Born On: September 15, 1876
Born In: Debanandpur, Hooghly
Died On: January 16, 1938
Career: Bengali Novelist
His stories and novels speak for themselves. Poverty showered through his materialistic situations while his psychosomatic dimensions supported him. Sarat Chandra Chatterji was one such eminent Bengali writer who flourished throughout the country despite tasting poverty since birth. But his monetary conditions did not stop this legendary writer from exploring his writing skills and emerging as one of the most recognized litterateurs the 20th century had ever given to India. In fact, his inspiration, ingredients, and storylines were derived from his life-like characters that helped him create his own inimitable style. The distinctive features and essence of purpose further added to his writing skills, displaying a more attractive and lucrative technique. It was for this reason that his several novels were translated into other languages and even filmed.
Sarat Chandra Chatterji was born in the village of Devanandpur in Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal. Born in an extremely deprived and poor family, he and his family members were financially supported by other members. Until his father was employed in Bihar, Sarat and the rest of the family resided with his paternal uncle in Bhagalpur. However, the frequent changing financial conditions led to a number of school changes for Sarat. He received his formal education in Bhagalpur before clearing the entrance exam and attaining admission in Tejnarayan Jubilee College in 1894. It was here when he got in touch with English literature and read Charles Dickens' novels "Tale of Two Cities" and "David Copperfield", and Lord Litton's "My Love".
Sarat Chandra Chatterji claimed that his father's unfinished and unpublished literary work served as his greatest inspiration for writing. Thus, with the creation of handwritten children's magazine called "Shisu" by Bhagalpur Shitya Sabha, his first two stories "Kakbasha" and "Kashinath" were published in 1894. But to his dismay, his mother passed away in 1895. As if this was enough, Sarat had to drop out of college the following year due to financial instability wherein his father was forced to sell the Devanandpur house at a mere Rs. 225. The entire family shifted to Bhagalpur finally, where Sarat met a number of people who played an important role in his writing career. Some amongst them include Anupama (later known as Nirupama Devi, author of Annapurnaar Mandir), her brother Bibhutibhushan Bhatta, and Rajendranath Majumdar, nicknamed as Raju. He started working in Godda's Banali Estate which he gave up to begin work at Santhal district settlement.
However, he gave up this job as well and left home after a disagreement with his father. After wandering for days, he joined a party of Naga Monks and went to Muzaffarpur in 1902. During this period, his father died and came back to Bhagalpur for a short period to complete his last rites. From here, he traveled to Calcutta where he found a job offering him a meager salary of Rs. 30. A year later in 1903, he went to Rangoon, Burma in search of a better career prospect. However, on request from his Surendranath uncle, he sent his short story "Mandir" for a competition and won the first prize. It was later published in 1904 in his uncle's name. Besides, he wrote several stories in other people's name, such as his elder sister, Anila Devi, and Anupama, in the Jamuna magazine. He wrote a long story titled "Bada Didi" which was published in two installments in the magazine Bharati in 1907. With this, began the journey of a poor struggling person who grew to become a noteworthy novelist. His other striking works included Bindur Chele, Ramer Sumati, and Arakshaniya. Since he was highly influenced by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, his works resembled the latter's style, some of them being Devdas, Parinita, Biraj Bau, and Palli Samaj.
After struggling with small jobs, he found permanent employment in the accounts department of Public Works, where he served until his return to Calcutta in 1916. In Calcutta, he continued to write on a regular basis and his works were published in all magazines. It was during this period that he gained enormous popularity. His "Viraj Bou" was staged for the first time in Star Theatre in 1918. Further, it was the first novel to be translated into Hindi by Chandrashekhar Pathak in 1919. This was followed by "Datta" into Marathi in 1920 and later in Gujarati in 1921. The first part of "Srikanto" was translated and published in English by Oxford University Press in 1922. This was later converted into Italian in 1925. He was honored with the Jaggattarini Gold Medal in 1923, followed by worldwide recognition as one of the best novelists by Romain Rolland in 1925. He was further conferred upon with a D. Litt. Degree by Dacca (now Dhaka) University in 1936.
Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya
Apart from his literary and painting career, Sarat Chandra Chatterji took active participation in Indian freedom movement. As a result, he even became the president of Howrah District Congress. He stood for the equality of Hindu-Muslim rites and essayed the issues of love and marriage. To illustrate these problems, he penned an essay titled "Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya", meaning Contemporary Hindu-Muslim Problem, which was presented at Bengal Provincial conference of 1926. He spoke for the Muslim behavior that was characterized as brutal, barbaric, and fanatic. He supported the internal unity of the Hindu community.
Sarat Chandra Chatterji first married Shanti Devi in 1906 and had a son in 1907. However, both his wife and son succumbed to plague and died in 1908. To fill his disastrous and miserable life, he indulged himself into studying sociology, politics, philosophy, health sciences, psychology, and history from books borrowed from Barnerd Free Library. To add to his depression, he was advised to cut short his study hours due to health issues in 1909. As such, Sarat discovered a new interest in painting, his first being Ravan-Mandodori. His second marriage took place in 1910 to an adolescent widow Mokshada, who was later renamed as Hiranmoyee.
Sarat Chandra Chatterji, popularly known as the Immortal Wordsmith throughout Bengal, died on January 16, 1938 in Park Nursing Home, Calcutta. He was suffering from liver cancer. The entire Bengal mourned his death.
Baradidi (The Elder Sister), 1907
Bindur Chhele (Bindu's Son), 1913
Biraj Bou (Mrs. Biraj), 1914
Ramer Shumoti (Ram Returning to Sanity), 1914
Palli Shomaj (The Village Commune), 1916
Arakhsanya (The Girl Whose Marriage Is Overdue), 1916
Debdas/Devdas, 1917 (written in 1901)
Choritrohin (Characterless), 1917
Srikanto (4 parts, 1917, 1918, 1927, 1933)
Datta (The Girl Given Away), 1917-19
Grihodaho (Home Burnt), 1919
Dena Paona (Debts and Demands), 1923
Pather Dabi (Demand for a Pathway), 1926
Ses Prasna (The Final Question), 1931
1876: Sarat Chandra Chatterji was born in Devanandpur, Hooghly
1894: Took admission in Tejnarayan Jubilee College
1894: His first two stories 'Kakbasha' and 'Kashinath' were published
1902: Joined Naga Monks in Muzaffarpur
1903: Went to Rangoon, Burma
1904: His short story 'Mandir' won the first prize and got published
1906: Married first wife Shanti Devi
1907: His famous 'Bada Didi' was published in two installments
1908: Wife Shanti Devi and one-year old son die
1910: Married second wife Mokshada, later renamed Hiranmoyee
1916: Returned to Calcutta
1923: Honored with Jaggattarini Gold Medal
1926: Presented the essay 'Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya'
1936: Dacca (now Dhaka) University awarded the D. Litt. Degree
1938: Died on January 16, at the age of 61 years.