Babu Gulabrai (January 17, 1888 – April 13, 1963)was a significant figure in modern Hindi literature.
Babu Gulabrai was born in Etawah, where his father, Babu Bhawani Prasad, was a munsarif in the judicial court. His mother was Gomati Devi and he had both a brother and a sister.
Gulabrai completed his MA in Philosophy and also his LLB at Agra University. He started writing philosophical essays in English and switched to Hindi in order to promote it as a national language. His first two works, Shanti Dharma and Maitri Dharma, reflected his ideology and interests.
He then worked for the Maharaja of Chhatarpur as private secretary, prime minister and chief justice. After the death of Maharaja, he returned to Agra and resumed writing. He taught at St Johns College, Agra, and was noted for his teaching skills as well as his friendly attitude towards students.
He was conferred with an honorary doctorate from Agra University in the year 1957 by V. V. Giri. He continued writing until his death on 13 April 1963
Babu Gulabrai was married to Bhagwati Devi of Meerut. He had three sons and five daughters.
In June 2002, the Government of India issued a 5 Rs stamp to commemorate his contribution to Hindi literature.
Gulabrai wrote a history of Hindi literature, Hindi ka subodh itihaas and developed a unique style of self-satire, which is very prominent in his biographies titled Meri Asafaltaein and Thalua Club. He also started a literary magazine called Sahitya Sandesh.
His works can be broadly divided into three categories.
Philosophical. Most of his early work comes into this category .As he was a philosopher by education as well as profession (his work in the court of the maharaja included him being a “philosophical companion” of the king.) He was greatly inspired by the Gandhian philosophy and many of his works provide an analytical as well as scientific defence of it. Rashtriyata, which is a compilation of essays on nationalism, is one of the most mature and rationalistic description of nationalism. He advocates the principle of harmony between internationalism, nationalism and regionalism, giving priority to them in this order.
Literary essays. He was a prominent Hindi critic of Dwivedi and Shukla Yuga during the early half of the 20th century, which was the golden age of Hindi literature. He, along with the likes of Mahaveer Prasad Dwivedi and Acharya Ramchandra Shukla, gave the form a much-needed philosophical and analytical impetus.
Satire. His output as a satirist include the most famous of his works that were produced in the later part of his life. His autobiography, Meri Asafaltain (“my Failures”) was one of these and in it he mad himself the object of humour and entertained the reader with an account of the failures of his life.
The language used by him was Sanskritized version of Hindi. His initial works were in English and as he himself admits that he started writing in Hindi due to patriotic reasons and his knowledge of Sanskrit helped him in that. Hence we find heavy usage of Sanskrit words and shlokas. He used extremely witty statements (probably due to his philosophical background) which make his work all the more interesting. Unlike other essayist and critics of his time, he always tried to make his work simple (but analytical) and accessible to all which gained him much of the popularity.