Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

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Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, बंकिमचन्द्र चट्टोपाध्याय
File:Bankimchandra Chattapadhay.jpg
Native name বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায়
Born (1838-06-27)27 June 1838
Naihati, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died 8 April 1894(1894-04-08) (aged 55)
Kolkata, Bengal Presidency, British India
Occupation Magistrate, writer, lecturer
Nationality British Indian
Alma mater University of Calcutta
Genre Poet, novelist, essayist, journalist
Subject Literature
Literary movement Bengal Renaissance
Notable works Author of Anandamath containing the National Song of India Vande Mataram

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay or Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, बंकिमचन्द्र चट्टोपाध्याय, [1] (26 June 1838[2]–8 April 1894)[3] was a Bengali writer, poet and journalist.[4] He was the composer of India's national song Vande Mataram, originally a Bengali and Sanskrit stotra personifying India as a mother goddess and inspiring the activists during the Indian Independence Movement. Chattopadhyay wrote thirteen novels and several 'serious, serio-comic, satirical, scientific and critical treaties' in Bengali. His works were widely translated into other regional languages of India as well as in English.

Born to an orthodox Brahmin family, Chattopadhyay was educated at Hooghly Mohsin College founded by Bengali philanthropist Muhammad Mohsin and Presidency College, Calcutta. He was one of the first graduates of the University of Calcutta. From 1858, until his retirement in 1891, he served as a deputy magistrate and deputy collector in the Government of British India.[5]

Chattopadhyay is widely regarded as a key figure in literary renaissance of Bengal as well as the broader Indian subcontinent.[4] Some of his writings, including novels, essays and commentaries, were a breakaway from traditional verse-oriented Indian writings, and provided an inspiration for authors across India.[4]

When Bipin Chandra Pal decided to start a patriotic journal in August 1906, he named it Vande Mataram, after Chattopadhyay's song. Lala Lajpat Rai also published a journal of the same name.

Early life and background[edit]

Chattopadhyay was born in the village Kanthalpara in the town of North 24 Parganas, Near Naihati,in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family, the youngest of three brothers, to Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Durgadebi. His father, a government official, went on to become the Deputy Collector of Midnapur. One of his brothers, Sanjib Chandra Chattopadhyay was also a novelist and his known for his famous book "Palamau".

He was educated at the Hooghly Mohsin College and later at the Presidency College, graduating with a degree in Arts [Law] in 1857. He was one of the first two graduates of the University of Calcutta namely he and Jadunath Bose.[6] He later obtained a degree in Law as well, in 1869.

He was appointed as Deputy Collector, just like his father, of Jessore, Chattopadhyay went on to become a Deputy Magistrate, retiring from government service in 1891. His years at work were peppered with incidents that brought him into conflict with the ruling British. However, he was made a Companion, Order of the Indian Empire in 1894.

Literary career[edit]

Chattopadhyay's earliest publications were in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's weekly newspaper Sangbad Prabhakar.[7] Following the model of Ishwar Chandra Gupta, he began his literary career as a writer of verse. His majestic talents showed him other directions, and turned to fiction. His first attempt was a novel in Bengali submitted for a declared prize. He did not win the prize, and the novelette was never published. His first fiction to appear in print was Rajmohan's Wife. It was written in English and is regarded as the first Indian novel to be written in English.[8] He couldn't gain any praise by writing his novel in English, realizing the fact that he couldn't have a smooth literary career if he wrote in English, he turned his attention towards Bengali literature. Durgeshnondini, his first Bengali romance and the first ever novel in Bengali, was published in 1865.

Kapalkundala (1866) is Chattopadhyay's first major publication. The heroine of this novel, named after the mendicant woman in Bhavabhuti's Malatimadhava, is modelled partly after Kalidasa's Shakuntala and partly after Shakespeare's Miranda. The hero of this novel was Nabakumar. However, the partial similarities are only inferential analysis by critics, and Chattopadhyay's heroine may be completely his original. He had chosen Dariapur in Contai Subdivision as the background of this famous novel.

His next romance, Mrinalini (1869), marks his first attempt to set his story against a larger historical context. This book marks the shift from Chattopadhyay's early career, in which he was strictly a writer of romances, to a later period in which he aimed to stimulate the intellect of the Bengali speaking people and bring about a cultural renaissance of Bengali literature.

Chattopadhyay started publishing a monthly literary magazine Bangadarshan in April 1872, the first edition of which was filled almost entirely with his own work. The magazine carried serialised novels, stories, humorous sketches, historical and miscellaneous essays, informative articles, religious discourses, literary criticisms and reviews. Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree, 1873) is the first novel of Chattopadhyay that appeared serially in Bangodarshan.

Bangodarshan went out of circulation after four years. It was later revived by his brother, Sanjeeb Chandra Chattopadhyay.

Chattopadhyay's next major novel was Chandrasekhar (1877), which contains two largely unrelated parallel plots. Although the scene is once shifted back to eighteenth century, the novel is not historical. His next novel was Rajani (1877), which features an autobiographical plot, with a blind girl in the title role. Autobiographical plots had been used in Wilkie Collins' "A Woman in White", and a precedent for blind girl in a central role existed in Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Nydia in "The Last Days of Pompeii", though the similarities of Rajani with these publications end there.

In Krishnakanter Will (Krishnakanta's Will, 1878) Chattopadhyay produced a complex plot. It was a brilliant depiction of contemporary India and its lifestyle and corruption. In that complexity, critics saw resemblance to Western novels.

One of the many novels of Chattopadhyay that are entitled to be termed as historical fiction is Rajsimha (1881, rewritten and enlarged 1893). Anandamath (The Abbey of Bliss, 1882) is a political novel which depicts a Sannyasi (Hindu ascetic) army fighting the British soldiers. The book calls for the rise of Hindu nationalism to uproot the foreign British rule and attain self-rule. The novel was also the source of the song Vande Mataram (I worship my Motherland for she truly is my mother) which, set to music by Rabindranath Tagore, was taken up by many Indian nationalists, and is now the National Song of India. The plot of the novel is loosely set on the Sannyasi Rebellion. The novel first appeared in serial form in Bangadarshan, the literary magazine that Chattopadhyay founded in 1872. Vande Mataram became prominent during the Swadeshi movement, which was sparked by Lord Curzon's attempt to partition Bengal into a Hindu majority West and a Muslim majority East. Drawing from the Shakti tradition of Bengali Hindus, Chattopadhyay personified India as a Mother goddess, which gave the song a Hindu undertone that would prove to be problematic for some Muslims.[9]

Chattopadhyay's next novel, Devi Chaudhurani, was published in 1884. His final novel, Sitaram (1886), tells the story of a local Hindu lord, torn between his wife and the woman he desires but unable to attain, makes a series of blunders and takes arrogant, self-destructive decisions. Finally, he must confront his self and motivate the few loyal soldiers that stand between his estate and the Muslim Nababs army about to take over.

Chattopadhyay's humorous sketches are his best known works other than his novels. Kamalakanter Daptar (From the Desk of Kamalakanta, 1875; enlarged as Kamalakanta, 1885) contains half humorous and half serious sketches. Kamalakanta is an opium-addict, similar to De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, but Bankim Chandra goes much beyond with his deft handling of sarcastic, political messages that Kamalakanta delivers.

Chattopadhyay's commentary on the Gita was published eight years after his death and contained his comments up to the 19th Verse of Chapter 4. Through this work, he attempted to reassure Hindus who were increasingly being exposed to Western ideas. His belief was, that there was "No serious hope of progress in India except in Hinduism-reformed, regenerated and purified". He wrote an extensive commentary on two verses in particular - 2.12 and 2.13 - which deal with the immortality of the soul and its reincarnation[10]

Critics, like Pramathnath Bishi, consider Chattopadhyay as the best novelist in Bangla literature. Their belief is that few writers in world literature have excelled in both philosophy and art as Bankim has done. They have felt that in a colonised nation Bankim could not overlook politics. He was one of the first intellectuals who wrote in a British colony, accepting and rejecting the status at the same time. Bishi also rejects the division of Bankim in 'Bankim the artist' and 'Bankim the moralist' – for Bankim must be read as a whole. The artist in Bankim cannot be understood unless you understand him as a moralist and vice versa.

Personal life[edit]

Chattopadhyay was married at a very young age of eleven, he had a son from his first wife, who died in 1859. He later married Rajalakshmi Devi. They had three daughters.

Quotes[edit]

  • Once Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, playing on the meaning of Bankim (Bent A Little), asked him what it was that had bent him. Bankim Chandra jokingly replied that it was the kick from the Englishman's shoe for he was a well known critic of the British and he used his excellent sense of humour and comedy to do so.
  • After the Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree) was published in 1873,the magazine, Punch wrote,

Have you read the Poison Tree
of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee?

[11]


  • When a man is in doubt what to do, he goes wherever he happens to be first called.
  • Prose must be written in language that is well understood by its readers. The world would hardly miss those literary works that are mastered by only half-a-dozen pundits.
  • [N]o study is likely to be fruitful of results if carried on without a system. The majority of those who pursue knowledge for its own sake pursue it after an aimless and desultory fashion.

Quotes about Bankim Chandra[edit]

  • The supreme service of Bankim [Chandra Chatterji] to his nation was that he gave us the vision of our Mother.... It is not till the Motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great Divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart that ... the patriotism that works miracles and saves a doomed nation is born... It was thirty-two years ago that Bankim wrote his great song and few listened; but in a sudden moment of awakening from long delusions the people of Bengal looked round for the truth and in a fated moment somebody sang Bande Mataram. The Mantra had been given and in a single day a whole people had been converted to the religion of patriotism. The Mother had revealed herself.
    • Aurobindo, Bande Mataram, April 16, 1907, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [1]
  • We used the Mantra Bande Mataram with all our heart and soul, and so long as we used and lived it, relied upon its strength to overbear all difficulties, we prospered. But suddenly the faith and the courage failed us, the cry of the Mantra began to sink and as it rang feebly, the strength began to fade out of the country. It was God, who made it fade out and falter, for it had done its work. A greater Mantra than Bande Mataram has to come. Bankim was not the ultimate seer of Indian awakening. He gave only the term of the initial and public worship, not the formula and the ritual of the inner secret upasana [worship]. For the greatest Mantras are those which are uttered within, and which the seer whispers or gives in dream or vision to his disciples. When the ultimate Mantra is practised even by two or three, then the closed Hand of God will begin to open; when the upasana is numerously followed the closed Hand will open absolutely.
    • Aurobindo, quoted from Sri Aurobindo, ., Nahar, S., Aurobindo, ., & Institut de recherches évolutives (Paris). India's rebirth: A selection from Sri Aurobindo's writing, talks and speeches. Paris: Institut de Recherches Evolutives. 3rd Edition (2000). [2]
  • It was also Bankim Chandra who restored the Mahabharata to its rightful place as a profound elaboration of what the Veda had said in the form of mystic mantras. The Gita which had been subjected to sectarian interpretations for several centuries past, was rescued by Bankim Chandra from the quagmire of casuistry. This great scripture had been interpreted by many ãchãryas either to support sannyãsa or to bolster bhakti. Its central core of karmayoga had been consigned to oblivion. Bankim Chandra was the first in modern times to restore the lost balance, so much so that in his ÃnandamaTha it was the sannyãsin who took up the sword in defence of Dharma. In days to come, the Gita was to become the greatest single inspiration for revolutionary action. Many a freedom fighter mounted the gallows with the Gita in his hands and Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mãtaram on his lips.
    • Sita Ram Goel, Muslim Separatism – Causes and Consequences (1987)
  • The only resolute defender of Hinduism in this intellectually hostile atmosphere was Bankim Chandra Chatterji. He was well-versed in Western literature and philosophy and his knowledge of Hindu Shastras and history was deep as well as discerning.... “If the principles of Christianity,” he wrote, “are not responsible for the slaughter of the crusades, the butcheries of Alva, the massacre of St. Bartholomew or the flames of the Inquisition... If the principles of Christianity are not responsible for the civil disabilities of Roman Catholics and Jews which till recently disgraced the English Statute Book, I do not understand how the principles of Hinduism are to be held responsible for the civil disabilities of the sudras under the Brahmanic regime. The critics of Hinduism have one measure for their own religion and another for Hinduism.”
    • S.R. Goel, History of Hindu-Christian Encounters (1996), quoting from: Das, Sisir Kumar, The Shadow of the Cross, New Delhi, 1974. p. 117-118.
  • The impact of Vivekananda in his own country was far more momentous. He had taken over from where Bankim Chandra had left. Among the writers and thinkers of modern India, Bankim Chandra had fascinated him the most. During his lecture tour in East Bengal in 1901 he is reported to have advised Bengal's young men to 'read Bankim, and Bankim, and Bankim again.' Small wonder that Bankim's AnandamaTha inspired revolutionary organisations fighting for India's freedom and his Vande MAtaram became the national song par excellence when the awakening brought about by Vivekananda burst forth in a political movement soon after his death in 1902.
    • Sita Ram Goel, History of Hindu-Christian Encounters, 1996, Ch. 13.

Bibliography[edit]

Fiction
  • Durgeshnandini (March 1865)
  • Kapalkundala (1866)
  • Mrinalini (1869)
  • Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree, 1873)
  • Indira (1873, revised 1893)
  • Jugalanguriya (1874)
  • Radharani (1876, enlarged 1893)
  • Chandrasekhar (1877)
  • Kamalakanter D aptar (From the Desk of Kamlakanta, 1875)
  • Rajani(1877)
  • Krishnakanter Uil (Krishnakanta's Will, 1878)
  • Rajsimha (1882)
  • Anandamath (1882)
  • Devi Chaudhurani (1884)
  • Kamalakanta (1885)
  • Sitaram (March 1887)
  • Muchiram Gurer Jivancharita (The Life of Muchiram Gur)
Religious Commentaries
  • Krishna Charitra (Life of Krishna, 1886)
  • Dharmatattva (Principles of Religion, 1888)
  • Devatattva (Principles of Divinity, Published Posthumously)
  • Srimadvagavat Gita, a Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita (1902 – Published Posthumously)
Poetry Collections
  • Lalita O Manas (1858)
Essays
  • Lok Rahasya (Essays on Society, 1874, enlarged 1888)
  • Bijnan Rahasya (Essays on Science, 1875)
  • Bichitra Prabandha (Assorted Essays), Vol 1 (1876) and Vol 2 (1892)
  • Samya (Equality, 1879)

Chattopadhyay's first novel was an English one and he also started writing his religious and philosophical essays in English.

References[edit]

  1. "Bankim Chandra Chatterjee". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 30 March 2016. 
  2. History & Heritage
  3. Merriam-Webster, Inc (1995). Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Merriam-Webster. pp. 231–. ISBN 978-0-87779-042-6. Retrieved 24 June 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Staff writer. "Bankim Chandra: The First Prominent Bengali Novelist", The Daily Star, 30 June 2011
  5. "Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay - Penguin Books India". Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  6. Islam, Sirajul (2012). "Chattopadhyay, Bankimchandra". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. 
  7. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee), from BengalOnline.
  8. Mukherjee, Meenakshi (1 January 2002). "Early Novels in India". Sahitya Akademi. 
  9. Mazumdar, Aurobindo (1 January 2007). "Vande Mataram and Islam". Mittal Publications. 
  10. Minor Robert(1986) Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita. State University of NY press. ISBN 0-88706-298-9
  11. Lemon, Mark; Mayhew, Henry; Taylor, Tom; Brooks, Shirley; Burnand, Sir Francis Cowley; Seaman, Sir Owen (1 January 1885). "London Charivari". Punch Publications Limited. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ujjal Kumar Majumdar: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay: His Contribution to Indian Life and Culture. Calcutta : The Asiatic Society, 2000. ISBN 81-7236-098-3.
  • Walter Ruben: Indische Romane. Eine ideologische Untersuchung. Vol. 1: Einige Romane Bankim Chattopadhyays iund Ranbindranath Tagore. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1964. (German)
  • Bhabatosh Chatterjee, Editor : Bankimchandra Chatterjee : Essays in Perspective (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi) 1994.

External links[edit]