Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee

Four out of the top five largest circulated newspapers in India presently is in Hindi, with a combined circulation of over 14 crores. It all started on this day, 30 May- 194 years ago. 30 May is observed as Hindi Journalism Day as on this day, the first Hindi newspaper Oodhund Martand, (or Udant Martand in some documents, which means rising sun), a weekly was published in 1826.

Pandit Jugal Kishore Shukla (Jooghol Kishore Sookool- in some documents) edited and published it from Amar Talla Lane, Kolutola in the Bada Bazar area of ​​Calcutta (now Kolkata) ‘in the interest of Hindustanis’. The print order for the first issue was 500. Udant Martand used a mix of Hindi dialects- Khari Boli and Braj Bhasa in Devnagari script. This weekly newspaper reached readers every week on Tuesday.

By the 1820s, newspapers in few Indian languages had been published including Bengali and Urdu. Samachar Darpan, 1818 was the first Bengali newspaper followed by Jam-e-Jahannuma in Urdu in 1822.  By the early 19th century, educational publications in Hindi had already started. However, printing in Devnagari script was still rare. It was during this time that school books started printing in Devnagari in Calcutta.

Samachar Darpan, which began to appear in both Bengali and English fromJuly 1829 on certain occasions had some portions in Hindi as well. And the demand for a newspaper in Hindi was rising in Hindi speaking areas.

Jugal Kishore Shukla hailed from Kanpur, but made Calcutta his workplace. He was a lawyer. He wanted to talk about the rights of indigenous Indians in British ruled India. For this, he started publishing ‘Udanta Martand’. In his papers, he raised the issue of equality of status of the Indians vis a vis the Europeans. He also raised issues of social inequality, besides publishing local news and news from Hindi speaking areas.

However, the paper could not get many readers, as there were not many Hindi speaking and Devnagari script reading people in Kolkata and Eastern India. He tried to send the paper to Hindi speaking states in North India. In that time he could only send the newspapers by post. It became very costly and economically unviable because of the high postal rates.

Shukla requested the government to give some concession in postal rates so that newspapers could be sent to readers in Hindi speaking regions, but the British government did not agree to it. He requested a postal fee exemption for eight newspapers to be posted to North India. That was also denied. Besides, no government department agreed to buy even a single copy of ‘Udanta Martand’.

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee

Thus, mainly due to financial constraints, ‘Udanta Martand’ could not be published for a long time, and finally, on 4 December 1826, it stopped publication. Years later, in 1850, Jugal Kishore Shukla made an attempt to start another paper called Samyadani Martand. But that also failed.

Udanta Martand as an individual newspaper failed to live long. However, it marked the beginning of journalism in Hindi.

(The author is the Regional Director of Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Dhenkanal)