This is the first in a series of seven articles on certain aspects of the Rig Veda, written in simple language and avoiding technical terms. I aim to post an instalment each day over the next seven days. I hope they find some readers.


1. What we know of the Rig Vedic society is not from archaeological evidence but through oral traditions. They were primarily a pastoral society that practiced agriculture and animal husbandry. They were not a city building society. They waged battles. They excelled in military field in which light horse chariots played a prominent role. They loved outdoor activities like racing and hunting. The warrior class and the priests were the elite of the society. They were devoted to their gods and sang in praise of various deities. They danced in marriages, funerals, harvests, sacrifices and communal gatherings.

2. Rig Veda repeatedly refers to the composite character of its society and to its pluralistic population. It mentions the presence of several religions and languages and calls upon all persons to strive to become noble parts of that pluralistic society.

3. The plasticity of the Rig Vedic mind is evident in the use of language or in literary virtuosity as well as in the way in which they adapted to changes in life. Rig Vedic intellectuals were highly dexterous users of the words. Their superb ability to grasp multiple dimensions of human life, ideals and aspirations and to express them in pristine poetry was truly remarkable. However, we sadly know nothing about their ability to write. Strangely Rig Veda (1-164-39) states, “In the letters (akshara) of the verses of the Veda…”. Further there are references to compositional chandas (metres), lines in a meter and to specific number of words in a line of a text. Such exercises could not have been possible unless some form of writing was in existence. They might perhaps have employed a script that is now totally extant

(. )

3.1. Similarly, we know very little about their art or architecture; though we know of their love for music, singing and dancing.

4. Rig Veda accepts that divine truths were reveled to sages. It does not make a distinction between male and female seers. There are more than thirty-five female sages in Rig Veda with specific hymns ascribed to them. Women did enjoy a right to learn and recite Vedas. The restrictions in this regard came at a later stage. The famous marriage hymn (10.85) calls upon members of the husband’s family to treat the daughter in law (invited into the family ‘as a river enters the sea’) as the queen samrajni. The idea of equality is expressed in the Rig Veda: “The home has, verily, its foundation in the wife”, “The wife and husband, being the equal halves of one substance, are equal in every respect; therefore both should join and take equal parts in all work, religious and secular.” (Book 5, hymn 61. verse 8)

4.1. The seclusion of women was not practiced. Young women of the time had a voice in their marriage. “The woman who is of gentle birth and of graceful form,” so runs a verse in the Rig Veda, “selects among many of her loved one as her husband.”

5. It is not as if the Rig Vedic society was free of all vices. There are a number of references to gambling (dices), drinking, prostitution, indebtedness, destitute families of heavily indebted gamblers and drunkards. There were social inequalities, poverty, slavery and destitution too.

6. Nonetheless, the worldview of the Rig Veda is refreshing; its ideals are relevant to the modern age. The social life portrayed in Rig Veda reveals certain interesting features. Sanctity of the institution of marriage, domestic purity, a patriarchal system, a just and equitable law of sacrifice, and high honour for women , pluralistic view ,as also tolerance towards unpopular views and those that err ; were some of the noteworthy features of the social life during the Vedic period.


Next: Rig Veda- attitude towards the world and life (2/7)

Rig Veda – its Society (1/7)


Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Indian Philosophy, Rigveda


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Pubbarama (purva_rama) was a Buddhist monastery situated in the neighborhood of Savasthi, to the Northeast of Jeta_vana, which was one of the Buddha’s viharas The Buddha spent nine rainy seasons in Pubbarama. During his stay there, the Buddha dispensed many discourses, guided and helped a large number of persons. Pubbarama monastery, therefore, is often mentioned in the Buddhist texts. How the Pubbarama monastery came into being, is a very interesting story. It is narrated in the Dhamma_pada Commentary (Vol. I, 384-420).


Visakha, bright and beautiful, was the daughter of Dhananjaya and Sumanadevi who resided in the city of Kosala. Dhanajaya was a wealthy merchant and lived a comfortable life. Visakha grew up playing around the Vihara of the Buddha, in Kosala.She was an active, inquisitive and a lively child; she was always questioning about the things around her and about Dhamma. The Buddha was fond of the little girl.

Meanwhile in the city of Savasti a rich merchant, Migara was looking for a suitable bride for his son Punnavaddhana. The boy Punnavaddhana, however, was averse to marriage .It was not easy to convince him either. After much persuasion, he agreed to the marriage but stipulated some tough conditions. He insisted the bride should be “an exquisite beauty who possessed the five maidenly attributes: beauty of hair, teeth, skin, youth and form. Her hair had to be glossy and thick, reaching down to her ankles. Her teeth had to be white and even like a row of pearls. Her skin had to be of golden hue, soft and flawless. She had to be in the peak of youth, about sixteen. She had to have a beautiful, feminine figure, not too fat and not too thin”.

Migara sent a couple of well-fed Brahmins to scout for a girl who answered the specifications laid down by his son They roamed the Magadha and Kosala countries in search of a suitable girl who would make Punnavaddhana happy. They, however, could not spot the precious one. Having given up their search, and when they were loitering in Kosala, cooking up a ruse to appease the” angry-old- bull “- Migara, they were caught in an unexpected storm. While they were running for a shelter, they noticed, to their amazement, a young and a beautiful girl walking calmly and gracefully through the storm to the nearby shelter, just as her friends ran in all directions. The Brahmins , quite impressed by the pretty girl’s composure went up to her and questioned why she did not run to the shelter, as her friends did, to avoid getting wet. The fair maiden replied in her unhurried and measured voice, “It is not appropriate for a maiden in her fine clothes to run, just as it is not appropriate for a king in royal attire, a royal elephant dressed for the parade, or a serene monk in robes, to run.” Pleased with her reply, her composure and her exquisite beauty, the Brahmins went back and reported to Migara about their discovery of the most suitable bride for Punnavaddhana.

Thereafter Visakha and Punnavardhana were married; and lived happily in Migara’s house at Savasthi. Migara though wealthy was not a generous person. One afternoon, while Migara was taking his lunch in a golden bowl, a Buddhist monk came to his door seeking alms. Migara noticed the monk but ignored him and continued with his lunch. Visakha who was watching the proceedings went up to the monk and requested him to leave by saying, “Pass on, Venerable Sir, my father-in-law eats stale food.”

Migara who overheard the remark was furious and demanded an explanation. Visakha, in her usual calm and measured voice, explained that he was eating the benefits of his past good deeds and he did nothing to ensure his continued prosperity. She told him, “you are eating stale fare”.

Migara duly chastened, changed his ways, invited the Buddha and his retinue of monks for their meal and arranged for rich food.

After that event, Visakha continued her acts of generosity to the Buddhist monks and to the Sangha. One day, while on a visit to Jetavana, the monastery in which the Buddha resided, she forgot to bring back home her priceless jeweled headdress and other jewels. She did not notice their absence for a couple of days and later gave them up as lost.

Then one fine morning a couple of clean shaven Buddhist monks presented themselves at her door steps carrying a basketful of jewels and enquired whether they belonged to her. She recognized the jewels as hers and was happy to see them. She, however, refused to take them back, remarking it was not proper to take back an item left in the monastery. She asked the monks to retain the jewels with them. The monks, bemused, said the jewels were of no value to them and walked back to the monetary, empty handed, singing songs praising virtues of renunciation.

Thereafter, Visakha offered the jewels for sale, with the intention of donating the sale proceeds to the Sangha or using it for building a new monastery. She did not succeed in finding a buyer, as none could afford the exquisite jeweled headdress (it was her wedding gift from her parents and reached all the way down her long hair to her ankles.)

Visakha then decided to buy it herself. She thereafter went on to build a new monastery to house to the Buddha and His retinue of monks and nuns. It was a magnificent two-storied structure built of wood and stone. Besides the prayer and conference halls, it had a number of rooms. That monastery came to be known as pubbarama (Purva_rama) because it was facing to the East.

On the day, Visakha dedicated the monastery to the Buddha she was overjoyed. She sang and danced with immense joy. She ran like child, with her children around the monastery, many times. Her joy was infectious; even the Buddha was touched.

The ex-miser Migara too was touched. He requested his daughter-in-law to accept him as her son. He called her Migara_ mata (Mother of Migara).From that day the Pubbarama monastery also came to be known as Migara_matu_pasada (the mansion of Migara’s mother). That was how the Pubbarama came into being.


Soon after its completion, Visakha took charge of the nun’s section of the Pubbarama. One evening, while on her rounds, she was horrified to see the nuns’ fully drunk, dancing and singing crazy songs. When she asked the nuns to stop what they were doing, they did not listen to her. Instead, they asked her to raise a toast to the Buddha, get drunk and join the party.

The next day Visakha sought the Buddha’s counsel. Visakha bowed to him and asked, “Venerable sir, what is the origin of this custom of drinking an intoxicant, which destroys a person’s modesty and sense of shame?” The Buddha in response to her request dispensed the Kumbha Jataka, where a man found fermented fruit and water in the crevice of a tree and started to consume the fermented liquid to obtain a false feeling of well-being. It is here:

(,_Part_III )


On one occasion, she sought the Buddha’s solace, as she was annoyed and angry with the tax collectors, who were obviously, over charging on her goods. The king too did not heed to her plea. The Buddha calmed her mind by singing:

Painful is all subjection,
Blissful is complete control.
People are troubled by common concerns,
Hard to escape are the bonds.

It is written, those words of the Buddha comforted Visakha.


On another occasion, Visakha asked the Buddha, what qualities in a woman would enable her to conquer this world and the next. The Buddha replied:

“She conquers this world by industry, care for her servants, love for her husband and by guarding his property. She conquers the other world by confidence, virtue, generosity and wisdom.”


In appreciation of her wisdom, her generosity to the Dhamma, and the Sangha, the Buddha declared that Visakha be His chief female lay benefactor. In addition to serving the Buddha and the Sangha, Visakha was authorized to arbitrate issues and disputes that arose among the nuns. She was a well-respected person in the Sangha.

She led a long and healthy life and lived for over a hundred years.

Visakha, it is written, retained her youthful charm and her sharp and inquisitive mind even in her later years. A great girl indeed.

Visakha, the fair maiden

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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Buddhism


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What is quality of life?

Ancient Indian texts ask us to make a choice between survival and extinction. Survival or extinction by itself, they say, is meaningless. Survival has to be purposeful and enlightened. Survival can only be in terms of quality of life. What then is the quality of life?

Bhagavad-Gita tells us it is not enough merely to live; one must live well. What is to live well is a matter of understanding, aspiration and fulfilment. Towards this end, Bhagavad-Gita suggests a framework of values integrating   man’s work, emotions and knowledge in order to give his life a meaning. The main plank on which the quality of life rests, it points out, is the Spirit of Man.

The Spirit of Man has to survive amidst challenges and changes in a complicated structure of needs, enjoyments and power. It has also to transcend the constraints of time and narrow confines of circumstances. At such times, it reaches excellence, evidences creativity and pushes the wheels of progress. (E.g. lives of Buddha, Ashoka, Gandhi)

History enriches itself by highlighting such transcendence of Man and by not merely chronicling conflicts and events.

What is quality of life?

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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in General Interest, Speculation



Of poverty – literature – Sarat Chandra Chatterjee

Shri Ratan Datta in his two blogs wrote lucidly about poverty displayed in arts and cinema .He said,” I find nothing wrong in the approach”. He also referred to the colossus of Indian cinema Satyajit Ray and his Apu trilogy.

There appears to be a stubborn bond between art, artists and poverty. In some cases the artist might seek it because poverty is the great reality; but in most other cases poverty is the only reality that artist is familiar with. Who can forget Van Gogh driven to insanity by punishing poverty, cruel neglect and suffocating loneliness?Somehow a view has gained ground that the artist is given to sense more keenly than others only while placed in poverty, prison, or illness. Rainer Rilke said, one cannot be a good poet unless one loves poverty, indifference and wretchedness.The passion in human nature chooses “the one precious thing” and urges him to pay for it through poverty, conflict, deprivation, and endurance of anger from rejected divinities. As if to prove him right, Dostoevsky, Kafka and others of the tribe lived their miserable life in ignominy and penury while producing masterpieces. Strangely, an artist who gains success and affluence would be seen as one who has lost his authenticity; and, he would live the rest of his life on borrowed glory.
Whenever a debate about poverty and literature comes up, I cannot help thinking about Charles Dickens and our own Sarat Chandra Chatterjee.
Dickens portrayed the urban poverty, deprivation and the wretchedness it brought, especially, upon the slum- children of the Victorian society. No other author of that era presented a more realistic and “humanized” face of poverty. He created some of English literature’s most memorable characters. Some People might mock Dickens’s style; but no one, I feel, has been able to capture such variety of human nature. His characters are all amazing, so vivid that by the time he reaches the end of the novel, the reader comes to know them on a personal level.
Dickens’s was a study in abuse of power.Dickens’ novels criticize the injustices of his time; but are dedicated to the suffering poor everywhere. He pictures poignantly their starving, rumbling stomachs, bare feet, cold lives, empty staring eyes and the fear lurking behind them. He says it is all because the mighty ones snatch away their rights and refuse to help them. His novels, at a later time, succeed in bringing about some changes in social conditions and criminal laws of England; and above all in the attitudes towards the poor.

sarat chatterjee

This article is mainly about Sarat Babu that is Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee). He is one of my favorite writers, in any language. His portrayal of poverty was lot more understanding and sensitive. His characters carried around them their poverty with a great sense of dignity. They never were ashamed of their poverty; instead they seemed to feed on the misery mounting on them and eventually claimed out of the heap with composure and dignity.

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee knew Poverty very intimately.
He did not have to obtain his material from research. It was his encounters with life as a country lad and youth that provided him the inspiration, ingredients and storylines for his life-like characters placed in rural family settings. He molded them in his own inimitable style. The distinctive features and the essence of purpose that he added rendered them larger than life. That is the reason   his stories have gained such universal appeal.
His real heroes are not those under the limelight, but those in the corners, the shadows of life. They are the ordinary men and women placed within their limited confines battling extraordinary situations with courage and conviction; but finally emerge out of the ordeal with composure and dignity though a bit bruised and looking tired. He seemed to believe, One’s true test is in one’s daily life; and in one’s reliability and integrity as a human being.
Most of his stories relate to rural life and society. Sarat Chatterjee is at his best when he draws from his experience and writes about women from poverty stricken rural Bengal who hold on to their values even while placed in the very caldron of life. He had a deep affection and respect for Bengali women. Some of his women characters stand out; they are the dominant personalities without in any way losing their femininity. 


Sarat Chandra had a great admiration for the fortitude of the poor and respect for their undemonstrative courage. In his acceptance speech delivered on 2nd Ashwin, 1339 BY (15th Sep 1933) at a gathering organized at the Calcutta Town Hall to celebrate his 57th birthday, Sarat babu acknowledged his debt to the poor and depraved:

My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I’m forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice and to the endlessly hassled, distressed (weighed down by life) and helpless people who don’t even have a moment to think that: despite having everything, they have right to nothing. 
They made me start to speak. They inspired me to take up their case and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustice to these people, unfair intolerable indiscriminate justice. It’s true that springs do come to this world for some – full of beauty and wealth – with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo’s song, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned. This poverty abounds in my writings.


Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (Chatterjee) (nickname Nyarha) was born in Devanandapore – a village in Hooghly district of West Bengal, on 15th September 1876 (31 Bhadra 1283 BY). For a time, his father was employed in Bihar – the rest of the family lived in Bhagalpur with his maternal grandfather. Because of the semi-nomadic nature of his father’s life and his ever stringent financial situation, Sarat had to change schools frequently. In his own words: 
My childhood and youth were passed in great poverty. I received almost no education for want of means. From my father I inherited nothing except, as I believe, his restless spirit and his keen interest in literature. The first made me a tramp and sent me out tramping the whole of India quite early, and the second made me a dreamer all my life.
Father was a great scholar, and he had tried his hand at stories and novels, dramas and poems, in short every branch of literature, but never could finish anything. I have not his work now – somehow it got lost; but I remember poring over that incompleteness. Over again in my childhood, and many a night I kept awake regretting their incompleteness, and thinking what might have been their conclusion if finished. Probably this led to my writing short stories when I was barely seventeen.
Sarat Chandra lost his mother in 1895. He had to give up studies for ever, because he could no longer afford formal education; and had to return to the native village Devanandapore. But he did not stay there long as Sarat’s father was forced to sell his home for a mere Rs.225 to repay a debt. The family moved to Bhagalpur, again.
Young Sarat was very sensitive and fragile. He left home following a disagreement with his father. Forced to earn his livelihood, Sarat started working early in his life. In 1900 Sarat found work in Banali Estate in Bihar and later in Santhal district settlement as an assistant to the Settlement Officer. He disliked both the jobs and gave them up. Alone, unhappy and indifferent, Sarat lost sense of direction. Dejected and aimless he wandered around graveyards at dead of night. Later, for a while, he joined a group of Naga Sadhus and drifted to Mujaffarpur (1902). On his father’s death he returned to Bhagalpur and on completion of his father’s last rites he left for Calcutta in search of a job. He worked at a few temporary jobs and later secured a job as a translator for a Hindi paper book on a monthly salary of Rs.30. He then worked as a translator at the Calcutta High Court.
After he lost both his parents, Sarat Chandra left Bengal, in 1903, to live with his uncle in Rangoon and to find a job there. He often referred to Burma as the karma-sthan of the middle class Bengalis (Bengal being the janma-sthan).Sarat left Calcutta just in time before a severe plague broke out there. But, sadly his uncle died of pneumonia soon after Sarat reached Rangoon. Sarat rendered destitute and insecure was on the streets again. After he served a number of temporary jobs, he secured a permanent job in the Accounts Department of Burma Railway- where he served until his return to Calcutta in 1916. 


As regards his literary activities, his earliest creations were two short stories Kakbasha and Kashinath (later expanded into a novel) published during 1894 in the handwritten magazine while he was studying in Entrance class (similar to PUC of the present-day) at Tejnarayan Jubilee College, Bhagalpur.

Referring to writings of his early years , he later said : 

But I soon gave up the habit as useless, and almost forgot in the long years that followed that I could even write a sentence in my boyhood.

In 1903, on the eve of his departure to Rangoon in search of a job, he at the instance of his uncle Girindrandra nath sent a short story Mandir for the Kuntaleen literary competition. He submitted the story under name of Surendranath Ganguli, another uncle. From among about one hundred fifty short stories that entered the competition, Mandir was adjudged the best for the year in 1904. The fact that Sri Jaldhar Sen the veteran editor of the Vasumati magazine was the adjudicator enhanced the prestige of the award. Mandir published in the name of Surendranath was the first ever printed story by Sarat Chandra. For some reason, Sarat Chandra continued to send his stories in someone else’s name. He contributed stories regularly to the Jamuna magazine in three different names – in his own name and in the name of Anila Devi (his elder sister) and Anupama. 
The magazine Jamuna played an important role in setting his literary career on course. According to Sarat Chandra, Jamuna was the catalyst in reviving his literary career whilst he was in Burma. He said: 
A mere accident made me start again, after the lapse of about eighteen years. Some of my old acquaintances started a little magazine, but no one of note would condescend to contribute to it, as it was so small and insignificant. When almost hopeless, some of them remembered me, and after much persuasion they succeeded in extracting from me a promise to write for it. This was in the year 1913. I promised most unwillingly – perhaps only to put them off till I returned to Rangoon and could forget all about it. But sheer volume and force of their letters and telegrams compelled me at last to think seriously about writing again. I sent them a short story for their magazine Jamuna. This became at once popular, and made me famous in one day. Since then I have been writing regularly. In Bengal, perhaps, I am the only fortunate writer who has not had to struggle.
The years he spent in Burma (1903-1916) turned out to be a significant phase in Sarat Chandra’s life. It not merely spurred his literary activity but also established him as a leading creative writer. By the time he returned to Calcutta (1916) his stories and novels were being serialized in most leading Bengali magazines; and his popularity was soaring. This period witnessed changes in his personal life too. His first wife Shanti Devi whom he married in 1906 died of plague in 1908 along with his one year old son. To fill the void in his life, he turned to books, read voraciously on sociology, history, philosophy and psychology etc. He also dabbled in Homeopathy; opened a primary school and formed a singing group. In 1909 he suffered a major health problem and had to cut down his studies He then took to painting. Sarat Chandra married the second time in 1910; and his bride was Mokshada an adolescent widow. He renamed her Hiranmoyee.



Sarat Chandra wrote in all more than 30 full-length novels, dozens of short stories, plays and essays. He wrote about the evils of society, social superstitions and oppression; and in his later works he wrote about the patriotic and rebellious spirit of his times. Many of his early novels were serialized in monthly magazines –just as in the case of Charles Dickens. Both were prompted by the sheer need to earn a living by pen. But, while Dickens specialized in creating a great number of wonderful and fascinating characters, Sarat Chandra focused on crafting intriguing situations depicting conflicts between conservatism and social change; superstitions and rebellion;  pure and profane. 

Sarat Chandra’s earliest writings show influence of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. They display his displeasure with the core of Hindu orthodoxy and the prevailing social system. His impatience and anger against social discrimination, superstitions; and bigotry in the name of religion simmer through in his writings. His criticism of the establishment is never vitriolic; he never flouts the accepted moral basis of the Hindu society. His novels such as Devdas (written in 1901, published 1917), Parinita (1914), Biraj Bau (1914) and Palli Samaj (1916) belong to this phase. The themes and their treatment are not much different from Bankim’s; but their presentation, their locales are updated; the language, particularly of the conversations is easier and matter-of-fact. 
The women in particular step out of the system with agony, passion and intensity to cleanse the guilt ridden system. There is a burning desire to blow away the old cobwebs and usher in a new order, a new dispensation. Their restraint; and the clarity of thought and speech are remarkable. That is the reason his stories retain their freshness even nearly a century after they were written. Many read over and over  weeping and laughing with his characters.

[His Devdas appears to be an exception. It is basically a love-story written in the early stages of his literary career (1901), It is said, Sarat Chandra did not like what he had written; and did not want it to be published. He didn’t approve the negative and the escapist streak in Devdas. When he eventually agreed to publish the story, reluctantly, in 1917 (sixteen years after it was written) he begged the readers to have pity and forgive Devdas.]
Towards the latter half of his life Sarat Chandra wrote Pather Dabi (1926) spun around a revolutionary movement, inspired by Bengal, operating in Burma and in Far East. His last complete novel Sesh Prasna (1931) was crafted around a slender theme , inflated by ethereal talks on problems of love and marriage; and of the individual and of the society. These were almost ‘intellectual’ monologues. 
But, Sarat Chandra was at his best when he wrote with understanding of women, their sufferings, their often unspoken loves, their need for affection and their desperation for emancipation. His portrayal, particularly, of strong-willed women of rural Bengal defying the convention; and also of women rooted in their sense of values and who set a benchmark for other characters to be judged by the reader, stand out as authentic. His women are admirable for their  courage, tolerance and devotion in their love for their husbands, lovers or children. These stories also picture husbands who do not know or do not care to express love for their beloved ones. Somehow, the women in his stories never attain happiness in their personal lives.
Just to cite an example, his Srkanta quartet(1917, 1918, 1927, 1933), encompassing lives of many women, is a remarkable study in the conflicts between the individual and the social perception of purity and profanity; and between rebellion and timid submission to orthodoxy. For instance, take a hurried glimpse at the thumbnail sketch of a few characters in Srikanta.
Rajlakshmi, Srikanta’s lover, in order to erase her past (of fallen woman) and to reform her present (her relationship outside the marital state with Srikanta) goes through a series of purity rituals. She is a sort of benchmark to other characters.

In the first book of the Quartet, Annadadidi, a very properly brought up middle class woman, revolts against propriety, and runs away with a Muslim snake charmer. She suffers not because of her socially unacceptable love; but because the  husband she chose was unworthy of such love .

In the second part, Abhoya, deserted by her husband, breaks out of her social environment to live in sin with a man she accepted. 

In the third, Sunanda, a scholar, rebels against the poverty imposed upon the peasant by the land tenure system.

In the last book, Kamal Lata has walked out on her people and joined a Vaishnava sect based on surrender and devotion.

Sarat Chandra refuses to be judgmental. His critique on social norm was only a message and never an agenda.  He lets his characters to speak for themselves; and lets the reader form his own opinion of the purity concept in the Hindu Society. He tried to heighten the social awareness; and to ignite revolt against the oppressive social cults, which debased and degraded humanity.

Sarat Chandra Chatterjee died of cancer of the liver on 16th January 1938 at Park Nursing Home in Calcutta. Bengal and India lost one of its most gifted sons, a tortured soul and one that loved his country and its people from the core of his being.
Sarat Chandra did not write his autobiography because he said he “lacked the courage and the truthfulness to tell his true story”.
I gratefully acknowledge the material from the Sarat Sahitya Samagra (Complete Works of Sarat Chandra), Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Calcutta ,1993 .And from the introduction to Srikanto Part I published by Oxford University Press, London 1922.

Poverty is a smoldering fire in the belly and in the heart. It drives one to reach out, to explore and at times to explode. But when the heat is too much to bear, it could reduce one to ashes which any can trample upon with impunity. It takes great courage to be poor and to live with dignity.
[A brief Note on the photographs posted on this page:
On reading this blog Dr.   Subroto Roy of Kolkata sent me a Note that the picture of Sarat Chandra I posted at the bottom of the article was a part of a photograph taken in 1927 when Sarat Chandra visited Dr.Sobrato Roy’s great-grand father Surendranath Roy. The sofa on which the two sit, he says, is still in use at his home; and indeed if you are in Kolkata some day, you are welcome to view and even sit on the sofa.
Dr. Roy also mentioned that the iconic picture of Sarat Chandra, posted at the top of this article, is from a photograph taken at Bourne & Shepherd Photographers of Kolkata at the instance of Shri Manindranath Roy. He added that Sarat Chandra habitually wore long unkempt hair; and Smt Nirmala Debi (wife of Shri Manindranath Roy) combed his hair neatly before the photograph was taken. According to Dr.Roy, Sarat Chandra/s Pather Dabi is perhaps dedicated to Smt Nirmala Debi.
Dr. Roy also asked me to view and to reproduce on my page, a hand-written note sent by Sarat Chandra (1931) to Manindranath Roy (Dr.Subroto Roy’s grand-father). I am told, the Note is about transport of a table (or writing-desk?) by rail.
Please visit Dr. Roy’s page at


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Of poverty – …


Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Books


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