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Chandranath Basu (1844-1910)[1] was a Bengali conservative[2][3] litterateur.[4]

A staunch Hindu[5], Chandranath is credited for having coined the term Hindutva[6][7][a] and has been regarded as the doyen of economic nationalism in Bengal.[1]

Early life and EducationEdit

Chandranath was born on 31 August 1844 in Koikala village at Hooghly district, Bengal Presidency, British India.[9] He was the second son of Kashinath Basu and had 3 sisters.[10]

Chandranath studied at the Hedore School, a missionary institute for a while, before dropping out due to a fear of being baptized; he then joined the Oriental Seminary especially because it had a teacher who took care of English pronunciation among the students.[9][11]

He pursued his B.A. (1862-1865) from Presidency College on an economic scholarship provided by Department of Public Instruction and went on to secure fifth place in the First AArts examination, before eventually topping the list of graduates in 1865.[1] He received a M.A. in history in 1866 and a degree in law, the following year.[1]


After serving in various officio-legal capacities, including a six-month stint as the Deputy magistrate of Dacca, he permanently settled in Kolkata whereupon he was inducted as a Librarian of the Bengal Library.[1] Chandranath was thereafter appointed as the official Translator to the Bengal government in 1877; Chandranath served till his superannuation at 1904.[1]

He also served as the principal of Joypur College Of Education, served in the TextBook Committee (responsible for selecting curricula up-till secondary tier)[12] was a temporary vice-chairman of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad.[9]

Activism and receptionEdit

His earliest works were in English concerned with the Glorious Revolution and its figures.[11] An essay of his published in 1864 was positively reviewed by The Englishman, which doubted whether it was written by a ‘native pen’.[13]

Chandranath's literary talent was first spotted by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in a review of Krishnakanter Will and it was at his behest, that Chandranath took to writing in Bengali and got associated with Bangadarshan, a pioneering magazine of the late 1800s.[1]

He used to visit Brahmo discussions during his days at Presidency and were even attracted to it for a short while despite his dislike of the Scottish Enlightenment, whose luminaries were borrowed from extensively.[11] His faith in Hinduism was restored by an orthodox Brahmin pandit Sasadhar Tarkachuramani, whom he met at Bankim's residence.[12] Post the publication of Pasupati Samvad, Chandranath commanded a huge popularity among the masses and came to be recognized as a prominent voice of the orthodox sections of the Hindu society.[1] Chandranath went on to reignite the theological debates between Christian and Brahmo intellectuals and advocated for a rigid abidance by religious scriptures.[1]

One of his first major work was Shakuntala Tattwa, a comparative study on Kalidasa's Shakuntala which sought to discover conservative Hindu values in the literature and met with immense success in the conservative circles of Bengal.[1] Comparing Shakuntala with Juliet, Chandranath examines the victory of self-restrain and penance, which arose of a Dharmic fashion over the unbridled materialistic outpouring of love in mitigating difficult personal situations.[11] He goes on to critique European gender relations, oft-intruding into scathing commentary about pre-marital romance[12] and other aspects of European materialism while speaking about the need to restrict the public dissemination of feminine charm and sexuality, lest the males succumb to it.[11] Summarily, Amiya Prosad Sen notes Chandranath to propound three major themes through his work -- rejecting a man-centric notion of universe, critiquing the usage of non-societal parameters to measure self and denying temporality of tradition[11]; in entirety, Sen deemed it to be a "thoughtless and tendentious application" of hardcore Hindu orthodox thought-school, which managed to locate conservative values where there were none.[1]

In 1892, he produced his magnum-opus Hindutva--Hindur Prakrita Itihas that propounded the Advaita Vedanta school of thought and invented the term Hindutva which assumed a variety of traditional and often contradictory beliefs and practices under a common fold.[11][13] Notably, he did not pursue an intensely mythological line[11] but yet choose to portray the Hindus as the only beings who have gained the spiritual consciousness to understand that humanity is in itself, a form of divinity and manifest its dharmic scopes, having been the sole harbingers of absolute harmony, magnanimity, honesty and unity.[13] He rejected the positivist thought school and lensed God through the prism of his creations, whereupon any challenge to traditional societies were equivalent of a challenge to the legitimacy and omniscience of the God, Himself.[1] Parallel to fellow Hindu conservatives[14] and deriving from his own theses[13], Chandranath went on to portray the Hindus as fundamentally superior to people of all other faiths, whose traditional social customs and practices in that they have survived centuries of thought-schools and hence were axiomatically superior to western culture and way of life.[15][16][11] Chandranath also chose to integrate Tantra as a core part of Hinduism in that it represented an inherent Hindu manliness and vigor, which would have helped fighting the colonialists[11] and staunchly supported the Hindu Caste system having offered a corpus of complex but poor theories of the origin and rationality of the system in support.[1][12]

He also wrote two short but little known manuals on the ideal Hindu way of domestic life - Garhyastha Path (1886) and the Garhyastha Vidhi (1887), which were primarily aimed at women.[11] One of his pamphlets located the superiority of the Hindu woman in her dedication to cooking in the kitchen for long hours, despite being engulfed in the smokes and flames.[17] In 1904, he published a detail manual for the conduct of men - Sangyam Sikhhar Nimnotomo Sopan.[18]

Sen notes him to be the foremost spokesman of the orthodox view on Hindu marriage; Chandranath essentially viewed the institution as a longstanding social ritual for the sole purpose of maintaining progeny and male hegemony, absent any locus of individual autonomy.[1] Chandranath supported child marriages in that it led to the development of an ideal house wife[11], advocated for the continuity of patriarchal traits[19], prized female chastity as a social gift[20] and opposed reforms in female education[20], widow re-mariage[12] and gender rights.[20] He dissented[21] against the Age of Consent Act in 1891, which sought to raise the age of consent for sexual intercourse for all girls, married or unmarried, from ten to twelve years in all jurisdictions and treat any violation thereof as rape, as violations of sacrosanct Hindu customs.[22] Tanika Sarkar notes that the adherence to Hindu customs was so rigid, that Basu et al went to the extents of showcasing the downsides of the status-quo as the strength of the Hindu women to bear such adversities.[23] In 1901, he wrote Sabitri Tattva a comparative study on Savitri and Satyavan; Chandranath proceeded with a similar outlook as in Shakuntala Tattwa and portraying Savitri as the ideal Hindu wife, held marriage as an institute that permeated death and any temporality.[11][24]

Chandranath also engaged in aggressive exchanges with contemporary intellectuals; Tanika Sarkar notes a polemical discourse with Rabindranath Tagore concerning Hindu marriage and Hindu diet.[11] He also conflicted with Nabinchandra Sen whilst voting against the inclusion of one of his plays, Palashir Yuddha in school-syllabus; in a letter to Sen, Chandranath inquires about why a Hindu ought to feel saddened at the defeat of a Muslim ruler.[12] An angered Sen penned a dismissive reply and in personal records, alluded Chandranath of being a dovetail of Bankim Chandra who merely reproduced the latter's private opinions as his own, in a verbose manner.[12] At last, Sen submitted a revised version which went on to be included whilst Chandranath wrote an apology letter, prodded by a mutual friend Gooroodas Banerjee.[25][12]

Death and legacyEdit

Basu died on 20 June 1910.[9] He heavily influenced Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, an important figure of the Bengal Renaissance.[11]


  1. ^ Amiya Sen notes that Basu's usage of the word was to merely portray a traditional Hindu cultural view in contrast to the political ideology, purveyed by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Sen, Amiya P. (2001-02-28). "Their Finest Hour: Hindu Revivalism and Aggressive Propaganda Through the Press and Platform (c. 1880–1904)". Hindu Revivalism in Bengal c.1872-1905: Some Essays in Interpretation. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195655391.001.0001/acprof-9780195655391-chapter-4. ISBN 9780199080625.
  2. ^ Bagchi, Jasodhara (1997). "Female sexuality and community in Jyotirmoyee Devi's Epar Ganga Opar Ganga". In Thapan, Meenakshi (ed.). Embodiment : Essays on Gender and Identity. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. p. 85.
  3. ^ Sarkar, Sumit (1997). Writing social history. New York. p. 375. ISBN 9780195646337.
  4. ^ Mukherjee, Sujit (1998). A Dictionary of Indian Literature: Beginnings-1850. 1. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan. pp. 70–71. ISBN 9788125014539.
  5. ^ Nagendra (1976). Literary Criticism in India. Sarita Prakashan. p. 18.
  6. ^ "Will its Hindu revivalist past haunt West Bengal's future?". Open The Magazine. 2019-03-28. Retrieved 2019-10-29.
  7. ^ Gopal, Sangita (2003-07-01). "Hindu Buying/Hindu Being: Hindutva Online and the Commodity Logic of Cultural Nationalism". South Asian Review. 24 (1): 161–179. doi:10.1080/02759527.2003.11978304. ISSN 0275-9527.
  8. ^ Sen, Amiya P. (2014-05-22). Discourses, Public Addresses, and Informal Talks. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198098966.001.0001/acprof-9780198098966-chapter-2. ISBN 9780199083015.
  9. ^ a b c d Akhter, Shamima. "Basu, Chandranath". Banglapedia. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  10. ^ Majumdar, Karunamaya (16 January 1977). Chandranath Basu : Jiboni o Sahityokormo চন্দ্রনাথ বসু : জীবনী ও সাহিত্যকর্ম (Thesis). Calcutta University.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o P. Sen, Amiya (4 July 2018). "A Hindu Conservative Negotiates Modernity : Chandranath Basu (1844–1910) and Reflections on the Self and Culture in Colonial Bengal" (PDF). In Klöber, Rafael; Ludwig, Manju (eds.). HerStory--Historical Scholarship between South Asia and Europe : Festschrift in Honour of Gita Dharampal-Frick. Berlin: CrossAsia-eBooks. pp. 175–187. doi:10.11588/xabooks.366.517. ISBN 978-3-946742-43-2. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h Chaudhuri, Rosinka (2008-02-01). "The Politics of Poetry: An Investigation into Hindu/Muslim Representation in Nabinchandra Sen's Palashir Yuddha". Studies in History. 24 (1): 1–25. doi:10.1177/025764300702400101. ISSN 0257-6430.
  13. ^ a b c d Barua, Ankur (2017-04-04). "Vedantic variations in the presence of Europe: establishing the Hindu dharma in late nineteenth century Bengal". International Journal of Dharma Studies. 5 (1): 10. doi:10.1186/s40613-017-0050-3. ISSN 2196-8802.
  14. ^ Werner Menski (10 September 2008). Hindu Law: Beyond Tradition and Modernity. OUP India. pp. 471–. ISBN 978-0-19-908803-4. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  15. ^ Walsh, Judith E. (1997). "What Women Learned When Men Gave Them Advice: Rewriting Patriarchy in Late-Nineteenth-Century Bengal". The Journal of Asian Studies. 56 (3): 664. doi:10.2307/2659604. ISSN 0021-9118.
  16. ^ Sarkar, Tanika (2009). "Rabindranath's "Gora" and the Intractable Problem of Indian Patriotism". Economic and Political Weekly. 44 (30): 40. ISSN 0012-9976.
  17. ^ Sarkar, Sumit (April 1996). "Indian Nationalism and the Politics of Hindutva". In Ludden, David (ed.). Contesting the Nation: Religion, Community, and the Politics of Democracy in India. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 283. ISBN 9780812215854.
  18. ^ Sen, Amiya P. (2010). Explorations in Modern Bengal, C. 1800-1900: Essays on Religion, History, and Culture. Primus Books. p. 134. ISBN 9788190891868.
  19. ^ Narayan Jha, Dwijendra (2009). "Introduction". Rethinking Hindu Identity. London: Routledge. p. 3. doi:10.4324/9781315710907. ISBN 9781315710907. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
  20. ^ a b c Bhatt, Chetan (2001). Hindu nationalism: origins, ideologies and modern myths. Berg. pp. 25–26. ISBN 9781859733431.
  21. ^ Bhattacharya, Tithi (2005). The Sentinels of Culture: Class, Education, and the Colonial Intellectual in Bengal (1848-85). Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780195669107.
  22. ^ Sinha, Mrinalini (1995). Colonial masculinity: the 'manly Englishman' and the' effeminate Bengali' in the late nineteenth century. Manchester: Manchester University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-7190-4653-7. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
  23. ^ Sarkar, Tanika (2016-08-11). "The Hindu wife and the Hindu nation: Domesticity and nationalism in nineteenth century Bengal:". Studies in History. 8 (2): 233. doi:10.1177/025764309200800204.
  24. ^ Chowdhury-Sengupta, Indira (Fall 1992). "The Return of the Sati: A Note on Heroism and Domesticity in Colonial Bengal". Resources for Feminist Research 22. 3/4.
  25. ^ Chatterjee, Partha (2012-12-31). "The Pedagogy of Culture". The Black Hole of Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 241. doi:10.1515/9781400842605. ISBN 9781400842605.