The emblem of Swadeshi Movement
Mukunda Das (February 22, 1878 – May 18, 1934) was a Bengali poet, ballad singer, composer, playwright and patriot, who contributed to the spread of the Swadeshi movement in rural Bengal. He was born as Yajneshwar De to Gurudayal De and Shyamasundari Devi.
When he was seven, the family migrated to Barisal from Bikrampur (currently Munshiganj) where they settled permanently. His father used to sing devotional songs, and worked as an orderly in the Barisal court.
Yajneshwar was gifted with a melodious voice, and began composing and singing from an early age. In 1897, after dropping out from school, Yajneshwar joined the group of kirtan singer Bireshwar Dutta, and formed his own kirtan group after Birshwar’s death. In 1900, he was initiated into Vaishavism, and his guru gave him the name Mukunda Das.
In 1905, Swadeshi leader and one of Mukunda’s mentors, Ashwini Kumar Dutta gave an inspiring speech at the Barisal Town Hall, against the proposed partition of Bengal. Mukunda Das was deeply moved by Ashwini Kumar Dutta’s speech, and within three months, composed his masterpiece “Matripuja”. The primary theme of his drama was patriotism and freedom movement. He raised a Swadeshi theatre group and staged plays across the villages of Bengal, including Noakhali and Tripura.
In 1921, Mohandas Gandhi gave the call of Non-Cooperation Movement. Mukunda Das joined the movement with his proven repertoire of dramas. Around 1923, the movement was called off and Mukunda Das settled with his group in Kolkata. “Matripuja” was banned by the government at that time. He began to compose social plays including “Pallisava”, “Brahmacharini”, “Samaj o Path” in order to avoid the ban. In 1932, the government banned all his plays.
After the ban, he was restricted to singing. He, along with his group performed only musical shows, as his health had gradually deteriorated. On May 17, 1934, he returned late from a performance and died in his sleep.