Zaverchand Meghani

Zaverchand Meghani

Zaverchand Kalidas Meghani was born on 28th August 1896, at Datha, Police headquarters at the foot of the Chotila mountain in Kathiawad. His father Kalidas Meghani, was a police officer at Kathiawad and belonged to a middle-class family. Starting his education in a Taluka School at Sadar, Rajkot, it was completed in various schools at Datha, Paliyad and Bagasara. Subsequently he joined the Bhavnagar College, Bhavnagar and passed his B.A. with English and Sanskrit.

In 1922 Zaverchand married Damayantiben. Damayantiben died in 1932. In 1934 he was married a second time to Chitradevi of Nepal who had been a child widow. Zaverchand Meghani was very much interested in literature and folklore. Darbar Vajasurvala of Hadala was a personal friend of Meghani and helped him a lot in his researches in folk literature. Among his other friends, Hathibhai Wank was helpful in the collection of folklores of Kathiawad; Amritbhai Dani was instrumental in his composing nursery rhymes for children. His letters indicate his personal friendship with men of letters of the Gujarati world—including Umashankar Joshi, Dhumaketu Pannalal Patel and Ishvar Petalikar (Meghani Smriti Granth).

Meghani had immense capacity for making friendship with the high as well as the low. In 1909 he went to England with Jivanlal, the owner of the Jivanlal & Go., Calcutta. He was interested in English literature and translated with immense success the poems of some of the less known English poets into Gujarati.

Meghani held very progressive and liberal views towards social reforms, such as the uplift of the Harijans, independence and education for women, widow-marriage, etc. He was deeply religious and his immense faith in God is evident in the many references to Him in his works. In religion Meghani was catholic in outlook. Among his close friends were many Muslims and Parsis. As an admirer of western ‘learning’, he visited the various centres of education in England. The aim of education, according to him, was to create consciousness of our country’s heritage. The importance of primary education was realised by him and he declared emphatically that so long as the teachers were not paid adequate salaries all talk of high idealism would remain merely a dream.

Meghani’s ideas about nationalism were very progressive. His songs of patriotism and characters depicted in novels like ‘Kalachakra’ show a healthy love for the motherland. He admired and appreciated the patriotic feelings of the Irish people, the revolutionary freedom-fighters of Korea and the Hungarians. He was a believer in non-violent, non-cooperation method of Gandhiji. However, his admiration for the brave revolutionary nationalists in India and elsewhere, as depicted in his novels or songs, leads one to believe that if circumstances demanded he would not mind people taking resort to revolutionary means for freeing their motherland. Meghani was fully aware of the political movements in Eturope and Asia. He rose far above regionalism.

In his attitude towards the British Government, Meghani expressed bis opposition and resentment to the policy of suppression followed by the rulers of India, especially after 1930. His poems, written when Gandhiji was leaving the shores of India for the Round Table Conference, are a complete account of the grievances of the people of India for the unfair and unjust administration of India by the British. However, Meghani was obviously an admirer of the democratic system of government and this is revealed from his articles in the Gujarati weekly Fulchhab, of which he was an editor for some time.

Meghani took a keen interest in the economic issues of the time. He took an active part in encouraging the cottage industries among the farmer families. He established his reputation as an honest and frank journalist in Gujarat. From 1922 to 1926 he worked on the editorial staff of the Saurashtra (a Gujarati weekly); in 1934 he joined the Janmabhoomi, a Gujarati daily from Bombay. He was very much interested in literary criticism. In 1936, as editor of the Gujarati weekly, the Fulchhab, Meghani rendered great service to Gujarati literature. He was perfectly at case on public platforms. His speeches, usually containing references to the folk-literature of Kathiawad, were punctuated by instances from folk-songs, which he used to sing in a typical melodious voice which held his audience spell-bound. It may well be said that whatever he had to say, he preferred to say it through the medium of poetry. He did not merely speak, but sang as well. Apart from these he also delivered extremely specialised lectures on Kathiawad folk-literature, which was the subject of his life’s research.

In a comparatively short span of 25 years (1922-47) Meghani’s contribution to the Gujarati literature is amazingly wide. He has to his credit 88 published works, out of which not more than 6 are translations from Bengali or English. His publications were in various forms-research publications, essays, biographies, reminiscences, travel accounts, history, novels, short stories, criticism, plays and songs. Throughout his literary works, there runs an unconscious—conscious only at times—current; an effort to rouse the people of India from lethargy and the sleep of inaction. This was largely responsible for the great popularity of Meghani even during his lifetime.

The Maulvi was a staunch Muslim, who worked for the uplift of his community all his life. But he was no fanatic. The travels abroad widened his outlook, and though he joined the Muslim League and also advocated separate Muslim electorates, he stood for co-operation between the different communities where needed. He championed the cause of women and children, and strongly supported the proposals regarding compulsory primary education.

The Maulvi wanted only Dominion Status for India through constitutional means. He was never tired of recounting the benefits of the British rule, yet he often bitterly criticised the harshness of the Anglo-Indian officials, and condemned the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai and the Government enactments such as the Seditious Meetings Act of 1907.

(T. R. Sareen) G. S. Chhabra



Reference: DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY – Vol 3 edited by S. P. Sen – Institute of Historical Studies – Calcutta - 1972

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