Today is the 38th death
anniversary of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the great ‘Bidrohi Kobi’ or ‘rebel
poet’ of Bengal. In fact, he was much more than just a poet; he was a
writer, a musician and a revolutionary. He has a special place in the
hearts and minds of Bengalis. His poems and songs have always been
To honour his legacy, a new cultural centre has come up in Rajarhat, on the outskirts of Kolkata. The centre
is called Nazrul Tirtha (or ‘Pilgrimage to the place of Nazrul’,
signifying the importance that Kazi Nazrul has in the hearts of
Bengalis). It is a large complex, about 55,000 sq ft in area, and is
located on Major Arterial Road, in front of the DLF building.
Stamp on Nazrul which was brought out by India Post in 1999
Kazi Nazrul in his garden
Sprawling cultural complex
cultural complex consists of a museum, an academy called Nazrul
Academy, a library, a 400-seater auditorium, a cafeteria and a guest
house, arranged in circular pattern. There is an open area in the middle
too. It looks like there are different blocks, but actually it is all
one building, with the parts joined through ramps, gangways and
staircases. According to architect Abin Chaudhuri, the twisted formation
reflects the tension in the writings of the rebel poet.
contest was organised by the government of West Bengal in 2012 to
decide on the design of the complex. Award-winning architect Abin
Chaudhuri of Abin Design Studio won the contest, which was judged by
stalwarts like advertising guru Ram Ray, artist Suvaprasanna and
architect Prabir Mitra.
Model of Nazrul Tirtha
design he came up with is unique in a sense, as this had never been
done in Kolkata. The uniqueness stems from the fact that all the
buildings have exposed concrete on the outside. Concrete is normally
plastered and painted over. But Nazrul Tirtha has the concrete neither
plastered nor painted. The form, texture and colour of the bare concrete
gives the building its architectural attraction.
worthwhile to note that such a concept of keeping concrete exposed was
the hallmark of the internationally reputed Swiss-born French architect,
Le Corbusier. The best example of his work in India is the city of
Chandigarh, which he designed to a large extent.
According to Chaudhuri, using concrete in such a way being a new concept
in the city, builders in Kolkata had no idea how to go about it.
Shapoorji Pallonji had to bring its team from Mumbai to build the
complex. The Rs 60-crore project is a special initiative of Chief
Minister Mamata Banerjee.
with many modern buildings, this is also an
environment-friendly structure. In order to accomplish this, the building’s use of energy
has been kept at a minimum. The concrete façade is
punctuated by a network of jagged lines, which are broken in
places to let in optimal sunlight (too much will increase the heat and
push up the air-conditioning costs).
Besides the aspect of
design, the concrete used here also helps in heat management, as its
thermal mass keeps the interior cooler. Lots of plants, some planted,
some potted, dot the area inside and around the building. To the right
of the open-air stage is a pool which harvests 2,500 litres of
The bus stop near the complex has also been named Nazrul Tirtha
Keeping the legacy alive
named after Kazi Nazrul Islam, the building’s architecture accommodates
him in a major way. At the entrance, pillars in the porch support a
black prismatic block of concrete, 8.5 metres high, placed on its side.
The two faces which can be seen by a visitor entering, have the words
‘Unnata Momo Shir’ (meaning ‘my head is held high’), taken from the
poem, Bidrohi, all over, in stylised Bengali fonts. The words are
also a tribute to the rebellious mindset of the poet. Another prominent
presence of Nazrul in the architecture is through the background of the
open-air theatre, which has his profile on a wall of green plants.
The open-air theatre with Nazrul's profile in the background
The huge complex is a fitting tribute to a poet of such a stature, one who lives on in the hearts and minds of Bengalis. His songs are still regularly listened to, and sung and discussed in various fora. Books about him abound, mostly in Bengali and some in English too, besides his collections of poetry. Nazrul considered himself above all divisions of region and religion, a poet of the world. In fact, this very aspect of his he considered as the one which marked him out as a poet, as a poet can only belong to the whole wide world. As a said at a reception in Albert Hall, Kolkata (now the location of Coffee House) on December 15, 1929: "I belong to the world and all its corners. I'm a devotee of eternal radiance."
The 'Bidrohi Kobi' down the yearsWritten by Anushtup Haldar for Team M3.tv