This episode is on the history of 23rd August recounting key events and personalities associated with this date. It highlights the Battle at Florence in 406, the execution of Scottish patriot William Wallace in 1305, and the birth anniversary of Dr. Radha Gobinda Kar. The feature story focuses on Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta on the occasion of his birth anniversary.
The history of 23rd August takes us to the year 406 when on this day the Battle at Florence was fought where Stilicho’s Roman army defeated the Radagaisus‘ Barbarians.
Moving on with the history of 23rd August we come to the year 1305 when on this day Scottish patriot William Wallace was executed for high treason by Edward I of England at Smithfield, London . A move titled Brave Heart was made basis this incident.
23rd of August is also the birth anniversary of Dr. Radha Gobinda Kar. A detailed article was shared by East India Story earlier. You can read it with this link.
With this we come to the feature story from the history of 23rd Augusr where we remember Narmadashankar Mehta on his birth anniversary.
Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta: Pioneering Gujarat’s Literary Landscape
In the annals of literary history, certain individuals emerge as trailblazers, reshaping the contours of literature and leaving an indelible mark on their cultural landscape. Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta (1835–1905), an eminent educationist and administrator, stands as one such luminary in the realm of Gujarati literature. Acknowledged as Gujarat’s first novelist, Mehta’s literary contributions transcended mere storytelling; they intertwined with the socio-political fabric of his time, providing a bridge between a rich past and an uncertain future.
Mehta’s literary journey was inaugurated with his magnum opus, ‘Karan Ghelo,’ published in 1866. This work marked a significant milestone in the evolution of Gujarati literature, for it introduced the modern literary genre of fiction to the language. ‘Karan Ghelo’ wove a narrative tapestry around the life of Gujarat’s last Rajput king, Karan Vaghela (1296-1305), encapsulating the historical essence of the region and reimagining its glorious past before the throes of decline.
The publication of ‘Karan Ghelo’ was not only a literary event but a socio-cultural phenomenon. Arriving on the heels of the 1857 rebellion, the novel cast a backward glance to medieval times, a strategic move that resonated deeply with the readership. The narrative allowed readers to traverse the shifting sands of time, seeking solace and pride in a bygone era. In the rapidly burgeoning print culture, the novel captured the imagination of readers, offering them the enthralling experience of a lengthy narrative, even if its plot had some weaknesses.
The novel’s popularity was undeniable, evidenced by numerous reprints over the years. In a remarkable development, ‘Karan Ghelo’ made its way into the English language in 2015, thanks to the translation efforts of Tulsi Vatsal and Aban Mukherji (Penguin). This translation bridged the temporal and linguistic divide, allowing a wider audience to engage with Mehta’s literary masterpiece.
The legacy of Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta extended beyond his role as a novelist. In 1916, his son Vinayak Mehta penned a biography titled ‘Nandshankar Jeevan Chitra,’ a touching filial tribute that marked the first of its kind in the literary sphere. Through this biographical account, readers were not only introduced to the literary prowess of Nandshankar but also gained insights into the historical context of Surat, the city that nurtured his creativity.
Surat, during the mid-to-late 19th century, was a bustling hub of commerce and culture on the western coast of India. It was a unique epoch characterized by the confluence of colonialism and modernity, as India grappled with the advent of change. Nandshankar Mehta, much like other English-educated contemporaries including M.K. Gandhi, found himself straddling two worlds: the fading traditions of the past and the nascent contours of an evolving future. Their struggle lay in striking a balance, preserving the valuable elements of tradition while embracing the swiftly advancing forces of modernity, symbolized by the speed of telegrams and railways.
Amid the tumultuous decades of 1860 to 1880, Surat bore witness to an effervescent surge of creativity. Nandshankar Mehta, along with literary luminaries like Narmadashankar, Navalram, and Mahipatram, dominated the Gujarati literary panorama. Their works collectively painted a rich and vibrant picture of the era, capturing the complexities of societal shifts and individual aspirations.
In hindsight, Nandshankar Tuljashankar Mehta’s contributions were not limited to his novels; they formed a cultural bridge that connected the past to the present, seamlessly integrating history with storytelling. His pioneering efforts continue to influence contemporary literature, inspiring writers to traverse boundaries, both temporal and linguistic, and craft narratives that resonate with the heartbeats of their time.
That’s all from the history of 23rd August.