Author: Jaishankar Prasad
Publisher: Rajkamal Prakashan (8th edition)
Publishing Date: 1936 (originally published), 2012 (8th edition)
Kamayani is a Hindi epic poem by Jaishankar Prasad. It is considered one of the greatest literary works written in modern times in Hindi literature. It also signifies the epitome of Chhayavadi school of Hindi poetry, which gained popularity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The plot is based on the Vedic story where Manu, the man surviving after the Holocaust, is emotionless. Manu starts getting involved in various emotions, thoughts and actions. These are sequentially portrayed with Shraddha, Ida, Kilaat and other characters playing their part, contributing in them. The chapters are named after these emotions, thoughts or actions. Some people consider that the sequence of chapters denotes the change of personality in a man's life with age.
This epic has 15 parts which bring together all the elements: starting from 'Chinta' and going all the way to 'Anand'. It reveals a fascinating outlook on the various human emotions with great skill.
The story of this poem is inspired by the Vedas , Upanishads , Puranas etc. but the primary basis for the plot is derived from ‘Shatapatha Brahmana’ (which is a commentary on the Śukla Yajurveda). The story of 'Kamayani' initiates from a severe flooding that came to the earth and only the character of Manu survived the disaster. He was the last remnant of Devasrishti. At the end of the flooding, he started performing Yajna and the series of events followed that. The story of Kamayani is basically a fantasy, and it highlights the social equality, popular sovereignty and national self-determination of that time. The characters - Manu, Shraddha and Ida are mere symbols, but the analysis through them presented in Kamayani is as true today as it was in that time.
Manu’s pride lies in his matured thinking, great purpose and adult craft. It does not have the same descriptive detail of the ancient epics, but the poem reflects sincerity and intensity. The lyricism of the poem is remarkable and incomparable. Jaishankar Prasad has specialised the craft of his skills of expressing his thoughts and ideas. This maturity of the craft is the USP of 'Kamayani'. From this point of view, the description of Shraddha is beautiful. Talking of the imagery, inspite of the richness that is required to portray a fantasy, the poet uses subtle expressions like ‘Lajja’, which balances out the whole narrative.
In Muktibodh's words, "Behind the civilizational efforts described in Kamayani, Prasadji's own life experience, the real situation of his era, is speaking the social condition of his time!" In short, Kamayani is an epic that presents today's human life with all its surroundings and situation!
About the Author:
Jaishankar Prasad, born on 30 January 1890 in Varanasi, UP was a famous Hindi poet, playwright, author, novelist and essayist. He is one of the four major pillars of the romantic age in Hindi literature, along with Sumitranandan Pant, Mahadevi Verma, and Suryakant Tripathi 'Nirala'.
He had school education up to eighth grade only, after which he studied Sanskrit, English, Pali and Prakrit languages at home. This was followed by a unique self-study of Indian history, culture, philosophy, literature and mythology. He, as a child, travelled to many historical and religious places with his father Deviprasad.
Renowned as a great writer, he had compositions in various genres like poetry, story, drama, novels and critical essays in a short life of 48 years. His major compositions include Kamayani (poetry); Skandagupta, Ajatashatru, Chandragupta, Dhruvasvamini, Nagayagya of Janamejaya, Rajyashree (drama), Akashdeep, Aandhi, Indrajal (story-collection), Iravati (novel), to name a few. He died on 14 January 1937 in Varanasi.