The South Asian Times

24 October 2018 01:15 AM

Hasya Kavi sammelans set the tone for Holi revelry in India

By Prakash Bhandari

The essence of humor in Hindi poetry was recognized and for over two centuries the Hindi poetry has flourished on humor. The poets used to recite humor couplets in the kavi sammelans not only in the northern India but also in different parts of the country where Hindi speaking people lived in communities.

The Hindi kavi sammelans were patronized even by the rulers in the feudal era. Along with their wives and retinues they would attend the humor sessions, which at times were targeted on the same rulers. But they would spiritedly hear jokes and couplets written about them.

In northern India kavi sammelans were organized both in small and big way particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Kaka Hathrasi, Bedharak Banarsi, Bedhab Banarsi and others were the pioneers of Hindi hasya or Hindi humor. Although, kavi-sammelans of small gatherings have been in existence since time immemorial, the first grand kavi sammelan was organized in the year 1920, which included many poets and large audiences. After that, kavi sammelan has become an inseparable part of Indian culture.

But such great Hindi humorists as Kaka Hathrasi,Bedhabh Banarsi, late Shail Chaturvedi, Alhar Bikaneri, Gemini Haryanavi, and others used to be so popular in kavi sammelans that often serious and romantic poetry used to take backseat. The kavi sammelans used to be a mix of serious and humor poetry sessions. Often, the hasya kavis would steal limelight and the serious poets suddenly found that if the hasya kavis were allowed to participate in the kavi sammelans, serious Hindi poetry would lose its sheen as the audience would love to listen to parodies and satires.

It was in the early seventies in India when different groups in various cities started organizing hasya kavi sammelans. As Holi is a festival of colors and revelry it was used for organizing such hasya kavi sammelans. It all started in big cities particularly in the western Uttar Pradesh where a mix of Hindi and the desi braj bhasha were dished out to the large gathering. Kaka Hathrasi should be credited for the growth of such Hasya kavi sammelans as he had the power of elocution that would send people into peels of laughter. A new generation of Hindi humorist developed and started appearing in various hasya kavi sammelans. Holi was chosen as the occasion for organizing the hasya kavi sammelan and were given different name like Maha Moorkh Sammelna, Hurdang, chakkallas, fawarra, hassi ki ganga, lotpot and various other names. Jaipur pioneered in organizing first such hasya kavi sammelan and the annual Mahamoorkh sammelan received grand patronage of the business and industries. A person who would agree to foot the bill of the entire sammelan would be honored at the sammelan with the title of Maha Moorkh.

"It was a novel idea started by Tarun Samaj on a small scale and the mahamoorkh sammelan grew from strength to strength and became an important event in the cultural calendar of the Pink City. This sammelan started attracting crowd of a hundred thousand people who would throng the Ram Niwas Bagh with their families. We used to make elaborate seating arrangements and the public address system would be placed in all the nooks and corner of the historical garden where people could drive in their cars and hear the poetry session. Today,the Mahamoorkh sammelan is almost four decade old and is flourishing and is organized two days before Holi," said Vishambhar Modi, the founder of the Tarun Samaj.

In fact there is no dearth of sponsors now for the hasya kavi sammelans and various Hindi news papers organize hasya kavi sammelans in different cities to please their readers with a dose of humor.

Most of the poets write about the social problems, corruption, humor in politics and on individuals and also happenings around them. People hear them with interest as they relate the happening around them in an entertaining way.

Hasya kavi sammelans are organized across the globe by Hindi lovers. The US alone organizes about a dozen such sammelans inviting top Hindi humorists. Surendra Sharma, Ashok Chakradhar, Surendra Dubey,Ashok Gemini, Suresh Albela, Hulald Mouradabadi, Sunil Jogi, Kumar Vishwas, Popular Merathi, Sampat Saral are the big names in Hindi humor poetry. Earlier, hasya avi-Sammelans were organized by social and cultural groups. But these days, such sammelans are very much popular among universities, colleges and even corporates.


Update: 12 March, 2012