Doyen of Dogri literature

Samvedna Sharma
Duggar region has distinct identity of its cultural heritage in the landscape of India. This region of Dogras finds mention in Vedic literature and Sanskrit literature. Due to royal patronage of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, his reign is remembered as “Golden Age” of the Dogri language.
The lovers of Dogri laid the foundation of Dogri Sanstha in the year 1944 AD, on the Basant Panchami day. Many writers, artists, thinkers, historians joined hands for the upliftment of Dogri language and Dogra culture, Sanstha proved a common platform for lovers of Dogri and made significant contributions in the field of art, culture & literature.
Hailing from Kandi belt of Jammu ,Tara Smailpuri had a special command over the nuances of Dogri language & culture which he included in his compositions with a touch of wit & humour. He weaved imageries in rainbow colors using words, idioms, phrases, proverbs and anecdotes. His intimate , in-depth knowledge of the cultural characteristics of Duggar made him very popular among fraternity of writers & scholars. He could sing varied melodies of folk songs with proficiency & passion. He was familiar with Dogra folk dances as well. He used to write and speak authoritatively on various aspects of language & culture.
He acted in the performance of Ramlila and other stage plays and proved his acumen in plays namely Dogri’ play “Nama Graan” and Sarpanch.
Tara Smailpuri was very fond of gardening and he loved nature in its varied manifestations. He used to spend his time in narrating stories about trees, folk songs and patriotic songs to instill sense of pride among the grandchildren and others. He had a huge treasure of wit and humour. His writings focused on Hasyaa Ras, Veer Ras, Karuna Ras and Shrangar Ras . Tara Smailpuri had proficiency over various languages like Dogri, Urdu, Hindi, Gojri, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Pahari and Pothowari languages.
Tara Smailpuri ji was born on the first of July 1926 in the famous village of Smailpur, Tehsil Samba of Duggar state in the house of ‘Baskotra’ caste Brahmin Pandit Badrinath. Tara Smailpuri’s full name was “Taramani Sharma Smailpuri”. “Smailpuri” – was the ‘nickname’ of Taramani ji, which refers to the village Smailpur, the place of his birth.
Tara Smailpuri had his schooling in Smailpur, Ghaas Mandi School and Ranbir High School. Tara Smailpuri ‘s long poem recited in a school function in 1940 AD made him popular in school. Everyone burst out laughter after listening to the composition.
He did his B.A. and Shiromani degrees in Dogri from University of Jammu. He served for some time as Sub- Inspector and later as Inspector, CD & NES Department. He retired in 1983 as Assistant Editor of Dogri Dictionary Project.
He published his first collection of poems, ‘Fauji Pensioner’ when he was only thirty years, it was published in 1956 by Dogri Sanstha.
The work of compilation and editing of book ‘Arunima’ was done by Tara Smailpuri ji, same was published by the State Academy of Culture in 1959 AD. In ‘Arunima’, Dogri poems and ghazals of Thakur Raghunath Singh and Parmanand Almast and Kishan Smailpuri ji were printed along with description in Hindi language.
In order to strengthen Dogri language, Tara Smailpuri ji started collecting idioms and proverbs commonly spoken in the village. In seven to eight years, he has collected about 11000 idioms and proverbs. The first idioms and proverbs in Dogri language are the contributions of Smailpuri. Culture Academy, Jammu published his ‘Dogri proverbs’ in 1962 AD and ‘Dogri proverbs’ in 1966 AD. Smalpuri ji used to use many proverbs spontaneously in his conversation, In 1968 AD, Tara Smailpuri was appointed as Research Assistant, then Assistant Editor in the Riyasat Cultural Academy. After that the Cultural Academy took the responsibility of publishing Dogri Hindi Kosh compiled by Hansraj Pandotra, the first treasurer of Dogri. Tara Smailpuri ji did the work of printing and publishing the Dogri-Hindi dictionary compiled by Shri Hansraj Pandotra ji without editing. He continued to work in Academy till the publication of the first three parts of Dogri-Dogri dictionary.
In 1988, Tara Smailpuri’s second collection of poems ‘Jeevan Lehran’ was published. He was awarded the “Sahitya Akademi Award” in 1990 for the book ‘Jeevan Laihran’, a collection of poems. The third book of Smalpuri ji was the last poetic composition of his life time “Vyang-Ban” which was published in 2010 AD. This book was published under the scheme “Writers in Residence” started by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. While working in the dictionary project of Riyasati Cultural Academy, Smailpuri ji has compiled and edited Dogri folk-geet part 10 published by Academy and one issue of Shiraja Dogri story was also compiled and edited by Smailpuri ji. Apart from Dogri, Smailpuri ji wrote some essays in Urdu notably “Duggar’s Charind and Parind”, which was printed in the special issue of ‘Hamara Adab’ of the Academy.
He was also conferred with Sahitya Akademi Award.
In the year 2009, Research Scholar Vaishno Devi did her M.Phil research work on Tara Smailpuri ji under the guidance of Professor Shashi Pathania. The title of her research was, “Tara Smailpuri Hunde Kavita- Sahitya da Mulyankaan”. In the book “Sadda Sahitya” in 2002, Professor Dr. Neelam Sareen has given a very poignant depiction of the subject of ‘Biography and Personality’ of Tara Smailpuri , the second paper on Tara Smailpuri ji. In the year 2013, researcher Vaishno Devi has written a revision paper on Tara Smailpuri ji. In this revised paper, Vaishno Devi has written about the topic of her research, “Tara Smailpuri Hindi Poems and Social Illustration”. The third paper on Tara Smailpuri ji was written by Dr. O.P. Goswami. He named the paper “Dogri Ka Sitara: Tara Smailpuri”. In this paper, Dr. Goswami has given a comprehensive description of the multifaceted personality and works of Tara Smailpuri ji.
In the year 2019, monograph on modern Dogri writer Tara Smailpuri ji was published by Sahitya Akademi New Delhi. The title of this first edition monograph was titled “Maker of Indian Literature” and this monograph has been compiler by the author ‘Shyam Lal Raina’ in Dogri language.
The book on Dogri Ghazls, Kwabaliyan and some poems written by Tara Smailpuri published by his grand-daughter under the title “Tunde Chette Ch” in the year 2020, same was released in Dogri Sanstha on “World Poetry Day” on 21st March 2021.
(The author is grand-daughter of Tara Smailpuri presently pursuing her Ph. D from Jammu University)