Who was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee? And what was his contribution in the freedom struggle?

After the independence of India, whatever research work has been done on the topic of freedom struggle of India, has been mostly motivated by political selfishness. The diabolical alliance of Nehruvian and Marxist historians have never given any place to the nationalist ideology and the staunch nationalists in the textbooks. Marxists and Nehruvian, who believe in person worship and boot licking, tried hard to marginalize Bankim Chandra, a man rich of such a versatility.

LIFE INTRODUCTION

BANKIM CHANDRA CHATTERJEE was born in a prosperous Bengali family on 27 June 1838 in NAIHATI, BENGAL. He was a writer, poet, novelist, essayist, journalist etc. Basically he was well-versed in all aspects and genres of literature, Bankim Chandra made full use of his talent for the service of the nation.

The British rule had created a new class in India – the middle class. They had their own problems, the dilemma of these problems is also visible in the literature of Bankim Chandra. Bankim Chandra was probably the first littérateur to connect deeply with the public. Prior to this, literature was either purely religious or a fashionable status symbol to the elite class of the society. The credit for the democratization of literature in India goes to Bankim Chandra.

POLITICAL AND SOCIAL CONDITION OF INDIA AT THAT TIME

1. In those days India was going through great turmoil. The East India Company (E.I.C) was trying to capture the power in India. The Islamic empire was on the verge of collapse. The hope of building a Hindu nation once again, was in the dust with the defeat of the Maratha and Sikh empires. There was an atmosphere of chaos all around.

2.India had become an island under Islamic rule. Cut off from all over the world. The progress of science and the industrial revolution had completely changed the western world but unfortunately India was still in medieval times. In the western world, literature was playing an important role in awakening the common people, whereas in India literature was still limited to religious books. The Hindu civilization which once made seminal contributions in the field of trigonometry, algebra, arithmetic, music, art and literature had forgotten all its glory in Islamic slavery.

3.The Hindus watched the changing circumstances with a defeated sense of self, engulfed in despair. India was gradually moving out of the hands of one imperial power and going into the hands of another imperialist power. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee appeared in such dire circumstances like a beacon of light, new energy was infused among the Hindus, and a great race which was sleeping for centuries rose again against the imperialist powers with full force.

Major works

Anand Math, Durgesh Nandini, Devi chaudhrani, SitaRam

Bankim Chandra and Anand Math

Undoubtedly Anand Math is the best work of Bankim Chandra.

The novel describes the Sanyasi rebellion of 1773 in Bengal. It depicts the valor and sacrifice of the agitators who challenged the British. The famous song BANDE MATRAM which is also the national song of India was mentioned in this novel itself. The translations of Anand Math are available in almost all the major languages spoken in India. Generally people are well acquainted with the name of the book Anand Math, but only for the reason that the song described in this book later became the national song of India, however there are many ideas in this book which became the main basis of India’s freedom struggle but are still known very less.

Answers to many questions, doubts related to Indian civilization and culture can also be obtained from this book.

SCARCITY IN INDIA
BRITISH PLENTY

BACKGROUND OF THE ANAND MATH (The Abbey Of Bliss).

Around 1770 there was a terrible famine in Bengal. Millions of people died due to this famine. The famine was so terrible that many people started eating trees, leaves, etc for the survival. This tragedy was penned by British officer Wilson Hunter in his book, The Annals of Rural Bengal.

Along with the famine, many diseases also started spreading like Cholera, tuberculosis and smallpox. People started to succumb to the diseases. Family members were leaving the patient alone. Taking advantage of such a time, thieves, swindlers, dacoits were engaged in robbery.

Even in such dire circumstances, the ruling class was not in a mood to provide any concession to the common people, they kept increasing the tax. When seeing such a painful situation, the monks of Bengal blew the trumpet of rebellion against the ruling class. The heroic saga of the revolutionaries who challenged the British rule is the basis of the novel Anand Math.

WHY DO WE CALL OUR COUNTRY AS MOTHER LAND ?

” It is the country and no mortal mother ” — cried Mahendra. ” We own no other mother,” retorted Bhavananda ; “they say, ‘the mother and the land of birth are higher than heaven.’ We think the land of birth to be no ether than our mother herself. We have no mother, no father, no brother, no wife, no child, no hearth or home, we have only got the mother.

In Valmiki Ramayana, the most sacred book of Hindus, in two lines of verses, there is a mention of Shri Ram describing the birthplace as more sacred even than the heaven. Bankim Chandra has told the youth the glory of the mother land by referring to this holy book. Bankim Chandra has clarified that the first duty of every Hindu is to try to free his mother land from foreign invaders.

WHY WERE HINDUS DEFEATED BY MUSLIM INVADERS ?

” Maharaj, why have the gods grown offended with us ? For what fault have we been beaten by the Mussulmans ? “
” The gods are not averse ” said Satyananda. ” In warfare you have defeats as well as victories. The other day we were victorious, to-day we are worsted. It is the final victory that is worth the name. I am sure that Vishnu who has ever been so kind to us with his conch, disc, club and lotus will prove as kind again. We will have to carry through the vow which we have taken with the touch of His sacred foot. If we fail, eternal Hell shall be our lot. I have no doubt about our ultimate success, but we have to recognise that, as no work can succeed without divine grace, so too is human enterprize necessary for everything. The reason for our defeat is that we have no arms. What can sticks and spears do before cannons, guns and shot ? So we have been beaten because we were wanting in enterprize. What we have now to do is to see that we may not lack those arms in future.”

Weapons are needed to resist the invading forces. Victory cannot be achieved by talking empty peace. To make his point accessible to the common man, Bankim Chandra took the help of Karma Yoga of Gita. Taking recourse to the teachings given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the Gita, he gave his views on violence and non-violence in detail. Bankim Chandra, while giving his opinion in clear words, said that if a person tries to kill you, then killing such a person is the very first act of non-violence. In this way, Bankim Chandra has also tried to give evidence of the failure of the first revolution of 1857 in his statement.

REINTERPRETATION OF HINDUISM

I shall explain the position to you as great men have understood it. The True Faith does not consist in the worship of 330 million deities ; that is only a base religion of the masses. Under its influence the True Faith, which Mlecchas call Hinduism, has disappeared. The true Hinduism is based on knowledge and not on action. This knowledge is of two kinds, subjective and objective. The subjective know- ledge is the essential part of the True Faith, but till you have objective knowledge the subjective knowledge can never grow.

In very strict and harsh words, Bankim Chandra has focused the attention of the general public towards the evils of Hindu religion. According to him, because of the defeat of Hinduism, many distortions have come, which are absolutely necessary to be resolved. He says that the worship of 33 crore deities is not following the real Sanatan Dharma. This sort of religion is a fallen religion. In Hinduism the primacy of knowledge has been accepted.

Influence and Inspirations

Clear impressions of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee are visible in the nationalist ideas of Swami Vivekananda, Arvind Ghosh, Sachindra Nath Sanyal etc.

The formation and functioning of Anushilan Samiti, the nursery of revolutionary activities in India, was also based on the ideas of Bankim Chandra.

Taking Bankim Chandra’s interpretation of Gita as the basis, Arvind Ghosh presented his own interpretation of Gita.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

2 thoughts on “Who was Bankim Chandra Chatterjee? And what was his contribution in the freedom struggle?”

  1. I had never heard of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee before reading this post but from his thoughts and writings you’ve shared here, he was clearly a brilliant, astute and perceptive man.

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