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Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Bankim Chandra chattopadhayay
 

One of the greatest novelists of India who gave the 'people the sacred 'mantra'- Vande Mataram.' The Bengali Novel practically began with him. He also wrote philosophical works, which stimulated independent thinking.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was born on 27th June 1838 in the village Kantalpara of the Twenty-four Paraganas District of Bengal. He belonged to a family of Brahmins. The family was well known for the performance of yagas (sacrifices).

Bankim Chandra's father Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya was in government service. In the very year of his son's birth he went to Midnapur as Deputy Collector. Bankim Chandra's mother was a  Pious, good and affectionate lady.

Bankim Chandra's education began in Midnapur. Even as a boy he was exceptionally brilliant. He learnt the entire alphabet in one day. Elders wondered at this marvel. For a long time Bankim Chandra's intelligence was the talk of the town. Whenever they came across a very intelligent student, teachers of Midnapur would exclaim, "Ah, there is another Bankim Chandra in the making".

Bankim Chandra finished his early education at Midnapur. He joined the Mohsin College at Hoogly and studied there for six years. Even there he was known for his brilliance. His teachers were all admiration for his intelligence. With the greatest ease Bankim Chandra passed his examinations in the first class and won many prizes.

Bankim Chandra was appointed Deputy Magistrate. He was in Government service for thirty-two years and retired in 1891. He was a very conscientious worker. Most of his officers were Engl&men. They were a proud lot for they were the ruling power of this country. Bankim Chandra never sub- mitted to their proud, unjust or stubborn behavior. Wasn't he the author of the inspiring and patriotic 'Anandamatha' and the song Vande Mataram'? He was true to their spirit. He would resist any unjust person and teach him a lesson. Because of this some of the British officers were displeased with him and he had to face their hostility. They harassed him. Bankim Chandra bore everything with patience. He worked hard and with integrity. Yet he never got the high position that he so much deserved!

Bankim Chandra would never sacrifice justice or self-respect. The arrogance of the white men never frightened him. When he was a Deputy Magistrate there was a superior officer named Munro, who was the Commissioner (the head of the province). Bankim Chandra met Munro near Eden Garden once. A British officer in those days expected any subordinate Indian official to show him respects by bowing modestly before him. But Bankim Chandra just walked past Munro. Munro was enraged. He transferred Bankirn
Chandra to a different place.

When he was in Jessore Bankim Chandra met a person by name Deenabandhu Mitra. He was a renowned Bengali dramatist of the time. They became very great friends. Bankim Chandra dedicated his 'Anandamatha: to the memory of his dead friend Deenabandhu Mitra.

In due course Bankim Chandra emerged as a great writer in Bengali. He wrote novels and poems. He wrote articles, which stimulated impartial thinking. He became well known outside Bengal, too. His novels have been translated into many Indian languages.

He was an exceptionally intelligent man. He read with interest books by established authors. And he used to say that his success was also due to the blessings showered on him by elders. Bankim Chandra regarded his parents with deep reverence and devotion. Whenever he went on a pilgrimage he would wash their revered feet and take that sacred water.

There were other factors, which helped in his writing. He belonged to an orthodox family. So he was familiar with the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha right from his childhood. These epics made a lasting impression on him. A variety of experiences - some of them sweet, and some bitter - came to him in his life. And these must have been stored in his memory. Bankim Chandra had traveled widely. He worked in several offices. So he came across many types of people. They were of different kinds'- some good, some bad, some humble, some snobbish, some intelligent and some dull. This vast knowledge of life and men is very well reflected in the characters he created in his novels.

When Bankim Chandra started writing, there was a new spirit, an awakening all over Bengal. People thought along new lines. The conditions of our country must improve; we must realize ourshortcomings and improve ourselves - such were the thoughts of the people. Some persons toiled hard to translate these wishes into action. Raja Rammohan Roy was one such reformer. He worked for a new system of education, for a free flow of  new ideas from outside the country and to wipe off the blind beliefs of the people.  Another great son of Bengal, Ishwara- chandra Vidyasagar, worked for the progress of Bengali language and society. Many were the people who worked with similar ideas to improve the country. Patriotism grew stronger and a new enthusiasm was in evidence every where. Thus the very atmosphere was inspiring.

Bankim Chandra first wrote poems. Then he wrote a novel in English. But after this he began to write novels in, Bengali. He wrote while still in service. Because of constant pinpricks he grew weary of service. He felt that government service curbed his freedom and challenged his self-respect. So he asked for permission to retire, though he was only fifty-three years old.

But his superior officers were displeased with him. So they would not even allow him to retire.When a new Lieutenant Governor, Charles Eliot by name, was posted,Bankim
Chandra approached him. He told him that he wished to write books and nee led leisure. I would like to retire. Please allow me to do so," he requested Eliot. He agreed. At last Bankim Chandra was free. He was retired on a pension of four hundred rupees a month.

When Bankim Chandra retired he was eager to write many books. But he was not able to devote many years to writing on a large scale. His health soon declined and he died in 1894 when he was only fifty-six.
Towards his end he grew very philoso- phical. He lost all interest in worldly pleasure. Though he was ailing for quite sometime he refused medicine.

The doctor said to him, "If you don't take medicine you may not live long; you are inviting death."

"Who says I have refused medicine? I have been using it all along," replied Bankim Chandra.

The doctor was surprised. "But where is the medicine? Let me see," he said.

Bankim Chandra took in his hand the copy of the Bhagavad Geeta that was by his side and said, "Here this is my medicine."

The study of the Bhagavad Geeta gradually changed his very temperament itself. He gave up writing novels. Philosophy and thoughts of God filled his writing. He wrote 'Krishna Charitra', and books on religion. He began the translation of the Geeta and the Vedas. But he died before he could complete the translation of the Vedas.

Bankim Chandra was a very refined person. Rabindranath Tagore, the world famous poet of India, has related an incident about Bankim Chandra.

There was a gathering. People were talking in-groups. One of them was reading Sanskrit verses composed by him. Bankim was standing nearby. The subject of the composition was patriotism. As the poet read, he made a remark making fun of Indians in poverty. When Bankim heard the remark he covered his face and left the place at once.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, one of the great sons of India, and Bankim Chandra were acquaintances. The word 'Bankim' also means'that which is bent'. Sri Ramakrishna once jokingly asked Bankim Chandra, "What is it that has bent you?" "The kick of the Englishman's shoe," Bankim replied. Sri Ramakrishna was acquainted with Bankim Chandra's historical novels, too. When Swami Vivekananda was still known as Narendranath, Sri Ramakrishna had sent him to Bankim Chandra.