Tarasankar: A Look into the Man

Tarasankar Banerjee: A Great Literary Mind of his TimeTarasankar Banerjee, one of the greatest Indian literary intellectuals of his country, served not only as a turning point for future Indian writers to come, but also as an individual who not only studied history, but also made history too.

" With Manik and Bibhutibhushan, Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay (taaraasha.nkar bandyopaadhyaaY) completes the famous triad of the "Banerjee"s (or Bandyopadhyaays) of Bengali literature. Tarasankar was born in a zamindar family on July 23, 1898 at a village called Labhpur in the district Birbhum of West Bengal. After high school in the village, he went to Calcutta for higher studies. However, because of his associations with the freedom-fighters, the British authority had him interned in his ancestral house on two occasions. Later on, Tarasankar became an active social worker, tirelessly working often for months on end when epidemics ravaged this backward region. Thus he had the opportunity to observe very closely the people in his locality, a majority of whom belonged to the so called lower-strata of the society --- tribals, bagdi, bauri, dom, sadgop, etc. And he did so not from a social distance; Tarasankar's love for this region continued to shine through all his writings even when he had settled in Kolkata, away from his beloved Birbhum. He successfully introduced the regional dialect into his writings. Now Tarasankar's distinctiveness lie in the following: He talked about a rural world- a rural society which was never so largely and so intuitively and so closely ever figured in the writings of Bengali and Indian literature. Prior to him, there were rural Bengal in the writings of Tagore, but in the case of Tarasankar here is a representation of its insider version - someone talking very closely that had never been before conceived of. This subaltern world never figured so positively in the literary imagination of the Bengali elite prior to Tarasankar. It was so long a world of neglect, but Tarasankar gave those poor, silent, mute community a language - a representation - a place of honor- this low order of the society came forward with its greatness and sublimity and distinctiveness. Again this world is not a homogenous world- it is again subdivided- its competitions, its rivalries- its pettiness - it subdivisions - all found their rightful place. Secondly, he provides us the story of a world where the government records could not reach. The future generation of historians should always read for their own needs for reconstructing a world - they would be indebted to him for talking about a world in their own language where the world of official literature e could not reach - he came down to this level where no outsider could reach. Thirdly, he talked about an Indian rural society - its peasantry- its village system- its social structure-its internal system of economic production and the distribution of the rural surplus- with all its complexities- on all India level. He might have talked about rural Bengal only and directly and exclusively - but that story represents the village community- its poetry with different social categories, its artisan class like carpenter, blacksmith,etc - from Peshawar to the Bengal- this village framework more or less remained the same with minor difference here and there. Finally he talked the peasantry - its social divisions and political consciousness- this largest rural group, which was to play a very decisive role in Indian political movement. India got her freedom due to many reasons, one of it was certainly the rise of the peasantry as a major political force in favor a mass movement against the British political domination - this was the age of Gandhi- he could convey the message of peasant mobilization to the wider Indian world.. The message of a new powerful force which had so long remain dormant- This powerful unit when it was awaken, it came forward and fought against the British- their participation in the different phases of the Indian national movement brought about a great change in the Indian national panorama. There is another issue. Indian literary works and masterpieces, classics have their own traditional form and style- Tarasankar could bring this Literary Form- to us. Indian literary is the form of a story telling of the form of Ramayana and Mahabharata- their art of narration is not at per with that of the Western world. Tarasankar did not follow the typical western form of novel. On the contrary, he rediscovers Indian old and traditional story telling fashion of the Katha Saritsagar(Ocean of stories) form. Bankimchandra more or brought the Western forms of novel writing, but in Tarasankar's case that western form was not there. It was born in the Indian soil in the many century past- he talked like any traditional storyteller of the Indian style and form.
A prolific writer of short stories and novels, Tarasankar also wrote two volumes of autobiography and reminiscences: Amar Kaler Katha (Tales of My Times, 1951) and Amar Sahitya Jiban (My Literary Life, 1953). Many films have been based upon his novels, including Abhijan and Jalsaghar ('The Music Room'), both directed by Satyajit Ray.

Tarasankar received the Jnanpith award in 1967 for his novel Ganadevata " - quoted from this web site.