Remembering the man who penned 'Vande Mantaram'

Anagha Telang

The master of pen, one who knew how to play with words and phrases, and the one who penned down the National Song of India 'Vande Mataram', Bankim Chnadra Chattopadhyay personified India as mother goddess and inspiring the activists during the Indian Independence Movement through Sanskrit Shlokas. 

Who was he...?

Born to an orthodox Brahmin family on 26 June, 1838, Chattopadhyay got his early eduaction from Midnapore Collegiate School where he wrote his first poem. For his highr education he went to Hooghly Mohsin College, founded by Bengali philanthropist Muhammad Mohsin and Presidency College, Calcutta. He was one of the first graduates of the University of Calcutta.  He served as a deputy magistrate and deputy collector in the Government of British India from 1858-1891.

Chattopadhyay is considered as a prominent figure in literary renaissance of Bengal as well as the broader Indian subcontinent. 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.

Chattopadhyay was married at eleven. He had a son with his first wife, she died in 1859. He later married Rajalakshmi Devi with whom he had three daughters.

Chattopadhyay started writing in in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's weekly newspaper Sangbad Prabhakar.  He began his literary career as a writer of verse. His majestic talents motivated him and turned to fiction. His first attempt was a novel in Bengali submitted for a declared prize. He did not win the prize, and it was never published. Rajmohan's Wife was his first fiction to appear in print was . It was written in English and is regarded as the first Indian novel to be written in English. He couldn't gain any praise by writing his novel in English, realizing the fact that he couldn't have a smooth literary career if he wrote in English, he turned his attention towards Bengali literature. 
Durgeshnondini, his first Bengali romance and the first ever novel in Bengali, was published in 1865.

Major Works...

  • 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 D aptar (From the Desk of Kamlakanta, 1875)
  • Rajani(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 (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)

Poetry Collections:
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)

Chattopadhyay's first novel was an English one and he also started writing his religious and philosophical essays in English.

Vande Matram...
Chattopadhyay was very interested in the events of Indian and Bengali history, particularly the Revolt of 1857 and the previous century's Sanyasi Rebellion. Around the same time, the administration was trying to promote "God Save the Queen" as the anthem for Indian subjects, which Indian nationalists disliked. It is generally believed that the concept of Vande Mataram came to Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay when he was still a government official, around 1876.
Chattopadhyay wrote the poem in a spontaneous session using words from Sanskrit and Bengali. The poem was published in Chattopadhyay's book Anandamatha in 1882, which is set in the events of the Sannyasi Rebellion. 

Bankim Chandra has an important place in Indian literature both as an early nationalist writer and novelist. Besides, he was an intellectual who took a deep interest in the effects British colonialism was producing in India and her ancient civilisation. He believed that India’s Hindu heritage had some answers to the vexing problems of the day.  This legendry writer died on 8 April, 1894.

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