|Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay |
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
|Born||27 June 1838 |
Naihati, Bengal, India
|Died||8 April 1894 (aged 55) |
Kolkata, Bengal, India
|Occupation||Magistrate, writer, lecturer|
|Alma mater||University of Calcutta|
|Genres||Poet, novelist, essayist, journalist|
|Literary movement||Bengal Renaissance|
|Notable work(s)||Author of Anandamath containing the National Song of India Vande Mataram|
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (Bengali: বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায় Bôngkim Chôndro Chôţţopaddhae) (27 June 1838  – 8 April 1894) was a famous Bengali writer, poet and journalist. 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 Freedom Movement. Bankim Chandra wrote 13 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.
Bankim Chandra was born to an orthodox Brahmin family at Kanthalpara, North 24 Parganas. He was educated at Hoogly College 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.
Bankim Chandra is widely regarded as a key figure in literary renaissance of Bengal as well as India. He is still held to be one of the timeless and brightest figures of not only Bengal, but also of the entire literati of India. 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.
 Early life and background
Bankim Chandra was born in the village Kanthalpara in the district of Naihati,in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family, 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 Hugli-Chinsura 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.
He was appointed as Deputy Collector, just 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. However, he was made a Companion, Order of the Indian Empire in 1894.
 Literary career
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Bankim Chandra, following the model of Ishwarchandra Gupta, 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 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. However, the partial similarities are only inferential analysis by critics, and Chatterjee'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 Chatterjee'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. He started publishing a monthly literary magazine Bangadarshan in April 1892, 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) is the first novel of Bankim Chandra that appeared serially in Bangodarshan.
Bangodarshan went out of circulation after 4 years. It was later revived by his brother, Sanjeeb Chandra Chatterjee.
Bankim Chandra'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) Chatterjee produced a complex plot.It was a brilliant depiction of the contemporary India, lifestyle and corruption,In that complexity, critics saw resemblance to Western novels. The plot is somewhat akin to that of Poison Tree.
One of the many novels of Bankim Chandra 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 soldiers of the Muslim Nawab of Murshidabad. The book calls for the rise of Hindu nationalism to uproot the foreign Turko-Afghan Muslim rule of Bengal and put forth as a temporary alternative the East India Company till Hindus were fit for 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 novel is loosely based on the time of the Sannyasi Rebellion, 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, the literary magazine that Bankim founded in 1872.
Bankim Chandra'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 Nabab's army about to take over.
Bankim Chandra'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.
Bankim Chandra'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
Critics, like Pramathnath Bishi, consider Bankim Chandra 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
He was married at a very young of age of eleven, he had a son from his first wife, she died in 1859. He later married Rajalakshmi Devi. They had three daughters.
- 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 critique of the British and he used his excellent sense of humor and comedy to do so.
- After the Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree) was published in 1873, The Times of London mentioned:
|“||Have you read the Poison Tree |
of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee?
- 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 Daptar (From the Desk of Kamlakanta, 1875)
- 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)
- 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)
- Lalita O Manas (1858)
- 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)
- This bibliography does not include any of his English works. Indeed his first novel was an English one and he also started writing his religious and philosophical essays in English.