Sachchidananda Hirananda Vatsyayan was a pioneer in modern Hindi literature. He was better known by his pen-name “Ajneya” which meant something that cannot be known or understood. He indulged in new forms of poetry and experimentations. He was a poet, writer, critic and journalist. He was the editor of Saptak, a Hindi literary periodical. He also initiated the publication of Dinmaan, a Hindi news weekly.
Brief Bio: Childhood and Education
Sachchidananda Vatsyayan’s father Hiranand Sastri was a Sanskrit scholar as well as an archaeologist. Sachchidananda was born in a tent when his father was posted for archeological excavation at Kasya, Kushinagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Born on 7th March 1911, Sachchidananda was the youngest of his three siblings. He spent his childhood at places where his father was posted; such as Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Jammu, Srinagar, Nalanda, Udupi, Madras etc.
He studied Hindi, English, Persian, Bengali and History at home from tutors. He also learned Tamil and Sanskrit when his father was posted at Udupi. For some time, he studied in a English medium school in Ooty.
In 1925, he passed matriculation as a private student from Punjab; and in 1927 did his Intermediate from Madras Christian College. He completed his BSc in Industrial Science in 1929 from Lahore.
His Contributions to the Freedom Struggle of India
He enrolled for M.A. in English, but later discontinued as he dedicated himself to the independence movement which was being led by Lala Lajpat Rai, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Yashpal and many more.
He was assigned the task to transport Bhagat Singh out of jail. However, the plan was aborted and he went on hiding. In November 1930 in Amritsar, he was arrested and he spent almost four years. He was then placed under house arrest for two years.
He was associated with the Progressive Writers Association (PWA). During World War II, he joined the Allied Force from 1943 to 1946, as a Captain. At the end of the war, he left the army.
His Literary Career
During the prison days, he wrote his novel-trilogy, “Shekhar: Ek Jivani”. The concluding third part was seized by the jail authorities, and was never published.
In 1936, Agyeya edited the publications, Sainik from Agra and Vishal Bharat from Calcutta.
Later he edited Prateek in 1947 from Allahabad, the revised version of which, called Naya Prateek, he edited from New Delhi. He also edited an English periodical, the Vak.
Prior to joining the Royal Force in 1943, he also worked for All India Radio.
He was a widely travelled man. He was in Japan in 1957-58. He was very impressed by Zen Buddhism. He also travelled to Europe in 1960 and stayed at the Pier-de-Quer Monastery.
His Career in Teaching
During 1961-64, he got appointment as a visiting faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1965 on his return, he was made the Founder Editor of the newsweekly “Dinaman” of the Times of India Group. He also defended and supported writers who were arrested for writing anti-establishment articles.
In 1969, he again went to Berkeley as Regents Professor, and stayed there till June 1970. Upon his return, during 1973-74, he edited Jayprakash Narayan’s Everyman’s Weekly.
In 1976, he was at Heidelberg University as a Visiting Professor. On his return, he joined the University of Jodhpur as Professor and Head of the Deptt. of Comparative Literature.
From 1977 to 1980, he worked as the Editor-in-Chief of Hindi newspaper Navbharat Times published by the Times of India Group.
His Published Works
Agyeya died on 4 April 1987 in New Delhi, and his sudden demise was mourned by litterateurs and general public alike. He left behind him a rich collection of his work that will keep the readers enthused and enlightened for generations.
Agyeya was a prolific writer and he has several published anthologies of poems, novels, travelogues etc. He has also translated some of his own works and other Indian authors to English. Many classics of world literature have been translated into Hindi by him. He also popularized Interviews as a form of literary work.
His long list of published poetry anthologies begin with Bhagndoot in 1933, Chinta in 1942, Ityalam in 1946, Hari Ghaas Par Kshan-Bhar in 1949, Baawra Aheri 1954 and many more. He published them almost every alternate year.
He also wrote a number of novels; such as Nadi Ke Dweep, Apne-Apne Ajnabi, besides his trilogy Shekhar: Ek Jeevani; and story anthologies.
Written By: Raj Kumar Hansdah