Odisha’s Haldhar Nag made the state proud as the eminent poet was bestowed with the Padmashree award recently at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
A poor tribal boy, born to Bhajana and Gurubari of Ghens in the Bargarh district of Odisha he lost his father at the tender age of ten and had to leave school after class three because of financial constraints. It must have been a momentous moment for this humble man to be standing bare feet, dressed in the traditional white dhoti and vest, facing the President of India to receive the prestigious award .
The youngest in a family of six brothers and sisters, he washed dishes in a sweet stall to combat the hunger pangs and helped his widowed mother Gurubari with household chores. The village school hired him as a cook and this helped him earn some money for his sustenance. Haldhar was poor as a dormice and nobody knew him, but he had a hidden wealth which others did not have. His Midas touch converted words, lines and sentences into golden poems, stories and songs composed in the Kosali language. He became the local folk singer and traveled from one village to the other singing and reciting, which deeply touched hearts and moved the listeners to tears. For a bowl of water rice he sang songs and recited poems that were his own compositions. Today, this man has become a celebrity in his own field where his life and works are being filmed and researched by learned scholars . It is amazing but true that he remembers all the poems and 20 epics that he has written. A compilation of his writings in the form of Haldhar Granthabali-2 will be a part of the Sambalpur University syllabus.
Haldhar remembers his earlier days as a poet when he attended a recitation competition (Kabita Asara) for the first time in 1990, organized in Gangadhar Meher College. The appreciation of the audience encouraged him to write poems and he has never looked back.
“I focus on the darker side of the human life and love to write on the neglected characters portrayed in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. A poem must carry the messages of the oppressed and social reforms,” he said. In his village Haldhar sometimes played the role of Lankeswari during the Dussera festival.
As a poet he feels that poems represent the people, society, the struggles, feelings, emotion and dreams of the common man. There is a dearth of good literature and readers do not get enough materials to read. The young generation should go deep into literature and write quality materials.
His first published poem Dhodo Bara Gachh was published in Art & Artist, an English magazine. “It was an emotional moment when I saw my poem in print and realised that the mass have accepted my poem,” said a moved Haldhar. His other famous books are Tara Mandadari, Bacchar, Rasia Kavi, Mahasati Urmila etc.
“For me language is nothing but a medium to express feelings. An education is a must but it is not necessary to possess a certificate to be a literate person,” said Haldhar.
This rustic gem of Odisha who is an epitome of humility , is an inspiration for many aspirant poets and writers around the world today.