
He compiled and edited an anthology of one act play, Ekanki Sangrah (1970) with Manipadma and Sudhansu Sekhar Choudhary.
He died on 6 March 2002 at the age of 92 years. The whole Maithili world is bereaved . The loss is irreparable.