Purba Midnapur, Paschim Midnapur
Religions - Tribes
Drought - Disaster


Rishi Rajnarayan Basu

Sri Haripada Mondal

.:: The Prospectus of a Society for the promotion National Feeling among the Educated Natives o f Bengal (1866). ::.

[ Rajnarayan the grand-father of Indian Nationalism, I Tightly been called a ‘Rishi', seer, by his friends and followers He had the vision of a glorious soul, intellect of a gn thinker, and zeal of a social reformer. The greatest contribution of his entire career lies in his sincere endeavor to infuse the spirit of patriotism among the people. It was a sacred vow to him to rouse a true national feeling, when educated persons were blindly and disgracefully imitating the manners and customs of the Europeans at the cost of all the Soc and racial virtues of the Indians.

When at Midnapore, he published his famous Prospect of a Society for the Promotion of National Feeling among Educated Natives of Bengal in 1S66, really the first National Manifesto of India, which shows Rajnarayan's spirit of militant nationalism, even before the composition of the song Bande-mataram by Barnkimchandra. The full text of his Prospectus is quoted below ] :

Now the European ideas have penetrated Bengal , the Bengalee mind has been moved from the sleep of ages. A restless fermentation is going on in Bengalee Society. A desire change and progress is everywhere visible. People discontented with old customs and institutions are panting for reform Already a band of young men have expressed a desire to s themselves at once from Hindu Society and renounce even the Hindu name It is to be feared that the tide of revolution sweep away whatever good we have inherited from ancestors. - To prevent this catastrophe and to give a national shape to reforms, it is proposed that a Society be established by the influential members of native society for the promotion of national feeling among the educated natives of Bengal Without due cultivation of national feeling, no nation can be eventually great. This is a fact testified to by all history.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall first of all use their best endeavours to revive the national gymnastic exercises. Half a century ago, there was a gymnasium in almost every village. This old practice should be again brought into life. The remark, lately made by our Excellency the Governor General on seeing the boys of a Vernacular School at Ooterparah, to the effect, that the rising generation of Bengalees is not so strong and able-bodied as the previous one, is quite true. The cause of it is the too great importance attached now- a-days to bookish education in neglect of physical. The consequences are want of energy; a sickly habit of body, and premature old age and death. Many a young man after shining at college has broken down early and proved a regular incapable in after life. The Nationality Promotion Society shall publish tracts in Bengalee on the importance of physical education with special reference to its prevalence in ancient times, quoting passages from Sanskrit books in proof of such prevalence, and shall afford pecuniary aid to gymnasia established in the most important places in Bengal , where Hindu gymnastics will be taught. The Society will also publish tracts in Bengalee, giving, by instances quoted from the ancient history of the country, proofs of the military prowess of the ancient Bengalees, and mentioning isolated instances of the existence of such prowess in, modern Bengalees also, such as the celebrated “fighting Moonsiff” who figured in the late Sepoy Rebellion on behalf of The English. The Nationality Promotion Society shall take into consideration in connection with this subject that of the best means of improving the present very weak and innutritious diet of the Bengalee; which has in fact deteriorated from that of former generations.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall establish a Model School for instruction in Hindu music; every nation has its music. It is to be regretted that the majority of the educated natives of India neither cultivate European nor native music. If they have any taste for music they have a little for the rude one of Jattras. The writer of this article recollects the cultivation of Hindu Music having been general in his infancy. Now little attention is paid to it by the general mass of educated natives. It will be the duty of the Society to establish a Hindu Musical School and cause such songs to be sung by its students as have a moral scope and have a tendency to infuse patriotism and martial enthusiasm into the heart.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall also establish a school of Hindu Medicine , where Hindu Materia Medica and practice of physic will be taught freed from the error and absurdities that disfigure them. There are many excellent Hindu medicines which have been found to be very efficacious in some severe disorders. It is to be highly regretted that the knowledge of such medicines is being lost. It would have indicated want of foresight on the part of Providence , if India , so rich in every other thing, could not have produced medicinal herbs calculated to heal the diseases of its inhabitants. The hopes that were formed of the graduates of the Medical College enriching English Pharmacopoeia with Hindu Medicines, after due trial and experiment have proved vain. The Nationality Promotion Society shall endeavour to fulfill such expectations. The teacher of the proposed Hindu School of Medicine should be one who is acquainted with both English and Hindu medical sciences.

The Nationality Promotion Society will publish in the Bengalee the results of the researches of the Sanskrit scholars of Europe in the department of Indian Antiquities giving special prominence to their descriptions of prosperity and glory of ancient India , physical, intellectual, moral, social, political, literary and scientific. It will collect and publish both in English and Bengalee testimonies in favor of native character. It will publish in those languages tracts containing the panegyrics pronounced by European writers on the merits of the people of ancient and modern India . It will also publish in the Bèngalee, biographies of the il1ustrious men of Ancient and Modern India, especially of Bengal , containing translations of the eulogiums pronounced upon them by European writers.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall offord every encouragement in their power to the cultivation of Sanskrit. It shall patronize the publication of important Sanskrit works, co-operating with the Asiatic Society of Bengal in this respect and shall offer pecuniary rewards or panegyrical addresses to the best Sanskrit scholars of Bengal .

The Nationality Promotion Society shall make it binding upon its members to ground the knowledge of their sons in their mother tongue before giving them an English education. Education both in Bengalee and English, if carried on simultaneously, does great injury to the Bengalee education of a student, as he pays greater attention to the English than to the Bengalee language. Even for the sake of English education, we should ground our children's knowledge in their mother-tongue, before setting them to learn English. If a boy, after studying the Bengalee for six or seven years, study English, he makes rapid progress in the last mentioned language, and gets clearer ideas of what he reads in it than he would otherwise have done. Vernacular Scholarship-holders are found by experience to be the best boys in an English school. Any man who has the least patriotic feeling will not neglect to ground his sons in their mother— tongue first of all before giving them an English education.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall try its best to prevent the daily increasing corruption of the colloquial language of the educated natiyes who mix, in common conversation, English words with Bengalee in the most ridiculous manner imaginable. An idea which can be easily expressed in the Bengalee, they express by an English word. Southey says in his essay on style : “Ours is a noble- language, a beautiful language. I can tolerate a Germanism for family sake ; but he who uses a Latin or a French phrase where a pure old English word does as well; ought to be hung, drawn and quartered for high treason against his mother-tongue.” If our educated natives had a title of such patriotic love for their mother-tongue, they would not commit such gross violations of propriety and taste in their common conversation as they are at present observed to do. The poverty of the Bengalee is no excuse as such poverty is not real but imaginary. The Bengalee language has of late been much enriched by the exertions of some of the educated natives whose names will be held in grateful remembrance by posterity. Even if the Bengalee were really a poor unfurnished1lnguage, it would be the duty of every patriot to improve it by constant use of it in a pure form in conversation. It must be admitted that it is impossible to avoid using English words ta express particular scientific ideas, particular posts and offices certain public buildings, particular furniture, etc., etc., for which there are no equivalents to the Bengalee language We would be quite unintelligible if we use new coined Bengalee equivalents or such as have not come into common use in order to express the above ideas,* but it is quite unpardonable on the part of an educated native to express in English what he can easily do in the Bengalee. lie should speak either pure Bengalee or pure English, but he should not jumble up both the languages. At present the colloquial language of the educated natives is a lingua franca, a most corrupt jargon shocking, though we are unconscious of the same, to men of sense and good taste and reflecting great disgrace onus as a nation. An European gentleman would laugh to hear our conversation. Our written language is receiving daily improvements, but it is to be regretted that our colloquial language is so- much neglected. No nation can make rapid strides in the path of progress unless they possess a highly developed language fit to answer all the requirements of conversation or writing. The Revd. Mr. Richards in his address to the University of Madras , says: “Gentlemen, let me say there is but little hope of a nation, until it has some sense of nationality and nationality without a national language, which is the free spontaneous outcome of the national mind, is a delusion. Probably, the best index to the growth of a people is growth and development of its language. Moreover, there is an interchange of cause and effect ; help a people to develop their language in accordance with its own laws and you help them to acquire freedom of thought, and so gradually the other habits which are necessary to the formation of national character. I appeal then to your patriotism, I appeal to you on behalf of your mother- tongue it is well worthy your regard.'

The Nationality Promotion society shall make it binding upon its members to correspond with each other in the Bengalee. The Members of no nation correspond with each other in a foreign language. No English man for instance would correspond with another in French or German. Why should educated natives then insult their mother-tongue by writing letters to each other in English 7 Is our language so poor as to render it too difficult for one to write a common letter in it 7 It is excusable, nay more, it is proper, on the part of youths studying English. or even those who have recently left College to correspond with each other in English for the sake of acquiring proficiency in English writing; but it is not at all proper on the part of elderly people to do so. Business letters that require to be written in English should of course be written in that language.

The Nationality Promotion Society shall endeavour to prevail upon their countrymen to hold in the Bengalee language the proceedings of such societies as do not require the co operation or Englishmen, and are exclusively composed of Bengalees, or have note as their object the improvement of youth in English speaking or writing. If it be necessary to publish such proceedings for the information of Government and the European public, they can be translated into English for the purpose. Although the time is not yet ripe for the change, the Nationality Promotion Society shall from this time endeavour to impress upon the minds of their countrymen the impropriety on the part of an educated native of delivering at public meeting, speeches addressed to his countrymen in English or of writing pamphlets so addressed in that language. An Englishman, for instance, would not address his countrymen in French and German.' It must be submitted that reformers and public agitators are obliged to address their educated countrymen in English, or else they do not obtain a hearing from the majority of them, such is their fondness for everything English and aversion towards everything Bengalee ; but it is expected that the good sense of our educated countrymen would gradually allow this practice to fall into disuse. The writer of this article regrets the prevalence of Anglo-Mania in his time which has obliged him to initiate a movement in favour of his
mother-tongue by addressing his educated countrymen in English.

No reform is accepted by nation unless it comes in a national shape. The Nationality Promotion Society will not initiate or take an active part in social reformation—as such reformation is not its principal end or aim—but will aid it by rousing national feelings in its favour. Men naturally look to the past for sanction for their acts and nothing aids reformation so much as a former national precedent. The Nationality Promotion Society shall therefore publish tracts in the Bengalee containing proofs of the, existence of liberal
and enlightened customs in Ancient India, such as female education, personal liberty of females, marriage by election of the bride, marriage at adult age, widow-marrige, inter marriage and voyage to distant countries. It will try to introduce such foreign customs into educated society as have
a tendency to infuse national feeling into the minds of its members such as that of holding festivities in honor of men of genius as is done amongst European nations. The Nationality Promotion Society will not resist the introduction .of good foreign customs into educated native society, as that wou1d be a har to all improvement; but will try to give if possible to foreign customs already introduced a national shape. It has for instance become almost a custom among the educated natives to congratulate each other on the occasion of the New Year's: day. The Nationality Promotion Society will endeavour to induce them to offer such congratulation to each other on the occasion of our New Year's day, the 1st of Bysakh. It will use its best endeavours to prevent .The introductions of pernicious foreign customs such as that of drunkenness. It will attempt to prevent the falling into .abeyance of the good old customs of our country. There is for instance a custom prevalent in our country of sisters * making affectionate presents to brothers on a certain day of the year. It would be a great loss if the tides of revolution sweep away such beautiful customs as the one above-mentioned. No one can object to the Bhratriditya if feed from the superstitious observances that accompany it. The Nationality Promotion Society shall, in a few wards try firstly, to prevent the introduction of evil foreign customs into educated native community; secondly, to introduce such foreign customs as have a tendency to infuse national feeling into the minds of its members , thirdly, to give, if possible, to foreign customs already introduced a national shape, fourthly, to aid social reformation by citing old precedents in its favour ; and fifthly, to prevent the abolition .01 such old customs of the country as are beneficial in their nature.'

The Nationality Promotion Society will not overlook even such trifling points as the regulation of etiquette, with a view to give a national shape to the same. It would be impossible to abolish all foreign modes of etiquette that have crept into educated native society, nor is it desirable ‘to do so. Such cordial usages as the hearty hand-shake, some thing similar to which has, by the by, prevailed among our countrymen of the North-West, from a remote antiquity, as is evidenced by the Sanskrit plays, but the members of the Nationality Promotion Society shall give the preference to our national namuskar and pranam on all occasions on which it is practicable to do so.

With regard to dress, the Nationality Promotion Society need not direct its attention to that subject, as the educated natives have already adopted a mode which is not strictly European. This has been as required by the demands of nationality. If we at all imitate other nations, we should not do so slavishly. We should chalk out a path of our own. We should follow the same principle in the improvement of the dress of our women.

With regard to diet, the educated natives belonging to the higher classes of Society have adopted a mode of living that cannot be called exclusively European: It cannot be otherwise. The European mode of living is quite unsuited to the people of this country. Those educated native who adopted an exclusively European mode of living were obliged by ill health in the course of a few years to resume the native or to modify the former Those who have adopted a partly European mode of living will find it beneficial to Indianize it still further. The Nationality Promotion Society will direct their attention to this point, as well as to the diet of the majority of the educated natives which is in fact deteriorated as has been observed before from that of our ancestor. Anent this subject, we may observe that it would be the duty of the Nationality Promotion Society to reprobate the practice of frequenting European hotels so common among our educated countrymen. This practice shows a greedy hankering after European food, and demeans us in the eyes of foreigners. It must appear ridiculous in the eyes of alL Europeans, except hotel-keepers.

With regard to dramatic entertainments the Nationality Promotion Society need not direct its attention to the same, as the educated natives of Bengal are already adopting a.; national plan of such amusements: They do not, like the Parsees of Bombay, act English plays, but do so Bengalee. Dramatic compositions on the English plan. This is as it should be. For carving out our nationality, we should adopt the principle of adaptation in other things as we have done in this.

An attempt to show that the religion of out ancestors contains much that is worthy of respect as welt as union to represent political grievances to Government are calculated to promote national feeling; but the Nationality Promotion Society will not take measures for the same as there are separate associations, namely, the Brahmo Samaj and the British Indian Association, established solely for the purposes above-mentioned. It will abstain from the agitation of religious and political subjects.

The above Scheme of a Society for the promotion of National feelings among the educated natives of Bengal is of, course subject to modifications by the public.

It would be unreasonable to expect that such a Society would prove to be the cause of every national feeling. Its main object would be to promote and foster national feelings which would lead to the formation of a national character and thereby to the eventual promotion of the prosperity of the nation.

Such movements as the establishment of a Society like the one proposed should originate in the metropolis. People of the Mofussil as is the case in every country follow suit in everything with those of the metropolis.

It is intended to publish a translation of this article in bengali in the form of a pamphlet and circulate it amon4. the mass of our countrymen.

[This prospectus was also translated in Bengali and circulated among the reading public. Needless to note that it had the desired effect,.—far-reaching impact upon the national movements through the orginisations like the National Fair or Hindu Mela in 1867 and the Indian National Congress in 1885.

The Prospectus was published in the famous National Paper, an English, of Weekly, of Babu Nabagopal Mitra, who also tried to translate the ideas of Rajnarayan into action in collaboration with Dwijendra Nath Tagore, an Ganendra Nath Tagore. Physically week as the Rishi was, he was not at all idle. In close contact with all the cultural movements including this Hindu Mela, lie busied himself.

Long before Rishi Bankimehandra composed his stirring songs of patriotism and wrote his inspiring novels of patriotic fervour, long before the cyclonic Hindu monk Vvekananda appeared in the public platform with .his. trumpet call to the nation. and long before the great poet Rabindra Nath roused the passion of the public for freedom his immortal lyre, it is the Rishi Rajnarayan who had genuinely worked as a path-finder with undaunted spirit, and actually pushed the country to acquire the elevated position of an independent land.

We cannot but feel that his immortal spirit also inspired Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Kshudiram, Satyen, Kanai and thousand others ; and still leads like a kindly light those souls that adore their motherland and mother tongue.

One must note the following striking points in the above paper:

  • 1. Blind imitation of foreign culture should be discarded. Old Indian culture and education b, preserved and reformation movement must be on national line.
    A Society be established to promote national feeling among the educated persons; without such an attempt a nation cannot achieve greatness.
  • 2. a) First of all, revival of National physical culture with indigenous sports and games is necessary: schools of physical culture be established in different places of Bengal .

    b) Bad food habits must be changed. Nutritious food for good health he our demand. We must create a nation of healthy people. (‘Music's of iron and nerves of steer)
  • 3. A Hindu (National) music school be established for the culture of Indian music. Learners should be taught moral and ethical lessons and be infused patriotic and martial spirit through music.
  • 4. A Hindu Medical school be established for the culture or - our old medical science as ‘veil as for production of useful medicines. Western medical science may - be enriched by our researches and study.
  • 5. Compilation & publication of the ancient history of India in Bengali (sources being English, Sanskrit books and books of other languages and the life history of Great men of India , particularly of Bengal ,) be made.
  • 6. The Society will assist culture of the Sanskrit language and literature, the nation's invaluable treasure.
    It will help Bengal Assatic Society also for the purpose and give away prizes to Sanskrit -scholars to encourage them.
  • 7. Young children should be taught Bengali (mother tongue) before having an English education.
  • 8. One must avoid use of a mixed tongue of English and Bengali, as a deformed and abnormal thing, a detestable hybrid.
  • 9. The Bengalees must snake their correspondence among themselves in Bengali only. They must not show any disrespect to the mother tongue and use English only where it is unavoidable.
  • 10. Meetings and conferences should be conducted through the medium of Bengali and if needed, proceedings be translated into English.

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