Autobiography is a person's life written or told by that person. As in other literatures, autobiographies occupy an important place in bangla literature. Though no autobiography was written in Bangla prior to the 19th century, in both ancient and medieval Bangla songs composers attempted to introduce themselves in the bhanita or prelude. In narrative poems the self-introductions were quite extensive, as, for example, those of mukundaram chakravarti in Chandimangal and alaol in padmavati. But these introductions do not fall into the category of autobiographies in the modern sense.
By the beginning of the 19th century autobiographies proper began to appear. The first such autobiography was written by diwan kartikeya chandra roy. The rise of nationalism and a belief in self-determination fostered interest in autobiographical writing towards the middle of the 19th century. All the autobiographies, of course, are not of the same quality nor do they have the same focus. Some authors have placed more emphasis on recollections of their childhood, some on their working life, and yet others on contemporary socio-economic conditions.
Some celebrated autobiographers who laid emphasis on their childhood were rabindranath tagore in Chhelebela, sharat chandra chattopadhyay in Valyasmrti, satyendranath tagore in Amar Valyakatha, Girishchandra Vidyaratna in Valyajivan and Manmathanath Majumdar in Adarxha Chhatrajivan. Other, more extensive, autobiographies have also given considerable place to childhood memories.
Some autobiographies were published as articles or interviews in journals, for instance, Krishnakumari Gupta's Manisa Mandire, saraladevi chaudhurani's Jivaner Jharapata, ramendrasundar trivedi's autobiographical writings, swarna kumari devi's Amader Grhe Antahpur Shiksa O Tahar Sangskar, amrita lal basu's Sekaler Katha, mankumari basu's Amar Atit Jiban, krishna chandra majumder's Smrtikatha, dwijendralal roy's Amar Jivaner Arambha, and keshab chandra sen's Jivanveda. Some autobiographical interviews that appeared in newspapers and periodicals were edited by Bipinbihari Gupta and published as Puratan Prasanga in two volumes. Among the subjects of these interviews were Umeshchandra Dutta, Brahmamohan Mullick, Krishnakamal Bhattacharya, dwijendranath tagore, Amrita Lal Basu, Radhamadhav Kar and Mahendranath Mukhopadhyay.
An autobiography can cover the life of a person only up to the point when it is written. Thus iswar chandra vidyasagar's autobiography leaves a large segment of his life untouched because he lived a considerable number of years after writing it. An autobiography written towards the end of the writer's life, however, may represent the entire life of the writer. Some well-known autobiographers include debendranath tagore (Atmacharita), jyotirindranath tagore (Jivansmrti), Rabindranath Tagore (Jivansmrti), pramatha chowdhury (Atmakatha), Jasimuddin (Jivankatha), abanindranath tagore (Apankatha), abul kalam shamsuddin (Atit Diner Smrti), abul mansur ahmed (Atmakatha), binodini dasi (Amar Katha), Rassundari Dasi (Amar Jivan), Kamini Mohan Dewan (Parvatya Chattaler Dina Sevaker Jivankahini), Manoda Devi (Janaika Grhavadhur Diary), bipin chandra pal (Charitakatha), manomohan basu (Samajchitra), rajnarayan basu (Atmacharita), BM Abbas (Kichhusmrti), Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar (Vidyasagarcharita), swami vivekananda (Smrtikatha), shishir kumar bhaduri (Atmajivani), Bhubanchandra Mukhopadhyay (Thakurbadir Daptare), Mirza Jobaeda (Amar Nana Ranger Dinguli), prafulla chandra ray (Atmacharita), shibnath shastri (Atmacharita), Sahana Devi (Smrtir Kheya), Dinesh Chandra Sen (Gharer Katha), Sukumar Sen (Diner Pare Din Je Gela), and mir mosharraf hossain (Amar Jivani).
Some autobiographers, especially distinguished personalities and political leaders and workers, reflect in their books on the success or failure of their missions in life and the circumstances in which they worked. Some instances are Saadat Ali Akhand (Tero Nambare Panch Bachhar), (Major rtd) Asgaruddin (Karagarer Diary), (Major rtd) Afsaruddin (Dvitiya Mahayuddha O Amar Sainik Jivan), AFM Abdul Jalil (Amar Sahitya Jivan), Muzaffar Ahmed (Amar Jivan O Bharater Communist Party), Abul Mansur Ahmed (Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchash Bachhar), ananta singh (Keu Bale Viplavi Keu Bale Dakat), Brahmabandhav Upadhyay (Amar Bharat Uddhar), mohammad waliullah (Jivan Jagar Kahini), Pratulchandra Ganguly (Viplavir Jivandarshan), Manoranjan Guhathakurta (Nirvasan Kahini), Jiten Ghosh (Jel Theke Jele), barindrakumar ghosh (Dvipantarer Katha), Trailokyanath Chakravarty (Jele Trish Bachhar), Ullaskar Dutta (Karajivan), Durgadas Bandyopadhyay (Bidrohe Bangali Or Amar Jiban), Dhiraj Bhattacharya (Ami Jakhan Police Chhilam), AR Mullick (Jivankatha O Bangladesher Mukti Sanggram), Rani Chanda (Jenana Fatak), achintya kumar sengupta (Kalloljug), Bidhubhusan Sengupta (Sangbadiker Smrtikatha), moni singh (Jivan Sanggram), Azizul Huq (Karagare 18 Bachhar), and Mafizuddin Huq (Jivaner Banke Banke, Smrtikatha).
These autobiographies do not merely narrate the lives of their writers but also provide personal philosophies as well as details of society, politics etc and provide material for historical and sociological research. Good autobiographies are thus valuable sources for constructing a nation’s history. [Abul Qasem Chowdhury]