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Kusumagraj

Kusumagraj

The soil of this holy city still has the aroma of Jnanpith, pronounced as Dhyanpeeth, brought here by the great Natsamrat in 1987. This worshiper of literature is Vishnu Vaman Shirvadkar alias Kusumagraj. He has significantly contributed to the sphere of Maharashtrian literature and that’s why he is believed as pride of Marathi Literature.

Kusumagraj was one of the greatest personalities of Marathi and Indian literature. Though born in Pune, he spent most of his life in Nasik and considered himself as a Nasikkar. A playwright, poet, short story writer and a novelist, his works like Vishaka have been masterpiece of Indian literature. Such is the popularity of Kusumagraj that World Marathi Day is celebrated on his birthday, i.e. 27 February. 

Kusumagraj was born on 27th Feb, 1912 in Pune and his initial name was Gajanan Ranganath Shirwadkar. He later took the name Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar, after he was adopted by his uncle Vaman Shirwadkar. Kusumagraj did his primary schooling from Pimpalgaon, a town near Nasik and did his high school education from Rungtha School, Nasik.

At the age of 20 he took part in a non-violent march called the Satyagraha to compel the priest of a local prominent temple in Nashik to allow the Harijans (then untouchables) to free access in the Kalaram temple. All through his life he led and participated in many such movements in Nashik to counter social or political injustice of various kinds.

Kusumagraj went on to publish the Jeevanlahari when he was in his twenties, which was his first collection of poems. He also got involved in Marathi Cinema in Nashik, where he wrote his first script for ‘Sati Sulochana’, where he also acted for the same. He then turned to journalism for some time and then came back in 1942 to produce his master piece poetry compilation, Vishakha, for which he came to known as the father figure of Marathi literature. His compilation was published and funded by Vishnu Sakharam Khandekar. The compilation came at some point in the Quit India Movement and carrying message of freedom for which it gained vast popularity. He then adapted the play of Moliere, Maurice Maeterlinck, Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare into Marathi Theater. He then came through with another masterpiece in 1970 called Natasamrat.

Kusumagraj’s work always reflected a changing social environment, from national uprising during the freedom struggle, to the era of post independence, stepping up the social consciousness of Marathi writers and also marking the advent of contemporary Dalit literature.

In 1987, Kusumagraj was awarded the Jnanpith Award, which is the prestigious literary honor in India. In 1974 he was also awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for his adaption of King Lear. In 1985, he received the Ram Ganesh Gadkari Award by the All India Natya Parishad. In 1988 he was awarded the Sangeet Natya Lekhan Award. In 1986 he was conferred an honorary degree on D.Litt by Pune University.

He died on March 10, 1999 in Nashik, after he had founded the Kusumāgraj Pratishthān to encourage diverse cultural activities, helping those who belonged to culturally suppressed communities.

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