About Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das

  • By Koushik Roy
  • February 9, 2022
  • Das Babu was born in 1870 and lived for fifty-five years. Read about his life, thoughts and achievements.

After revolting against British imperialism and protesting against the tyrant professor, Witten at Presidency College (University), Calcutta, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had frantically been searching for a strong-willed personality who would guide him into the strategies of the nationalist freedom struggle. Although the founder of the Azad Hind Fauz was morally empowered to combat white colonialism in India after being inspired by the fiery preaching of Swami Vivekananda, Netaji needed a political icon to show him the right path of extremist struggle to oust the British. At last, Netaji found that political stimulus in the initiator of the Bengal Pact to unite Hindus and Muslims and one of the boldest propagators of Purna Swaraj–whose 151st birth anniversary is being observed this year. 


First published in Journal of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.


Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was born to an advocate of repute, Bhubanmohan Das and Nistarini Devi on November 5, 1870. Netaji joined the Swarajya Party set up by Deshbandhu, a devoted supporter of the Liberal Nationalism and Humanist Philosophy propounded by Socrates, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.


He and Deshbandhu used the newly-born Calcutta Municipal Corporation to transform the infrastructure, health and sanitation, sewage system and public buildings of that metropolis. The Swadeshi agitation began. Gandhiji gave a clarion call to the Indians to boycott all foreign goods in the wake of his non-violent and non-co-operation movement. Chittaranjan Das encouraged his patriotic spouse and son–Basanti Devi and Chiraranjan–to popularise indigenously spun Khadi garments among the common Indians as opposed to the machine-made cloth imported from Manchester, England. 


Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was a “born rebel” with extremist philosophy. Deshbandhu had absolute faith in the Indian masses that they would ultimately wrest liberty out of the British. He was a staunch believer in the doctrine of modern socialism which dictated that the fruits of production and social privileges must be given to the toiling multitude. Deshbandhu always opposed the rising classes of capitalists and the bourgeoisie, especially during the Industrial Revolution in England, who wanted to exploit the working classes. He always supported the call of Karl Marx–the German socialist: “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose, except your chains.”


Deshbandhu spent a large share of his daily earnings as an established advocate for charity, distributing the money among the impoverished people at the end of every day.


The zenith of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan’s career as a lawyer was his defence of Aurobindo Ghosh that saved Ghosh from being sent to the gallows. Aurobindo was one of the prime accused in the infamous Alipore bomb case. The British were stunned when Deshbandhu defended Aurobindo with nationalist zeal, saying: “He (Aurobindo) will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity.” 


In his two anthologies of poetry, Deshbandhu exhibited his genuine love for Bharatmata. In his poem – ‘Songs of The Sea’ (Sagar Sangeet), Deshbandhu praised India as spontaneously as Marti of Cuba and Vladimir Mayakovski of Soviet Union. Deshbandhu was also deeply involved with the revolutionary activities of the Anushilan Samiti, set up by barrister Pramath Nath Mitra. However, Das never opposed the moderate, non-violent agitation launched by Bapu.


As the first Bengali mayor of Calcutta Municipal Corporation, Deshbandhu toiled to change and elevate the cultural and architectural facade of the city, to ensure all means of public conveniences. His visionary zeal, coupled with Netaji’s practical approaches to rejuvenate Calcutta, garnered accolades from the British.


Deshbandhu edited and published a nationalist newspaper named Forward which he later changed to Liberty. This bold, anti-British newspaper inspired the publication of other patriotic dailies, like Sandhya by Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, Bande Mataram by Aurobindo and Dhumketu by Qazi Nazrul Islam, the rebel poet of Bengal. Later on, Deshbandhu brought out a monthly nationalist journal named Narayan.


In this journal, Deshbandhu advised Indians to merge Vaishnavite and Vedic mysticism with extremist philosophy to guide the young generation in the freedom struggle. He always believed that Indian Independence would only materialise through the emergence of secularism and communal unity.


Upon Deshbandhu’s demise in Darjeeling on July 6, 1925 owing to severe fever, a grieving Gandhiji lamented the passing of a Mrityuheen Pran (Deathless Soul), saying, “He dreamed… and talked of freedom of India and nothing else. Netaji, in a letter of condolence to Basanti Devi, wrote: “Deshbandhu has departed. He has passed away at the height of his glory as if the midday sun has set. As the blessed one of the Gods, he has left for his heavenly home with the crown of victory on his head.” 


The epitaph for Deshbandhu has this line from a poem by Robert Browning. It speaks of that great crusader’s idealism as: 


One who never turned back, but marched breast forward Never doubted clouds would break.


This article was first published in the Bhavan’s Journal, December 31, 2021 issue. This article is courtesy and copyright Bhavan’s Journal, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai-400007. eSamskriti has obtained permission from Bhavan’s Journal to share. Do subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal – it is very good.


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