Rajnarayan Basu

Rajnarayan Basu (রাজনারায়ণ বসু) (1826-1899) was a writer and intellectual of the Bengal Renaissance. He was born in Boral in 24 Parganas and studied at the Hare School and Hindu College, both premier institutions in Kolkata, Bengal at the time. A monotheist at heart, Rajnarayan Basu converted to Brahmoism at the age of twenty. After retiring, he was given the honorary title of Rishi or sage. As a writer, he was one of the best known prose writers in Bengali in the eighteenth century, writing often for the Tattwabodhini Patrika, a premier Brahmo journal. Due to his defence of Brahmoism, he was given the title "Grandfather of Indian Nationalism


Rajnarayan Basu was a close friend of Michael Madhusudan Dutt, a prominent poet of the time, and the introducer of free verse in Bengali. Both were responsible for introducing classical Western elements into Bengali literature. He briefly tutored Asia's first Nobel prizewinner, Rabindranath Tagore and spent three years translating the Upanishads into English. As a member of Young Bengal, Rajnarayan Basu believed in "nation-building" at the grassroots level. To do his part, after teaching at Vidyasagar's Sanskrit College, he moved to Midnapore to teach in the mofussil district town. He served as the headmaster of Midnapore Zila School which was both the forerunner of Midnapore Collegiate School and Midnapore College. He established a public library that is still in use, although now it is known as the Rishi Rajnarayan Basu Smriti Pathagar (Rishi Rajnaraya Basu Memorial Library). He was the first person to suggest using Bengali at meetings of the Vangiya Sahitya Parishad (Bengali literature society). The Parishad was established to promote Bengali language literature yet ironically conducted meetings in English until Basu's request.

As an intellectual, he founded the Brahmo Samaj house and inaugurated Naba Gopal Mitra's Hindu Mela, an organization created to spread nationalist feelings among Indians.He was a member of the Indian Association and a member of a political group called the Sanjibani Sabha. He also lamented that there were no schools promoting the learning of Indian music among the middle-class and he himself started one in Midnapore. In 1868, he retired and moved to Deoghar where he spent the last years of his life.

Select bibliography

In Bengali

  • Brahmo Sadhon (Serving Brahmoism)(1865)
  • Dharmatatvo Dipika (The Light of Religious Theory) (1866-67)
  • Hindudhormer srestotto (The superiority of Hinduism)(1873)
  • Sekal aar eikaal (Then and now) (1873)
  • Hindu othoba Presidency College-er itibritto (A history of the Hindu or Presidency College) (1876)
  • Bibidho probondho (Various essays) (1882)
  • Rajnarayan Basur Attocharit (Autobiography) (1909)

In English

  • A defence of Brahmoism and the Brahmo Samaj (1863)
  • Brahmic Advice, Caution, and Help (1869)
  • The Adi Brahmo Samaj, its views and principles (1870)
  • The Adi Brahmo Samaj as a Church (1873)


Rajnarayan Basu was the maternal grandfather of Sri Aurobindo.


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