To become a perfect human being one needs to be
1) Embodiment of the past
2) Product of the present
3) Prophet of the future
Subhas Chandra Bose - Early Life
On 23rd January, 1897, a few days after Swami Vivekananda, the lion of Vedanta, set his foot on Indian soil, back from his triumphant world tour, another star was born in the Oriya Bazar in Cuttack who would be an embodiment of Swamiji's ideals. He was born at about 12 PM, to Janakinath Bose, who was to become a Rai Bahadur, and Prabhavati Devi, belonging to the erstwhile Datta family of Hatkhola, a well known family in Calcutta. He was the ninth of the fourteen children and was the sixth of the eight sons. Janakinath Bose was a well established lawyer practising in the bar of the court of Cuttack. His family hailed from the village Kodalia in South Bengal.
Let us hear from Subhas himself what he has to say about his family - excerpts taken from the book An Indian Pilgrim. "My father, Janakinath Bose, had migrated to Orissa in the eighties of the last (nineteenth) century and had settled down in Cuttack as a lawyer. There I was born on Saturday, the 23rd January, 1897. My father was descended from the Boses of Mahinagar, while my mother Prabhavati, belonged to the family of the Dutts of Hatkhola." "Ours was not a rich but what might be regarded as a well to do middle class family, " he continues. "I used to feel like a thoroughly insignificant being. My parents awed me to a degree. My father usually had a cloak of reserve round him and kept his children at a distance. What with his professional work and what with his public duties, he did not have much time for his family."
The founder of the Dakshin Rari clan of the Kayastha Bose's was one Dasarath Bose. One of the descendants of Dasarath was Mukti Bose, who resided in Mahinagar village. One of his descendants was Mahipati, who was conferred the title of Subuddhi Khan by the then sultan of Goud province. One of his grandsons, Gopinath Bose, was a minister of Sultan Hussain Shah (1494 to 1519 A.D). He was given the title of Purandar Khan, and was a very famous person during his time. Janakinath was the son of Haranath Bose. He was a completely self made man. He rose from abject poverty to become a successful attorney in the Bar of Cuttack. He married Prabhavati Devi who belonged to a more well to do family of Calcutta. After marriage Janaki's fortune soared. In 1901 Janaki Bose was elected as the Chairman of the Cuttack municipality. By 1905 he became the Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor. In 1912 he became a member of Bengal legislative council and received the title of Rai Bahadur. In 1930 he renounced that title in protest against the British Government's repressive measures. He would breath his last in another three years.
In the words of a great man who was possibly narrating Subhas's birth story in his own words in the book Oi Mahamanab Ase, "I have had been a Sannyasin from birth. I heard them say that I was born in AJAPA YOGA. From my childhood I began hearing and perusing scriptures. My most and only beloved mother was a direct initiated disciple of Paramhansa Deva. By every suck of her breast, through every kiss of her caresses, touches, tender looks and words, the Tattwa-Shakties of the Divine Mother flowed in and filled me. My father gave into me thoroughness and strength in service to others and fighting activeness."
A trait of Janakinath was that he was extremely compassionate and used to donate a large amount of money to the poor and needy. In his ancestral village he developed several facilities for the poor. In this respect of kindness we find a parallel with another great father, Biswanath Datta, who was the father of Narendranath Datta, in later days who came to be known as Swami Vivekananda. The two greatest sons of Bengal had an uncanny resemblance in terms of parentage. But there were differences too. Janakinath was spiritual minded in contrast with a more materialistic Biswanath Datta. He took initiation twice. He was simple and austere in his lifestyle. Prabhavati's grandfather Kashinath Datta was a scholar. One of his sons in law was Hariballav Bose, a cousin of Balaram Bose, a direct householder disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. Prabhavati was the eldest daughter of Ganganarayan Datta.
Subhas Chandra Bose's eldest brother was Satish Chandra Bose, who was a barrister. The second elder Sarat Chandra Bose, his "Mejda", was the nearest and dearest to him. He went to England in 1912 to become a barrister and practised law in Calcutta High Court. Later he plunged into politics and became a member of Swaraj party and thereafter joined Congress. He spent many years in prison while agitating alongside Subhas. His wife Bibhavati Devi was very close to Subhas. Subhas's "sejda" or the third elder brother Suresh, was a deputy magistrate in Orissa. In 1956 Suresh Bose was nominated as one of the members of the Shah Nawaz Committee formed to probe the death or disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose and he submitted his dissentient report against the conclusions of the committee. Slightly elder brother Sunil Bose was a cardiologist. After Subhas there were two more sons of Janakinath - Sailesh Chandra Bose and Santosh Chandra Bose.
Janaki Nath Bose - father of Subhas Chandra Bose (source: wikimedia commons)
Family of Subhas Bose along with his siblings - Subhas standing on the extreme right
Prabhavati Devi - mother of Subhas Chandra Bose who belonged to the famous Datta family of Hatkhola, to whom a young Subhas Chandra wrote a most touching letter about his country's problems and his realization (translated from original Bengali) - "Mother, India is God's very own country. In this country God has incarnated in every age for teaching mankind, has sanctified the sinful world, and has planted the seed of Truth and Virtue in the heart of every Indian. That's why mother, I say that God loves India whole heartedly. In this country you will get whatever you want..."
In his book 'An Indian Pilgrim", Subhas describes vividly his psychology as a child, how he was awed by his parents and was feeling left out in a large family of numerous brothers and sisters. On the other hand, he argued, that in a large family one develops "sociability, and overcomes self-centredness and angularity." He had to live with his uncles and cousins who paid visits to Cuttack and stayed in the house of Janakinath. Even distant relatives hailing from the village would find a place there. There were a number of dependents and servants as well, and a large representation of the animal world consisting of the cows, horses, goats, sheep, deer, peacock, birds, mongoose etc. Servants formed an integral part of the household. Subhas's nurse was called Sarada, who took utmost care of him. When he was five years old, he was admitted to Protestant European or P.E school. On the very first day Subhas had an accident. He fell down and had an injury. But the very next day his intense desire to go to a school materialized. The P.E school was mostly for the Europeans and Anglo Indians and there were very few Indian students. His other brothers and sisters also studied in this school, possibly because they could be able to learn English faster and better. The Headmaster Mr. Young did not have any respect for the local culture and language. The school predominantly tried to impose the Christian and European culture on its students. No vernacular subjects were studied. The major advantage of studying in such a school was to imbibe the culture of punctuality and discipline, of cleanliness and personal hygiene. Among the teachers young Subhas only liked Miss Lawrence who had a sympathetic attitude. Other teachers were barely tolerable. Everything that was taught pertained to European culture, history, geography and norms. Nothing about India was taught. But there were certain discriminations against Indians, like they were not allowed to sit in the scholarship examinations. Young Subhas did not have any hostile attitude against the school authorities but he was somehow not feeling comfortable. Therefore he decided to leave the school in 1909 and joined Ravenshaw Collegiate school in Cuttack. While studying here he came under the influence of two great men who were to influence and shape his life in the coming years - his headmaster Benimadhab Das, an ardent Nationalist, through his personality and teachings, and Swami Vivekananda, the gigantic spiritual leader of India, through his works.
Benimadhab Das was born in 1866 in Chattagram of erstwhile East Bengal, now Bangladesh. He was a renowned teacher and scholar. He had joined Ravenshaw Collegiate School as a Headmaster. Influenced by Keshab Chandra Sen, the founder of Nababidhan Brahma Samaj, a reformist spiritual organization, he had joined Brahma Samaj. However he was a patriot above everything else. He taught history and philosophy to his students. He was the proud father of two great revolutionary daughters - Kalyani and Bina, of whom Bina rose into fame by shooting at Governor Stanley Jackson in 1932.
Swami Vivekananda was the disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, the famous sage and saint of Bengal who attained enlightenment in almost all religious disciplines and practices, while living as a temple priest in Dakshineswar. Swami Vivekananda was the founder of the Vedanta Societies and the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, the spiritual and service wings of the Belur Math, Head Quarters of the Ramakrishna Order. In his short life span the spiritual giant had left an indelible imprint in the history of mankind by being the chief orator in the Parliament of Religion in Chicago, and by his teachings of Vedanta in the Western world as the first Hindu spiritual teacher in the West. He had influenced and inspired many thinking minds of nineteenth and twentieth centuries like Romaine Rolland, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Prof. William James, Tolstoy, Prof. Maxmueller, Nicola Tesla, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Huston Smith, and J.D Salinger among others. Vivekananda infused the spirit of patriotism among the Indian youth and gave a clarion call to "Arise, Awake and Stop not, till the Goal is reached."
The three teachers of Subhas Chandra - from right Benimadhab Das, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa & Swami Vivekananda: Courtesy Wikimedia commons
Subhas noticed some perceptible differences in the new school. He was all along a good student. But now his fellow students had begun to respect him on account of his family, which was unthinkable in a European school. On the very first day he was humiliated on account of his zero knowledge of Sanskrit, by his Pandit, but just six months down the line he silenced his critics by becoming first in Sanskrit and Bengali. His only rival in this school was his fellow student Charu Chandra, who was also a good friend. Subhas was not interested in sports but he had a knack for gardening. Among his teachers, who were both Bengali and Oriya, Subhas was particularly influenced by Benimadhab Das. Through the shining example of the purity of his own personal life Benimadhab taught his students that moral principles were of the highest value in life. A staunch Brahmo and a follower of Keshab Chandra Sen, the Brahmo Samaj leader, Benimadhab imbibed in Subhas a spirit of love for the country, its culture and its people in its entirety. His life was an example to his students - straight, pious, detached, yet loving, compassionate and friendly to the students, with a depth of knowledge in the subject he taught. He could arouse interest in his students about the subjects and thus became very popular among them.
Because of his political ideals that were not liked by some of the British subjects, Benimadhab was given a transfer order from Cuttack. His students were heart broken. More so was Subhas, who cried profusely that day. "Master moshai had the greatest influence on me. Reason being, he turned around my life. Concentration, loving nature and deriving strength from it, all are his teachings", said a great man in his later years. However, the worship of the nature did not give him lasting peace. he was looking for a permanent ideal, and all of a sudden he got it. One of his relatives, Suhrit Chandra Mitra had come to Cuttack. In his house Subhas discovered a set of Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. The Headmaster had aroused in him a love for the nature, for the nation and for the moral principles. But he had not been able to kindle the light of spirituality that was dormant all along. Vivekananda, one of the greatest teachers, did ignite the fire in young Subhas. His lectures and letters inspired Subhas and he could understand that the main theme of his teaching was serving the God in all beings and in the process manifesting the divinity within. Vivekananda also inspired him to serve the motherland by serving its people - the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. By the age of fifteen Subhas had got his life's mission decided. Vivekananda became his ideal, nay, even his passion. From Vivekananda he discovered his guru Sri Ramakrishna and the latter's intense hunger for God realization. He might have already read "Ramakrishna Kathamrita" or the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, and imbibed some of his teachings. Ramakrishna's simple teachings of renunciation of lust and greed, God realization as the goal of human life, and his intense love and yearning for God, touched Subhas deeply. This teaching was to become the bedrock of his life, even in his later years when he was in the middle of a combative and intensely turbulent life. Within a few months Subhas had developed a circle of devotees of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda. They discussed the ideals, the philosophy, and formed a study group. This led to inevitable frictions with the family and caused great pain to him. But he remained rock solid to his ideals.
The individual must die, so that the nation may live. Today I must die, so that India may live and may win freedom and glory.