Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya ( 1876-1938 )
I was never a very social person, and my best companions even in my young days were my books. I would read whatever i could get hold of during my spare time.
  At a very young age, maybe when I was in school, which was over half a century ago ( I was born in 1946 ), I got hold of a novel called ' Shrikant ' by the famous Bengali writer Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyaya. The original was in Bangla, but there are excellent translations of the whole of Sharat Sahitya in Hindi, and so I read it in Hindi.
 Though it is almost 1000 pages long, the novel was so gripping that I could not leave it, except when I had to, till it was  finished.
 Thereafter I started reading the rest of Sharat Chandra's novels and short stories, and devoured them all. I read Grihadah, Charitraheen, Shesh Prashna, Palli Samaj, Pather Davi, Baradidi, Devdas, Chandranath, Biraj Bahu, Parinita, Kashinath,  Bipradas, Swami, Chabi, Bindur Chele, Patha Nirdesh, Anuradha, Subhada, Ramer Sumati, Mejdidi, and the rest. I was carried away into a different world.
  Sharat Chandra often said, e.g. in the beginning of Shrikanta, that he never depicted anything which he had not seen or experienced himself. His stories are consequently realistic.
  What strongly attracted me to Sharat Chandra's stories was the powerful attack he launched in them against oppression of women and the caste system, which had become inhuman in Bengal at that time. Girls were married in childhood, and often became child widows, because medical science was not then advanced, and the child- husband often died due to some infection or epidemic. Remarriage was not permitted by custom among caste Hindus, and so the young girl's life was spoilt. Often she was dumped in Kashi or Mathura by her father, and left to fend for herself ( by begging, prostitution or some other means ).
  In my opinion, no writer in the world has equalled Sharat Chandra in women's characterization. No doubt there are many great women characters in world literature, e.g. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Catherine by Emile Bronte ( in Wuthering Heights ), Lady Macbeth by Shakespeare, Scarlett Ohara by Margaret Mitchell ( in Gone With the Wind ), Sonia Marmaladova by Dostoevsky ( in Crime and Punishment ), Pilar ( in For Whom the Bell Tolls ) and Catherine ( in A Farewell to Arms ) by Hemingway, Tess by Thomas Hardy, Nana by Emil Zola, etc. but in my opinion no writer in the world has created such powerful women characters like Rajyalakshmi, Annada, Chandramukhi, Madhavi, Savitri, Bharati, Achala, Kiranmayi, Kamal, Parbati, Abhaya, Hemangani, Bhubaneshwari, Narayani, Digambari, Swarnamanjari, etc. No writer in the world except Sharat Chandra has written making women the central point of his works, and depicting their innermost emotions and sufferings.
 Sharat Chandra's powerful denunciation of oppression of women and the inhuman caste system played a great role in largely abolishing these social evils in Bengal. Today there is very little casteism in Bengal compared to other states like U.P. or Bihar, and women in Bengal have become largely emancipated.


  1. Sir it's great to know that you have read Sharat Chatterjee;s works.The first part of Shrikanta novel,i.e,the first 14-15 years in the life of the protagonist, is actually based on the life of the author himself.It has been traced out that two charecters of Shrikanta,namely Indranath and Rajlakshmi,actually existed ,though Indranath charecter's name was changed.The author had written another popular novel known as "Pather Daabi"(Demand for a path).It is a patriotic revolutionary novel in which the lead charecter Sabyasachi mirrors Rashbehari Bose.Mr Chatterjee was even jailed for writing this novel and the publication of this book was banned in Bengal.Devdas,CHoti Bahu(1971) and Parineeta are some of the hindi movies that are fully based on his novels.But the way Mr Chatterjee felt and understood the plight of simple women of Indian society is probably unmatched .

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