Eminent poet and critic Sankha Ghosh passed away in Kolkata on Wednesday. The Jnanpith awardee was 89 and had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in April.
He was under home isolation for the past few days, but his condition deteriorated late on Tuesday. He is survived by wife and two daughters.
Ghosh was one of most important names in Bengali poetry and, together with Shakti Chattopadhyay, Alokeranjan Dasgupta and Sunil Gangopadhyay, was said to have carried on the baton from the poets of the early part of the 20th century, such as Jibanananda Das and Buddhadev Basu.
He was awarded the Jnanpith Award in 2016 and the Padma Bhushan in 2011. In the shadow of the Rabindranath Tagore era, poets such as Ghosh took the legacy forward.
Considered an authority on Tagore, Ghosh was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977 for his poetry collection Babarer Prarthana.
He was born on February 6, 1932, in Chandpur, which is in present-day Bangladesh. The poet graduated in Bengali honours from Presidency College in 1951 and did his post-graduation at University of Calcutta.
He taught at a number of educational institutes, including Visva Bharati University, Delhi University and Jadavpur University. He retired from Jadavpur University in 1992.
Ghosh was a man of few words. Though he was considered one of the greatest of poets, he chose silence even when protesting against the violence and violation of human rights towards the end of the Left Front regime. At the most, he would issue written statements.
The poet had also expressed strong opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act through a poem called Mati. His other well-known poems are Andolan, Mukh Dheke Jaye Biggapone, Chup Koro and Bohiragoto.
“Following the demise of Sankha Ghosh, we extend our deep condolences. I have directed the Chief Secretary and final rites will be performed with full State honours,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
Ms. Banerjee also added that since the poet was not in favour of a “gun salute,” it would not be part of the ceremony.
Noted Bengali poet Joy Goswami said Ghosh was the conscience of Bengali society. “The Bengali literary circle will feel a void created by his death more and more.”
Writer Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, recalling his decades-long association with the poet, said that despite several awards and laurels “there was not even a hint of pride in him”.