Bengali Literature

After Hindi, the next significant literature was the one that developed in Bengal. The Baptist Mission Press was established in Serampore near Calcutta in 1800. East India Company founded the Fort William College in the same year. It provided training to civil servants of the Company in law, customs, religions, languages and literatures of India to enable them to work more efficiently.

In this regard, a very important landmark was achieved by William Carey, who wrote a grammar of Bengali and published an English-Bengali dictionary and also wrote books on dialogues and stories.

Although the aim of the press run by the missionaries was mainly to propagate Christian faith but other presses run by local people helped in the flourishing of non-Christian literature. Scores of pamphlets, small and big books and journals were produced. In the meantime education spread, although at a very slow pace. But after 1835, when Macaulay won the battle against Orientalists, it spread at a faster pace.

In 1854 came Sir Charles Wood’s Despatch and in 1857 the three universities of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay were established. Besides textbooks for schools and colleges, other literature were also produced. However it was Raja Ram Mohan Roy who wrote in Bengali besides English that gave impetus to Bengali literature. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-91) and Akshay Kumar Dutta (1820- 86) were two other writers of this early period. In addition to these, Bankim Chandra Chatterji (1834-94), Sharat Chandra Chatterji (1876-1938), and R.C. Dutta, a noted historian and a prose writer, all contributed to the making of Bengali literature.

But the most important name that influenced the whole of India was that of Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861-1941). Novels, dramas, short stories, criticism, music and essays, all flowed from his pen. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 for his Geetanjali.