Brian McDaniel

Aspire to Inspire

Krishen Iyer was a Hindi poet from India who was born in the year 1809, and died in the year 1874. He belonged to a zamindari family, who were land-owning aristocrats. In his lifetime he composed, according to one estimate, over 10 thousand songs for the purpose of dancing or singing.


The poet Krishen Iyer was profoundly influenced by his mother tongue which is certain even at the peak of his fame and success. His poems collected in twenty-seven volumes won him an honored position amongst Hindi poets and writers across South Asia as well as among readers across India and abroad.


The successful professional Iyer wrote all over India and generally in praise of one who had attained a high rank in the Indian Army, and krishen’s songs were sung by him with music composed by the poet himself. The author, who hailed from a landed family with estates in the Benaras region, passed his childhood between Benaras and Lucknow. Krishen Iyer was an accomplished Hindustani classical singer who played several instruments as well, including the sitar, dilruba and mridanga. He married twice; his first wife died young – he eventually remarried to a woman named Chunni Bai – but it is his first wife that Iyer immortalized in his poetry.


“In the “shekari” style, Krishen Iyer’s verses were published in two volumes: “Prem Kahani” (Devotional Stories) and “Krishankanter Kavya-kalpana”. These two works are regarded as the first creations of this genre in the Hindi literature. They were written in 1844.” Iyer’s style was often described as “elegant”, although he never employed metaphorical language. For example, describing a scented flower, instead of saying that it smelled like wine or jasmine or musk, he would say only that it was fragrant. 

He was generally traditional in his approach, and often wrote poems extolling the virtues and deeds of ancient heroes. In “Nauratan” (The Nine Jewels), he praised nine glorious kings. Krishen Iyer’s work is praised for its simple creations as well as its “sweetness”. While the great Mughal emperor Akbar held a conference with his advisors in 1579, a Hindu Brahmin was called to perform devotional songs. After the performance had ended, Akbar asked him who among his ancestors had been a singer before him; the Brahmin descended from Vyas, son of Taru, who himself was a famous musician in Vaishali and Mithila.