Padma Shri Poet Haldhar Nag, a staunch believer in the principles of simple living and high thinking, has led a remarkable life that challenges conventional notions of success. Hailing from the picturesque state of Odisha, Haldhar Nag, a 71-year-old renowned folk poet of the ‘Kosli’ language, has demonstrated that one’s journey need not be defined by academic degrees and material wealth.
Early Life and Struggles
Born into a modest family in Odisha’s Bargarh district in 1950, Nag faced adversity early in life, losing his parents at the tender age of 10. Despite having to discontinue his formal education in the third grade, he persevered through hardships, working as a cook in a local school and later establishing a small stationery shop with a bank loan of Rs 1,000. Throughout his journey, he continued to nurture his passion for writing, culminating in the creation of his first poem, ‘Dhodo Bargach’ (The Old Banyan Tree), in 1990.
The Birth of a Poet
Despite his demanding work as a cook, Haldhar Nag’s love for writing never waned. In 1990, he penned his first poem, ‘Dhodo Bargach,’ a testament to his innate talent. His dedication to his craft led him to share his poems with a local magazine, which, to his delight, published them. This experience served as a turning point in his life, encouraging him to continue his poetic endeavors. Nag recalls this period fondly, stating, “It was a great honor for me, and this sentence encouraged me to write more.” He began reciting his poems in nearby villages, receiving positive feedback and nurturing his growing passion for poetry.
The Essence of Nag’s Poetry
Haldhar Nag’s poetry, written in the ‘Kosli’ language, has resonated deeply with the people of Odisha, particularly the younger generation. His work, often referred to as ‘Lok Kavi Ratna’ in Odisha, is characterized by themes that encompass nature, society, mythology, and religion. He firmly believes that poetry should convey real-life experiences and impart a social message.
National Recognition and Debate
In 2016, the Government of India recognized Haldhar Nag’s outstanding contribution to literature by awarding him the prestigious Padma Shri. The award ceremony was a poignant moment, with Nag donning a simple white dhoti skirt and vest, and arriving barefoot to receive India’s fourth-highest civilian honor from then-President Pranab Mukherjee.
Integration into Academia
Haldhar Nag’s literary contributions have not gone unnoticed in academia. His compilation of writings, ‘Haldhar Granthavali-2,’ has been incorporated into the syllabus of ‘Sambalpur University’ in Odisha. This recognition demonstrates the enduring impact of his work and its importance in preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of the region.