Rajmohan's Wife, the first Indian novel in English, was written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in 1864.
Rajmohan's Wife was published in 1864 as a serial novel in a weekly periodical, the Indian Field. (Image downloaded from Google Images.)
By Mithu Das March 28, 2017
Born in a Brahmin family in 1838 and grew up speaking Bengali, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had had a big interest in the Sanskrit language as well as in English. A literary genius, Chatterjee started writing verse when he was in high school. He wrote his first novel—Rajmohan's Wife—in English language, when he was 26. By writing the novel, however, Chatterjee could have probably no idea at the time what a significant contribution he was going to make to the world of Anglo-Indian Literature. Today, Rajmohan's Wife is proved the first Indian novel in English. It was published, in 1864, as a serial novel in a weekly periodical, the Indian Field. However, after writing this novel Chatterjee immediately switched to Bengali language and never wrote in English again. The Oxford Companion to English Literature considers Rajmohan's Wife to be "a poor melodramatic thing", although "For 70 years there was no English-language fiction of quality".
The story of Rajmohan's Wife is about a brave woman Matangini who risks her own life to save her sister's family from a pre-planned attack by her own husband Rajmohan. An excerpt from the book: "She took very little time to finish the process usually so elaborate with womankind; a dish of water, a tin-framed looking-glass three inches wide, and a comb matching it sufficed for the task. Then, a little vermilion adorned her forehead. Last of all some betel leaves dyed her lips. Thus armed, a formidable champion of the world-conquering sex set out with a pitcher in her arm and pushing open the wattled gate of a neighbouring house entered within it."
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee will always be remembered for his outstanding contribution towards Bengali Literature. He had written more than a dozen of novels, several essays, religious articles and poems in Bengali language. The National song of India Vande Mataram has been taken from his famous book Anandamath (1882). According to Rabindranath Tagore, Chatterjee is one of saviours of the early modern Bengali Literature. Tagore writes: 'Raja Rammohun Roy saved it from submersion by laying the foundation of Bengali literature on a granite base. Bankim Chandra raised it by silting layers upon layers of his vigrous talents making it not only livable but a land abounding in harvestable greens ...'
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