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Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

[chah-ter-jee]
Chatterjee, Bankim Chandra, 1838-94, Indian nationalist writer, b. Bengal. He popularized a Bengali prose style that became the vehicle of the major nationalist literature of the region. Born a Brahman, he received an English education and his first novel was written in English. In 1872 he founded the Bangadarshan, a journal modeled on the Spectator. Chatterjee, who frequently used the pseudonym Ramchandra, wrote many novels that wedded political and philosophical commentary with historical romance. His favorite theme—India as a divine motherland—did much to reinforce Hindu orthodoxy and alienate the Indian Muslims. Bandemataram (Hail to the Mother), the title of a song in his novel Anandamath (1882), became a slogan of the Indian National Congress, and the song became an anthem of the nationalist movement. However, Janaganamana (Thou Art the Ruler of All Minds) by Tagore, was ultimately adopted as the Indian national anthem. Other writings include The Poison Tree (tr. 1884) and Krishna Kanta's Will (tr. 1895).
orig. Bankim Chandra Cattopadhyay

(born June 26/27, 1838, near Naihati, Bengal, India—died April 8, 1894, Calcutta) Indian novelist. Chatterjee was educated in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and served as a deputy magistrate in civil service for many years. His first notable Bengali work was Daughter of the Lord of the Fort (1865). His epoch-making newspaper, Bangadarsan, serialized some of his later works. Though his novels were considered structurally faulty, his contemporaries saw him as a prophet, and his valiant Hindu heroes aroused great pride and patriotism. He helped create the Indian school of fiction and established Bengali prose as a literary language. Chatterjee is considered the greatest Bengali novelist.

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Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (27 June1838 - 8 April1894) (বঙ্কিম চন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায় Bôngkim Chôndro Chôţţopaddhae) ('Chattopadhyay' in the original Bengali; 'Chatterjee' as spelt by the British) was a Bengali poet, novelist, essayist and journalist, most famous as the author of Vande Mataram or Bande Mataram, that inspired the freedom fighters of India, and was later declared the National Song of India.

Early life

Chattopadhyay was born in the village Kanthalpara in Naihati, the youngest of three brothers, to Yadav (or Jadab) Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Durgadebi. His family was orthodox, and his father, a government official who went on to become the Deputy Collector of Midnapur. One of his brothers, Sanjeeb Chandra Chatterjee, was also a novelist and his known for his famous book "Palamau".

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

Early career

He was appointed as Deputy Collector, like his father, of Jessore, Chatterjee 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 of the time. However, he was made a Companion, Order of the Indian Empire in 1894.

Literary career

Chatterjee, following the model of Ishwarchandra Gupta, began his literary career as a writer of verse. He soon realized, however, that his talents lay in 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 was probably a translation of the novelette submitted for the prize. Durgeshnondini, his first Bengali romance and the first ever novel in Bengali, was published in 1865.

Kapalkundala (1866) is Chatterjee'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. 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 Chatterjee's early career, in which he was strictly a writer of romances, to a later period in which he aimed to simulate the intellect of the Bengali speaking people and bring about a cultural revival through a campaign to improve Bengali literature. He began publishing a monthly literary magazine Bangodarshan in April 1872, the first edition of which was filled almost entirely with his own work. The magazine carried serialized novels, stories, humorous sketches, historical and miscellaneous essays, informative articles, religious discourses, literary criticisms and reviews. Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree, 1873) the first novel of Chatterjee's to appear serially in Bangodarshan.

Bangodarshan went out of circulation after 4 years. It was later revived by his brother, Sanjeeb Chandra Chatterjee.

Chatterjee'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, Rajani(1877), followed the autobiographical technique of Wilkie Collins' "A Woman in White". The title role, a blind girl, was modelled after Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Nydia in "The Last Days of Pompeii". In Krishnakanter Uil (Krishnakanta's Will, 1878) Chatterjee produced the work of his that comes closest to resembling a western novel. The plot is somewhat akin to that of Poison Tree.

The only novel of Chatterjee's that can truly be considered historical fiction is Rajsimha (1881, rewritten and enlarged 1893). Anandamath (The mission house of Felicity, 1882) is a political novel which depicts a Sannyasi (Brahmin ascetic) army fighting Indian Muslims who are in the employ of the East India Company. The book calls for the rise of Brahmin/Hindu nationalism but, ironically, concludes with a character accepting British Empire as a necessity. The novel was also the source of the song Vande Mataram (I worship the Mother) which, set to music by Rabindranath Tagore, was taken up by many secular nationalists. The novel is loosely based on the time of the Sannyasi Rebellion, however in the actual rebellion, Hindus sannyasis and Muslim fakirs both rebelled against the British East India Company. The novel first appeared in serial form in Bangadarshan.

Chatterjee's next novel, Devi Chaudhurani, was published in 1884. His final novel, Sitaram (1886), tells the story of a Hindu chief rebelling against Muslim rule.

Chatterjee'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, somewhat on the model of De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.

Some critics, like Pramathnath Bishi, consider Chatterjee as the best novelist in Bangla literature. They believe that few writers in world literature have excelled in both philosophy and art as Bankim has done. They argue 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

He was married at the young age of eleven, his first wife died in 1859. He later married Rajalakshmi Devi. They had three daughters.

Trivia

  • Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Chatterjee were good friends, and both enjoyed humour. Once, the former, playing on the meaning of Bankim (Either Bright Side of the Moon or A Little Bent), asked him what it was that had bent him. Chatterjee replied that it was the kick from the Englishman's shoe.
  • After the Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree) was published in 1873, The Times of London observed:

Have you read the Poison Tree
Of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee?

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

Bibliography

Fiction

  • Durgeshnondini (March 1865)
  • Kapalkundala (1866)
  • Mrinalini (1869)
  • Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree, 1873)
  • Indira (1873, revised 1893)
  • Jugalanguriya (1874)
  • Radharani (1876, enlarged 1893)
  • Chandrasekhar (1877)
  • Kamalakanter Daptar (From the Desk of Kamlakanta, 1875)
  • Rajni(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 (History 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)

References

External links

Further reading

  • Ujjal Kumar Majumdar: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay: His Contribution to Indian Life and Culture. Calcutta : The Asiatic Society, 2000. ISBN 8172360983.
  • Walter Ruben: Indische Romane. Eine ideologische Untersuchung. Vol. 1: Einige Romane Bankim Chatterjees iund Ranbindranath Tagore. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1964. (German)

See also

External links

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