Purba Midnapur, Paschim Midnapur
Religions - Tribes
Drought - Disaster


Rishi Rajnarayan Basu

Sri Haripada Mondal

.:: At the Call of the Nation ::.

The speeches and sermons delivered by Rajnarayan at Midnapur Bralimo Samaj were later compiled and published in book forms. These had a wider impact on the educated people of Bengal particularly on the seekers of a new religious and social order. It was his speeches and writings that created keen interest in young Keshab Chandra Sen who afterwards became an illustrious leader of the Brahmo Movement. Pandit Sivanath Sastri, another great leader of the Brahmos and a prodigious writer, was also highly influenced by Rajnarayan. Maharshi Devendra Nath invited Rajnarayan to side with him for preaching Brahmoism. He had unfathomable faith in his power. Other friends of Calcutta also desired his loving companionship. In spite of his ill health which compelled him to retire from a paid post, he never succumbed to inertia or gloom. Rather he was fre to act according to his own ideal, and that with full joy and laughter as ever. Age, infirmity or worldly anxiety could not curb his simplicity of a child and sagacity of a sage.

In 1867 almost all the members of his family suffered from Malaria and he made an attempt to recover his own health as well as to give an opportunity to other members by taking resort to healthy places in North and Western Provinces . His extensive tour for a period of two years through Bhagalpur , Allahabad , Agra , Lucknow , Kanpur and Kanouj, involved the strenuous job of preaching Brahmoism with his broken health. Preaching was not really a job, but a sacred vow to him. At Kanpur he clearly expressed that Brahmoism was not a new religion in the true sense of the term, but, that it was the Hindu religion without the superstitions which accrued to its body through the ages. Anyway, the strain told upon his health. And as a natural consequence he never recovered from illness. He came back to Calcutta again in a greater field of work and not in a resort of rest

There was a division in Brahmo Samaj and Keshab Chandra Sen became the leader of the Nava Bidhan Samaj of the young group. But unfortunately he was claiming his superiority like a god and the blind followers too regarded him as an incarnation of the Holy Father. This was against the creed of the Brahmos. Rajnarayan vehemently objected to it and published a treatise named “Brahmic Caution— Advice and Help”. The timely warning had a desired effect on the Samaj. The Brahmo do not believe in any incarnation of God or in a god-sent guru.

Another bone of contention was the Brahmo Marriage Bill put forward by the Nava Bidhanists which the Adi Brahmo Samaj leaders did not support. The controversy went up to a pitch when a young daughter of Keshab Chandra was married to the prince of Coochbehar not according to the principles of the Nava Bidhanist. Rajnarayan became a mediator between the two fighting groups with his liberal outlook and tried heart and soul to calm down the sad rift .

Rajnarayan's participation with the National Fair has already been mentioned. The National Society which was in charge of conducting the Fair arranged for various kinds of functions throughout the year. One of the attractive programmes was the arrangement of learned lectures by the great personalities with patriotic zeal. The mastermind Rajnarayan was also invited to deliver speeches in the meetings organised by the National Society. Some of his most remarkable speeches were given in these meetings; they were :

(a) A speech on the Bengali Language and Literature.

(b) The superiority of the Hindu Religion.

(c) The Past and Present (Sekal Oh Ekal)

His thoughtful speeches caused great enthusiazm among the intellectuals of Bengal and outside, of the Hindus who would dare to speak in praise of the rotten religion of the Hindus. It was he who first advocated the superiority of the Hindu Religion and the subject haunted the ears of the religious and social reformers of India for half a century of time to core. The Vedantist sannyasi Swami Vivekananda seemed to be influenced by this great thinker when he expounded the basic truths of the Hindu philosophy within a few years. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, the great

Litterateur and national thinker spoke highly of Rainarayan's speeches later published in books.
The first Hindu College Reunion was held. in 1875 and on that festive occasion Rajnarayan was asked to write a short history of the Hindu or the Presidency College which afterwards has become a source book to all the writers on educational history.

At his active initiative were established the Brahmodharma Bodhini Sabha in 1872 and the Biddwajjana Sarnagam in 1874. and he was a founder member of the Indian Association along with Sir Surendra Nath Bancrjee and Ananda Mohan Basu from the very inception of the Body. Thus we find that Rajnarayan had a deep and sincere contact with all the social, cultural and political movement of his time. He was out and out a nationalist and all his activities aimed at the uplift and integrity of the nation.

He was one of the promoters of female education and a champion of the emancipation of women. His opinion was that men and women must be placed on equal footing, and that the rights and privileges be evenly enjoyed by the both. No society can improve without proper education of men and women. His love for English education did not diminish his love for the culture of the country. In his history of the Hindu or the Presidency College he boldly wrote, “The Englih Education will really be fruitful when we shall acquire physical strength like the English, when we shall be valiant, persevering, determined and freedom-loving. The English education will produce desired result “when we shall be able to' establish colleges independently, adopt a free educational system for our women without depending upon the Christian ladies ; when we shall be able to give vent to our natural creativity without blindly imitating English novels and poems; when we shall independently be able to conduct our researches and make discoveries in the field of science ; when we shall have independent livelihood or undertaking in trade and commerce; when we shall be able to mould a new society preserving our national culture as far as practicable and avoiding mimetic imitation of the English customs and manners and when we shall create such 4 a powerful influence over the Government insead of crying like children that the Government cannot but pay heed to our desire and demand.'

In 1877 he was at the helm of a secret society called “Sanjivani Sabha” in which Jyotirindra Nath and other young men of the Tagore family and their kinsmen assembled together with the object of attaining national freedom and shaking off foreign shackles mainly in trade and industry. The attempt was no doubt premature and haughty to some extent, yet it had sowed good seeds for the future revolutions.

He led a very simple life. His plain living and high thinking charmed not only his friends and admirers, but also his opponents in the field of social and religious reforms. Among his friends and fellow reformers were Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar. Maharshi Devendra Nath, Dwijendra Nath Tagore, Ajodhyanath Pakrashi, Becharam Chatterjee, Hemchandra Vidyaratna, Pandit Sivanth triSas, Nagendra Nath Chatterjee, Raja Rajendra Nath Mitra, Ananda Mohan Basu, Kalinath Datta and some others. Most of these person would very often come to his residence and discuss the religious, social, educational and national problems. Sometimes they would become very light in their talks and pass the time with laughters and good humour. They did not care for formal courtesy or English manners, prevalent at that period in Calcutta . They would rather become lovely natives with their domestic habits. And there was unblemished pleasure in their talks.

Rajnarayan did never forget the highest ideal of his life, the realisation of the Brahman, the Infinite One. Outwardly though he was seen engaged in manyfold activities, he had cherished in the heart of his heart the supreme desire for a lasting peace and joy with divine feeling. His source of strength was spiritual introversion. His speeches and writings brought him a name and fame from far and near. But no honour could divert or betray him. Some of his books or booklets were written in Bengali and some in English. He was a profound scholar in English, and his writings, though not voluminous, bear testimony to this. His discourses on metaphysics and science of religion drew the admiring attention of the eastern and western scholars.

He was the first in our country to start study of religion as a science, (of course, it was after the Christian theologists which Swami Vivekananda afterwards followed. Both of the thinkers had similar views on the religion of love also. World famous philosophers and scholars like Cardinal Newman, Miss Collett, Rev. Voysey, Miss Cob, and Professor Goldstooker unhesitatingly bestowed on him their tribute of praise and honour. Miss Mary Carpenter even met him several times when she had been to Calcutta and became his ardent admirer. Her contribution to the cause of female education in Bengal was immense. She was a source of inspiration to many of our social and educational reformers. Vidyasagar was chosen by her as her chief counseller; and while driving with her from, The Bally Station to the Uttarpara Girls' School he had a bad fall, the effects of which lasted till the day of his death.

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