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Michael Madhusudan Dutta

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Michael Madhusudan Dutta

Michael Madhusudan Dutt
Michael Madhusudan Dutt
Born (1824-01-25)25 January 1824
Jessore, British India
Died 29 June 1873(1873-06-29) (aged 49)
Calcutta, British India
Occupation Writer
Ethnicity Bengali
Genres Poet, playwright
Subjects Literature
Literary movement Bengal Renaissance
Spouse(s) Rebecca Mactavys
Henrietta Sophia White (m. 1856–1873)
Children Napoleon

Michael Madhusudan Dutt, or Michael Madhusudan Dutta (cantos and is exceptional in Bengali literature both in terms of style and content. He also wrote poems about the sorrows and afflictions of love as spoken by women.

From an early age, Dutt aspired to be an Englishman in form and manner. Born to a Hindu landed-gentry family, he converted to Christianity as a young man, to the ire of his family, and adopted the first name Michael. In later life he regretted his attraction to England and the Occident. He wrote ardently of his homeland in his poems and sonnets from this period.

Dutt is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets in Bengali literature and the father of the Bengali sonnet. He pioneered what came to be called amitrakshar chhanda (blank verse). Dutt died in Kolkata, India on 29 June 1873.[3]

Early life and education

His childhood education started in a village named Shekpura, at an old mosque, where he went to learn Persian. He was an exceptionally talented student. Since his childhood, Dutt was recognised by his teachers and professors as being a precocious child with a gift of literary expression. He was very imaginative. Early exposure to English education and European literature at home and in Kolkata inspired him to emulate the English in taste, manners and intellect. An early influence was his teacher, Capt. D.L.Richardson at Hindu College. Dutt adopted his support of Thomas Babington Macaulay without realising it.

He dreamt of achieving great fame if he went abroad. His adolescence, coupled with the spirit of intellectual enquiry, convinced him that he was born on the wrong side of the planet, and that conservative Hindu society in early nineteenth-century Bengal (and by extension Indian society) had not yet developed the spirit of rationalistic enquiry and appreciation of greater intellectualism to appreciate him. He believed that the "free thinking" and post-Enlightenment West would be more receptive to his creative genius. He composed his early works—poetry and drama—almost entirely in English. His early works: plays including Sormistha and Ratnavali; translations such as Neel Durpan; and poems, including Captive Ladie, which was written about the mother of his close friend Sri Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, indicate a high level of intellectual sophistication.[4][5]

In his own words

Madhusudan embraced Christianity[6] at the church of Fort William in spite of the objections of his parents and relatives on 9 February 1843. Later, he escaped to Madras to avoid persecution. He describes the day as:

On the eve of his departure to England:

(Translated from the original Bengali by the poet.)

Literary life


Dutt was particularly inspired by both the life and work of the English Romantic poet Lord Byron. Dutt was a spirited bohemian and Romantic. Dutt's heroic epic was Meghnadh Badh Kabya, although his journey to publication and recognition was far from smooth. However, with its publication, the Indian poet distinguished himself as a serious composer of an entirely new genre of heroic poetry, that was Homeric and Dantesque in technique and style, and yet so fundamentally Indian in theme. To cite the poet himself: "I awoke one morning and found myself famous." Nevertheless, it took a few years for this epic to win recognition all over the country.

Linguistic abilities

Madhusudan was a gifted linguist and polyglot.

Work with the sonnet

He dedicated his first sonnet to his friend Rajnarayan Basu, which he accompanied with a letter: "What say you to this, my good friend? In my humble opinion, if cultivated by men of genius, our sonnet in time would rival the Italian."[7]

When Dutt later stayed in Versailles, the sixth centenary of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri was being celebrated all over Europe. He composed a poem in honour of the poet, translated it into French and Italian, and sent it to the king of Italy. Victor Emmanuel II, then monarch, liked the poem and wrote to Dutt, saying, "It will be a ring which will connect the Orient with the Occident."[8]

Work in blank verse

Sharmistha (spelt as Sermista in English) was Dutt's first attempt at blank verse in Bengali literature. Kaliprasanna Singha organised a felicitation ceremony to Madhusudan to mark the introduction of blank verse in Bengali poetry.

Praising Dutt's blank verse, Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, observed: "As long as the Bengali race and Bengali literature would exist, the sweet lyre of Madhusudan would never cease playing."[this quote needs a citation] He added: "Ordinarily, reading of poetry causes a soporific effect, but the intoxicating vigour of Madhusudan's poems makes even a sick man sit up on his bed."[this quote needs a citation]

In his The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Nirad C. Chaudhuri has remarked that during his childhood days in Kishoreganj, a common standard for testing guests' erudition in the Bengali language during family gatherings was to require them to recite the poetry of Dutt, without an accent.

In France

At the time of his trip to Versailles during the 1860s, Dutt was suffering poverty. His Indian friends had encouraged him to go to Europe for recognition, but they began to ignore him after his departure. He was used to a lavish lifestyle and his hostility to native tradition put off erstwhile supporters. Perhaps his choice of a lavish lifestyle, coupled with a big ego that was openly hostile to native tradition, was partly to blame for his financial ruin. Except for a very few well-wishers, he had to remain satisfied with many fair-weather friends. It may be argued, not without some obvious irony that during those days, his life oscillated, as it were, between the Scylla of stark poverty and the Charybdis of innumerable loans. He was head over heels in debt. As he was not in a position to clear off his debts, he was very often threatened by imprisonment. Dutt was able to return home only due to the munificent generosity of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. For this, Dutt was to regard Vidyasagar as Dayar Sagar (meaning the ocean of kindness) for as long as he lived. Madhusudan had cut off all connections with his parents, relatives and at times even with his closest friends, who more often than not were wont to regard him as an iconoclast and an outcast. It was during the course of his sojourn in Europe that Dutt realised his true identity.

He wrote to his friend Gour Bysack from France:

Marriage and family

Dutt had refused to enter into an arranged marriage which his father had decided for him. He had no respect for that tradition and wanted to break free from the confines of caste-based endogamous marriage. He formed the Brahmo Samaj for reform in conservative Hindu religion which became a becon of reform among Hindus His knowledge of the European tradition convinced him of the superiority of marriages made by mutual consent (or love marriages).

Dutt married twice. While living in Madras, he married Rebecca Mactavys, of English descent. They had four children together. He wrote to Gour in December 1855:

Dutt returned from Madras to Calcutta in February 1856, after his father's death. There he married Henrietta Sophia White, who was also ethnic English. His second marriage lasted until the end of his life. They had a son Napoleon and daughter Sharmistha.

The tennis player Leander Paes is a direct descendant of his.


দাঁড়াও পথিক-বর, জন্ম যদি তব
বঙ্গে! তিষ্ঠ ক্ষণকাল! এ সমাধিস্তলে
(জননীর কোলে শিশু লভয়ে যেমতি
বিরাম) মহীর পদে মহানিদ্রাবৃত
দত্তোকুলোদ্ভব কবি শ্রীমধুসূদন!
যশোরে সাগরদাঁড়ি কবতক্ষ-তীরে
জন্মভূমি, জন্মদাতা দত্ত মহামতি
রাজনারায়ণ নামে, জননী জাহ্নবী

Recitation Of Madhusudan Dutt's Samadhi in Bengali
File:Madhusudan samadhi.ogg
A 33 second sample recitation of poetry Samadhi

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Legacy and honours

Dutt was largely ignored for 15 years after his death.[10] The belated tribute was a tomb erected at his gravesite.

His epitaph, a verse of his own, reads:

Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar said:

In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

Major works

  • Tilottama, 1860
  • Meghnad Bodh Kavya (Ballad of Meghnadh's demise), 1861
  • Birangana
  • Choturdoshpodi kobitaboli
  • Brajangngana
  • Sharmishtha
  • Ekei Ki Bole Sovyota (Is this is called a civilisation)
  • Buro Shaliker Ghare Rown
  • Ratnavali
  • Rizia, the sultana of Inde.
  • The Captive Lady
  • Visions of the Past
  • Rosalo Sornolatika
  • Bongobani
  • Sonnets and other poems

Further reading

  • Ghulam, Murshid. Lured by Hope. Trans. Majumdar, Gopa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0195653629 – Gopa Majumdar's translation of Ashar Chalane Bhuli
  • Clinton Seely (2004). xvi, 238 pp. $29.95 (cloth).. The Journal of Asian Studies, 63, pp 830–831 10.1017/S002191180400213X
  • Roy, Pinaki. “Extravagant Genius: Michael Madhusudan Dutt and his Oeuvre”. Indian Poetry in English: Critical Essays. Ed. Mitra, Z. New Delhi: Prentice Hall, 2012 (ISBN 978-81-203-4571-3). Pp. 15–30.


External links

  • Hindu School, Kolkata - Web Site

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