The Kallol Era: A Glimpse into Bengali Modernism | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 25, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:41 AM, November 26, 2016

The Kallol Era: A Glimpse into Bengali Modernism

From the early 19th century, Bengal witnessed a change in its socio – cultural norms as the British Raj came into ruling. Known as the Bengal Renaissance -- during this time, Bengal flourished with newspapers, magazines and journals, starting from Digdarshan, the first periodical in Bangla, to Shabujpatra, the slim magazine which introduced a new age of Bengali literature, through stories, poetry and translations. All these magazines and journals had one important aim-- to start a literary movement, catering to establish modernism in literature. Some succeeded and some didn't but there was one magazine which swayed Bengal by embracing originality. To voice against the bourgeois society, Kallol magazine was established in 1923. History now marks it as one of the first conscious literary movements of Bengal.

Describing Kallol as just a magazine will be undermining it. It is a publication which just didn't stop at printing bold articles but rather created a movement from which emerged some of the most brilliant writers of Bengali literature. Interestingly enough, this all started with a club. In 1921, Gokulchandra Nag, Dineshranjan Das, Sunita Debi and Manindralal Basu set up the Four Arts Club at Hazra Road, Kolkata to discuss and practice literature, fine arts, music and drama. Within a short time the name of the club spread far and wide, and as a result, a good number of gifted writers began crowding it. The tradition of the Four Arts Club had been flowing down through literature, painting, handicrafts and music. Many distinguished personalities joined in all the four departments. Manindralal Basu, Suniti Devi, Dinesh Ranjan Das, Gokulchandra Nag, Sudhirkumar Roychoudhury, Nirupama Dasgupta and others belonged to the literary section while the painting section was managed by Dineshranjan Das and Gakulchandra accompanied with a great personality like Yamini Roy. The music section included Suniti Devi, Sukumar Dasgupta along with his wife and other female members who also took part in the handicraft section. The club's activities were going on in full swing till the death of a member occured. Soon the club was forced to close its doors, leading to the publishing of an anthology of short stories in 1922 named Jhorer Dola.  The club had also planned to bring out a monthly paper, but never could—until 1923. Though the members were disheartened, Dinesh Ranjan and Gokulchandra pushed themselves to go on with the club's plan.  It is said that with three takas only, they had printed the handbills of Kallol. On the first day of Baishakh, Kallol started its journey.

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Kallol's vociferous emergence gave a jolt and jerk to the system of the outdated society. It gathered young writers who were going through the post-war trauma. The consequences of war were so alarming, that the entire western world plunged into anarchism, from which even the people of this country could not save themselves. Influenced by Marxism and Freudian thoughts, the Kallol writers loudly and boldly protested against the society harbouring ancient thoughts. The most notable debate that Kallol started was on poetry between the conservative writers, comprising of older writers and the progressive pro-modernist writers consisting of younger writers. The debate got so rough that Rabindranath Tagore, the only person respected by both camps, was drawn into this debate. The main issue was the direction in which Bengali literature should go. In March 1927, Rabindranath took the chair over the two meetings between the warring camps. He proposed a compromise, but this was not accepted by the progressive camp. More intellectual repartee followed in the literary journals until, finally, Rabindranath silenced all by his formally innovative novel Seser Kabila (1928) and the timely creation of gadya kabita (free prosaic verses).

Not only did Kallol help to establish a new perspective in Bengali literature but also established a new generation of Bengali writers and thinkers. When writing for Kallol, Kazi Nazrul Islam was only twenty-five, Premendra Mitra under twenty, and Buddhadeb Basu only fifteen. The most prominent member of the Kallol generation, however, was poet Jibananda Das. Though not much recognised in his own lifetime, Jibanananda Das came to be regarded as probably the most important Bengali poet after Rabindranath and Nazrul. Others included Manindra Dey, Bishnu De, Jatindranath Sengupta, Motilaal Majumder, etc.

Kallol came to an end after the death of its editor Gokulchandra. Kallol's end indicated not only an end of a journal but the end of an era. The Kallol era of seven years added a new chapter to the history of Bengali literature – a chapter marked by Bengail modernism.

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