The province of Bengal was the first to plunge headlong into the ecstasies and the agonies of creative life. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Akshay Kumar Dutta, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Maharsi Debendranath Tagore and Raj Narayan Bose were the writers of that time. Ram Mohan Roy arose with a new religion in his hand. Okhay Kumar Dutt and Michael Madhusudan Dutt began a new prose and a new poetry. Vidyasagar was a scholar, a sage and an intellectual dictator who create a new Bengali languageand a new Bengali society.
The modern period of Bengali starts in the year 1800 when the Fort William College was established in Calcutta. The literature began to develop when it became a channel of expression for those who had acquired Western learning. Its growth was also facilitated by the establishment of the printing press and the foundation of Bengali journalism. Early journalistic enterprises were the Sambad Prabhakar of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, the Tattavabodhim of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. Bengali began to replace Sanskrit language as the vehicle of culture and the repository of knowledge. The contact with English gave it variety, intellectuality, modernity and a consciousness of its independence. Poetry also developed not for chanting but for reciting and got its own laws of prosody. Blank verse and sonnets were also introduced. Bengal took a lead in the production of the novel and the drama. Michael Madhusudhan Dutt and Bankim Chandra stand out as the most important writers of that period.
With a deep feeling for own people Madhusudhan combines equally deep feeling for humanity; he holds aloft the dignity of man. He was great as a poet and a dramatist. He created the Bengali blank verse and the greatest Bengali epic, Meghnathbadh. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was the cornerstone of the Bengali renaissance. His novel like Anand Math was a source of creative impulse for writers in other Indian languages. He became a national hero for his song Vande Mataram included in his novel Anand Math which became the bible of the Indian revolutionaries. His novels deal with themes like romantic, social, historical and political. His vision of human conflict of the heart divided against it is Shakespearean. Other writers worth mentioning are Rameshchandra Dutt, the statesman novelist, Bihari Lai Chakravarti. Bengal has produced among others Rabindra Nath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay who have become world-famous.
Sarat Chandra is regarded as the greatest novelist of Bengal. His novels disclose the infinite sympathy for the distressed and the down-trodden. His novels are both auto-biographical and realistic pictures of the social life in Bengal. His famous novels are Srikanta, Charitrahin, Pather Dabi, and Baradidi. He is against all snobbery. His style is most natural and grips the attention of the reader from beginning to the end. His novels have become classics and have been translated in other Indian languages.
There are many Muslim writers who have contributed to the enrichment of Bengali literature. Among these there is the great Kazi Nazrul Islam. He was a great poet. Jasimuddin was another great Bengali Muslim poet.
The modern day literature in Bengal continues to be enriched by notable contributions. Such writers are Gokul Nag, Premendra Mitra, Jibananda Das, Buddhadev Bose and Achintya Sengupta. They depict a realistic picture of the masses. Other notable writers are Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyaya, Tara Shankar Bannerji, Balai Chand Mukerji, Manik Bannerji, Sri Narayan Ganguly and Gopal Haldar.
Among short story writers mention may be made of Prabhat Kumar Mukerji and Abanindranath Tagore whose stories for children are masterly.
Bengali literature is distinguished by revolt against social evils, revolt against poverty and slavery and also against the classical style in poetry later on. In this it is following the footsteps of the west where Freud and Marx have become the idols of the litterateurs. Bengali poetry in particular is seemingly a phenomenon of inexhaustible richness and variety.
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