Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

Bankimchandra Chatterjee or Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay, CBE[1] (26 June 1838[2]–8 April 1894)[3] was an Indian novelist, poet and journalist.[4] He was the composer of Vande Mataram, originally in Sanskrit stotra personifying India as a mother goddess and inspiring activists during the Indian Independence Movement. Chattopadhyay wrote thirteen novels and many serious, serio-comic, satirical, scientific and critical treatises in Bengali.

Bankimchandra Chattapadhyay
Bankimchandra Chattapadhay.jpg
Native name
বঙ্কিমচন্দ্র চট্টোপাধ্যায়
Born(1838-06-27)27 June 1838
Naihati, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died8 April 1894(1894-04-08) (aged 55)
Kolkata, Bengal Presidency, British India
OccupationWriter, poet, novelist, essayist, journalist
LanguageBengali, English
CitizenshipBritish Raj
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta
Literary movementBengal Renaissance
Notable worksDurgeshnandini
Devi Chaudhurani
Ananda Math
Vande Mataram

Bankim-Rachanabali administrated by eduliture


Chattopadhyay is widely regarded as a key figure in literary renaissance of Bengal as well as the broader Indian subcontinent.[4] 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.[4]

Chattopadhyay was born in the village Kanthalpara in the town of North 24 Parganas, Naihati, in an orthodox Bengali Brahmin family, the youngest of three brothers, to Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya and Durgadebi. His father, a government official, went on to become the Deputy Collector of Midnapur. One of his brothers, Sanjib Chandra Chattopadhyay was also a novelist and he is known for his famous book "Palamau". Bankim Chandra and his elder brother both had their schooling from Hooghly Collegiate School (then Governmental Zilla School), where he wrote his first poem. He was educated at the Hooghly Mohsin College (founded by Bengali philanthropist Muhammad Mohsin) and later at Presidency College, Kolkata, graduating with a degree in Arts in 1858. He later attended the University of Calcutta and was one of the two candidates who passed the final exam to become the school's first graduates.[5] He later obtained a degree in Law as well, in 1869. In 1858, he was appointed a Deputy Collector (the same type of position held by his father) of Jessore. He went on to become a Deputy Magistrate, retiring from government service in 1891. His years at work were replete with incidents that brought him into conflict with the ruling British. He was, however, made a Companion in the Order of the Indian Empire in 1894.[6]

Literary careerEdit

Chattopadhyay's earliest publications were in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's weekly newspaper Sangbad Prabhakar.[7] Following the model of Ishwar Chandra Gupta, he began his literary career as a writer of verse. His 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 is regarded as the first Indian novel to be written in English.[8] Durgeshnondini, his first Bengali romance and the first ever novel in Bengali, was published in 1865.

One of the many novels of Chattopadhyay 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 British soldiers. The book calls for the rise of Indian nationalism. 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 plot of the novel is loosely set on the Sannyasi Rebellion. He imagined untrained Sannyasi soldiers fighting and beating the highly experienced British Army; ultimately, however, he accepted that the British cannot be defeated. [9] The novel first appeared in serial form in Bangadarshan, the literary magazine that Chattopadhyay founded in 1872. Vande Mataram became prominent during the Swadeshi movement, which was sparked by Lord Curzon's attempt to partition Bengal into a Hindu majority West and a Muslim majority East. Drawing from the Shakti tradition of Bengali Hindus, Chattopadhyay personified India as a Mother Goddess, which gave the song a Hindu undertone that would prove to be problematic for some Muslims.[10]

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee on a 1969 stamp of India

Chattopadhyay'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[11]


  • Once Ramakrishna Paramahansa Deb, 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 and he used his excellent sense of humour and comedy to do so.
  • After the Vishabriksha (The Poison Tree) was published in 1873, the magazine, Punch wrote:
"...You ought to read the Poison Tree
of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee."[12]


  • 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)
  • 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, Rajmohan's Wife (1864) and he also started writing his religious and philosophical essays in English.


  1. ^ "Bankim Chandra Chatterjee". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  2. ^ "History & Heritage". Archived from the original on 1 November 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2018.
  3. ^ Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Merriam-Webster. 1995. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-87779-042-6.
  4. ^ a b c Staff writer. "Bankim Chandra: The First Prominent Bengali Novelist", The Daily Star, 30 June 2011
  5. ^ Islam, Sirajul (2012). "Chattopadhyay, Bankimchandra". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  6. ^ "Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay – Penguin Books India". Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  7. ^ Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee), from BengalOnline.
  8. ^ Mukherjee, Meenakshi (1 January 2002). "Early Novels in India". Sahitya Akademi.
  9. ^ "किसकी वंदना है वंदे मातरम – Navbharat Times". Navbharat Times. 28 January 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  10. ^ Mazumdar, Aurobindo (2007). "Vande Mataram and Islam". Mittal Publications.
  11. ^ Minor, Robert (1986) Modern Indian Interpreters of the Bhagavad Gita. State University of NY press. ISBN 0-88706-298-9
  12. ^ Lemon, Mark; Mayhew, Henry; Taylor, Tom; Brooks, Shirley; Burnand, Sir Francis Cowley; Seaman, Sir Owen (1885). "London Charivari". Punch Publications Limited.

Further readingEdit

  • Ujjal Kumar Majumdar: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay: His Contribution to Indian Life and Culture. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 2000. ISBN 81-7236-098-3.
  • Walter Ruben: Indische Romane. Eine ideologische Untersuchung. Vol. 1: Einige Romane Bankim Chattopadhyays iund Ranbindranath Tagore. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1964. (German)
  • Bhabatosh Chatterjee, Editor: Bankimchandra Chatterjee: Essays in Perspective (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi) 1994.

External linksEdit