Rishi Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay is famous for penning India's national song, Vande Mataram. This great son of India was born on June 27, 1838 in Kantalpara village in West Bengal's 24 Paraganas district. After completing his early education in Midnapur, he joined the Mohsin College at Hoogly. Bankim Chandra had married when he was only eleven. After his first wife died, he remarried. He was a voracious reader and was especially interested in Sanskrit literature. He joined the Presidency College in Calcutta in 1856. After completing his education, he joined government service and retired in 1891. The Bengali Novel practically began with him. He also wrote philosophical works, which stimulated independent thinking. He was adept at both verse and fiction. He shot into the limelight with Durgeshnandini, his first Bengali romance, published in 1865. He then went on to write other famous novels like Kapalkundala in 1866, Mrinalini in 1869, Vishbriksha in 1873, Chandrasekhar in 1877, Rajani in 1877, Rajsimha in 1881 and Devi Chaudhurani in 1884. He brought out a monthly magazine called Bangadarshan in 1872.

His most famous novel was Anand Math, published in 1882, which contains the famous song Vande Mataram. Anandamath depicted an army of Brahmin ascetics fighting Indian Muslims in the pay of the East India Company. The book called for unity among the Hindus and Muslims. This famous song Vande Mataram was set to music by none other than Rabindranath Tagore. Bankim Chandra's humorous sketches are his best known works other than his novels. Kamalakanta is an opium-addict, similar to De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, but Bankim Chandra goes much beyond with his deft handling of sarcastic, political messages that Kamalakanta delivers. Bankim Chandra's commentary on the Gita was published eight years after his death and contained his comments up to the 19th Verse of Chapter 4. Through this work, he attempted to reassure Hindus who were increasingly being exposed to Western ideas. His belief was, that there was "No serious hope of progress in India except in Hinduism-reformed, regenerated and purified". He wrote an extensive commentary on two verses in particular-2.12 and 2.13-which deal with the immortality of the soul and its reincarnation.

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 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 needed 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. Bankim Chandra worked in the field of journalism too. Those were the days of few journals. He felt that there was need for a journal offering variety of reading material.

Bankim Chandra had founded a journal called 'Vangadarshan'. 'Anandamath' appeared in installments in this monthly journal. In 1882 it appeared in book form. Soon the copies were sold out and the book was reprinted. During Bankim Chandra's lifetime alone, in ten years 'Anandamatha' was reprinted five times. Readers found reading a Bankim Chandra's novel an altogether knew kind of experience. The people of Bengal were fascinated by his novels. When the novels were translated into other Indian languages they delighted the new readers too. Bankim is regarded as one of Bengal's treasures; this was because of his novels. Bankim Chandra had give thought to the question of a writer's style. A novelist tells a story. This great novelist and poet of Bengal, nay entire India passed away on April 8, 1894.


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