Updated October 11, 2022
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, also known as Chattopadhyay, was an Indian novelist, essayist, Bengali poet, and journalist. He is well-known for his famous composing Vande Mataram, also known as Bande Mataram (originally written in Sanskrit, personifying India as a mother goddess), which served as inspiration for the Indian freedom fighters and was eventually adopted as the country’s national anthem.
Anandamath, a seminal work of modern Bengali and Indian literature, was written by him in 1882. In addition to fourteen novels, Chattopadhyay also authored numerous scientific, serious, satirical, seriocomic, and critical treatises in Bengali. In Bengali, he is referred to as Sahitya Samrat, or “Emperor of Literature.”
It is believed that Surendranath Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay had a great impact on him. According to Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, Bankim’s life was a part of the “most glorious time in Bengali history.” The goal of Anandamath was to strengthen India.
Childhood and Early Life of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was born on June 26 or 27, 1838, in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family to Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyay and Durgadebi. He was the youngest of three brothers. His father, who worked for the government, later rose to the position of Deputy Collector in Midnapur. Sanjib Chandra Chattopadhyay, one of his brothers, was also an author and is well known for his book “Palamau.”
He received his education at the Hooghly Mohsin College and afterward at Kolkata’s Presidency College, where he earned an arts degree in 1859. He eventually enrolled at the University of Calcutta, where he was one of the first two students to graduate after passing the final exam. In 1869, he went on to earn a law degree.
Bankim Chandra joined the Subordinate Executive Service following his father. He was named a Jessore deputy magistrate in 1858, the same position as his father. After merging of the services in 1863, he went on to become Deputy Magistrate & Deputy Collector, retiring from government service in 1891.
Many incidents during his government service days brought him into conflict with the ruling British of the time. Nevertheless, in 1894 he was appointed a Companion of the Most Eminent Order of the Indian Empire (CMEOIE). In 1891, he was also given the title of Rai Bahadur.
At the young age of 11 he got married, his wife was only five years old then. Unfortunately, his wife died in 1859 at the age of 22. Later, he married Rajalakshmi Devi and 3 daughters were born to them.
Meeting of Bankim Chandra with Ramakrishna:
Bankim had a high level of education and was influenced by oriental notions. Ramakrishna, on the other hand, was not fluent in English. They did, however, get along well. He was once questioned by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa about what had bent him, using the pun Bankim (Bent A Little). Laughing, Bankim Chandra retorted that it was the Englishman’s shoe because he was a well-known opponent of the British administration.
Literary Career of Chattopadhyay
Bankim Chandra is widely regarded as the “father of modern novel in India.” Although he was not the first to create historical and social novels in Bengali, he is the one who established the novel as a major literary genre in India.
Chattopadhyay published his initial works in the weekly journal Sangbad Prabhakar, owned by Ishwar Chandra Gupta. He started his career as a writer but he soon discovered that his interests were elsewhere, so he turned to fiction. His initial effort was a Bengali novel that was submitted for a contest.
He lost the competition, and the novelette was never released publicly. The English novel Rajmohan’s Wife was his first published work of fiction. His first Bengali romance and the first Bengali book ever were both released in 1865 under the name Durgeshnandini.
Rajsimha is one of the many Chattopadhyay works that can be categorized as historical fiction. A Sannyasi (Hindu ascetic) army battles a British Army in the political novel Anandamath (The Abbey of Bliss, 1882). Indian nationalism should flourish, according to the book.
The novel also served as the inspiration for the Rabindranath Tagore-composed song Vande Mataram (I Worship My Motherland for She Truly Is My Mother), which was adopted by many freedom fighters and is now the National Song of India.
The plot of the novel is loosely set on the Sannyasi Rebellion. In the end, he acknowledged that the British Empire could not be vanquished, even though he had pictured untrained Sannyasi warriors fighting and defeating the British East India Company.
The Bangadarshan literary journal, which Chattopadhyay created in 1872, published the work as a serial for the first time. During the Swadeshi movement, which was triggered by Lord Curzon’s effort to divide Bengal into a Muslim majority East and a Hindu majority West, Vande Mataram rose to prominence.
Drawing from the Shakti tradition of Bengali Hindus, Chattopadhyay idealized India as a Mother Goddess known as Bharat Mata, which gave the song a Hindu undertone.
In addition to Lok Rahasya (1874), Bichitra Prabandha (1876), Devi Chaudhurani (1884), Kamalakanta (1885), Sitaram (1887), Muchiram Gurer Jivancharita (1886), Krishna Charitra (1886), and Dharmatattva (1886), Bankim also published other works throughout his lifetime.
Quotes of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Some famous quotes of Bankim Chandra are as follows:
- “When a man is in doubt what to do, he goes wherever he happens to be first called.”
- “To die without accomplishing our work, is that desirable?”
- “I know how long I need to be working to make my dreams become a reality.”
- “Woman is the crowning excellence of God’s creation…The woman is light, man is shadow.”
- “One is the poetry of the poet; the other is the riches of the rich.”
- “When, O Master, when shall we see our Mother India in this garb again – so radiant and so cheerful? Only when all the children of the Motherland shall call he Mother in all sincerity.”
- “Prose must be written in language that is well understood by its readers. The world would hardly miss those literary works that are mastered by only half-a-dozen pundits.”
Most Frequently Asked Questions
Ans: Kamalakanta was the pen name of Chattopadhyay
Ans: Bankim Chandra Chtterjee
Ans: On April 8, 1894 (aged 55), in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (now Kolkata, West Bengal, India).