"Truth, purity, and unselfishness - whenever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof. Equipped with these, one individual is able to face the whole universe in opposition." - Swami Vivekananda












PRABUDDHA BHARATAPrabuddha Bharata | August 2005  





           Bankimchandra: Development of Nationalism and Indian Identity




                Dr. Anil Baran Ray




     Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya (1838­94), the master litterateur of Bengal, called the ‘emperor of literature’ mainly for his novels, was an essayist par excellence as well. Among the numerous essays and satires that he produced, quite a few focused on political themes and issues. Bankimchandra’s political ideas can be gleaned from those essays and satires as also from his novels such as the Ananda Math. Drawing upon such sources, the present article proposes to reflect on Bankimchandra’s concept of nationalism in terms of its sources and nature as also its characteristic contribution towards the development of the Indian identity.




     Bankim’s Nationalism: Its Sources




     As regards the sources, Bankimchandra acknowledged the influence of English utilitarianism and French positivism on his political thought but asserted all the same his independence of them by critiquing them where they, in his opinion, deserved such criticism. As a philosophy, utilitarianism sought to judge all actions and policies, particularly governmental, in the light of the ability or utility of such policies and actions to promote the good of the greatest number of people. Such a philosophy, Bankimchandra reasoned, was flawed on two counts. First, it was not, ethically speaking, a foolproof philosophy. The Indian ideal, as laid down in its ancient scriptures, of doing good to all, which found expression in the following pronouncement of the rishis - ‘Sarve bhavantu sukhinae sarve santu niramayae; Sarve bhadraii pauyantu ma kaucit duekhabhak bhavet. May all be happy; may all be free from disease; may all realize that which is good; may none be subject to misery’ - was, to Bankimchandra, an infinitely better ideal in terms of both religion and ethics than that which utilitarianism gave to mankind.


     Bankimchandra’s second objection was rooted in the ground reality prevailing in India of his times. Whatever be the exhortation of English political philosophies such as utilitarianism, the British government of India, had its own primary interests - such as augmenting its own exchequer - and could not be expected to go to any great length in doing good to a subject people. It was a better policy, therefore, for Indians to rely on their own strength in terms of generating national awareness, preparing the people for struggle and the self-sacrifice required for such struggle, and curtailing their dependence on the government as an agency for promoting general welfare. It was from such a conceptualization of politics that Bankimchandra criticized the politics of verbosity - of talks without constructive work - that was in vogue in India during his time. He detested such politics and criticized it on the following counts with a view to giving it a more constructive orientation: First, the prevalent brand of politics was city-centric, mainly confined to a few cities like Calcutta. Second, it was confined to the upper stratum of society - the city-bred leaders and their followers. Third, its discourse was conducted in the English language, be it through the press or on the platform. Fourth, its activities were, more often than not, one-shot affairs, ending either in passing resolutions in annual sessions and begging the British government for some favour or other or in writing articles in newspapers mildly chiding the British administration for some omission or commission on their part. Such politics, far from doing any good to the people actually alienated them. It widened the gulf between the city and the country, between the educated and the uneducated and between the English-speaking leaders and the masses.


     Bankimchandra’s scorn for the politics of verbosity can be seen in the following passage from his Kamalakanta: ‘Some think that by droning they will deliver the country - gathering boys and old men together at meetings they drone at them. … Others again are not given to this - they take up pen and paper, and drone, week after week, month after month, and day after day.’ (1)


     What is the alternative to verbosity - ‘mere droning’, as Bankimchandra calls it? The answer that Bankimchandra gives reveals his attitude to the prevailing brand of politics as also his concept of nationalism, which he later articulated more fully. To quote Bankimchandra: ‘Let me tell you the truth … you know neither how to gather honey nor how to sting - you can only drone. There is no sign of work to go with it - only droning, day and night, like a whining girl. Reduce your verbosity in speech and writing, and give your mind to some work - then you will prosper.’


     By advising his countrymen to ‘gather honey or sting’, Bankimchandra meant to say that without a grim resolve and the attendant struggle they could not really hope to get any concrete benefit from the foreign government of India. The people of India had to fend for themselves. The country had to be regenerated and towards that end the kind of effete politics that was in fashion in those days had to be discarded in favour of a new sense of nationalism and a new brand of politics in which the new mantra would be identity, unity and strength.




     Constituent Elements of Nationalism




     Bankimchandra held that Europe came up by virtue of its nationalist fervour and asserted that India could also be raised if it could be sufficiently charged with nationalism. The problem with India was that nationalism in its European sense, as the political expression of the distinctiveness of a people living within a certain geographically defined territory and united by race, religion, language, tradition, heritage, and culture, was something foreign to her. Neither of the two essential constituent elements of nationalism - the identification of the individual with the political community to which he or she belonged and the differentiation of the concerned political community from other political communities - was historically present in India.


     As for the first element, the Aryans of India were originally one single community with members having an identity of interests with each other. As their number increased and as, in course of time, they became dispersed all over the multifarious parts of India, they became differentiated in respect of territories as also in respect of languages and sects which, in turn, brought about differences in terms of tradition, heritage and culture. With differences on so many counts being a pronounced fact of life in India, there was no sense of national unity in the sense in which that term was understood in Europe.


     The Indians were deficient in the second constituent element of nationalism as well. They not only did not have a sense of emotional oneness as members of one single entity, they also failed to develop a sense of differentiation of interests from the communities that were not Indian. The European communities that developed as nations were so actuated by their sense of differentiation from other nations that they were always ready to promote, and often did actually promote, their own interests at the expense of other nations. In contrast to the Europeans, the Indians could not go for the throats of other nations and promote themselves at the expense of others. They were not sufficiently hostile to other nations, even to those who invaded their country, occupied it and ruled over it.


     There were three reasons for this. First, the governing in India had traditionally been the preserve and special province of the caste of warriors (kshatriyas) and the other castes had kept aloof from it, with the result that people as a whole never presented a united front to a foreign invading army. Second, the people of India were not bothered about who ruled so long as those who ruled did it well. Good governance, and not independence, was what mattered to them. Third, the religious attitude of the Hindu people of India stood in the way of their cultivating a sense of hatred and hostility to foreign people. They believed that God was the indwelling spirit of all beings and that the distinction between a foreigner and a native was artificial. To cultivate hatred towards one just because he hailed from a different land or belonged to a different race was to insult the God within him. As a result of such a religious attitude, resulting in an inability to differentiate themselves politically from others, the Indians failed to counter the foreign invading nations. To quote Bankimchandra, ‘Muslim kings followed Hindu kings, and the people did not object - for the Hindu, Hindu and Muslim were equal. An English king followed the Muslims, and people did not object…. For the Hindu had no hatred for the Englishman on the ground of his different race.’ (2)




     Nationalism in Context




     Now, the task for Bankimchandra was to so charge the Indians that they became imbued with a sense of nationalism in the aspects of both identification and differentiation as referred to above and developed themselves as a nation vis-a-vis other nations, particularly the English. How he went about this task is discussed below.

Bankimchandra knew that Europe was essentially political in character while India was intrinsically religious in nature and that the best and most efficacious way to move India and Indians was to appeal to the religious nature and sentiment of Indians. From this general truth Bankimchandra came to the conclusion that the most efficient way to instill in Indians a sense of nationalism was to mix it with religion, not as it was popularly understood, but as it could be. In order to appreciate how exactly he used religion to serve his purpose of rousing nationalism among Indians, it will be in order to explain first what he meant by religion by referring to the new interpretation that he gave it. Bankimchandra took Auguste Comte’s prescription, as offered in the latter’s philosophy of positivism, that the ‘human deity’ be worshipped, but did not take Comte’s reasons for such prescription. Comte argued that since God could not be seen but only imagined and that since He was extra-cosmic and superior to humanity, man should devote himself rather to the worship of concrete humanity than an abstract God. Unlike Comte, Bankimchandra did not want to make a distinction between abstract God and concrete humanity. He wished to combine the abstract and the concrete by observing that God was the inmost essence of all human beings and that ‘worship’ of the one was worship of the other as well. Having made God and humanity one, Bankimchandra next observed that the dharma of man lay in his attainment of full humanity through the cultivation and harmonious development (anushilan, as he termed it) of all his physical and mental faculties as also through the performance of dutiful actions in the selfless spirit of Krishna, who, in Bankimchandra’s opinion, represented the best example of full humanity in respect of both being and doing. Bankimchandra then went on to assert that man attained his full ‘maturity’ when, having developed himself after the anushilan dharma, he directed his devotion to God. God was in all beings. Therefore, devotion to God meant progressively extending one’s love for oneself and one’s family to one’s community to one’s country and finally to whole of humanity or the entire human race. Love for the whole humanity, however, was an ideal very difficult to realize in actual practice and so Bankimchandra advised his countrymen to take love for one’s country as the highest religion. As he put it, ‘Considering the condition of mankind, love of one’s own country should be called the highest dharma’ (199).




     Religion of the Motherland




     Bankimchandra had a purpose behind his preaching that love for the country or patriotism constituted the highest religion. But for such a theory, he could not inspire his countrymen to achieve that identification between the individual and his country which constituted the first essential element of nationalism. The religious theory of patriotism found its fullest bearing in another new coinage offered by Bankimchandra to this effect: that the motherland was every Indian’s mother herself, that she was a goddess to be worshipped, and that in such worship of the goddess or deity of Mother India lay the highest religion of the people of India. In putting forth his observation that the motherland that was India was every Indian’s mother and goddess as well, Bankimchandra asserted that such a goddess should be viewed as the combination of the three goddesses Durga, Laksh­mi and Saraswati, with Durga symbolizing national valour and conquest of evil, Lakshmi symbolizing plentifulness of national wealth and prosperity, and Saraswati symbolizing the abundance of the nation’s learning, know­ledge and wisdom. Such an imagery found its most beautiful illustration in the song ‘Bande Mataram’ (Hail Motherland), which Bankimchandra composed in 1875 (3) and later incorporated in his novel Ananda Math (The Abbey of Bliss), first published in 1882.


     ‘Bande Mataram’ presents the core of Bankimchandra’s thoughts on nationalism on three counts:


     1) It exhorts the Mother’s children - the people of the country - to think only of their motherland as their mother;


     2) It exhorts them to view their ‘motherland-Mother’ as their be-all and end-all:



Thou art knowledge, thou art conduct,
thou art heart, thou art soul,
for thou art the life in our body.
In the arm thou art might, O Mother,
in the heart, O Mother, thou art love and faith,
it is thy image we raise in every temple. (4)



     3) Since the Mother represented the essence of the beings of her children, it was the sacred duty of all her children to give themselves up to the service of the Mother, to dedicate themselves to the Mother and sacrifice their all for the Mother. All in all, Bankim was making the point that the national self being the same as the divine Self, it was prior to the individual self and that it is only by raising his self to the level of the national and divine Self that the individual could realize his best self - his purna manushyatva (full humanity). We have already said that Bankimchandra identified the attainment of purna manushyatva as the goal of religion. Now, in bringing about a synthesis of the individual self and the national self through the concept of the ‘motherland-Mother’, Bankimchandra brought his philosophies of religion and nationalism to converge at a single point.


     This point needs some elaboration. Bankimchandra’s purpose in initiating his countrymen with the mantra of bande mataram, in presenting before them the vision of the motherland as maternal and divine power, and in asking them to worship such a Mother with their lifeblood and with all that they could offer to her in worship was to tie his countrymen up with the same thread of nationality and give them thereby a sense of unity around a common concept. Bankimchandra was keenly aware of the fact that India was a diverse land and that his countrymen suffered from differences and conflicts issuing from the multiplicity of castes, communities, languages and religions. In order to find unity in the midst of such diversity, Bankimchandra gave his countrymen a mantra, to overcome thereby their differences and find in the same motherland-Mother the identification of their interests. After all, a mother could not but be well-meaning to her children and the children therefore must find their highest fulfilment in love for the motherland-Mother. Bankimchandra’s purpose was to inspire and teach his countrymen. It was his way of asking them to overcome their differences, find their commonness in the Mother and be a nation.


     Commenting on the uniqueness of Bankimchandra’s teaching on this aspect of religion-based patriotic nationalism, Sri Aurobindo observes:


The new intellectual idea of the motherland is not in itself a great driving force; the mere recognition of the desirability of freedom is not an inspiring force. … It is not till the motherland reveals herself to the eye of the mind as something more than a stretch of earth or a mass of individuals, it is not till she takes shape as a great divine and Maternal Power in a form of beauty that can dominate the mind and seize the heart that these petty fears and hopes vanish in the all-absorbing passion for mother and her service, and patriotism that works miracles and saves doomed nations is born. To some men it is given to have that vision and reveal it to others.(5)




     Militant Nationalism: Struggle and Sacrifice




     It has been observed by some that Bankimchandra’s exhortation to his countrymen to raise the Mother’s ‘image in every temple’ (last line in stanza 4 of Aurobindo’s translation of ‘Bande Mataram’), did not move the anti-idolatrous sections of the people of India.


     Such an objection is really misplaced. The song has to be taken in its spirit. The image that Bankimchandra presents in the song is really symbolic of certain qualities (pursuit of creative energy, wealth and prosperity, know­ledge and enlightenment, devotion and dedication, and so on) he wanted his countrymen to cultivate. It is from such a perspective that he designated his theory of dharma as anushilan dharma. Through anushilan, the people of India, each one of them, must try to attain their purna manushyatva and then use it for the attainment of India’s manhood in terms of wresting its freedom from the conquerors. Indeed, the third stanza of ‘Bande Mataram’ is the most revealing of Bankimchandra’s views that India must wrest her freedom by armed means. Here Bankimchandra candidly gives his countrymen a call to arms, making the point that with so many of her children rising in arms, the motherland-Mother would be strong enough to drive out the armies of her enemies. To quote the stanza:




Terrible with the clamorous shout

of seventy-million (6) throats
and the sharpness of swords raised
in twice seventy-million hands,
who sayeth to thee, Mother,
that thou art weak?


Holder of multitudinous strength,

I bow to Her who saves,
to her who drives from her
the armies of her foemen - the Mother.



     The theme of a national militia or national liberation force, first spoken of in ‘Bande Mataram’ finds its fullest elucidation in the novel Ananda Math, by all reckoning a parable of patriotic nationalism and revolt. In it Bankimchandra unhesitatingly designates the national militia as the ‘santan army’ (7) and states that, composed of the all-sacrificing ‘children of the Mother’, the santan army’s only goal or mission was to free the motherland-Mother from foreign bondage and stage a revolt or wage a war for the same. Bhabananda, a leading member of the santan army, put forth its all-sacrifing character when he formulated his observation that the santans recognized no other mother except the motherland in the following words: ‘We have neither mothers nor fathers, neither brothers nor friends, neither wives nor children, neither any home nor any land. We have only one Mother.’ (8)


     The santans had a very clear conception of what the motherland-Mother was like in ancient times, what she was reduced to at the present time and what the santans would make of her in the future. To quote from the Ananda Math:



Mahendra [a new recruit] is led into the forest in the ‘Ananda Math’ (The Abbey of Bliss) where he meets Satyananda, the leader, who takes him inside the temple. There Mahendra finds an image of a mother-goddess - ‘a beautiful, shapely, bejeweled image of Jagaddhatri’ - in a chamber. Mahendra asks, ‘Who is she?’ The ascetic Satyananda, explains, ‘Mother. What she once was.’ Then Mahendra is led into another chamber where he finds an image of the dark and dreadful Kali. The ascetic exclaims, ‘Look, what Mother has come to…. Kali, the dark mother. She is naked because the country is impoverished. The country has now been turned into a cremation ground, so the mother is now garlanded with skulls.’ Finally, as Mahendra is led into yet another chamber through a tunnel, ‘suddenly the light of the morning sun touches their eyes. Sweet songs of birds are heard from all directions. Here they see a golden image of a goddess stretching her ten arms, looking radiant in the tender light of the morning. The ascetic bows down before the image, and says, ‘There is she, what Mother will become.’ (9)


     In such a perception of the history of the motherland as the Mother, one can see the reason why the santans took to arms: the Mother must be rescued from all the misery, denudation, degradation and decay she had been subjected to by foreign conquerors and given back all the wealth and prosperity, wisdom and enlightenment, glory and grandeur that she once had in abundance.


     In thus charting the course of national struggle for freedom, Bankimchandra sought to give direction to the future national revolutionaries of India on two counts: 1) that they must take to armed struggle against their foreign subjugators; and 2) that in order to succeed in the struggle for liberation of the country from foreign enemies as also in the post-liberation efforts towards the reconstruction of the country, all concerned must take the vow of self-denial, always holding the ideal of purna manushyatva and the interests of the nation above their individual interests.




     Asserting National Identity




     Bankimchandra gave his countrymen a mantra as also the benefit of a vision. He showed them the way to achieve oneness between their individual interests and the interests of the national community to which they belonged. Having thus taught them the first key element of nationalism, he also taught them the other element, that is, their sense of differentiation from other nations, particularly the English, which, by virtue of its being the ruler of India at that time, was a source of great concern to Indians.


     Bankimchandra held that as an ancient nation with thousands of years of history, culture and heritage, Indians had legitimate reasons to be aggrieved about their being dominated by the English, but they did not have to waste their energy in hurling abuses at the English. On the contrary, they should give a positive direction to their sense of national bitterness by engaging in constructive competitiveness with the English in different spheres of life and try to be equal, if not better than them, in those spheres. So long as the sense of hostility to the English acted as a spur to Indians to bring about their self-development and development as a nation, Bankimchandra considered it to be a positive development and wanted its continuation.


     In consonance with such a stand, Bankimchandra made Satyananda declare on the battlefield that he would keep on fighting till the country was completely free from foreign hands: ‘I shall strengthen the Mother by drenching the soil of my country with the enemy’s blood.’ (10) In keeping with such a stand, again, Bankimchandra made fun of some British characters in his novels - of Captain Thomas, for example, in the Ananda Math. His purpose was to boost up the national morale. The lampooning of British characters was a means towards that end. Courage and fearlessness in the character of Shanti, a disguised female member of the santan army, presented in contrast to the infirm character of Thomas, captain of the British forces that were sent to crush the revolt of the santans, assumes a significance of a different order. Mark the words of Shanti, as spoken to Thomas: ‘I had a monkey in my home. It died recently. Will you stay where it lived? I shall put a chain around your waist. We have plenty of bananas in our garden.’ (11) And who can forget his sarcastic criticism of those Britishers who were opposed to the Ilbert Bill (12) in the form of that masterly satirical piece titled ‘Bransonism’? (13)


     Not just in his novels and essays, but in his professonal and personal life too Bankimchandra, despite his deputy magistrateship under the British government, was not afraid of taking on offending Britishers, if occasion so demanded. During his posting at Khulna, Bankimchandra suppressed not only the river dacoits but also the tyrannical British-born subjects. (14) Even C E Buckland, who as one­time boss of Bankimchandra in the British administration was not too fond of Bankimchandra’s fierce sense of independence and self-respect as an official, acknowledged his courage in the memoirs that he authored of the British administration in Bengal. (15) Perhaps the most outstanding example of Bankimchandra’s challenging a Britisher as a means of upholding his own self-respect, and national self-respect as well, took place in Berhampore on 15 December 1873, when he was serving there as a deputy magistrate. To quote the report of the Amrita Bazar Patrika: ‘Bankim was returning from his office that day. The bearers of his palanquin carried it through a cricket ground where Lt.-Col. Duffin and some of his friends were playing cricket. The Colonel abused the bearers and asked Bankim to come out of the palanquin. Bankim got out of the palanquin and tried to pacify the angry Colonel. But Duffin who was in a state of fury gave a violent push and “chastised him with blows”.’ (16) Bankim brought a criminal suit against him which caused great sensation in the little town of Berhampore. The next lines of the report are revealing of Bankimchandra’s stand on upholding the dignity of the self and the nation: ‘Some of his [Bankim’s] well-wishers advised Bankim to withdraw the case against Duffin but Bankim, unwilling to compromise with his honour and self-respect, insisted on an unqualified apology which Duffin finally offered in an open court.’ The incident created a sensation not only in Berhampore, as mentioned above, but elsewhere as well. The unqualified apology offered by Duffin enhanced not only the dignity of Bankimchandra himself but the dignity of his countrymen as well.


     Indeed, Bankimchandra was not afraid of playing up the fact of differentiation of Indians from the British, if that fact could serve the purpose of enhancing the self-respect and pride of Indians. He did it himself and through his example encouraged other Indians to do the same, particularly if such exercises provided a spur to Indians to develop as a nation. (17)


     In brief, Bankimchandra’s thesis on nationalism was this: In order to be a nation, the Indians needed the religion of love for the country translating into fellow feeling for one another as also a sense of constructive differentiation from other peoples and nations.




     Inclusive Nationalism




     To sum up, this essay shows that in both aspects of the concept of nationalism, namely, identification and differentiation, Bankimchandra has been a constructive thinker. He gave us a common basis of Indian national identity and cautioned us against playing up our lesser identities around caste, community, language, region and faith. In doing so, he laid the first systematic foundation of nationalism in India. (18) Before him, the thoughts on nationalism were sporadic and effusive, with the national feeling expressing itself in college debating societies, in the National Mela (started in Bengal in 1866) and in newspapers and journals such as the National Paper (first circulated in Bengal in 1866). (19) In systematizing the thoughts on nationalism through the concept of motherland-Mother, Bankimchandra gave it the first-ever theoretical foundation.


     Bankimchandra’s concept of religion as the attainment of full humanity through the cultivation and harmonious development of all human faculties, a novelty in itself, left its mark on the thinking of stalwarts such as Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda. Indeed, Rabindranath’s concept of atmashakti and Swamiji’s concept of ‘man­making’ (20) bear the imprints of Bankimchandra’s concept of purna manushyatva. Sri Aurobindo’s Bhavani Mandir was clearly a product of the inspiration he received from Bankimchandra’s Ananda Math. And that Bankimchandra inspired many revolutionaries of India to embrace the gallows with ‘Bande Mataram’ on their lips is a well-documented fact of history. Many have spoken against his theory of religious nationalism and criticized him for his failure to maintain the distinction between religion and politics, without realizing that, to him, the whole of life was religion and as per such a perception and philosophy of life, man’s spiritual and temporal lives were incapable of being distinguished. As Bankimchandra himself observed, ‘They form one compact whole, to separate which into component parts is to rend the entire fabric.’ (21)


     Bankimchandra’s problem, however, was that at times he was a little too aggressive in his pronouncements on nationalism and that some of the characters in his novels occasionally made observations on other communities that were not in the best interests of communal harmony.


     Indeed, Bankimchandra has been charged with communalism and Muslim-baiting by some critics. Bankimchandra’s defence is that his views on the issue should not be derived from his novels. Novels depict fictional situations and characters and are not necessarily representative of an author’s views on a particular subject. His essays, asserts Bankimchandra, are more representative of his views in this regard. ‘India could not develop truly as a nation so long as there was not equal and simultaneous improvement in the conditions of Hashim Sheikhs and Rama Kaibartas of the country,’ observes Bankim­chandra in an essay. (22) Only a man passionately committed to nationalism and an Indian identity, as distinguished from communal identity, could make such an observation.




     Notes and References




     1. Bankim Rachanabali (Kolkata: Sahitya Samsad, 1401 BE), 2.85. See also Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Sociological Essays, trans. S N Mukherjee and Marian Maddern (Calcutta: Riddhi-India, 1986), 49. Bankim’s distaste for the politics of agitation that comprised verbosity, prayer and petition can also be seen in his satirical piece entitled ‘Politics’ included in Kamalakanta, in which he designated such politics as ‘politics of the dog’. ‘Give me alms’, he said, was at the heart of such politics. It arose from a sense of weakness, which Bankimchandra despised. See Bankim Rachanabali, 2.82-3.


     2. Sociological Essays, 188.


     3. Bankim Rachanabali, 1.23.


     4. Stanza 4 of the song as translated by Sri Aurobindo.


     5. Sri Aurobindo, Rishi Bankimchandra.


     6. With reference to the mention of this particular number, some have felt that Bankimchandra’s call to arms was limited to Bengal only. Truly, Bengal’s population in the 1870s was seventy million, but Bankimchandra’s appeal was undoubtedly to the whole country. Those who are familiar with his essays such as ‘Bharatbarsha Paradhin Keno?’ (‘Why is India Dependent?’), ‘Bharatbarsher Swadhinata o Paradhinata’ (‘India’s Independence and Dependence’) will accept that Bankimchandra’s thought was in terms of the whole country, though, as a Bengali writing in the Bengali language, his appeal was directed for obvious reasons to Bengali people first.


     7. A secret organization with a strict code of conduct whose members took vows of forsaking all worldly pleasures until the liberation of the country, to forget caste distinctions, to stay on the battlefield till death and to accept death for any violation of the santan codes.


     8. See Sisir Kumar Das, The Artist in Chains: The Life of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (New Delhi: New Statesman, 1984), 133. See also ‘Amar Durgotsab’ in Kamalakanta, Bankim Rachanabali, 2.71-2.


     9. The Artist in Chains, 134.


     10. See Ananda Math, 4.8, in Bankim Rachanabali, 1.787.


     11. Ananda Math, 3.2, in Bankim Rachanabali, 1.759.


     12. The Bill proposed to give the native magistrates the jurisdiction to try British subjects of European origin as well.


     13. Branson was a European member of the Calcutta Bar who led the opposition against the Bill. See Bankim Rachanabali, 2.30-4.


     14. One such subject torched a village by using a rogue elephant. Bankimchandra showed the courage of arresting the revolver-wielding tyrant and in the process made his countrymen proud of him.


     15. Bengal under Lieutenant Governors, Calcutta, 1902.


     16. Amrita Bazar Patrika, 15 January 1874, as reproduced in The Artist in Chains, 54.


     17. See Bankimchandra’s essay ‘Jatibaira’ in Bankim Rachanabali, 2.809-10.


     18. That the credit on this count belongs rightly to Bankimchandra and not to any politician or social reformer is a point very effectively made out by Sri Aurobindo in Rishi Bankimchandra in the following words: ‘And when posterity comes to crown with her praises the Makers of Modern India, she will place her most splendid laurel not on the sweating temples of a place-hunting politician nor on the narrow forehead of a noisy social reformer but on the serene brow of that gracious Bengali who never clamoured for place or for power, but did his work, even as nature does, and just because he had no aim but to give the best that was his, was able to create a language, a literature and a nation.’ See also Sri Aurobindo, Bankim-Tilak-Dayananda (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram).

     Among other works with a bearing on this point, readers would be well advised to look particularly into the rich collection of essays titled Bankimchandra: Essays in Perspective (Calcutta: Sahitya Akademi, 1994) ably edited by Bhabatosh Chatterjee. M K Halder in his Foundations of Nationalism in India (Delhi: Ajanta Publications, 1989) credits Bankimchandra with laying the foundation of nationalism in India but all the same traces the genesis of the partition that followed in the wake of the independence of India to his writings. Sudipta Kaviraj in his The Unhappy Consciousness (Calcutta: Oxford University Press, 1995) acknowledges Bankimchandra’s contribution towards the formation of the nationalist discourse in India, but argues that Bankimchandra suffered from an unhappy consciousness due to his liminal failure to resolve satisfactorily the contradiction between ‘autonomy’ and ‘modernity’. Perspectives are varied, and along with them the praises and criticisms of Bankimchandra which throw up the all-important point that he remains as relevant and as throbbing with life today as he ever was, and that the need for studying him in depth remains as acute today as it ever was.


     19. Bimanbehari Majumdar, History of Political Thought from Rammohun to Dayananda (Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1934), 412.


     20. As Swamiji himself said to Hemchandra Ghose, a young revolutionary of Bengal fighting for the freedom of India, who met him in Dhaka on 3 and 4 April 1901: ‘Man-making is my mission of life. Hemchandra! You try with your comrades to translate this mission of mine into action and reality. Read Bankimchandra and emulate his desha-bhakti and sanatana dharma.’ See Bhupendranath Datta, Swami Vivekananda: Patriot-Prophet (Calcutta: Nababharat, 1993),165.


     21. ’Dharmatattva’, Appendix II, in Bankim Rachanabali, 2.610.


     22. ‘Bangadesher Krishak’ in Bankim Rachanabali, 2.250.

International Yoga Day 21 June 2015
International Yoga Day 21 June 2015







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