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Basu, Rajnarayan


Basu, Rajnarayan (1826-1899) educationists, literature and nationalist intellectual, was born on 7 September 1826 in the 24-Parganas. His father, Nandakixhor, studied at rammohun roy's school and was apparently influenced by some of his ideas. Rajnarayan had his education mainly at Hare School and Hindu College (1840-45), where, as a meritorious student, he was awarded a senior scholarship. Among his well known classmates were, Jbanendra Mohan Tagore, bhudev mukhopadhyay, Peary Charan Sircar, Govind Dutt and Gourdas Basak. While still a student, he became an alcoholic and lost his health; and consequently, had to leave the College early.

While studying, he experienced a mental crisis relating to religion, which became more acute after the death of his father in December 1845. He relieved himself of the problem by getting himself converted to Brahmoism. Later that year, deWendranath tagore, the head of brahmo samaj, appointed him as the English translator of the Upanishads. Although Rajnarayan worked there for almost two years, his first regular job was at Sanskrit College as an English teacher (May 1849). In February 1851, he was appointed as the headmaster of Medinipur Zilla School, where he worked until his retiremant in 1868. Although significantly westernised while at College and was identified as a member of Young Bengal, Basu later turned into a Bengali nationalist. The change occurred apparently because of the influence of his friend, Devendranath Tagore, who was traditional in his social outlook and proud of the glorious past of India. However, Basu influenced Devendranath to become a nationalist too. In the late 1860s when Brahmo Samaj split into two on the question of whether women were to be permitted to pray alongside men, the break away section, led by keshab chandra sen, was called the Nababidhan Brahmo Samaj and the conservative segment under Devendranath came to be known as Adi (original) Brahmo Samaj. Rajnarayan later headed it for sometime. Thoroughly imbued with the spirit of patriotism and Hindu nationalism, Basu established Jatiya Gaurab Sampadani Sabha (Association for Achieving National Glory) in Medinipore, and Savjibani Sabha (Association for Regeneration) in Kolkata. He also participated in hindu mela, established by Nabagopal Mitra in 1867, for promoting Hindu nationalism. Devendranath Tagore's sons, including rabindranath tagore, were also closely associated with it. Rajnarayan was a renowned orator and inspired many of his audience with his nationalist ideas. His lecture, called Hindu Dharmer Shresthata (Superiority of Hinduism, 1873) was an expression of his pro-Hindu and anti-west thoughts. Significantly enough, it was presided over by Devendranath, who hardly ever attended such public meetings. In the mid-1880s, Basu published a booklet called Briddha Hindur Asha (Hopes of an Old Hindu) in which he expressed his desire for the establishment of an organisation to unite all Hindus throughout India. Although the organisation did not materialise at that stage, or during his lifetime, nationalist leaders later founded a political forum, called hindu mahasabha in 1906, with more or less the same objectives. He was an enthusiastic social reformer and took part in the movement for Widow Remarriage in the mid-1850s. One time alcoholic, Basu started a movement against drinking in the early 60s. He established a library, a girls' school, a school for adult education, and a debating association. Indeed, he was one of the leading nineteenth century intellectuals who played a significant role in Bengali society.He published quite a few books, including Hindu Dharmer Shrexthatva (Superiority of Hinduism, 1873), Se Kal Ar E Kal (The Past and Present, 1874), Hindu Athaba Presidency Colleger Itibritta (A History of Hindu or Presidency College, 1876), Babgla Bhasa O Sahitya Bishayak Baktrita (A Lecture on Bangla Language and Literature, 1878), Bibidha Prabandha (Various Essays, 1st vol. 1882) and Briddha Hindur Asha (Hopes of an Old Hindu, 1887). His autobiography, called Rajnarayan Basur Atmacharita (1909) that came out ten years after his death is one of the most important autobiographies published in Bengali. It beautifully and accurately illustrates his life and times. He also published a lot of Brahmo literature and some books in English.Rajnarayan was a noteworthy literary critic and was acclaimed by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, who considered him to the best literary critic of his time. Rajnarayan died on 18 September 1899. [Ghulam Murshid]