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March 7, 2008 / lazybug

Just Read: Anandmath

I have finished reading Anandmath by Bankim Chandra Chatterji, translated into English by Basant Koomar Roy. The novel is famous for one reason: Chatterji gave India its National Song, Vande Mataram.

First, the author…

Roy gives a wonderful introduction about Chatterji, talking about his stature as the writer who gave Bengal its wonderful literature and inspired later greats like Rabindranath Tagore and Mulk Raj Anand. Chatterji was finishing his studies at the University of Calcutta in 1858 when India’s First War of Independence began. He was very hopeful that India would finally win her independence. But that did not happen. Chatterji was heart broken. This was also the time when the English language was gaining in popularity in India. People who spoke English got more respect that the ones who spoke the native languages. This was also the time when India’s caste system was at its peak. Feudal Landlords ruled the roost and the poor suffered. Chatterji wanted India to be free of not only the Britishers but also of these evils and he believed that Bengal would have to play a key role in bringing about this change. At that point, Bengal had little in terms of literature. Chatterji chose literature as his weapon of choice.

Dr William Jackson, a Professor at the Indiana University, USA, writes in his preface to the novel, “Preserving a people’s identity and integrity is a continual process, a challenge of a renewal in which many voices struggle to speak for the spirit of the society. It is to Chatterji’s credit that his voice is still worth listening to, still resonant and alive.”

However, there’s something about the book that I thought could have been bettered. I believe it could have been much more larger. The shorter length stops the author from describing the India of those days in depth. Considering his knowledge about the nation, this would not have been very difficult for Chatterji. But then, it’s one of the best selling books; and the fact that it contains the origins of our National Song (should have been our National Anthem, IMO) gives the novel an unmatched status in Indian literature.

The Novel…

The story of Anandmath unfolds in four parts over a period of four years with the famine-stricken state of Bengal under the tyranny of the British rule as the background. All the wealth of the rich landlords is rendered worthless as it cannot buy them anything to eat; the poor die anyway. The extent of the famine can be judged by the fact that villagers turned into cannibals in search of food. Vast extents of deep jungles being their killing fields. They would kill travellers and eat their flesh. At the same time, however, a group of Sanyasis, known as the Order of the Children have decided to take on the British. They are lead by an old and very learned Sanyasi, Mahatma Satya.

In such a scenario, Mahendra, a young landlord in the village of Padachina, sets out for Calcutta along with his wife and new born girl. From here, the story unfolds. The group of ascetics is building and army, Mahendra joins the Children after being separated from his family. Then there’s the other important character, Jiban.

Suffice it to say, it’s an awesomely interesting plot.

The real protagonist of the novel is Jiban. But this becomes clear only in the latter parts. Though the story begins with Mahendra, the focus shifts to the life of Jiban and his wife, Shanti, as it moves forward. It’s important to note here that men who join the Children are supposed to stay away from their families, failing this, death in the battlefield is the only punishment. Therefore, Shanti becomes even more important to the story.

How the Sanyasis take on the British is what the novel is all about.

P.S:

A movie based on the novel was made in 1958. Here’s the IMDB page.

Internet search revealed this page which says that real life incidents inspired the novel.

Youtube Video of Vande Mataram from Anandmath:

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18 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Liju Philip / Mar 8 2008 11:53 am

    Going by your gist, the book looks interesting. Wish i could lay my hands on the movie. I wouldnt need to spend time reading the book then.

  2. lazybug / Mar 8 2008 11:57 am

    Liju, the one thing about movies based on books is that they cannot give you the same feel. Read the book if you can…

  3. pramodasanthi / Mar 10 2008 1:12 pm

    Looks like an interesting book. Before I wanted to read this, I will have to finish the one which I had now “The Inscrutable Americans”.

  4. lazybug / Mar 10 2008 1:15 pm

    Those Americans have been under scrutiny for so long now. Finish the book before the next government takes charge of that nation!

  5. pramodasanthi / Mar 10 2008 1:19 pm

    I will try to finish it Akhil at least to fulfill your wish ;)

  6. Anup / Mar 20 2008 10:44 pm

    where can I get/buy this book ?

  7. chandu / Jul 1 2008 12:07 am

    Hi,

    I have been trying ti get this book for a long time. Can u point me to some useful resources where I can buy this book online?

    • F F Poli / Jan 26 2013 6:17 pm

      Both movie and book (in English _ B K Roy’s: Bookos.org._ as well as in Bangla) are available.
      Shanti!
      PoliSahib

  8. chandu / Jul 1 2008 12:08 am

    Hi,

    I have been trying ti get this book for a long time. Can u point me to some useful resources where I can buy this book online?

    Pleae mail me at
    chandu_velamati@yahoo.com
    chanduvelamati@gmail.com

  9. Nintendo wii / Jul 2 2008 2:08 pm

    I always like such patriotic moives and video. Being indian I always love my country. Can you tell me where can i get the online version or any pdf file of this book. It will be good if you provide any website of such religious books where i can get all type of religious, patriotic and spritual books. Hope you are aware of all such resources.
    Thanks and awaiting for your reply

  10. itsfine / Jul 11 2008 9:48 am

    I have also just read the book and reviewed it. It is always interesting to read books which were written in interesting times. Anand Math is one such book. All the credit to the author to have done a work which is still laudable. I have not seen the movie though. Vande Mataram is a great great song.!

  11. arnav / Feb 13 2009 11:42 am

    how can i read the novel online for free.tell the site if so

  12. shaurya / Jul 9 2009 12:05 pm

    dear friend,
    namaste,
    i read ur blog it is realy nice.
    i m planing to do my M.Phil on this novel and i m searching the english translation of it. can u pls inform me from where i can get the english one trans. by basant koomar roy. i’ll be happy if you reply me soon.
    thank you.
    VANDE MATRAM
    shaurya

  13. senthil / Aug 24 2009 12:30 pm

    Hi,

    Can i get the book in pdf?

    Also i heard, that ananda math was written to free india from muslim occupation too.. is it true?

  14. krish / Aug 24 2010 5:36 pm

    what is the theme of the movie anand math

  15. dc / Oct 31 2011 1:26 pm

    anyone plzzzz give me the link of the pdf in bengali

  16. Denice Amo / Dec 23 2011 6:04 pm

    Thanks for this wonderful post. I really like the content material you put up on your website. Added to my bookmarks for future visits. http://www.stylebible.ph/forum/index.php?topic=78056.0

  17. Deshpande Umakant / Aug 6 2013 11:14 am

    Dear, Can you tell me where i will get this book eihter on line or hard copy.
    And let me know in how many langue it is available.

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