Bhikari Thakur, popularly known as “Shakespear of Bhojpuri” was born in a barber-family on 18th December,1887 at Kutubpur ( Diyara) Village in Saran District. Name of his father and mother was Dal Singar Thakur and Shivkali Devi respectively. He had a younger brother named Bahor Thakur.
He went Kharagpur to earn livelihood. He had earned much and but not satisfied with the job. Ramlila had impressed him. He went Jagannath Puri. till the time, he has been converted to another person.
He established Dance Party in the native village and began to play Ram Lila, sing songs and took interest in Social-works. Now he writes dramas, songs and books etc. Language of the books was simple and attracted many. Books were published from Varanasi , Chhapra nad Howrah.
His literary creations including Dramas ( Bidesiya, Beti-Bechawa,Bidhawa Bilaap etc.) and songs are praised and used to sing even today. He died in the age of 84 years on 10th July,1971.
Bhikari Thakur – The
Shakespeare of Bihar
Bhikari Thakur is best known for the creation of
the twentieth century theatre form Bidesia. Bhikari Thakur was a barber (a
backward Caste) who abandoned home and hearth to form a group of actors who
dealt with issues of confrontation: between the traditional and the modern,
between urban and rural, between the haves and the have-nots. Appreciative
native Bhojpuri audiences consider Bhikari Thakur as the incomparable founder
father, propagator and exponent par excellence of this form. He was a folk
poet, a folk singer, a folk dancer and actor.
The narrative of Bidesia has been made so
effective through the medium of vibrant dances and pleasing music and based on
such life-like stories that it presents a realistic picture of the poor joint
families of the region.
The Bhojpuri taste is so theatrically inclined
that it will not hesitate even to undertake long journeys to witness a
performance. Like in many other folk forms, the female roles in Bidesia are
played by the male actor-dancers. Normally they wear dhoti or shirt trousers
but they sport long hair and make it and ornament it like women’s hair. Dance
forms an integral part of this form, in fact it’s the essence of the
performance, which starts with dance in order to attract a large audience. Once
this is done the Bidesia starts. The actors, besides dancing take on female
roles in different dramatic contexts. Inspite of the advent of various other
modes of entertainment, Bidesia remains the most popular and refreshing
relaxation for the Bhojpuris. Through his plays, he gave voice to the cause of
poor laborers and tried to create awareness about the poor situation of women
in bhojpuri society. He always stood and spoke against casteism and communalism
in the same cultural tunes. People from this region are very fond of and feel
proud of his contribution to the local cultural traditions. His plays and his
style of theatre are very popular for their rhythmic language, sweet songs and
appealing music. His plays are a true reflection of bhojpuri culture. Almost
all of his works focused on the day-to-day problems of lower castes/classes. He
used satire and light-hearted comments to maximum effect to put forward his
views on social ills and other problems plaguing Bhojpuri society.
He was born on December 18, 1887 at the village
of Kutubpur in the district of Saran, Bihar. His mother’s name was Shivakali
Devi and father was Dalsingar Thakur. He belonged to a naai (barber) caste, one
of the most backward castes in Indian society. The traditional work of his
caste was cutting hairs and assisting brahmins in marriage as well as in death
ceremonies. They were also used by dikus to send and distribute ceremonial (in
cases of marriages and deaths) and other messages in the village and nearby
areas. They acted like postal workers in the traditional-feudal village setup.
In one of his works he says: “Jati Hazzam more
Kutubpur mokam… Jati-pesha bate, bidya naheen bate babujee”. In this he speaks
about his own caste and regrets that his caste people are distributing letters
to all without knowing the importance of the letter, or the alphabets. He clearly
understood the power of education and continuously chided his people for being
illiterate and bounded by jajmani (patron-client) relations with the dikus.
Among the masses of Bihar and other
Bhojpuri-speaking areas, he needs no introduction. But the so-called mainstream
‘culture’, like always, has conspired to keep mum about his contribution,
actively avoiding even mentioning his name. Hence, there are no serious
documented accounts of his works till now. He is greatest flag bearer of
Bhojpuri language and culture. Bhojpuri is widely spoken in major parts of
Bihar including Jharkhand, some parts of eastern UP and Bengal. He is not only
popular in this linguistic belt but also in the cities where Bihari workers
migrated for their livelihood. Many criticized him for upholding feudal and
Brahminical values, which to some extent may be true. Despite the support and
legitimation of few brahminical and feudal values in his works, he always
pioneered the vision of a just and egalitarian society and this is the
difference we have to understand. No vision of egalitarian and subaltern
society can be even imagined under these idiotic and nonsensical shadows of
Though his plays revolved and evolved around
villages and rural society, they still became very famous in the big cities
like Kolkatta, Patna, Benares and other small cities, where migrant labourers
and poor workers went in search for their livelihood. Breaking all boundaries
of nation he, along with his mandali, also visited Mauritius, Kenya, Singapore,
Nepal, British Guyana, Surinam, Uganda, Myanmar, Madagascar, South Africa,
Fiji, Trinidad and other places where bhojpuri culture is more or less
Bidesia, as a vibrant mode of a regional
cultural expression, rugged and unsophisticated in form and rich in variety, is
a powerful expression of cultural heritage of weaker section of society.
Bhikari Thakur, through his artistic talents and bitter experiences, developed
it by picking up elements from Ramlila, raslila, birha yatra and other
performative elements and molded it into a totally new and wonderful style
known now as bidesia. Bidesia means migrated people, who left their home in
search of livelihood, but in the larger context Bhikari’s bidesia not only
migrated from the lands but also from their culture also. Many people get
confused between the bidesia style and his play Bidesia. Actually, he did all
his plays in bidesia style which is very similar to nautanki, but later his
theatrical style was known from his famous production Bidesia.
He has written as well as directed and performed
ten major works; beginning with a non-serious vasant-bahar based on the
dhobi-dhobin dance he saw somewhere.
After Thakur’s death in 1971, his theatre style
and use of bhojpuri language are continually being abused by the music industry
in producing bhojpuri songs and plays replete with sexual innuendo. This is
like a counter-revolution of the brahmin-bania combine against all the ideals
that Bhikari Thakur propagated through his art. The dikus have no relations
based on social reality and always aim to get maximum monetary profits on the
basis of cultural vulgarity. This market forced a shift from Bhikari Thakur’s
socio-economic oriented plays to mere sexual fantasy and cheap entertainment. This
reflects the creative bankruptcy of dikus against which we dalit-bahujans
should come forward and play a vital role to safe guard our anti-diku legacy in
which Bhikari Thakur is one of the big stars in the galaxy of Dalit-bahujan
His major productions include: – Bidesia, Bhai-
Birodh, Beti-Viyog or Beti Bechba (seller of daughter), Kalyuga Prema (Love in
Kalyuga), Radheshyam Behar (based on krisna- radha love), Ganga-asnan
(ceremonial bath in ganga), Bidhwa- vilap, Putrabadh (killing of son), Gabar-
Bichar (based on an illegitimate child), and Nanad Bhojai.
1. Bhai-Virodh (opposition from brother)
This play deals with the theme of joint family,
which is a very prominent feature of Bihar’s rural society. Three brothers are
separated due to lack of confidence and respect for each other on the
instigation of a person outside their family. However, at the end they realize
the importance of living together but not before a lot of harm had actually
2. Beti-Viyog or Beti- Bechwa (seller of
This play is considered a very progressive play.
Bhikari Thakur through this play criticizes the wide-spread custom of selling
young girls in marriage to much older men. This custom prevailed in
Bhojpuri-speaking areas until recently. The protagonist is a young girl whose
father sells her to an older person.
3. Kalyuga- Prem
Through this play Bhikari Thakur talks about the
bad effects of drinking. The lone wage earner of the family is a drunkard and
often visits prostitutes. This extravagance soon leads to the pauperization of
his family. His whole family including his wife and son suffers tremendously
because of the bad habits of the head of the family. Later in the play the wife
and son decide to confront him but to no avail. Later being fed up with his
father’s immoral ways, the son runs away from the family and goes to Calcutta
to earn money to eventually return and rescue his mother.
Malechu is from a village. His wife wants to go
to bathe in the Ganga but his mother is too old to do so. The wife finally
prevails and they set out but not after loading much luggage for his old mother
to carry on the way. Before they reach the Ganga a quarrel ensues and Malechu
beats up his mother. At the banks of the Ganga, his mother gets lost in a fair.
In the same fair, his wife is seduced by a sadhu with the promise of giving her
a son. Malechu finds her in the nick of time and epiphany dawns on the both of
them who then find the mother and beg her forgiveness. The story is a critique
both of the distance between parents and their children in a situation where
old parents are completely dependent on their children and also of the tantric
culture of sadhus who most often are conmen.
5. Vidhwa-Vilap (The weeping widow)
The story is about how widows are treated within
their homes. It is seen as an extension of Beti-bechwa for more often than not
young girls married to old men; spend most of their lives as widows. The story
reflects the hatred and seclusion a widow has to suffer in brahminical society
for no fault of her own.
It the story of an illegitimate son of Garbari
and Galij’s wife. Galij returns from the town to find the village gossiping
about his son’s parentage. He wants to take Dichor back to Calcutta with him.
But both Galij’s wife and Garbari intervene. A quarrel ensues as each of them
claims Dichor as their own. The panchayat is called and they decide that Dichor
be divided into three pieces. A man comes and maps Dichors body and agrees to
do the job for four annas a piece. The mother relents refusing to pay and
giving up all claim on the son. The panchayat sees the light and Dichor is
allowed to stay with his mother. Almost all his plays took their themes from
society but were molded in Bhikari’s new progressive and revolutionary style.
When asked why he took to theatre, Bhikari answered, “I used to watch Ramlila
and Raslila. When in Ramlila, Vyasji gave sermons to people; I also thought I
could also give sermons to my people”. This dream came true and till his last
day he served his people through his sermons, which unlike diku sermons were
based on real life. But our legendary cultural figure is no more among us. He
breathed his last on July 10, 1971 after giving us a new lease of life.