In an informal chat with a friend, I said, “You look quite romantic today”. “I am mature now & won’t like to be addressed in such an informal tone”. He retorted. This sharp reaction of my friend urged me to think about the matter at a deeper level. I started reflecting on the choice of words used by my friend to react to my romantic remark. It dawned on me that other than the students from a literary background, people misunderstand the term ‘Romantic’ in its narrowest sense of meaning instead of understanding it as a revolutionary movement in Europe in the late 18th century against the age of reason, enlightenment, and industrialization. At the beginning of the 19th century, this revolution of romanticism took over the world by storm.
I thought for a while and decided to put my thoughts in black and white about the term, ’Romanticism’ for my friend and all other readers who feel curious to know more about the concept and its impact on the lives of the people, writers, and other stakeholders. This write-up shall also help many to use ‘Romanticism’ in its true sense to avoid any awkward position for the user and the listener.
The word ‘Romanticism’ was first time used in 1821 as a literary, artistic, and philosophical movement, characterized chiefly by a reaction against neoclassicism and an emphasis on the imagination and emotions. The idea was to exalt the common man and to appreciate the external nature. The mouthpieces of romanticism demonstrate an interest in the remote and a tendency for melancholy.
In fact, Romanticism was a response to the prevailing Enlightenment ideas of the 17th and 18th centuries in England. The Enlightenment, with its emphasis on rationality, science, and a belief in the perfectibility of humanity, had brought about significant changes in society. Industrialization and urbanization were transforming England's landscape, leading to social upheaval and a disconnect from the natural world. While the Enlightenment was marked by reason and logic, the Romantics sought to explore the more emotional, imaginative, and mystical aspects of human existence.
If we want to understand the term at a deeper level, we have to analyze the profound impact of this movement on the literature of the early 19th century in England and later across the globe.The main contributors to Romanticism were:William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), William Blake (1757-1827), Lord Byron (1788-1824), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), and John Keats (1795-1821).
The themes, ideas, and beliefs shared by these writers & artists were comparatively common in their works. If we sum up the common minimum beliefs of these writers, romanticism includes the importance of individual experience and expression, the power of nature to inspire and uplift, the importance of imagination and creativity, the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity, and the rejection of traditional social and political structures.
The seminal work to mark the beginning of ‘romanticism in 1798 was the ‘Lyrical Ballads.’ This manifesto of English Romanticism rejected the formal and artificial use of the language of the time. The simple, natural, and direct expression was used to express emotions and explore the lives of common people. Read the following lines from Lyrical Ballads,
“To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.”
― William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads
Romanticism was a big revolt against the existing artistic tradition. It celebrated the individual's emotional and imaginative experiences and placed a high value on personal feelings and experiences, encouraging artists to explore their inner worlds and express their unique perspectives on life, love, and nature.The Romantics developed a deep appreciation for nature's beauty and its restorative power. They saw nature as a source of inspiration and sought to understand its spiritual significance. Nature often served as a mirror for human emotions and provided a setting for personal reflection.
The Romantics valued the power of the imagination to transcend reality and delve into the realms of fantasy and dreams. They believed that imagination could reveal truths that reason and logic could not grasp. Romantics often looked to the medieval period as a source of inspiration, associating it with a simpler, more organic way of life. Medieval literature, chivalry, and folklore were elements that held a special fascination for Romantics.
The poets and artists of the Romantic era were critical of the negative impacts of industrialization and urbanization. They lamented the loss of traditional rural life and the alienation of people from nature due to urban expansion.
Many Romantic works explored themes of the supernatural, the mystical, and the unknown. This fascination with the mysterious reflected their desire to break away from the constraints of the material world. The Romantic Movement was also associated with a sense of nationalism and a renewed interest in folk culture and traditions. Romantics sought to celebrate the unique cultural identity of their own nations.
Romanticism in India
The Indian Romantic movement was a transformative period that sought to rekindle national pride, revive cultural heritage, and challenge colonial dominance. It left a lasting impact on Indian literature, art, and philosophy, and played a crucial role in shaping India's path towards independence and cultural resurgence. Indian Romantics delved into classical Indian literature, philosophy, music, and art, drawing inspiration from ancient texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, and Sanskrit poetry. It fostered a strong sense of nationalistic pride and a desire for cultural resurgence. There was a growing awareness of India's glorious past and a yearning for its reassertion in the face of colonial dominance.
The romantic writers of India used and developed vernacular languages, such as Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, and others, to make literature and ideas accessible to a broader Indian audience. This movement played a crucial role in the development of modern Indian literature.
Bengali literature flourished during the Indian Romantic movement, with works by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, and Rabindranath Tagore. These writers explored themes of nationalism, love for one's motherland, and a longing for freedom. Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam composed deeply emotive and inspiring poetry, reflecting the sentiments of the Indian people. Tagore's poems, in particular, were often set to music and became widely popular. The Indian Romantic movement also influenced visual artists, who depicted scenes from Indian mythology, historical events, and rural life. Raja Ravi Varma, one of India's most celebrated artists, was renowned for his paintings depicting characters from Indian epics and mythology.
Romanticism in Jammu & Kashmir
The beautiful landscapes of Kashmir, with its picturesque valleys, mountains, and lakes, played a central role in the Romantic movement. Poets and writers celebrated the natural beauty of the region, often using it as a metaphor to express human emotions and experiences.The Romantic movement emphasized the significance of the Kashmiri language as an essential tool for preserving the region's cultural identity. Writers and intellectuals advocated for the use and promotion of the Kashmiri language in literature, education, and administration.
The Romantics in Jammu & Kashmir contributed to the growing sense of Kashmiri identity and nationalism. Sufi poetry and spirituality had a profound impact on the Romantic movement in Kashmir. The works of Sufi poets like Lal Ded and Sheikh-ul-Alam inspired later generations of writers to explore themes of love, divine union, and the quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Although, we are proud to have a long list of romantic writers in the past and the present. But, I am mentioning the few who left an incredible impact as romantic representatives of Kashmir.
Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor, popularly known as Mahjoor, was a prominent Kashmiri poet who played a pivotal role in the Kashmiri Renaissance. His poetry celebrated the beauty of Kashmir, and he used his verses to raise social and political issues.
Abdul Ahad Azad (1903-1948):
Abdul Ahad Azad was a renowned poet, writer, and journalist who championed the Kashmiri language and culture. He was an influential figure in the Kashmiri Romantic movement and used his writings to advocate for social reforms and political awareness.
Zinda Kaul (1884-1965):
Zinda Kaul was a prominent Kashmiri poet and writer who contributed significantly to the revival of Kashmiri literature. His poetry focused on themes of love, nature, and spirituality, reflecting the essence of the Romantic movement in the region.
Despite the challenges in the region, the legacy of the Kashmiri Romantic movement continues to inspire writers, poets, and artists in Kashmir to explore themes of love, nature, and spirituality.
I conclude and hope that my friend will not get irritated after going through this write-up about romanticism and its impact on the lives of people across the world.