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Lone Winger, Troll Wolf @GabbarSanghi
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Today is the Jayanti of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee the man who composed Vande Mataram, one of the greatest Indian writers of the modern era, noted for his strong female characters, and inspired the Bengali Renaissance.
,Bankim Chandra was born in a small village near Naihati , in the North Paraganas region, his father Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya would later become Dy Collector of Midnapore, while one of his brother Sanjib Chandra was also an equally well known novelist.
Bankim graduated from Kolkata's Presidency College in 1858, along with Jadunath Bose, he was one of the first graduates, later got a Law degree. He joined Govt service and retired in 1891, and his tenure was filled with recurring conflicts with the British,
Bankim started his career as a writer in Ishwar Chandra Gupta's weekly publication Sangbad Prabhakar. His first major novel was Rajmohan's Wife, regarded as the first Indian novel to be written in English. However with the novel not doing too well, he turned to Bengali.
Bankim realized that writing in English, would not really help his literary career, and began to write in Bengali. Durgesh Nandini was his first ever Bengali novel published in 1865, a historical romance between Jagat Singh a Mughal general, Tilottama, daugther of a zamindar.
Durgesh Nandini is regarded as the first modern Bengali novel, and Bankim Da based it on local legends of Arambag region. While some critics mocked his unconventional style, others like Sambad Prabhakar praised it highly.
'Kapalkundala in 1866, is Bankim Da's most popular novel, of a girl bought up by a Tantrik in a remote forest, who falls in love with the Bhadralok Nabakumar, but is not able to adjust to the city life. Adapted into 4 Bengali movies, was loosely based on Shakespeare's Tempest.
Mrinalini in 1869, marked Bankim Da's shift from pure romances to a larger historical context. In a way this novel also laid the foundation for the Bengal Renaissance, and was intellectually stimulating. Was different from the rather escapist tone of his first two works.
In the meantime Bankim Da also started Bangadarshan, a monthly literary magazine in 1872, that carried serialized novels, short stories, sketches, essays, articles. Vishavriksha was his first novel to be published in a serial format in this magazine.
Though Bangadarshan went out of circulation, Bankim Da's brother Sanjib revived it later. His next novel Chandrashekar was around two parallel stories, while Rajani centered around a blind girl, written in the first person, inspired by Wilkie Collins A Woman in White.
Krishnakanter Will was one of Bankim Da's more complex novels, with a very multi layered plot, a superb depiction of contemporary India, and the corruption that had set in. Another well known work of his was Rajasimha a historical fiction
Bankim Da's most famous work would however be Anandamath in 1882. Set in the backdrop of the Sanyasi Revolt, this novel was a factor in the rise of Indian nationalism, especially in Bengal. The iconic Vande Mataram, was in this novel in a poem.
Incidentally it was Rabindranath Tagore who composed Vande Mataram into a song, and the first 2 verses were sung at the 1937 Congress session. Bankim Da wrote this poem, at Chuchurah, using both Sanskrit and Bengali.
Both Anandamath and Vande Mataram, were a factor in the rise of the revolotionary movement in Bengal. The effect of Vande Mataram went beyond Bengal, as freedom fighters, revolutionaries, adopted it as their war cry against the British rule.
So much was the impact of Vande Mataram, that the British banned Ananda Math, and made reciting the song a crime. But many freedom fighters defied the order. Lala Lajpat Rai started a journal with the same name, and Madam Bhikaji Cama's version of Indian flag had it.
Devi Chaudharani published in 1884 was another of Bankim Da's great novels. Here the central protagonist who leads the struggle against the British is a women, matter of fact Prafulla is one of the most memorable characters in Indian fiction.
Bankim Da's last novel Sitaram in 1886, is about a Zamindar torn between his wife and the woman he loves, that leads him on a path of self destruction. He finally stands up to the Muslim army about to take over his estate.
One of the features of Bankim Da's novels, has been the very strong women characters in them. Be it Kapalakundala, Durgesh Nandini, Devi Chaudharani or Kalyani in Anandamath, he created some of the most memorable women characters in Indian literature.
And while the women in Bankim Da's novels are fiercely independent, with a mind of their own, and strong in character, at the same time they never lose track of their Indian values or roots. In a way he was a feminist, but never let go of his Indian roots.
Take the case of Devi Chaudharani, Prafulla, humiliated by her father in law, due to which her father dies, fights out on her own , leads the revolt against the British, yet finally pardons her father in law, after she captures him. That was Bankim Da for you.
Bankim Da, also wrote a book Krishna Charitra on the life of Krishna, and a commentary on the Gita. He also wrote two spiritual books Dharma Tatva and Deva Tatva, apart from a poetry collection Lalita O Manas.
Bankim Da's Kamalakanter Daptar, is a superb collection of his humorous sketches, and uses sarcasm, satire to get his political messages across through his character. He also wrote Bijnan Rahasya a series of Essays on Science.
Bankim Da was also a great admirer of Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. They often had long discusions on philosophy, especially on Krishna. Bankim Da had a great sense of humor, and was absolutely frank in his talks with Ramakrishna, he would not hesitate to joke with him.
There is an interesting anecdote, when Bankim Da was introduced to Ramakrishna Paramahansa for the first time, the latter said Bankim means bent, what made you so.
To which he replied- "I am bent from the kicks of my white masters"
Bankim Da passed away in 1894, he however would leave behind a very rich legacy in his novels, books. And above all Vande Mataram, the song that inspired countless Indians in their fight against British rule. #Naman to a great thinker, writer, nationalist. #VandeMataram
My tribute to Bankim Da, is a very layman's point of view. I really am not qualified enough to discuss his novels and themes in detail. This is just a very humble tribute from me, to the man who gave us Vande Mataram and for which we would eternally be grateful. #Naman
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