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Chitranjan Das










Among the famous men who shaped the destiny of the Indian struggle for freedom, Chittaranjan Das ranks as one of the most outstanding and prominent patriots who sacrificed his all for the country's cause. His countrymen hailed him as a ‘Deshbandhu’ (Friend of the Country) because he declared in 1905: "If I die in this work of winning freedom, I believe I shall be born in this country again and again, live for it, hope for it, work for it with all the energy of my life, with all the love of my nature till I see the fulfilment of my hope and the realisation of this idea".

Chittaranjan Das (C R Das) (1870-1925), a landmark figure in the history of India's struggle for freedom, was indeed an 'Apostle of Indian Nationalism'. A political leader, lawyer, poet and journalist, C R Das, was born on November 15, 1870 in Calcutta. He was the eldest son of Bhuban Mohan Das and Nistarini Devi. The Das family was one of the most distinguished and cultured in Bengal and belonged to that sect of reformed Hindus known as the 'Brahmo Samaj'. Bhuban Mohan Das was a solicitor by profession and an amateur journalist and poet. It is not therefore surprising that Chittaranjan Das's journalistic and poetic leanings were inherited from his father.

CR Das was a distinguished Bengali poet. He established his reputation as a great poet in 1913 after the publication of the first two volumes of his poems 'Malancha' and the 'Mala'. According to many literary critics, CR Das has an abiding place in Bengali literature.

In 1913, learning that Sri Aurobindo in self imposed exile in Pondicherry was in dire financial need, Deshbandhu Chittranjan Das offered him Rs. 1000 in exchange for a translation of his Book of Poems called Sagar-Sangit (Sea-Songs). Sri Aurobindo agreed to translate the poems of CR Das into English and completed it in 1913 itself. This English translation of the poems of CR Das along with his other writings was, eventually was published, by Ganesh and Co., Madras, in 1923.

Twenty-five years later Sri Aurobindo wrote of his English rendering of CR Das’s Bengali poems: “I was not... self-moved to translate this work, however beautiful I found it: I might even be accused of having written the translation as a pot-boiler, for Das knowing my impecunious and precarious situation at Pondicherry offered me Rs. 1,000 for the work. Nevertheless I tried to give his beautiful Bengali lines as excellent a shape of English poetry as I could manage.”

I am presenting below Shri.Aurobindo’s English Translation of Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das’s Poem in Bengali titled Sagar Sangeet (Songs of the Sea)

Songs of the Sea (1870-1925)

O thou unhoped-for elusive wonder of the skies...

I lean to thee a listening ear...

Long gazing on this dawn and restless sea...

The flute of dawn has rung out on the sea...

Upon what bosom shall I lay my bliss...

Dawn has become to me a golden fold...

Behold, the perfect-gloried dawn has come...

I have no art of speech, no charm of song...

All day within me only one music rings...

What is this play thou playest with my life...

My heart wings restless with this music's pain...

O painter, thou thy marvellous art didst use...

O now today like a too brilliant dream...

The day is filled with clouds and dusk and grey...

Today the heavens are sealed with clouds and blind...

This is not now the lyre's melodious stream...

When thy enormous wind has filled my breast...

O high stark Death, ascetic proud and free...

O loud blind conqueror, stay thy furious car...

Thou hast come back, O Lord! this soul, thy sky...

The light of the young dawn round every limb...

O today in heaven there rings high a mournful strain...

Sleep, sleep through clouded moons, O sea, at last...

Where have I seen thee? where have clasped thy hand...

None is awake in all the world but I...

The sun has not yet risen. Luring night...

The sunbeams fall and kiss thy lips and gleam...

Nay, nay, let be! O not today that sound...

How many aeons hast thou flowed like this...

What years, what clime, what dim and distant shore...

My sleepless midnight thou hast filled indeed...

Lighting small lamps and in a little room...

Evening has not descended yet, fast sets the sun...

In this hushed evening on thy billows grey...

Evening has fallen upon the world; its fitting tone...

The great heaven have no voice, the world is lying still...

O by long prayer, by hard attempt have bloomed two flowers, thy eyes...

Here there is light, - is it darkness on thy farther shore...

Burns on that other shore the mystic light...

This shore and that shore, - I am tired, they pall...

Paying a fitting tribute, Dr J C Ghosh has rightly observed: “C R Das never regarded poetry as his calling, but there can be no doubt that some of his poems will find an abiding place in Bengali literature. Though very few of his poems touch the highest watermark of genius, there are very few poets in Bengal, leaving out Tagore, whose average performance sustains such a high level as Chittaranjan's. His poems possess the additional interest of a highly illuminating spiritual documentary.”

As a Lawyer, C R Das first came into prominence in 1908 as Counsel for Defence in the trial of Aurobindo Ghose, the Editor of the 'Bande Mataram'. The partition of Bengal in 1905 had let loose a tremendous wave of nationalist agitation and revolutionary activity and the Government resorted to unusual repressive measures. The Bande Mataram was the foremost nationalist paper of the day, and Aurobindo Ghose was tried on the charge of sedition before the Chief Presidency Magistrate of Calcutta. This was the turning point in his career and this case brought C R Das to the forefront both professionally and politically. Aurobindo Ghose was honourably acquitted.

This is how C R Das concluded his defence of Aurobindo in 1909; it was a unique blend of passion and argument and masterly prose: 'Long after this controversy is hushed in silence, long after this turmoil ceases, long after Aurobindo Ghose is dead and gone, he will be looked upon as the poet of patriotism, as the prophet of nationalism and the lover of humanity. Long after the mortal in him has perished, his words will be echoed and re-echoed across distant seas and lands'.

Aurobindo Ghose, the Mother, the Aurobindo Ashram and Pondicherry have all become household words and names in all the continents today as rightly prophesied by the supremely clairvoyant Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das in 1908.

The next landmark case which C R Das handled was the Manicktolla Bomb Case, one of the most sensational political trials in modern Indian history. Following a bomb outrage in Muzaffarpur, the police unearthed a bomb factory in Manicktolla, a suburb of Calcutta. 36 Bengali youths, including Aurobindo Ghose and his brother were tried in this case. C R Das endeared himself to the heart of nationalist Bengal. From this time onwards, he became the richest lawyer in India earning a massive amount of more than 50,000 Pounds per year.

CR Das came to nationalist politics early in the twentieth century. He was associated with the revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samiti.

As a co-worker of Surendranath Banerjea (1848-1925), Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) and Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950), he utilised the issue of the Partition of Bengal (1905) for expanding the revolutionary activities in Bengal to drive the English out of India. C R Das closely associated himself with the rising tide of new nationalism that was set in motion by the partition of Bengal and with its two new media organs, The New India and Bande Mataram.

CR Das also joined the Indian National Congress as a delegate in 1906. He took no active part in politics till 1917, when he was invited to preside over the Bengal Provincial Conference of the Congress Party at Bhawanipur in 1917 in Calcutta. His connection with politics which began in this way continued uninterrupted until his death in 1925. His presidential address before the Bengal Provincial Conference was more in the nature of a sentimental rhapsody than a considered political speech. He painted a highly romantic picture of Bengal's golden past and attributed the present suffering of the people to their fall from the spiritual ideals of ancient India and to their blind adoption of the materialist values of the West. He suggested as remedies, village reconstruction, return to the soil and the renouncing of industrialism.



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