Saturday, 9 June 2012

Raygunakar Bharat Chandra and His Times ( Part I ) by Sujay Chattopadhyay

The name of Bharat Chandra, unlike the names of 19th Century Bengali writers and poets like Bankim, Rabindranath etc, is not so well known outside the circle of a few interested Bengalees and a few scholars who work on 18th Century Bengal. Outside Bengal, the name is surprisingly well known among the Marathas because Gangaram, of Maharashtra Puran fame, was a contemporary of Bharat Chandra and he gave some valuable accounts of Maratha invasion in Bengal during the time of Alivardi khan.
Bharat Chandra is totally forgotten in his native place Howrah, where Bharat Chandra Mela, a fair is still organised in his memory, but the common people is ignorant about it. He is also forgotten in krishnanagar, once the capital of Maharaja krishna Chandra, who first recognized his talent and gave him land, title and financial assistance. Recently Bharat Chandra once again came into forefront due to a socio-political turmoil named Paribartan which ended the long communist rule in Bengal and liberated the Bengaliness from communist prison. With the return of Jatiyatabad, Bharat Chandra also returned. Recently many people and groups took interest in him. The object is clear. He was an 18th Century poet who wrote the Pre-British work named Annadamangal, where he gave importance to common people and described the life of 18th Century Bengal. His songs called Mangalgaan was made popular by another 18th Century Russian Gerasim Lebedev, who also translated Bharat Chandra's works and used the style of mangalgaan in his plays. Hence Bharat Chandra's time is important for many reasons. He was not influenced by European thinking and style. That's why some ex-communists remembered him during Behala Book Fair. Bharat Chandra, for the first time gave importance to Maharaja Pratapaditya, in his 3rd part of Annadamangal. This later played major role during the revolutionary movement, when Pratapaditya was worshipped as a national hero of Bengal. What makes Bharat Chandra special in the eyes of revolutionaries was his adventurous lifestyle which ended in Mulajore in 1760 as well as his revolt against the family. This rebel in Bharat Chandra never died, although his early life was not easy. Born in 1712, in Pedo Basantapur village of Bhurshut Pargana, Howrah, Bharat Chandra was connected to the royal family of Bhurshut kingdom, which ruled Howrah-Hoogly during the Mughal Period. His father Narendranarayan Ray was a Zamindar. During his time Bardhaman Raj conquered the Bhurshut kingdom and the prosperity of howrah was on the wane. When Bharat Chandra was young, he fell in love with a girl named Radha and married her against the wishes of his father. This enraged his father and Bharat Chandra was compelled to leave his home in search of an unknown life. After many wanderings and hardships, he went to the house of Indranarayan Chaudhury, then Diwan of the French Govt. of Chandannagore. Here he came into contact with Maharaja krishna Chandra, who later appointed him as court poet and gave him the title Raygunakar and land at Mulajore. The rest is history. In 1752, he wrote Annadamangal in three parts. The first part is devotional, while the 2nd and 3rd parts are historical. His other works include Rasamanjari, Nagastaka, Gangastaka, Satyanarayan Panchali, Chandi Natak etc. The later life of Bharat Chandra was mostly spent in Mulajore, although he could not forget his early life in Howrah. His writings contain many place and river names, mostly of Howrah. During his lifetime, he had seen many incidents that left mark on his works. The most important was the Bargi Raids during 1740's. The same year Bharat Chandra wrote Annadamangal, Gangaram also wrote his Maharashtra Puran ( 1752 ). In his introduction to Annadamangal, Bharat Chandra wrote-"When Alivardi destroyed hindu temples in Bhubaneshwar, Nandi got furious and took his javelin to destroy the Yavanas but Lord Shiva prevented him by saying that the ruler of Bargis ( Marathas ) will subdue the Yavanas and so he appeared before the Maratha ruler who sent Bhaskar Pandit to Bengal." In the 3rd part of Annadamangal, reference is made to the oppression by the Muslims who destroyed the Hindu Temples and insulted the Brahmanas. The most notable is Jahangir's speech-" The very sight of a Brahman is loathsome to me and the desire often seizes me to convert all the Hindus to Islam." The Maratha Raid of Bengal was a result of the eastward expansion of the Maratha Empire, under the Bhonsles of Nagpur. Raghuji Bhonsle I ( 1738-55 ), a contemporary of Peshwa Balaji Baji Rao ( 1740-61 ), sent Bhaskar Pandit who attacked Bardhaman in April, 1742. On May 6th, he reached Murshidabad and took 3 lakhs from Jagat Seth. This incident moved the contemporary Bengali poets and writers. Although Bharat Chandra's patron sided with Alivardi, but it was the same krishna Chandra who later organised the conspiracy against Siraj. However, the Maratha raids sowed the seeds of future destruction of Nawab's rule.

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