Note Making: Jayashankar Prasad

There is a clear dichotomy between Jayashankar Prasad’s daily life and the one that found expression in his literature. In his literary formulations, Prasad advocated an escape-from-personality ideal and categorically stated: ‘An artist’s art, and not his person, is the touchstone to assess his work… it is only after losing his personality that he emerges in his art, as an artist’.

In Prasad’s works—his poems, short stories, novels, dramas etc.—what emerges is life as shaped in the writer’s inner self by his emotions, fancies, dreams, reveries. His writings are a record not of outer reality, but of the artist’s inner world. As such, of a proper appreciation and understanding of his works, more emphasis needs to be placed on the working of his mind, than the events of his day-to-day life.

Prasad was born in a renowned family of Varansi. His grandfather Shiv Ratan Sahu was a dealer in high quality perfumed tobacco (snuff). Besides being an astute businessman, he was endowed with a marked cultural taste. His home was the meeting place of the local poets, singers, artists, scholars and men of religion. Prasad’s father, Devi Prasad Sahu, carried forward this high tradition of family. Prasad, therefore, had a chance to study the various phases of human nature in the light of the business traditions, artistic taste and religious background of his family.

When the business had somewhat recovered, Prasad planned the publication of a literary journal. Prasad started the ‘Indu’. The inaugural number appeared in July 1909. By this time, Prasad’s notions of literature had crystalized into a credo. In the first issue of Indu, he proclaimed, ‘Literature has no fixed aim; it is not slave to rules; it is free and all-embracing genius, gives birth to genuine literature which is subservient to none. Whatever in the world is true and beautiful is its subject matter. By the dealing with the true and beautiful, it establishes the one and affects the full flowering of the others. Its force can be measured by the degree of pleasure it gives to the reader’s mind and also by criticism which is free of all prejudice’. The words sound like the manifesto of romanticism in literature.

Even while recognizing the social relevance of literature, Prasad insisted, ‘The poet is a creator… he is not conditioned by his milieu; rather it is he who moulds it and gives it a new shape; he conjures up a new world of beauty where the reader for the time being, becomes oblivious of the outer world and passes his time in an eternal spring garden where golden lotuses blossom and the air is thick and pollen’. Thus, the chief aim of literature according to Prasad is to give joy to the reader and to create a state of bliss in him. Later, under the impact of Shaivadvaitism, this faith of Prasad, got further strengthened.

(Extract from ‘Jayashankar Prasad-His mind and Art’ by Dr. Nagendra)

Q. On the basis of your understanding of the above passage, make notes on it, using headings and subheadings. Use recognizable abbreviations (wherever necessary-minimum four) and a format you consider suitable. Also supply an appropriate title to it.

Jayashankar Prasad — His life

  1. His exp.n in lit.:
    1. an escape
    2. lose your personality
    3. record of writer’s inner world
    4. more emph.z on mind than body
  2. Personal life:
    1. renowned family of Varansi
    2. home—meeting place of the local poets, singers
    3. grand—father—an astute businessman
    4. had a chance to study phases of human nature
  3. Started the ‘Indu’:
    1. in July 1909
    2. proclaimed
      1. Lit. has no fixed aim
      2. is free and all embra’g genius
      3. gives birth to genuine lit.
  4. Social relevance of literature
    1. poet is a creator
    2. moulds it
    3. conjures up a new world of beauty
    4. becomes oblivious of the outer world
  5. Chief aim of literature
    1. give joy to the reader
    2. create a state of bliss

Suggested Abbreviations:

  • Lit. — Literature
  • Emph.z — Emphasize
  • Exp.n — Expression
  • Embra’g — Embracing

Q. Write a summary of the passage in about 80 words.


Jayshankar Prasad’s expression in literature is an escape from world, makes you lose your personality, and familiarizes with record of writer’s inner world with more emphasis on mind than body. He belongs to a renowned family of Varanasi where his home served as meeting place of the local poets and singers. His grandfather was an astute businessman who gave him a chance to study phases of human nature. He started the journal ‘Indu’ in July 1909 and proclaimed that literature has no fixed aim and but it is free and all-embracing genius gives birth to genuine literature. He related poet as a creator who moulds it, conjures up a new world of beauty and becomes oblivious of the outer world. He said that the chief aim of literature is to give joy to the reader and create a state of bliss. Q.4. Read the following

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