Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently paid homage to Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay on his 183rd birth anniversary.
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee or Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay,(27 June 1838 – 8 April 1894) was an Indian novelist, poet and journalist.
- He is considered among the pioneers of the shift in Indian, especially Bangla, literary tradition away from the verse and towards prose.
- He was the composer of Vande Mataram which has been India’s national song since 1937 and sung by generations of Indians to evoke the motherland.
- Vande Mataram originally in Sanskrit, personifying India as a mother goddess and inspiring activists during the Indian Independence Movement.
- He was born in Naihati, Bengal on 27 June 1838.
- He went on to become a significant figure in India’s struggle for independence.
- Bankim has left an indelible mark on modern nationalism and modern Hinduism.
- His belief was that there was “no serious hope of progress in India except in Hinduism-reformed, regenerated and purified”.
- He got his education at the Hoogly College and Presidency College.
- He went on to become one of the earliest graduates of the University of Calcutta.
- He served in the Indian Civil Service and retired as a Deputy Magistrate in 1891. It was this work under the Raj that made him deeply critical of India’s colonial masters.
- Chattopadhyay 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.
- The most noteworthy contribution Bankim made to the nationalistic imagination was the political novel Anandamath.
- The book is set against the backdrop of what is known as the ‘Sanyashi Bidhroho’ (rebellion of monks in the late 18th century).
- The book is considered a call for the rise of Hindu nationalism, and portrayed sanyasis (ascetics) fighting Muslim soldiers of the British army.
- It was in Anandamath, that Bankim wrote the poem ‘Vande Mataram’
Vande Mataram was announced as the National Song by Rajendra Prasad on January 24, 1950, in recognition of its role in the Independence Movement, against the backdrop of demands that it be made the national anthem of newly independent India.
It was accorded equal status to the National Anthem.
Note: The song remains a popular evocation of national pride and has been interpreted and performed by artists all throughout.
- He published his first fiction work, Rajmohan’s Wife in English and it is regarded as the first Indian novel to be written in English. The story was an economic exploration of the Bengal family and domesticity.
- His first work in Bangla was Durgeshnandini in 1865, which is considered the first Bangla novel.
- He also wrote other famous novels like Kapalkundala in 1866 which is considered to be one of the finest works of Indian literature, Mrinalini in 1869, Vishbriksha in 1873, Chandrashekhar in1877, Rajani in 1877, Rajsimha in 1881, and Devi Chaudhurani in 1884.
- He started publishing a monthly literary magazine Bangadarshan in April 1872. The magazine played an important role in establishing a Bengali identity and nationalism.
- His last work was Sitaram, published in 1886.
Fun Fact: Once Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, 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 government.