I am sharing an article on the life of person, who wrote OM Jai Jagdish Hare.
Pt Shardha Ram Phillauri. wrote the masterpiece Om Jai
Jagdish Hare , a hymn which is sung in Hindu households across the
To enter into administrative service or become deputy commissioner of
Amritsar during the time of the British Government, it was mandatory
for the ICS officers to clear the comprehensive test based on the
Punjabi Baat Cheet, a book specially written for the British to
understand the local dialect.
This was perhaps the first book written in Gurmukhi script which was
transliterated into Roman script. The unique book was written by Pandit
Shardha Ram Phillauri, a versatile personality. Only a few people are
aware of the fact that Shardha Ram was the creator of the most popular
prayer (aarti) Om Jai Jagdish Hare..., sung by almost every Hindu
family the world over.
He was a powerful literary figure of the 19th century. Incidentally,
his book became the first book on Punjabi linguistics which mentioned
'folk-culture', customs of Majha region (Amritsar and Gurdaspur)
and other parts of the state, including adjoining hilly areas. A reader
can find many rare words in Punjabi Baat Cheet which have disappeared
from Punjabi dictionary. Sikhan De Raj Di Vithia and Punjabi Baat cheet
are two notable works of Shardha Ram in (Gurmukhi) that earned him the
title of "Father of modern Punjabi prose". The books contain the
story of the Sikh religion and politics.
A versatile personality
Pt Shardha Ram Phillauri was born in a Brahmin family at a small town
Phillaur in the year 1837. He was married to a Sikh woman Mehtab Kaur.
He had learnt Gurmukhi script in 1844 at the age of seven. Later, he
learnt Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, astrology and music in 1850. He met
Christian priest Neutan in 1858 and translated one part of Bible in
Gurmukhi for the first time in 1868. He wrote controversial book,
Sikhan De Raj Di Vithia ( The story of Sikh rule) in 1866. He died on
June 24, 1881 at Lahore. His father, Jai Dyalu, was an astrologer by
profession. Pt Phillauri himself was a great astrologer and frequented
Amritsar in this connection.
He was charged with conducting propaganda against the British
Government through his forceful lectures on the Mahabharata and was
exiled for some time from his home town, Phillaur.
A Sanatani missionary born in Phillaur, near Ludhiana, he used to visit
Amritsar and its adjoining illustrious city - Lahore - very
frequently. Pandit Brij Kishor Sharma, an Ayurvedic doctor, writes that
Shardha Ram Phillauri would frequently visit Amritsar city in
connection with astrology. He had earned a big name as astrologer in
Amritsar during those times. A social reformer and trendsetter, as he
was called, he had written a number of books in Hindi too.
The Bhartiya Sahitya Akademi has lately accepted him as the first Hindi
novelist, following the publication of Shardha Ram Granthawali in three
volumes brought out by Dr Harminder Singh Bedi, Dean and Head,
Department of Hindi, Guru Nanak Dev University. Dr Vir Bhart Talwar, a
senior professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, writes, "The
contribution of Shardha Ram Phillauri would have been overlooked by
now, if 'Granthawali' had not been published."
The findings of Dr Bedi that Pt Phillauri's creation, Bhagyawati, was
the first Hindi novel, have compelled the rewriting of the history of
Hindi novel. Dr Bedi says that Bhagyawati publication dates back to
1888 and most of its part were believed to be written in Amritsar.
Earlier, Priksha Guru, written by Lala Sri Niwas in 1902 was considered
as the first Hindi novel. However, the Granthawali by Dr Bedi revealed
that the first Hindi novel was written 14 years before Priksha Guru,
that too on the land of Vedas (Punjab). By that time, most of the
writers had not even heard the name of Shardha Ram Phillauri. That was
why no publisher was ready to print the voluminous Granthawali.
However, when the comparatively little known "Nirmal Publisher"
published the same, it came as pleasant surprise for the Hindi lovers
that helped in re-writing the history of literature.
Interestingly, the book used to be given to daughters at the time of
their marriage as a part of the dowry. It is just a coincidence that
the first Punjabi novel Sundri, authored by Bhai Vir Singh, was written
a decade after the publication of Bhagyawati. The main character of
both novels is a woman. It was a revolutionary step on the part of
Shardha Ram to advocate widow marriage and condemn child marriage in
Bhagyawati. From both first novels of Hindi and Punjabi, it is clear
that a movement for women's emancipation was launched from Punjab.
On the birth of a female child, Bhagyawati, the main character in the
novel, makes her husband understand that there is no difference between
the male and the female child.
Earlier, as per Hindu customs a widow's status as an unwanted burden
was also a result of the taboos that prevented a widow from
participating in the household work as her touch, her voice, her very
presence was considered "unholy, impure and something to be shunned
and abhorred". Thus, without her husband a woman's existence was
not tolerated and an extreme but logical outcome of this was immolation
Similarly, during those dark days child-marriage was common. Newly-born
girls used to be killed by drowning them in a tub of milk. But through
Bhagyawati, Shardha Ram made earnest efforts to create awareness about
10th June 2009 From India, Delhi
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