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Bipin Chandra Pal – History, Biography and Facts

bipin as rationalsit

Bipin Chandra Pal, The first war of independence in 1857 was a resurgence of the heroic spirit of nationalism and patriotism in India after a slumber of centuries together. Although the fire was extinguished by the British brutality the flame remained burning. The period between 1857 and 1942 was rather a period of renaissance in the history of modern India. These eighty-five years saw the growth of a number of ideologies the constitutionalists, the moderates, the radicals and the revolutionists besides the followers of the passive non cooperation movement that followed after the death of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. These eighty-five years gave a large number of stalwarts as had never been on the political stage of the country earlier. One thing common with all of them was that they wanted freedom from the British yoke, of course in their own way. Some of them in the early period had certain limitations as they were in government service. But they too played their game well. Another aspect common with almost all of them was that they were against the Macaulian system of education and tried to start national colleges in a way following Dayanand Saraswati institutions. All of them were against child marriages and wanted the upliftment of women and the backward classes. There were a few who shifted their plank from one issue to the other shone like a bright star but faded into insignificance in the evening of their life to be mourned by the leaders after their demise but not by the masses as they could not adapt themselves to the changing times. Bipin Chandra Pal was one of these bright stars.

bipin as rationalist

Bipin Chandra Pals Life Style As Radical Person

            Bipin Chandra Pal belonged to the Lal-Bal-PAL group of radical revolutionaries who had its sway over the political, social and academic bearings of the country for a decade and a half. The three i.e., Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai did not suffer from the limitations of great leaders like Surendra Nath Banerjea, Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and even Bankim Chandra for one reason or the other. The latter wanted to remain in their government jobs or had soft heart for the British because of their relations with certain high-ranking officials. Gokhale, the follower of Ranade and rather guru of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, like the latter two, did not want to be held responsible for the rash and violent action against the ruling race. They were all moderates. But they spearheaded the cause of freedom to hand over the reins to the radicals for the most disturbing period. Gandhi took it back after the demise of Tilak and continued the fight till 1942 in his own way, when ultimately he too had to declare on the night of 8th of August that although he believed in nonviolent resistance the 42 movement was the last one and it may take a different course. The Quit India movement ushered in with the slogan of ‘do or die’. But as all the leaders were behind the bars that very night it was a headless unorganised movement run by the most inexperienced person like Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali in the West and a comparatively less known Jugal Kishore Khanna in the North. The latter, a prominent advocate practising in Delhi had to get all his property confiscated before his arrest in 1943.

      Bipin Chandra Pal belonged to the extreme radical group and was considered as ‘one of the mightiest prophets of nationalism’ by Aurobindo Ghose. He boldly preached the ideal of Poorna Swaraj (Complete freedom) much before the Congress adopted it in its Lahore session. He advocated passive resistance and boycott of English goods. Besides these political moves, he was a social reformer too fighting against child marriage, untouchability, discrimination against downtrodden and widows, rather women at large.

        Pal was born on November 7, 1858 a year after the first war of Independence. His father, Ram Chandra was a zamindar of Oil in Sylhet district. He was a staunch vaishnavite, but also a Persian scholar. Thus there was a blend of Hindu ritualism and Islamic thought in his religious views. But he would not allow the Islamic thought control his hinduism. Of course the rumblings of Independence from the British yoke did not touch either his career or his feelings. According to Hindu conservative ideology Bipin was considered a young divinity upto the age of six that was not enjoyed by Kirpa, his sister. His father won’t allow anyone to disturb him or touch anything used in his puja, When Bipin was 12 he was allowed to join this morning ritual.

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           The period between 1870 and 1875 was not a smooth sailing one for Bipin. Western system of liberal education was already in vogue in schools and colleges. Thus even after joining school his father having a notion that the school encouraged his son to violate certain rules of caste he was withdrawn. Some friends of the family had to persuade him to let his son join school again. The notions of Ram Chandra were not unfounded for Hindu orthodoxy was losing grounds. Keshub Chandra Sen and started Brahmo Samaj. The educated young and dynamic persons started Brahmo Samaj. The educated young and dynamic persons started challenging the rigid mindless rituals. One of Bipin’s friends Sundari Mohan Das was studying in the Presidency College, Calcutta. He had embraced the Brahmo faith. During summer vacation he came to his village and encouraged Bipin to be familiar with the new trends. Bipin Chandra was so much impressed that he started writing poems for the new cult. They were published in newspapers Bipin had yet to complete his high school career.

       Passing high school examination Bipin Chandra got admission into the Presidency College with a government scholarship of Rs. Ten a month in 1875. How serious he was in his college studies has been described in his autobiography. He writes that he attended the classes, “about a couple of hours everyday and some days only an hour I used to be in my class. I played truant”. He would rather go to a nearby bookshop and spend his time in reading books on general topics. During this period he lost his sister and mother. He himself had chicken pox and was taken care of by his friend Sundari Mohan. Sundari Mohan too fell ill. He was taken care of by Bipin. His differences with his father took a sharp turn and he had to leave his studies and return to sylhet.

         During his three years in Presidency College from 1875 to 78 he underwent three influence that ran parallel to one another. The literary influence was generated by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and MadhuSudan Dutt. The ideal of religious and social freedom was impressed upon him by the Brahmo Samaj. He was suffused with burning nationalism under the influence of his guru Surendranath Banerjea. He contributed articles to Bengali journals. When he was only 22 he started a Bengali weekly Pradarshak himself taking inspiration from Bankim Chandra’s Banga Darshan that was started in 1973.

             From 1876 till his demise in 1932 Bipin Chandra Pal rather rode on two horses side by side shifting from one to the other whenever he felt it necessary. He was a staunch worker in the Brahmo Samaj and was equally dedicated to the national cause of independence. In between the two, around 1896 Bipin Chandra Pal just turned a little religious too when he wrote Krishna Charitra.

Bipin Chandra Pal As a Rationalist

         As a strong rationalist Bipin Chandra Pal would sit silently for hours listening to the speeches of Keshub Chandra Sen about the philosophy of Brahmo Samaj. During this period he met an ardent Brahmo Samaj Shivnath Shastri whose ideals were more filled with individualism tempered with freedom of spirit, social and national independence. Instead of joining the mainstream of Keshub Chandra Sen’s Brahmo Samaj Bipin Chandra came  close to Shastri. Together with a few friends Shastri established the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Bipin Chandra became an ardent member of this group.

         Bipin’s father was deadly against Brahmo Samaj. In 1877 he recalled him back to Sylhet and disinherited him from his property. Thus Bipin Chandra could not clear his F.A. He left Bengal and joined Cuttack Academy in Orissa as Headmaster. Back in 1878 he started the Sylhet National School in 1880. Together with this he continued his missionary work of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj too. He shifted to Calcutta and in 1881 was appointed Headmaster of the Arcot Narayanaswamy Mudaliar School in Bangalore. In December the same year, according to his ideals he married a child widow Nritya Kala Devi in Bombay. He proved that we should act as we preach.

       Bipin Chandra Pal believed that in India women had a higher status in the society compared to what they are in the West. In India every woman is regarded as mother. He believed in the famous saying ‘janani janmabhoomischa swargadapi gariyasi’ i.e. mother and the motherland are more important than even heaven. Indian woman was more religious, had a strong character and was imbibed in culture. Thsu she was much superior to her counterpart in the West.

          Strange enough in 1883 his father fell ill and before his demise he made Bipin Chandra Pal a trustee of all his assets and property. But as  Bipin did not want to act as a zamindar, he looked after the property. But as Bipin did not want to act as a zamindar, he looked after the property of Ram Chandra but left sylhet for Calcutta in 1886 to work for the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and established himself as a journalist. There were many magazines and newspapers that he either edited or started himself. One of the earliest one was the Bengal Public Opinion an English news weekly from Calcutta that he joined as Assistant Editor in 1883. It was followed by Alochana that he started in 1884. He became a sub-editor of the Tribune in Lahore in 1887, in 1892 Bipin Chandra started a Bengali monthly Asha and in 1894 again it was the turn of a Bengali fortnightly Kaumudi. On August 12, 1901 he brought out New India English weekly. On August 6, 1906 he brought about the first issue of Bande Mataram. Bipin Chandra published the English weekly Swaraj in London and also founded the English monthly journal Hindu Review in 1912. He also edited the daily Independent of Allahabad founded by Motilal Nehru and the weekly Democrat of Allahabad in 1919-20. The Bengalee founded by his mentor Surendranath Banerjea was edited by him in 1924-25. He wrote articles for the Modern Review, Amrit Bazar Patrika, the Statesman and the Englishman. As a patriotic journalist the was associated with the Bengali journal Narayan published by Chittaranjan Das. He also revived Banga Darshan and Vijaya the two well-known periodicals of the time.

Bipin Chandra Pal As Journalist

             Bipin Chandra Pal’s career as a journalist was not whimsical as one may think. Of course he shifted from one paper to the other totalling near about a dozen and a half from 1883 to 1925. But there was a purpose, a nationalistic one, behind all these gestures. He started with Alochana to make an attempt to synthesize Hindu conservatism and Brahmo ideology. It was to spread new rational ideas on political, literary, social and historical subjects. Prominent men like Shivnath Shastri, Dwijendranath Tagore and Rabindranath Tagore associated themselves as regular contributors to the magazine. He brought out New India to make the Indian Education system rational as also to propagate secular culture.

Bipin Chandra Pal - stamp

         When Bipin Chandra Pal was fed up with the policies of the moderates he started Bande Mataram ‘a flaming newspaper which struck a ringing new note in Indian journalisms’. It was the most effective voice of national extremism. The national propaganda that he started with the publication of Bande Mataram was supported by Rabindranath Tagore and Aravinda Ghose. Swaraj served the purpose of bringing the Indian community in Great Britain together. The purpose of the monthly journal Hindu Review was to put on record the happenings and the ideas of  prominent people expressed in a month. He contributed to the dailies on the condition that his articles would not be amended. His association with Chittaranjan Das’s Narayan reflected his close association with Chittaranjan  Das as also with the nationalistic movement.  After 1913 Bipin Chandra Pal became a freelancer and wrote articles that were published, besides India, in USA and Europe. They were all on the burning topics of the day.

         Bipin Chandra Pal wrote articles on the message and Mission of Jesus Christ too. In his thesis Precepts of Jesus The guide to Peace and Happiness he shared the views of Raja Ram Mohan Roy on the modern world. In his thesis he also added moral fervour as reflected in Keshub Chandra Sen’s lectures in Christian ethics, doctrines, dogmas and rituals that the Brahmo leader expressed in his address on Jesus Christ in Europe and Asia.

Bipin Chandra Pal – Studied Comparative Religion

         Bipin Chandra had studied comparative religion. Thus he could not accept the claim of universalism for Christianity as insisted by theologians of the west. As a strong Hindu nationalist he believed that his universalism was attained only by Hinduism. As if to add fervour to his assertion he wrote Krishna Charitra in 1896. It is a well-known work in Bengali literature that portrays Sri Krishna as a perfect Man as is Sri Rama in Ramayana. He wrote articles under the title ‘Sri Sri Krishna Tattwa’ Bipin Chandra Pal also studied Chaitanya Charitamrita the scripture of the Bengal Vaishnavites. He wrote many articles on the love of Radha Krishna to assert on the transcendental character of the eternal process of union and reparation in the Radha Krishna relationship. On the basis of his deep study he wrote a book soul of India.

       Bipin Chandra Pal believed that you should practise what you preach. Thus in 1881 he married Nrityakala Devi, a child widow. After the marriage in Bombay he returned to Calcutta in December the same year. Sad enough Nritya Kala Devi died in 1890. He again married a widow Biraj Mohini Devi who was a distant cousin of Surendranath Banerjea. He had three sons and five daughters by the two wives quite a big family for a political worker like Pal.

              Bipin Chandra Pal’s active political career started after he returned from a tour of England and USA. He went to England in 1898 for theological studies on a scholarship of British and Foreign Unitarian Association. But after a year he gave up the scholarship and remained in England to preach Hindu theism and carry on political activities. He also went to the USA on invitation of the National Temperance Association of New York. He went on a lecture tour in the USA and returned to India in 1990 ‘imbued with great patriotic fervour’.

Bipin Chandra Pal

           In 1990 Bipin Chandra Pal started his active political career. From 1900 to 1923 the life of Bipin Chandra Pal is a saga of an extremist who would prefer to withdraw but not surrender. The partition of Bengal was a turning point in the life of many politics. So was it in Bipin Chandra’s too. He came to the conclusion that the way and methods adopted by the moderates won’t bring independence. They were of no use. He supported the call for boycott of British goods that came from Sanjeevanee a journal published by Krishna Kumar Mitra.

       Although Bipin Chandra was against the moderates he actively participated in the meeting of Bengal Provincial Conference in 1906 that aimed at showing solidarity among moderates, radicals and revolutionary nationalists. The participants took up Vande Mataram as their slogan for which they were beaten by the police.

Bipin Chandra Pal Joined – Indian National Conference

      Bipin Chandra Pal joined the Indian National Conference in 1886 a year after its initiation by A.O. Hume. In 1887 he gave his first speech in the Madras session on the demand for repeal of the Arms Act. In oratory it was difficult to vye with him. People called him the Burke of India, V.S. Srinivas Shastri said, “Babu Bipin Chandra Pal burst into full frame in Madras as a preacher of the new political creed. For several days on the sands of the beach, he spoken words hot with emotion and subtly logical which were wafted by the soft evening breeze to tens of thousands of listeners oratory had never dreamed of such triumphs of such triumphs in India”. He was equally forceful during the Bengal Provincial Conference in 1891 when he spoke on the resolution on Assam Tea labourers that urged the government to withdraw the Labour Supply Contract Act of 1859 and 1882 that exploited the labourers.

        The Congress session held in Kolkata in 1906 was presided by Dadabhai Naoroji. It passed a resolution to boycott the British goods. The debate was enlivened by the speech of Bipin Chandra Pal. He was a strong supporter of the cause of nationalism. Gopal Krishna Gokhale protested against the move. A stage was rather set up to revolt against the moderates who were in control of the Congress since its initiation. Now the extremist group was led by Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal. They held the reins in their hands for a number of years. They captured the feelings and imagination of the young educated Indians. It was aptly known as the Lal-Bal-Pal era. On May 26, 1907 Bipin Chandra Pal was called as a witness to identify a letter. The judge wanted him to identify Aravinda Ghose as the editor of Bande Mataram. As Pal refused to answer any questions he was sentenced to six months imprisonment.

Bipin Chandra pals Visits

         In 1907 Bipin Chandra Pal had gone on hectic tour of Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Madras in which he spoke forcefully on the issues of passive resistance, boycott of English goods, severance of all association with the foreign government and national education. But the same year after the split in Surat Session he together with some others left Congress. He again went to England in 1908 on a propaganda mission sponsored by Shyamji Krishna varma a revolutionary settled in Europe. But it was a short one. On his return he was charged with sedition for an article in the Swaraj. He was arrested on board the ship, sentenced to one month’s imprisonment and lodged in Bombay jail.

         During his stay in England from 1908 to 1911 Bipin Chandra Pal developed a new ‘empire idea’ in which he pleaded for a reconstitution of the British Empire as a federal union constituting Great Britain, India and all the British self governing colonies as equal partners. He also promoted the idea of a federal structure for India in which different regions and communities would have complete freedom. The idea did not become popular. Bipin Chandra Pal the Home Rule Movement of Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak and rejoined the Congress in 1916.

        Bipin Chandra Pal, together with others opposed the Rowlatt Bills in 1919. There was a mass movement against the introduction of the bill, which envisaged arrest of any person and his conviction without trial. The mass Satyagraha resulted in the large-scale massacre in Jallianwala Bagh in April 1919. In protest Rabindranath Tagore renounced his Knighthood.

Bipin Chandra Pal - non-cooperation

      Pal had already opposed Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement that was, of course, a success in South Africa. But in India, he thought it was associated with the Khilafat movement that had nothing to do with India. Naturally he had differences with Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali on this issue. He also was not in favour of blind following of Gandhi and criticized his friend C.R. Das on this issue. He also did not consider it a sin to wear foreign clothes.

      During an official Congress deputation to England that included Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal the latter expounded the idea of constitutional reforms based on democratic principles. He defined Swaraj as a ‘democratic Swaraj’. He had asserted it in the Barisal session of the Bengal Provincial Conference held from March 25 to 27, 1921. On March 26 1 large meeting was held outside the Pandal where many delegates criticized Bipin Chandra for his reservation on Gandhian Programme. Chittaranjan Das declared, “Swaraj was Swaraj and Swaraj did not specify and scheme or any form of government”. He pleaded with the delegates to accept the non-Cooperation movement as conceived by Gandhi. C.R. Das won the day and Bipin Chandra Pal resigned both from the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee and the All India Congress Committee.

         The marriage of C.R. Das’s daughter which was performed according to the Hindu rites with a Brahmin to officiate as priest further alienated his relations with his fast friend. Because of his strict adherence to the Brahmo faith Bipin Chandra could not reconcile with the situation and he did not attend the marriage ceremony. It was rather strange that on the one hand he cut himself from the mainstream of Brahmo Samaj and joined Sadharan Brahmo Samaj on the other he stuck to Hinduism and wrote books and articles on Lord Krishna and Vaishnavite Saint Sri Chaitanya. In a way the staunch and extremist Bipin Chandra Pal shifted from one to the totally opposed another group in religious faith. At the personal level too be alienated himself first from his mentor Surendranath Banerjea and then from his intimate friend Chittaranjan Das.

Bipin Chandra Pal

        In politics too his shifting ideology took a strange turn when he accepted an offer from the British owned daily Englishmen to write a column, ‘What India Thinks’. Naturally it was to be written in favour of the British. Bipin Chandra Pal actually did what his old mentor Surendranath Banerjea had done in his last days. He too had cut off his relations with Congress and accepted knighthood and had accepted the post of minister in the Bengal Government. By opposing the freedom movement of 1920-21 this lifelong rebel actually moved away from the mainstream of Politics at a time when even Tilak had handed over the politics reins to Gandhi. During his last stay in England Bipin Chandra Pal had alienated himself from Damodar Savarkar too a great revolutionary.

         Thus, according to a journalist ‘Bipin Chandra Pal had broken away from his family, society and even religion. He did not associate himself with the protests against Simon Commission in 1928, The declaration of Purna Swaraj in the Lahore Congress Session in 1929 and the Salt Satyagraha and Dandi March in 1930. He of course attended the All Parties Conference in Lucknow in 1928 where it was seen that he lost all his influence in the political field. On March 20, 1932 this great extremist of his youth passed away at the mature age of seventy-four unsung after half a century of hectic public life.’

Also Read :

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak Biography History Facts

Bankim Chandra Chatterjee – Vande Mataram Inspiration 

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