Kazi Nazrul Islam (24 May 1899 – 29 August 1976) was a Bengali poet, writer, lyricist and novelist. He was later given the status of the national poet of Bangladesh. Although he worked in a variety of literary genres, his main identity is a poet. Renowned poet Nazrul wrote poetry and music with the themes of religious devotion and resistance to injustice. Nazrul’s political and social engagement gave him the title “Bidrohi Kobi” (The Rebel Poet).
Nazrul Islam grew up in a Bengali Muslim Kazi family from Burdwan district in Bengal Presidency (now West Bengal). Working with the rural theatre group “Letor Dal”, he learned about poetry, drama, and literature. Leto is a West Bengali folk music genre usually sung by Muslims. Nazrul left Leto in 1910 and returned to school. In 1917 he joined the British Indian Army, before crossing the school boundary but he continued his writings. Nazrul became a journalist in Calcutta. In his poems “Bidrohi” and “Bhangar Gaan” and his book “Dhumketu”, he criticized the British Raj and called for revolution. His nationalist participation in the Indian independence movement placed him in several British jails. Nazrul wrote “Rajbandir Jabanbandi” while in prison. His works influenced East Pakistani Bengalis during the Bangladesh Liberation War.
He wrote of freedom, humanity, love, and revolution. He condemned religion, caste-based, and gender-based discrimination and extremism. Nazrul wrote songs and poems as well as short stories and novels. He popularized Bengali ghazal songs and used Arabic and Persian terms extensively in his compositions.
Nazrul created and composed music for almost 4,000 songs, collectively known as Nazrul Geeti. At 43, he began to lose his voice and memory due to a rare incurable neurological disease. It weakened Nazrul’s health and forced him to live alone.
Nazrul’s family migrated to Dhaka in 1972 at the invitation of the Bangladeshi government. They were given Bangladeshi citizenship. He died on August 29, 1976, in Bangladesh and was buried beside the Central Mosque of Dhaka University.