ANANDAMATH – at a first glance, the name sounds familiar even to a person who doesn’t know what it is. Bankim Chandra Chaterjee-the name sounds familiar even to a poor student of History. The song VANDEMATARAM – needs no introduction to any Indian. All the three are linked together in this review of the novel-ANANDAMATH. Ofcourse, I am not sure this can exactly be called a Review. I believe it can be called-My Review. Well, to be frank, though I heard the name for the first time in the school days, I never thought I can see this novel in the market. So, I was shocked finding it in the book stores. I was all too excited when I started reading the book for I knew I was reading one book, a part of which changed the way of our freedom movement and gave us the mantra-VANDEMATARAM.
Well, as far as the story goes, it is about the sanyasi rebellion in Bengal during the 18th century. The punch of the novel lies in its dialogues. It is about driving people in to the rebel movement and propagating that country is above all our family relationships. Set in the backdrop of the Bengal famine of 1772, the story revolves among 6 characters – Bhavan, Shanti, Jiban, Mahendra,Kalyani and Mahatma- the Swamiji. Despite the fact that there is some bit of exaggeration occasionally, the plot is well-etched.
Mahatma is a Sanyasi rebel, plotting against the British. Bhavan and Jiban are his main sub-ordinates. Mahendra is a rich person in his village. Yet, unable to stand against the famine, he and his wife kalyani leave the place and start their journey through a forest along with their young child. In the middle, both part ways…..Kalyani escapes from a band of hungry robbers prepared to eat humans and finally is rescued by Jiban. However, the Bhavan finds the child and gives the child to his sister. In the mean while Mahendra, under a sort of emotional excitement on hearing to the song-Bandemataram, joins the sanyasi rebellion. Shanti, wife of Jiban is a part of the rebel team and the only lady in it. In brief, that is the story. Small and big wars with the local British army, motivation that the rebels get, the sanyasi way of rebellion form a part of the story. However, I don’t know why- may be because of my over-expectation or may be because of an anachronism … at the end of the day, I didn’t cherish it much.
In the context of an intense freedom struggle, this book does make an interesting reading for the readers of that time for it used enough vocabulary and enough dialogues to amplify people’s anger and instigate them in to taking a revolutionary path. But, from a current perspective, I don’t think one can feel the same way as the readers who read it 100 years ago felt. It is a time period specific theme and time period specific writing style. As I went reading the book from page to page, I began getting a feeling that this book is not suited to present day more and more. Whatever might have been the facts, I don’t know..for I didn’t find much data about the sanyasi rebellion, the war sequences between the British and the sanyasis appeared hyperbolised. The sole intention of the book appeared to rise the spirits of the people and to motivate them with inspiring stories of Indian might. So, I felt it was more like a folk lore or mythological than a “political novel” as the back cover of the book claimed.
In one respect, I liked the book. It was the way the dialogues went and the way description went. Everything looked as if it is happening right before us. Ofcourse, those dramatised,hyperbolised scenes went beyond my imagination..thats a different thing. On the whole, the book is good for one-time reading…..and it potrays the situation 100 years ago very well. Good fodder for people inquisitive about the past.
Note: posted in telugupeople.com on 7th Jan 2006.