Folklorist and poet Dr Ashraf Siddiqui passes away

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His Namaz e Janaza will be held at Dhanmondi Shahi Eidgah Mosque after Zohr prayers on Thursday

Internationally acclaimed folklorist and poet Dr Ashraf Siddiqui passed away after being critically ill for the past one month.

Dr Siddiqui, born in Nagbari village of Tangail on March 1927, breathed his last at Apollo Hospital in Dhaka on Thursday.

Ashraf Siddiqui, who emerged as a promising young poet in the 1940s, has composed around 500 poems, wrote a number of short stories, novels, children’s literature and engaged in academic research on folklore of Bangladesh in his seven-decade-long career. 

He won a number of prestigious awards, including Ekushey Padak for literature in 1988, Bangla Academy Puroshkar for children’s literature in 1964, and highest award of the then state on literature in 1966, the UNESCO award and Daud Award for his book on folklore.   

Educated in Santiniketan, Dhaka University and second Masters and PhD in folklore from Indiana University, US, Dr Siddiqui taught in various government colleges including Rajshahi College, Chittagong College, A M College of Mymensingh, Dhaka College and Jagannath College and also at the University of Dhaka. 

He also has 75 books and numerous journal articles under his name. 

Set against the backdrop of the Bengal famine, his poem Taleb Master (1948) very quickly established him as a poet of the masses. 

Dr Siddiqui went on to serve as the director of Kendrio Bangla Unnoyon Board, chief editor of District Gazetteer and Director General of Bangla Academy, a position that he served for seven years. He held a number of honorary positions.

Golir Dharer Chheleti augmented his literary reputation as a short story writer. The national film award winning Dumurer Phool, directed by eminent film maker Subhash Dutta was based on this story.

He also served as chairman of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha, chairman of Bangladesh Press Institute and president of Nazrul Academy and Nazrul Institute. 

His books Lok Shahitttya, Bengali Folklore, Our Folklore Our Heritage, Folkloric Bangladesh and Kingbodontir Bangla are primary text books of folklore researchers of South Asia. 

His lasting legacies include Bangla Academy’s Ekushey Boi Mela and national Boishakhi Mela, which was subsequently transferred to Shilpakala Academy. He played a key role in establishing Kabi Nazrul University in Trishal and articulated the demand for transforming Jagannath College into a university.  

Dr Siddiqui is greatly admired for his contribution preserving the oral Bengali folk culture by cataloguing the tales and riddles in the written form. 

He successfully introduced the folk tales of Bengal to the global audience through his writings such as Bhombol Dass: The Uncle of Lion, and Toontoony and other stories. 

Bhombol Dass was published by Macmillan in 1959 and was not only a best seller in the US, but was also subsequently translated to 11 languages. 

Robidranather Santiniketan, Paris Shundori were written in the early 1970s and are still popular among general readers. 

For relatives and admirers, his body will also be kept in his Dhanmondi residence from 12 noon to 1:15 pm on Thursday. 

His Namaz e Janaza will be held at Dhanmondi Shahi Eidgah Mosque after Zohr prayers.