Shivnath -An ardent devotee of the Dogri Literature

Lalit Mangotra
Quite often it so happens that certain individuals, who contribute in an exceptional manner towards a cause, do not get the limelight which they deserve. Mostly the reason for this lies with their own nature of avoiding self -promotion. This is true about Dogri literature as well. In this context, the first name that comes to mind is Shivnath. Except for the literary circles of Dogri, where he is well known for his scholarly and path breaking seminal work, he is hardly a known name among the general public. This fact is not known to many that his work played a key role in introducing and establishing Dogri nationally and internationally as a vibrant and fast developing modern Indian language.
Shivnath was born on 18th February, 1925 in a family with humble background, his father being a Pujari of a small temple. However, he was a naturally gifted individual and was exceptionally brilliant in his studies . He did his Matriculation from Shri Ranbir High School, Jammu, securing first position in the school. The school was a part of Punjab ( undivided ) University, Lahore. In his graduation ( Hons ), which he also did from Punjab University, as a student of the Prince of Wales College ( now GGM Science College ), Jammu, he secured first position in whole of the J&K State. He completed his education by doing Masters in English with first division from the reputed Government College, Lahore. Later he earned the distinction of being the first candidate from J&K State to qualify the IAS examination and was placed at the `18th position in the merit list of IAS and IFScandidates of 1949 batch. but due to the peculiar political and administrative circumstances of the State, he was unable to join this service. Instead, he had to opt for Indian Postal Service, from where he retired after attaining the rank of Director General of Posts and Telegraph Department.
Throughout his life, Shivnath demonstrated sterling qualities of determination to fight his adversities and achieved his goals with hard labour and purposefulness. He had seen hard days in his formative years. Yet, there was no bitterness or cynicism in his outlook. On the contrary, he was a man of very gentle, sweet and amicable disposition. By sheer force of his well rounded personality, he was able to carve out new ways for himself and leave indelible marks in every sphere of his life.
Shivnath’s salient contributions to the cause of Dogri literature shall never be forgotten. Here, three aspects of his commendable service need to be highlighted, namely (1) setting new benchmarks for Dogri literature; (2) making tireless efforts to bring Dogri in limelight at the national and international levels; and (3) focusing attention, from time to time, on the scope for improving creative writing n Dogri.
When Shivnath entered the field of Dogri literature, it was still at a nascent stage. Initiative was required to set it upon the right course. He realized this necessity and contributed significantly to such initiatives.
He was there to participate in the founding of Dogri Sanstha in 1944. The organization was soon to become the axis for promoting literary works in Dogri. When Radio Kashmir Jammu started functioning in Jammu in the year 1947, Shivnath worked there as a translator and news reader . Later, he became the first news-reader of Dogri news bulletin broadcast from New Delhi. His presence in Delhi proved a great help in getting Dogri recognized by Sahitya Akademi. His write-ups and projections on the language during this period played a significant role in this drive.
Later, with the growth and development of Dogri literature, Shivnath took it upon himself to bring it to the notice of the world. He authored History of Dogri Literature and also its sequel, Two Decades of Dogri Literature,which were published by Sahitya Akademi in 1976 and 1977 respectively. For as many as twenty years, spanning 1970 to 1990, he wrote regularly for Indian Literature – a literary journal of the Akademi – on important literary efforts in Dogri literature. Writing monographs on prominent Dogri authors, working tirelessly as translator-editor of publication of Dogri folk tales into English by Sahitya Akademi; bringing out anthologies of selected Dogri poetry, short stories and prose works, authoring review articles; contributing 80 entries to the Encyclopedia of Indian Literature and rendering Dogri poetry into English for the Anthology of Modern Indian Literature – the list of Shivnath’s works goes on and on.
The volume and wide spectrum of above mentioned works indicate his passion to show-case Dogri literature to the wide world. And the way he did it was at the cost of his personal creative writing. Shivnath possessed abundant talent and a self-abnegating nature – true marks of a man of rare caliber. During all through the years that he promoted Dogri literature, he had himself been writing exquisite poetry in Dogri, which he kept to himself. When some of these poems were published at last in Nami Chetna, Dr. Nirmal Vinod, a senior scholar of Dogri, commented that had these poems seen the light of the day when they were written, Dogri poetry would have taken a different course altogether.
Development and growth of Dogri wereShivnath’s prime objectives indeed, he also thought it was necessary to offer timely criticism to bring Dogri literature to the high level it deserved. For this purpose he wrote Dogri Sahitya Parchol which is a standing guideline for literary critics to appraise literature in accordance to the Western as well as Indian standards.
In the evening of his life, Shivnath concentrated more on personal writings; like essays, travelogues and reminiscences . The result of his efforts fructified in the form of four books, two in Dogri – Oh Bi Din Hey ( two volumes ) and Cheten Di Chitkabri; and two in English – Reminiscences of a Jammuite and Jammu Miscellany . These books set standards , are highly readable and form our valuable treasure. He also received the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award , though belated , for Cheten Di Chitkabri in the year 2004.
Shivnath was indeed a great aficionado of Dogri literature, and who fully and wholeheartedly devoted his talent and expertise to take it to greater heights. He bid adieu to this world on 7th February, 2014.