Singh, Kali Prasanna

Singh, Kali Prasanna (1840-1870) organiser, journalist, writer, social worker was born in a rich and influential family of calcutta. The first important man of the family was Dewan Santiram Singh, Kali Prasanna's grandfather. Like most other children of rich and aristocratic families, Kali Prasanna was taught at home by European tutors and reputed native pundits.

A precocious child, Kali Prasanna's intellect and organising ability was in evidence very early. When he was only thirteen, Kali Prasanna founded the Vidyotsahini Sabha (Association for the cultivation of knowledge) which used to meet weekly, where members presented papers regularly. The association disseminated ideas about widow-remarriage and other reform movements. Inspired by ishwar chandra vidyasagar, Kali Prasanna collected over 3000 signatures supporting the petition to Bengal Council for introducing widow remarriage. When the Widow Remarriage Act was passed, he announced a reward of Rs 1000 to every person marrying a widow. The association arranged a public reception to michael madhusudan dutt for introducing blank verse in bangla literature and another to james long for his role in exposing the oppressive activities of indigo planters. When Rev. James Long was sentenced to one month's imprisonment or paying a fine of Rs. 1000 for translating dinabandhu mitra's Nil Durpun, Kali Prasanna responded to the decree by paying the fine immediately.

Kali Prasanna was a patron of art and culture, particularly of the theatre. He himself established a theatre house named Vidyotsahini Theatre to promote social consciousness through the stage. Veni-Sanghar was the first play staged at this theatre and Kali Prasanna himself acted in it. In 1857 Kali Prasanna translated the Sanskrit play, Vikramorvashiya by kalidasa, and in 1858 he wrote the play, Savitri-Satyaban. Both these plays were staged in his theatre and he performed the main roles in both. He published three periodicals successively, Vidyotsahini Patrika (1856), Sarvatattva Prakashika (1856) and Bibidhartha Sanggraha which were edited by the most renowned intellectuals of the time, Raja rajendralal mitra. For sometime Kali Prasanna published a daily paper entitled Paridarshak (Observer) which he himself edited. When the celebrated newspaper, hindu patriot, faced a financial crisis and was about to close, Kali Prasanna saved it by sanctioning a generous grant for it.

Kali Prasanna Singh was known to his contemporaries as a great patron of art and culture, a zealous advocate of widow remarriage, a reformer of society and a patriotic journalist. To posterity he is particularly known for his literary works which include hutom pyanchar naksha (1862), a satire on Calcutta society Purana-sangraha, a collection of Puranic stories from the mahabharata published between 1860-66. His greatest literary feat, however, was his translation of the Mahabharata into Bangla in 17 volumes, the first work of its kind in Bangla literature. His Hutom Pyanchar Naksa is considered a milestone in the development of Bangla prose. The wonder is that Kali Prasanna achieved all these marvels in a life-span of only thirty years. He died on 24 July 1870. [Prodyot Ghosh]