Early Life and Education of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

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Early Life and Education of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee

To die without accomplishing our work, is that desirable?

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was born on June 26, 1838 in the village Kantalpara of the Twenty-four Paraganas District of Bengal. He belonged to a family of Brahmins.

Bankim Chandra’s father Yadav Chandra Chattopadhyaya was in government service. He was learned in English as well as in Persian and in connection with his service he was intimately acquainted with many well-placed Englishman. In the very year of his son’s birth he went to Midnapur as Deputy Collector. Bankim Chandra’s mother was a pious, and affectionate lady.

Long before, Bankim Chandra got admitted into the English School of Mr. F. Teed to learn English, English education had started to spread in Bengal. On the one hand a group of young men who had English education learned heavily towards English culture and life style and began to copy the English in all aspects of their life and, on the other hand another group, highly educated under the skilled guidance of Mr. P.L. Richardson, a teacher of repute, developed an independent power of thinking and had definite opinion of their own. This latter group showed their guts and courage in standing up against and criticising the many superstitions, beliefs and evil customs of the Hindu society in their later life.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee finished his early education at Midnapur. He joined the Mohsin College at Hooghly 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 was not very enthusiastic about sports. But he was not a student who was glued to his textbooks. Much of his leisure was spent in reading books other than his texts. He was very much interested in the study of Sanskrit. He would read and understand Sanskrit books on his own. He was struck by the beauty of that language. His study of Sanskrit stood him in good stead. Later when he wrote books in Bengali this background of Sanskrit was of great help to him.

Even in his student life Bankim Chandra published his anthology of poems, Lalita Tatha Manas. Between the years 1849 and 1858 the social and political life of India passed through some revolutionary changes of various types.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee 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 Englishmen. They were a proud lot for they were the ruling power of this country. Bankim Chandra never submitted to their proud, unjust or stubborn behaviour. 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 used to harass him. But he bore everything with patience. He worked hard and with integrity.

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 Commissioner named Munro, who was the head of the province. Bankim Chandra came across Munro once. A British officer in those days expected any subordinate Indian official to show him respect by bowing modestly before him. But Bankim Chandra just walked past Munro. Munro was enraged. He transferred Bankim Chandra to a remote place.

There were many such incidents during his service. His self-respecting behaviour angered the British officer. As a result, he was often transferred from place to place and much harassed in his service.

In 1858 the English monarch, Queen Victoria, took up the administration of India directly into her own hands. She assured the Indian people that the government would not interfere in any of their religious matters and observances and henceforth there would be no bar for Indians to get a high office in government departments.

At this juncture of national awakening, Bankim Chandra joined services as Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate at Jessore. Bankim remained in that position without promotion for more than 30 years. He retired in 1891. But while he was a government official, he began to write novels in his spare time. While he was posted at Khulna in 1860-61, he wrote an English novel named Rajmohan’s wife.

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was married when he was only eleven and his wife was five years old. Within a year or two of his appointment as a Deputy Collector at Jessore, he lost his wife. He was only twenty-two then. The death of his young and beautiful wife made him very unhappy. He had a son from his first wife, who died in 1859. After some time he married again. His second wife was Rajalakshmi Devi. They had three daughters but no son.