Saturday, December 26, 2009

Harimohan Jha: Renaissance men of Maithili Literature

Harimohan Jha, Renaissance man of the language of great Vidyapati and Jyotireshwar Thakur was born on September 18, 1908, third after two elder sisters and among four sisters and two brother, his father Pandit Janardan Jha “Janshidan” was a great scholar and had credit of being first novelist in Maithil language besides ushering it to the modern pattern of literary craft. His maternal uncle Pandit Chandramani Kumar was hailing from the famous ruling Oinwar dynasty although prosperity had been diminished till the Janardan Jha had attained the age to enter in worldly affairs.

So, that phase was full of anxiety for Janardan Jha until he was conferred patronage by the king of Srinagar (A Zamindari in Mithila region, modern Purnia district), Kamlanand Singh in 1901 who had been from generations relentlessly constituted the fabulous environment for art, culture and literature by awarding similar patronage to the luminaries of different field. Meanwhile Janardan Jha also established a regular correspondence with the Mahavir Prasad Dwivedi than the editor of pioneering Hindi magazine “Saraswati”; further he also penned for this magazine on several occasions, these curricular inheritance proved very beneficial in shaping of the mind of young Harimohan Jha who since his childhood developed great literary taste under the visionary guidance and proximity of his father.

In 1919, Janardan Jha was appointed as editor of “Mithila Mihir” (under Patronage of the Darbhanga Raj) and moved to Darbhanga where he remained until 1922; these years were formative for the child Harimohan as he saw and involved in top-notch contemporary scholaric circle of Darbhanga Raj. He was an avid informal learner from both the oral tradition as well as from modern practices; consequently he became able to produce his first published work “Ajib Bandar” at the little age of twelve and even before his formal joining of school straight to the standard tenth at G.B.B Collegiate School in Muzzapharpur in 1923.

Then, guardianships were formidable and conventions usually considered conspicuous, so he had to married at the juvenile age of sixteen in 1924. Next year, he passed Matriculation with first class distinction from the prestigious Patna University, than still Bihar and Orissa was a combined state. Meanwhile, his father moved to Calcutta (1923) in search of livelihood and literary pursuits, albeit it was an emotional jolt over him nevertheless he constructively surpassed it and secured first class first in Combined State Intermediate Examination (1927) with complex subjects like-Sanskrit, Logic and History.

Further he moved to Patna College for his university education and became a resident of historic Minto hostel, this time he experimented with his field of studies and opted subjects like-English (Honours), Philosophy and Sanskrit for under graduation. Then his Alma matter, Patna University was witnessing its golden time and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration that he too significantly epitomized the glorious story of this institution-both as student and later faculty throughout his long professional stint. Although till then, the British colonialism was on the brink of decline, despite this, the usual characteristics of elitist education were still in place.

During those days, the principle of Patna College was Mr. Horn and warden of Minto hostel was Mr. Armer who was also the head of English department and ofcourse one more person A.P.Banerjee Shastri, who was despite being a teacher of Sanskrit, entirely accustomed in anglicized manners. Common things of these educationists were their hard discipline and focused approach for their role; in their inquisitions, they found young entrant Harimohan Jha with full of potential and snobbish qualities. These impressions raised his chance to groom to a height in both academic and extra-curricular activities.

Very soon he headed College team in All India Debate Competition in Allahabad where he topped and honoured to receive the prize from non other than the great educationist and doyen of Allahabad University-Sir Ganga Nath Jha, who was then the Vice-Chancellor of this University. In 1929, he earned his graduation in second class albeit in entirely juxtaposed situation, where he received distinction in Philosophy but on the other side due to wrong time management and over answering he couldn’t maintain his erstwhile performances-possibly his scholaric commitment had outwitted the numeral incentives. Although he performed at his next stage in fine swing and succeeded to secure gold meddle at this academic ladder (M.A, 1932) in the special discipline of Philosophy.

Meanwhile, his father had back from the city of Calcutta and was in deep concern for son’s future prospects. So far, Darbhanga had been still availing the great fortune at many counts- likewise vibrant entrepreneurship and intellectualities were both in place. Ramlochan Sharan, a very remarkable man and founder-owner of PUSHTAK BHANDAR, created an unparalleled hangout for book-lovers and scholars. For a considerable time, his shop remained in fine pace albeit now it’s a matter of historical inquiries-Janardan Jha; father of Harimohan Jha was an ingredient component of that literary circle which greatly benefited the budding scholarships of Harimohan Jha.

He spent his transitive time in Darbhanga in close association with Pushtak Bhandar, until he joined Bihar National College in 1933; afterwards a very glittering career was waiting for him. The year 1933 was also proved epoch making for Maithili literature and for that, big contribution goes to Harimohan Jha, since his magnum-opus novel “Kanyadan (Marriage)” stroked with the unprecedented wave of response from literary circle as well as of common folks and later it became a household name. It’s worthwhile to notice that, this book he had penned during his undergraduate years in Patna University and even at the time of release he was only in his mid twenties.

This novel proved milestone of success in Maithili literature besides in popularity and reach, it remains unparalleled for everyone including of Harimohan Jha himself whose own successive works have been trailing much behind from such precedent mark. Though he adopted satirical canopy to express his dissatisfaction with the prevailing starkness and ignorance in the life of Maithili women; female protagonist “Buchhi Dai’s” feeble awareness of worldly knowledge reflects the grim situation of education and progressive approaches in contemporary Maithili society.

Her devoid persona from the expectation of young University student groom “C.C.Mishra” earmarked the narration of entire further text, obviously to an extent, it was Harimohan Jha’s own experience that compelled him to write for female emancipation; only he slightly changed the locale and used Banaras Hindu University as Alma matter of protagonist instead of Patna University where he went through the feelings and conceptualization of his rock-solid thoughts for “Kanyadan”. Legendary mark of his first work encouraged him for its sequel “Dwiragman”, which came in 1949 and proved equally sensational since it was seen as footprint of women’s emancipation.

Harimohan Jha was the men of focus and also endowed with the gifted multitasking instinct, so he also remarkably contributed to the stream of philosophy-“Nyay Darshan” in 1940 and “Vaisheshik Drshan” in 1943 was his remarkable contribution in that phase, it’s essential to find that along with the superb pace of writing, he equally stood with his familiar responsibility. He kept these flamboyance till 1960 and produced iconic works like-“Pranamya Devta (1945)”, “Khattar Kakak Tarang (1948)”, “Rangsala (1949)”, “Tirth Yatra (1953)”, “Charchari (1960)”, “Nigman Tarkshastra (1952)”, “Bhartiya Darshan (Translation, 1953).

This vigorous phase was of dual reality for him as had been availing great success in literary and academic circle, but on the other side he also struck through tragedies-sad demise of nephew (1947), brother (1949), father (1951), all these unexpected jolt weakened him internally and also weaken the pace of writing. In the 1950’s, he was promoted to the rank of head of Philosophy department, and later University professor. Moreover, his extra-ordinary pursuits also helped him being nominated as council member of Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR); in these new roles, he actively attended numbers of seminars-conferences and produced significant papers in his academic discipline.

His wife Subhadra Jha, who was an esteemed lady with progressive ideas, had co-incidentally also shown her utmost interest for the development of Maithili language and literature; in this regard, she even headed to Delhi in 1955 as entourage of a delegation from Patna to attend a cultural festival in Akashwani (All India Radio) besides she also maneuvered with path finding act to enter on stage through “Chetana Samiti) in 1958…than such progressiveness was not less than a phenomenon for Maithil ladies. Prevailing conservatism was the cause of Harimohan Jha’s anguish which he thought as reason behind discriminatory dual treatment on the narrow line of gender in contemporary Maithil society, that concern always pushed him for activism against these mindsets, both in the ambit of writing and academic sphere.

His gifted oration greatly benefited him to deliver the monumental lectures on wide range of subjects across the Universities of India and Nepal; in 1948- Oriental Conference of Darbhanga, his candid elocution on social conservatism was indeed a daring step in contemporary socio-political order. He was true repository of verbal intelligence and had equal commitment for verses; he composed numerous meaningful poems to unleash those especialties as well as the prevailing social starkness of that time. His poems like-“Maach”, “Dhala Jha”, “Buchkun Baba”, “Pandit o Mem”, “Pandit” etc were constructed through vigorous energy and had wide catchment areas as Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was greatly influenced through his poetic intellect which he noticed during chairing an exhibition cum poetry recitation from Maithili books in Delhi,1963-he avidly tried to comprehend the meaning of many complex Maithili terms from a towering political colleague from Bihar and than Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mr. Satya Narayan Singh.

Indeed Harimohan Jha consolidated great moments in Maithili literature along with his contemporaries-Baidyanath Mishra “Yatri” (Nagarjun), Fanishwar Nath “Renu”, Rajkamal Chaudhary, Lalit, Dhumketu etc through great literary activities in their lifetime. It would be proper, if this period could be recalled as golden time of this ancient language. He kept his creative fervor till the end of his life, his research work “Trends of Linguistic Analysis in Indian Philosophy (Post retirement) justifies his perfectionist commitment. The only regret of his creative life remaind the cinematic adaptation of his magnum-opus novel“Kanyadan”-its alien direction and cold response from viewers further restrained him to allow such more experiments.

Things were in good shape until the death of mother Janani Devi (1975) at the age of 92; just a year after he met with an unfortunate tragedy by losing his loving grandson (Daman Jee), merely at the age of six in 1976 which entirely shattered him in old age. That adversity hit him so pathetically, further he couldn’t survive for long; he passed away in late nineteen eighties in the city of Darbhanga at the residence of his son-in-law Prof. Shailendra Mohan Jha. Harimohan Jha was a man with great family values which he did uphold throughout his life and spent even his last years in same light amidst his dear ones and was solaced to see his next generations’ involvement in literature.

Son, Rajmohan Jha and son-in-law Shailendra Mohan Jha lightened the further ray of hope in this regard; they succeeded with some qualities of Harimohan Jha and came out with some of matured literary pieces. Harimohan Jha, had an additional quality of editing which he displayed in “Jayanti Smarak” (Pushtak Bhandar, 1942) along with the Acharaya Shivpujan Sahay and Achutanand Datta; this work is so unique in some way. That it’s become sacrosanct during the in-depth historical inquiries of Mithila region; this work is full with the vital insights in fine compilation. Indeed his vision has relentless universal values and would remain undeniable with his prolific literary contributions-numbers of novels, dozens of stories and poetries, numerous articles, memoir, travelogue etc are suffice to sensitize the minds of every enthusiast in the area of Maithili literature.

His literary journey was closer to the soul-searching of his loving region…he precisely tried to cover all intricacies such as-life style, food habits, humors, oral tales, pseudo characters, ignorance, intellects, pastorals lives etc through a new dynamicism and vigour, which pushed the inferences straight to the mind of his readers. He was very much a fun loving, food loving and great oral traditionist with the amazing philosophical command over “Mimansa” (a philosophical arm, originated from Mithila)…”khattar Kakkak Tarang” is best outcome with those experimental metaphors which justifies the Maithil’s beliefs in their social life; such close inquiries of life style is even difficult to canvass in voluminous philosophical work. For true finding on Mithila region, one must go to the literary world of Harimohan Jha where tells are contrast to idleness and closer to the dynamic lives.

Atul Kumar Thakur
December26th 2009, New Delhi


  1. It was nice to read about the great literaturer Harimohan Jha...he was true depository of qualities.Thanks for sharing with us...
    Amit Jha,Patna

  2. Hello I just read an article by you about Harimohan Jha. Although he was a relative I did not know all this about him. This article is pretty impressive and eye opening. I just wanted to thankyou for writing it in so much detail.

  3. can u please tell where i can get/buy his books in maithili language in delhi.

  4. Brilliant Atul Ji!!!!! I need one information. One Philosophy Professor from JNU told me that Hari Mohan Jha authored a book in Hindi on History of Modern Western Philosophy. Any idea? Please let me know and help me locating the book also.

    1. Can you please let me know name of the professor ?

  5. Lovely . written in a literary informative grace with full of professional accumen . please tell me where could I purchase these classics in delhi., Jay, JNU