Sree Aurobindo returned from England to India on or about February, 1893. He had been in England for 14 years (1879-93). He was taken to England when he was only seven years old. After returning to India, Aurobindo wrote several series of articles: "New Lamps for Old", in the Indu Prakash, from August 7, 1893 till March, 1894.
Bankim died on April 8,1894.
So, the first year of Aurobindo after his return to India was the last year of Bankim's life.
In the series "New Lamps for Old" Aurobindo devoted himself to attack the "medicant policy" of the Congress. He also attacked the "bourgeois" politics of the Congress and advocated the uplift of the "proletariate": he introduced a socialist programme. He also suggested that like the French Revolution, unless there is"purification by blood and fire", the nation will not get the desired end- Freedom. .
Aurobindo's criticism had its effect not so much upon the Government itself, as on the Bombay moderates. Mr. Justice Ranade had Aurobindo called before him and asked him to discontinue his attack on the Congress. Aurobindo had been carrying on the attack for eight months and he acceded to Mr. Ranade's request and gave up writing against the Congress (March, 1894). In the next month, Bankim died (April 8, 1894).
About three months after Bankim's death Aurobindo wrote in the Indu Prakash seven articles on Bankim Chandra Chatterji (July 16- August 27, 1894). This serial of the seven articles on Bankim was a discovery made for me by the Hon' ble Justice Mr. K. C. Sen of the Bombay High Court in 1940-41. The articles were: "Youth to College Life" (July 16); "The Bengal he lived in", (July 23) ; "His Official Career" (July, 30) ; "His versatility" (August, 6); "His literary history" (August 13); "What he did for Bengal" (August 20) and "Our hope in the future" (August 27) ; three articles in July ; four in August, 1894. These articles clearly prove that Bankim had a great influence on Aurobindo. Let me quote a few passages from these articles.:
"More difficulties enter into any, comparison of him (Bankim) with the best English novelists; yet I thiuk he stands higher than any of them, except one; in certain qualities of each he may fall short, but his sum of qualities is greater; and he has this supreme advantage over that he is a more faultless artist. In his life and fortunes, and sometimes even in his character, he bears a striking resemblance to the father of English fiction, Henry Fielding; but the literary work of the two men moves upon different planes. Philosophical culture and deep feeling for the poetry of life and unfailing sense of beauty are distinguishing marks of Bankim's style; they find no place in Fielding's. Again, Bankim, after a rather silly fashion of speaking now greatly in vogue, has been pointed out by some as the Scott of Bengallt is a marvellous thing that the people who misuse this phrase as an encomium, cannot understand that it conveys an insult. They would have us imagine that one of the most perfect and original of novelists is a mere replica of a faulty and incomplete Scotch author! Scott had many marvellous and unique gifts, but his defects are at least as striking. His style is never quite sure; indeed, except in his inspired moments, he has no style: his Scotch want of humour is always militating against his power of vivid incident; his characters, and chiefly those in whom he should interest us most, are usually very manifest puppets; and they have all this short-coming, that they have no soul; they may be splendid or striking or bold creations, but they live from outside and not from within. Scott could paint outlines, but he could not fill them in. Here Bankim excels; speech and action with him are so closely interpenetrated and suffused with a deeper existence that his characters give us the sense of their being real men and women. Moreover to the wonderful passion and poetry of his finest reactions there are in English fiction, outside the Brontes and the supreme genius, George Meredith, no parallel instances. Insight into the secret of his feminine characters, that is another notable concomittant of the best dramatic power and that too Bankim possesses. Wade as you will through the bog of contemporary fiction, you, will meet no living woman there. Even the novelists of genius stop short at the outside; they cannot find their way into the soul. Here again Fielding fails us; Scott's women are a mere gallery of wax figures, Rebecca herself being no more than a highly coloured puppet; even in Thackeray, the real women are three or four. But the supreme dramatic genius has found out this secret of feminity. Shakespear had it to any degree, and iri our country, Meredith, and among, ourselves Bankim. The social reformer, gazing, of course through that admirable pair of spectacles given to him by the Calcutta University, can find nothing excellent in Hindu life, except its cheapness, or in Hindu Woman, except her subserviency. Beyond this he only sees its narrowness and her ignorance. But Bankim. had the eye of a poet and saw much deeper than this. He saw what was beautiful and sweet and gracious in Hindu life, and what was lovely and noble in Hindu woman, her deep heart of emotion, her steadfastness, tenderness and lovableness, in fact, her woman's souls and all this we find burning in his pages and made diviner by the touch of a poet and an artist. Our social reformers might learn something from Bankim. Their zeal at present is too little ruled by discretion. They are like bad tailors, very clever at spoiling the rich stuff given over to their shaping but quite unable to fit the necessities of the future. They have passed woman through an English crucible and in the place of the old type which, with all its fatal defects, had in it some supreme possibilities, they have turned out a soulless and superficial being fit only for flirtation, match-making and playing on the piano. They seem to have a passion for reforming every good thing out of existence. It is about time that this miserable bungling should stop. Surely it would be possible, without spoiling that divine nobleness of soul to give it a wider culture and mightier channels. So we should have a race of women intellectually as well as emotionally noble, fit to be the mothers not of chatterers and money-makers but of high thinkers and heroic doers.
Of Barikim's style I shall hardly trust myself to speak. To describe its beauty, terseness, strength and sweetness is too high a task for a pen like mine. I will remark this only that what marks Bankim above all, is his unfailing sense of beauty. This is indeed the note of Bengali literature and the one thing that it has gained from close aquiantance with European models. The hideous grotesques of old Hindu Art, the monkey rabble of Ram and the ten heads of Ravan are henceforth impossible to it. The Shakuntala itself is not governed by a more perfect graciousuess of conception or diffused with a more human sweetness than Kopal Kundala and the Poison Tree"
-Bankim Chandra Chatterji: His Literary History; "Indu Prakash",
August 23, 1894. Aurobindo, when he wrote this; was only twenty two years old. Apart from his premature conception of Hindu Art, this is his first admiration of Bankim in the first year after the latter's death. He compares Bankim with the best novelists in English literature and finds him much above them. He also compares Bankim with even Kalidas and calls Bankim a "faultless artist". About Bankim' character Aurobindo writes: "He (Bankim) had been a sensuous youth and a joyous man.
Gifted supremely with the artist's sense for the warmth and beauty of life, he had turned with a smile from the savage austerities of the ascetic and with a shudder from the dreary creed of the puritan."
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