Bengal : Patriotism in literature - Part I

Exact Match
  Indus Valley
  Mauryan Era
  Post Mauryan
  Kushana Era
  Golden Age
  Post Gupta

  Arab Invasion
  South India
  Prithviraj Era
  Delhi Sultunate
  Mughal Period
  Maratha Era
  British Period

  Subhash & INA

Hindu Revival | Partition | Swadeshi | Self Reliance | Patriotic Literature | Extremists & Moderates | Split in Congress | Nationalism 

The initial, and natural form of expression of the patriotism of the intelligentsia was through literature in the regional languages. Modern Indian literature developed everywhere in association with the reform movements. It was then taken over by the new patriotic mood. Bengal in the 1860s and 70s produced a large number of patriotic poems and songs bemoaning the plight of the country and at times even directly referring to the decline of handicrafts.

Many of these were written for the Hindu Mela organized for some years from 1867 by Nabagopal Mitra with the backing of the Tagore family. The newly-established theatre was even more directly anti-British, from Dinabandhu Mitra's exposure of indigo-planters plight in Nil Darpan (1860) down to certain plays in the 1870s which led directly to Lytton's Dramatic Performances Act in 1876. The greatest single influence was Bankimchandra, with his historical novels climaxed by Anandmath (1882) with its Bande Mataram hymn. Through essays as well as novels, Bankimchandra sought to evoke a new interest in the history of the country, striking a note typical of nationalism the world over. In the 1880s and '90s which saw Hindu revivalism at its peak also saw the decline of political interest. The theatre was now dominated by Girishchandra Ghosh's sentimental domestic dramas or plays on Puranic themes with little direct political content.

A broadly similar pattern of connection between nationalism and the development of regional literature can be seen in other parts of the country, along a varied time-scale which again corresponded roughly to the emergence of patriotic activity in particular areas. M.G. Ranade's Note on the Growth of Marathi literature (1898) catalogued the rapid increase in the number of Marathi publications (only 3 between 1818-27, 102 in 1847-57, 1530 in 1865-74, 3824 in 1885-96), and emphasized the move to publish new editions of the medieval Marathi Bhakti poets from the 1840s onwards.

This was followed by publications of, old Marathi chronicles (bakhars), and Ranade's own historical works and articles in a sense began the cult of Shivaji which Tilak took up from 1895. Ranade, however, tried to portray the seventeenth century revival as a kind of, protestant movement inspired by Bhakti saints who sought to transcend caste differences. He felt that the orthodoxy of the later Peshwas was partly responsible for the Maratha decline. A quite different view of Shivaji, emphasizing the role of his guru Ramdas as an apostle of Hindu militancy, was put forward from the 1890s by Tilak, Kelkar and Rajwade; it is obvious that contemporary differences were being projected back into the past on both sides. There was also a third view, projecting Shivaji as a Shudra king, as Jotiba Phule tried to do in a ballad composed in 1869. More directly political themes were developed, again from contrasting points of view, by 'Lokahitavadi' Gopal Hari Deshmukh in his Satapatra series (1848-50) which called for social reforms, advocated indigenous enterprise, but broadly welcomed British rule, and a generation later by Vishnukrishna Chiplunkar's journal Nibandhamala (1874-8l) with its strong revivalist and anti-British note.


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