On Diwali and other festivals, every household in North India specifically recites the Om Jai Jagdish Hare aarti. However, very few even know the history of this most popular Religious Poem of modern times.
You can listen to it here: Om Jai Jagdish Hare – Text and Audio
And this the story of Om Jai Jagdish Hare and its writer (history of the Aarti!)
A powerful literary figure of the 19th century – Shardha Ram “Phillauri” was a Sanatani missionary. He was also a social reformer and a trend-setter in the fields of Hindi and Punjabi literatures. His contribution towards the evolution of modern Hindi is imseminal. While on his death-bed he had said, “There are two writers of Bhasha in the whole of India. To-day only one shall remain.” His reference to the other Bhasha writer was to the celebrated Bhartendu Harishchandra. This dying declaration of Shardha Ram might have seemed an exaggerated estimation. However, with the passage of time, the truth stands established. Renowned critic Ram Chander Shukla writes “His language was forceful and his speech hypnotic. He was a true Hindi lover and an effective writer of his times.”
Only a few people are aware of the fact that Shardha Ram was the creator of the most popular prayer Om Jai Jagdish Hare, sung by almost every Hindu family the world over. Even during his lifetime, the popularity of this prayer tempted many persons to appropriate it. The word Shraddha denotes the devotion and dedication of the author at the same time, this reference makes him the creator of the prayer. The devotional feelings of the author show through each line of the prayer. The omnipresent Almighty God is everything to the poet and he cannot even think in terms of another:-
Maat pita tum mere, sharan gahun main kiski,
Tum bin aur na duja aas karun main jiski.
He firmly believed that total surrender before the Almighty bestows all kinds of bliss!
Jo dhyave fal pave dukh vinshe maanka,
Sukh sampati ghar aawe kasht mite taanka.
Satya Dharm Muktavli and Shatopadesh established Shardha Ram as a poet of eternal devotion and dedication on a par with Tulsidas and Surdas of the Bhakti Movement.
Shardha Ram was born in a Brahmin family at a small town, Phillaur (Jalandhar) in the year 1837. His father, Jai Dyalu was an astrologer by profession. When the latter learned about the birth of a son, he predicted that the boy would accomplish many things and win laurels during the short span of his life. The prediction came true.
Sikhan De Raj Di Vithia and Punjabi Batcheet are two notable works of Shardha Ram in (Gurmukhi) The first work earned him the title of “Father of modern Punjabi prose. It contains the story of the Sikh religion and politics according to the perception of the author. The book is divided into three chapters. The last chapter contains customs, usages and folk song s of Punjab. Perhaps, for this reason, this book was prescribed as a textbook for higher education. Punjabi Batcheet depicts different customs usages and fashions prevalent in different regions of Punjab such as Malwa and Majha etc idioms, modes of expression and variations in dialect are shown. The study of this book was made compulsory for getting into administrative services.
Though Shardha Ram was the product of religious turmoil of his age, he was far ahead of his times”. His novel Bhagyawati, written with the sole purpose of bringing an awakening amongst the womenfolk, has been called the first Hindi novel, although the claim is not uncontested. Pariksha Guru, written by Shri Niwas Dass, is a contender for the prestigious first place. Bhagyawati can, however, rightly claim many firsts in the field.
On the birth of a female child, Bhagyawati, the main character in the novel makes her husband understand that there is no difference between the male and the female child. Opposition to child-marriage and laying stress on adult education makes this novel far ahead of its times.
Satyamrit Pravaha demonstrates the profound scholarship and rational outlook of Shardha Ram and it shall be long remembered for the strong convictions and principles that it embodies.
Even a sentence uttered by a child, with a rationale behind it is more acceptable than a quote from the Vedas without a rationale says the author. Shardha Ram was a person of independent views and he desisted from withholding his own thought and interpretation of Vedas and Shastras”. He was charged with conducting propaganda against the British Government, through his forceful lectures on the Mahabharata’.
His lectures on the Shalya Parva were attended by police trainees. He was exiled from his hometown, Phillaur. Shardha Ram did not relent and the order had to be subsequently withdrawn after the persuasion by father Newton, who had a great admiration for Shardha Ram’s scholarship. Through his literary pursuits and lectures, Shardha Ram emphasized the literary development in PunjabBack.
Despite his many creations and talents, his one creation will live on forever without anyone knowing who actually wrote it. The ubiquitous Om Jai Jagdish Hare aarti!