Friday, September 9, 2011

Indian Literature ;Derozio (contd-3)

Early life of Derozio (1809-1831):The son of Francis Derozio, he was born at Entally-Padmapukur in Kolkata on 18 April 1809. He attended David Drummond's Dhurramtallah Academy school, where he was a star pupil, reading widely on topics like the French revolution and Robert Burns. Drummond, "a dour Scotsman, an exile and a 'notorious free thinker'",[1] instilled in him a passion for learning and superstition-free rational thinking, in addition to a solid grounding in history, philosophy and English literature.
He quit school at the age of 14 and initially joined his father’s concern at Kolkata and later shifted to Bhagalpur. Inspired by the scenic beauty of the banks of the River Ganges, he started writing poetry. Some of these were published in Dr. Grant's India Gazette. His critical review of a book by Emmanuel Kant attracted the attention of the intelligentsia. In 1828, he went to Kolkata with the objective of publishing his long poem - Fakir of Jhungeera. On learning that a faculty position was vacant at the newly established Hindu College, he applied for it and was selected.
This was the time when Hindu society in Bengal was undergoing considerable turmoil. In 1828, Raja Ram Mohan Roy established the Brahmo Samaj
, which kept Hindu ideals but denied idolatry. This resulted in a backlash within orthodox Hindu society. It is in the perspective of these changes that Derozio was appointed at Hindu college, where he helped released the ideas for social change already in the air.
A Eurasian poet, rationalist thinker and teacher. Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was appointed a teacher of the Calcutta hindu college in May 1826 at the young age of seventeen. The subjects he taught were English literature and history and his mode of teaching was as unconventional as were his ideas. In fact, Derozio's activities as a teacher were not confined to the classrooms. He was ever willing to converse with his students even outside the College premises, frequently at his own residence, on any matter which aroused their interests. In fact, his discourses covered a wide range of subjects- literature, history, philosophy and science.
Soon he was able to arouse in them so much enthusiasm that in 1828 he helped them in establishing a literary and debating club of their own known as the Academic Association, which provided a common meeting ground outside the restrictions of the classroom where young men under his guidance could discuss freely the various topics that absorbed their attention. The Academic Association was a successful venture and its fortnightly meetings, which were held at a garden house at Manicktola, were attended by a large number of students and some liberal-minded and philanthropic Europeans.
Henry Derozio
Its success encouraged students to establish similar societies in various parts of Calcutta. Although Derozio was president of the Academic Association, he was also connected with most of the other societies as a member and took active interest in their activities.
Derozio's teachings promoted a critical outlook among his students who began to express doubt and dissatisfaction with the existing order. Influenced by the rationalist philosophy of David Hume and Jeremy Bentham and radical thinkers like Thomas Paine, they had begun to measure everything with the yardstick of reason. Towards religion their attitude was Voltairean. They did not hesitate to denounce openly the Hindu religion.
Derozio's teachings produced great commotion in the Hindu society. He was accused of promoting heresy among his students most of whom came from orthodox Hindu families. The matter was brought to the notice of the Managing Committee of the Hindu College, which was dominated by conservative Hindus led by Raja radhakanta deb (1784-1867). Derozio was dismissed from the Hindu College in April 1831. His dismissal, however, did not curb the radical movement. In fact, Derozio had now more freedom than before to express his ideas. Nor did he loose contact with his students.
Derozio was also actively involved in promoting the welfare of his Eurasian community, and had begun editing a daily English newspaper, The East Indian. He now encouraged some of his young Hindu disciples to take to journalism and disseminate their radical ideas through this important medium. Thus, Krishnamohan Benerji had started in May 1831 an English weekly newspaper, The Enquirer, and in the following month Dakshinaranjan Mukherji and Rasik Krishna Mallick began to publish a Bengali (later also English) newspaper, the Jnananvesan. Through these journals, apparently conducted under Derozio's guidance, the young radicals launched bitter attacks upon Hindu conservatism.
The sudden death of Derozio in December 1831 gave a severe blow to the cause of the radicals. Nevertheless, the spirit of enlightenment which this remarkable teacher had kindled in the minds of his young Hindu students continued to inspire succeeding generations and left a permanent impact on the social outlook of the Bengali Hindu community.