Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
|Born||26 or 27 June 1838 |
Naihati, Bengal Presidency, British India (present-day West Bengal, India)
|Died||8 April 1894 (aged 55)|
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (now Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
|Occupation||Writer, poet, novelist, essayist, journalist, government official|
|Alma mater||University of Calcutta|
|Literary movement||Bengal Renaissance|
|Bankim-Rachanabali administrated by eduliture|
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (also Chattopadhayay) CIE (26 or 27 June 1838 – 8 April 1894) was an Indian novelist, poet and journalist. He was the author of the 1882 Bengali language novel Anandamath, which is one of the landmarks of modern Bengali and Indian literature. He was the composer of Vande Mataram, originally in Sanskrit, personifying India as a mother goddess and inspiring activists during the Indian Independence Movement. Chattopadhayay wrote fourteen novels and many serious, serio-comic, satirical, scientific and critical treatises in Bengali. He is known as Sahitya Samrat (Emperor of Literature) in Bengali.
Chattopadhayay is widely regarded as a key figure in literary renaissance of Bengal as well as the broader Indian subcontinent. 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.
Chattopadhayay was born in the village of Kanthalpara in the town of North 24 Parganas, Naihati, in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family, the youngest of three brothers, to Yadav Chandra Chattopadhayay and Durgadebi. His ancestors hailed from Deshmukho village in Hooghly District. 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 is known for his book "Palamau". Bankim Chandra and his elder brother both went to Hooghly Collegiate School (then Governmental Zilla School), where he wrote his first poem. He was educated at the Hooghly Mohsin College and later at Presidency College, Kolkata, graduating with a degree in arts in 1859. He later attended the University of Calcutta and was one of two candidates who passed the final exam to become the school's first graduates. He later obtained a degree in law in 1869. Following his father's footsteps, Bankimchandra joined the Subordinate Executive Service. In 1858, he was appointed a Deputy Magistrate (the same type of position held by his father) of Jessore. After merging of the services in 1863, he went on to become Deputy Magistrate & Deputy Collector, retiring from government service in 1891. His years at work were replete with incidents that brought him into conflict with the colonial government. He was, however, made a Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CMEOIE) in 1894. He also received the title of Rai Bahadur in 1891.
Chattopadhyay's earliest publications were in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's weekly newspaper Sangbad Prabhakar. He began his literary career as a writer of verse before turning to fiction. His first attempt was a novel in Bengali submitted for a declared prize. He did not win and the novelette was never published. His first fiction to appear in print was the English novel Rajmohan's Wife. Durgeshnandini, his first Bengali romance and the first ever novel in Bengali, was published in 1865.
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 a British force. The book calls for the rise of Indian nationalism. 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. He imagined untrained Sannyasi soldiers fighting and defeating the British East India Company; ultimately, however, he accepted that the British Empire could not be defeated. 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 Muslim majority East. Drawing from the Shakti tradition of Bengali Hindus, Chattopadhyay personified India as a Mother Goddess known as Bharat Mata, which gave the song a Hindu undertone.
Bankim was particularly impressed by the historical Gaudiya Vaishnava cultural efflorescence of the 14th and 15th centuries in Bengal. Chattopadhyay's commentary on the Bhagavad Gita was published eight years after his death and contained his comments up to the 19th Verse of Chapter 4. In a long essay on Sankhya philosophy, he argues that the central philosophical foundation of the overwhelming part of religious beliefs in India, including even Buddhism, lies in the philosophy of Sankhya. He was a critique of the philosophy in the sense of its emphasis on personal vairagya (renunciation) rather than political and social power.
"Bankim Chandra had equal strength in both his hands, he was a true sabyasachi (ambidextrous). With one hand, he created literary works of excellence; and with the other, he guided young and aspiring authors. With one hand, he ignited the light of literary enlightenment; and with the other, he blew away the smoke and ash of ignorance and ill conceived notions”
"The earlier Bankim was only a poet and stylist, the later Bankim was a seer and nation-builder"