Early Life of Hemchandra Bandyopadhay
He was born on 17 April 1838 in the abode of his maternal grandparent in the village of Gulita in Hughli where his father, Kailaschandra Bandyopadhyay, had been a ghar jamai. The efforts of his maternal grandfather brought colours as he was admitted to Khidirpur Bangala School in Kolkata. After the death of his grandfather, however, through the personal efforts of Prosannakumar Sarbadhikari, the Principal of Sanskrit College, Hemchandra learnt English and was admitted to Hindu School in Calcutta in 1853. In 1859 he passed BA from Presidency College and obtained the BL degree in 1866.
Career of Hemchandra Bandyopadhay
Before graduating, Hemchandra indulged himself for a brief period of time as a clerk in the office of the Military Auditor General. After serving briefly as headmaster of Calcutta Training Academy, he began practising law at Calcutta High Court where in the year 1862 he was appointed munsif. After some months he returned to his law practice. In 1890 he was made a government pleader.
Hemchandra's pen was tinged with patriotic hues and writings were deadly inspired by the flavour of Hindu nationalism. He fell into disfavour of the British government when his poem, 'Bharatsangit', which exhorted his fellow Indians to throw off their foreign shackles, was published in the Education Gazette in July 1872. For some time the poem was considered the national song of Bengal. His other writings such as 'Bharatvilap', 'Kalachakra', 'Ripon Utsav', and 'Bharater Nidrabhanga' also reflect his patriotism.
Works of Hemchandra Bandyopadhay
Hemchandra's writings are strikingly amorous with concerns of women's issues, especially the injustices towards women and widows in that contemporary time frame. His poem, 'Kulin Mahila Vilap' (The Lament of the Kulin Wife), catalysed the cause of Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar's campaign against polygamy. He believed in communal harmony, and his writings depict Bengal as a land where Hindus and Muslims dwell together; the ever secular land. Hemchandra was perhaps the first national poet who visualised India as an undivided, independent and integrated land.
Hemchandra's first book of poems, Chintatarangini, was published in 1861. But his masterpiece is the epic Vrtrasanghar (1875-77, 2 volumes), inspired by the Mahabharata. Its theme is the victory of justice over the unjust contemporary regime. At one time this epic earned a great deal of popularity. The poet's other writings include Virvahu Kavya (1864), Chhayamayi (1880), Dashamahavidya (1882), Ashakanan (1876) and Chittavikash (1898).
Kavitavali (1870-80, 2 vols) is a collection of Hemchandra's poems which include 'Jivansangit', 'Gangar Utpatti', 'Padmer Mrnal', 'Bharatkahini' and 'Ashoktaru'. Although these poems show obvious influences of English poetry, they are beautiful and charming additions to Bangla poetry. Hemchandra also translated several English books into Bangla, notably Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1895) and Tempest. He also translated some English poems.
A special feature of Hemchandra's writings was that he could compose long narrative poems as well as short lyrics, fiery patriotic poems as well as light ones. He was also reputed a wise and knowledgeable man. His declining years were, however, rather sad as he lost his eyesight. He also suffered financial difficulties, dying a pauper on 24 May 1903 at Khidirpur.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Bengali had already emerged as a remarkably versatile medium of expression, rich in vocabulary and capable of articulating the most complex logical concepts and structures as well as delicately chiselled literary metaphors. This was mainly the result of its evolution during the nineteenth century when it was used in debates that accompanied social and religious reform movements, literary activity spurred by the nineteenth century Bengali Renaissance and by a strident vernacular Press.