Ayekpam Shyamsunder's life and works
- A prominent literary figure of Manipur -

Dr. Syed Ahmed *

 Ayekpam Shyamsunder Singh
Ayekpam Shyamsunder Singh

Ayekpam Shyamsunder Singh (1913-1992) was one of the most prominent literary figures of Manipur. He popularized Bengali literature in the State by translating several celebrated Bengali novels into Manipuri.

He has left behind a huge body of published works that include
Mainu Pemcha (drama, 1944),
Samu Khongyetpa (drama, 1950),
Durgesh Nandini (novel, 1958),
Juglasu Bir (novel, 1961),
Rajshri Rajashri (novel, 1961),
Indira (novel, 1963),
Devi Choudhurani (novel, 1963),
Chandrasekhar (novel, 1964),
Anandmath (novel, 1964),
Rajni (novel, 1965),
Yokchabi Pana (drama, 1967),
Raj Singh (novel, 1968),
Osman Thambal (drama 1974),
Chitrangada (drama, 1975),
Kapalkundala (novel),
Bankimchandragi Upanyas Khara (collection of Bankim Chandra's novels),
Sitaram (novel, 1968),
Krishnakantagi Uil (novel),
Radharani, Devdas (novel),
Srikanta (novel, 1979), among others.

Mainu Pemcha is one of the most popular works of Shyamsunder. It's a tragic romantic drama based on the affair between a prince and a girl from an ordinary family. The story ends with the girl committing suicide as she lost hope of getting married to the prince.

Shyamsunder's work Durgesh Nandini, Kapalkundala, Krishnakantagi Uil and Anandmath are the Manipuri translations of the novels of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (also Chatterjee) (1838-1894) with the same titles. Bankim Chandra is regarded as one of the greatest literary figures of India "whose novels firmly established prose as a literary vehicle for the Bengali language and helped create in India a school of fiction on the European model."

Durgesh Nandini (Daughter of the Feudal Lord) is a historical romance novel based on a love triangle between a Mughal General, a daughter of a Bengali feudal lord and a daughter of a rebel Pathan leader. The original Bengali work was published in 1865. The story is set in the backdrop of the Afghan-Mughal conflicts that took place in Bengal during the reign of Jalaluddin Akbar (1542-1605). Kapalkundala is also a romance novel.

The original Bengali work was published in 1866. It is the story of a girl named Kapalkundala, a forest dweller, who fell in love with and married a young man from a city. Later, she could not adjust herself with the city life. Krishnakantagi Uil is the Manipuri translation of Bankim Chandra's family drama loaded with morality, entitled Krishnakanter Uil published in 1878.

Anandamath is a popular historical novel inspired by and set in the background of the Sanyasi Revolt that erupted in parts of Bengal in the late 18th century. The original work, published in 1882, is regarded as one of the most significant novels in the history of Bengali as well as in Indian literature.

The national song of our country, Bande Mataram (Hail to Thee, Mother), which became a source of inspiration for the people during the freedom struggle, is a part of Anandmath. Shyamsunder's work Bankimchandragi Upanyas Khara is also a collection of the Manipuri translations of Bankim Chandra's novels.

Taking into account Shyamsunder's keen interest in the works of Bankim Chandra and his huge contribution in translating majority of the latter's works into Manipuri, Columnist N. Tombi Singh, wittily writes, "He (Shyamsunder) is, to me a Bankimchandra of Manipur Ayekpam Bankimchandra."

Devdas and Srikanta are the Manipuri translations of the Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's (1876-1938) classic works with the same titles, while Rajashri and Chitrangada are the translations of the Bengali works of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).

Gandevta is the Manipuri translation of Tarasankar Bandhopadhyay's (1898-1971) novel with the same title, and Leidhi Jagoigi Chingthang Wari is the Manipuri rendering of Manik Bandhopadhyay's (1908-1956) work.

Shyamsunder was born on February 10, 1913 at Yaiskul Police Lane, Imphal. He received his early education from Keishamthong L.P. School, Moirangkhom U.P. School and Johnstone High School. He went for higher studies to Cotton College, Guwahati, and Vidyasagar College, Calcutta. Shyamsunder served as Assistant Teacher at Churachandpur Higher Secondary School, Imphal from 1957 to 1975.

Besides making his mark in writing, Shyamsunder was also a renowned dramatist and actively involved in the development of theatre in Manipur.

He acted in several plays, wrote scripts and also directed many. He started acting after joining Manipur Dramatic Union (stayed from 1931 to 1936), then joined Chitrangada Natya Mandir (1936-1943) and finally Rupmahal Theatre (1943-1992). He was one of the founder members of Rupmahal Theatre.

Shyamsunder received several awards for his achievements in literary and performing art which include
Gold Medal Award for Best Actor in the play Ibema (1937),
Gold Medal for Best Actor in the play Jayadev (1945),
Certificate of Honour in all Manipur Drama Festival for Best Director for the play Huranba,
and Best Writer of the play Mainu Pemcha.

He also received the State Kala Akademi Award for Acting, Direction and Playwriting in 1975. He also begged the prestigious Sahiya Akademi Translation Award (with the cash prize of Rs. 10,000) in 1990 for his work Krishnakantagi Uil.

Shyamsunder passed away on November 4, 1992. He is now survived by a daughter; two of his daughters had passed away.

* Dr. Syed Ahmed wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at syed_ahmed4(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 07 September 2022.

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