Source: Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee, “Romesh Chunder Dutt: And the Renewal of Interest in Indian Culture”, Great Men of India, ed. L.F. Rushbrook Williams (The Home Library Club: 1939), 550

Romesh Chunder Dutt

Romesh Chunder Dutt was born in Calcutta on August 13, 1848 at a time of renewed interest in the study of Sanskrit and the basic literature of the Hindu religion and philosophy. From his father, he inherited both a passion for rural life in India and an interest in poetry and literature.

The young Dutt had run away from home to head for England and compete for the Indian Civil Service, fearing that news about his plans would stop his departure. Shortly after his return from London in 1871, he published his first work “Three Years in Europe”.

From 1871 to 1883, he served as a junior officer in the Indian Civil Service in Bengal. In 1883, he was put in charge of the district of Backerganj for two years. Prior to Dutt’s appointment, no Indian had been in charge of a district for a significant length of time. The development of local government especially captured his interest. Though he passionately supported reform, he was also a believer in the principle of “gradualness.” He suggested the establishment of small self-governing bodies. This saw the beginning of the system of “union panchayats” which was adopted in several provinces.

Dutt’s political philosophy was rooted in the belief that the chief need of India was the elevation of the standard of life of the Indian masses. Aware that the vast majority of the population’s livelihoods revolved around agriculture, he devoted his attention mainly to agrarian problems.

At the same time as he was involved in various political endeavours, he also pursued his literary interests. For Dutt, literature was the only medium through which Indians would be able to learn again to believe in themselves. It was with this objective in mind that he published in 1877 a history of the literature of Bengal, which was the first scientific study to examine the intellectual life of Bengal spanning the twelfth century to his time.

Under the influence of Bankim Chatterjee, he was also encouraged to begin writing in his own language. This led to the eventual publication of several novels. In addition, he also translated the Rig Veda, along with the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which he felt were not available to Europeans in a readable form.

After his retirement from the Indian Civil Service, Dutt lived in England for seven years, where he widely spoke on Indian matters, with the objective of winning the sympathy and support of individuals over to the cause of India’s political advancement.

Upon his return to India in 1904, he entered the service of the Baroda State, first as Revenue Minister and later as Dewan. He fell ill during a Vicergal visit to Baroda and died on November 30, 1909.

Source: Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee, “Romesh Chunder Dutt: And the Renewal of Interest in Indian Culture”, Great Men of India, ed. L.F. Rushbrook Williams (The Home Library Club: 1939), 550-561

Works

The Peasantry of Bengal: Being A View of Their Condition Under the Hindu, the Mahomedan, and the English Rule, and a Consideration of the Means Calculated to Improve their Future Prospects (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink & Co.,; London: Trubner & Co., 1874)

A History of Civilization in Ancient India: Based on Sanscrit Literature (Vol. I: Vedic and Epic Ages) (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1889)

A History of Civilization in Ancient India: Based on Sanscrit Literature (Vol. II: Rationalistic Age) (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1889)

A History of Civilization in Ancient India: Based on Sanscrit Literature (Vol. III: Buddhist and Pauranik Ages) (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1890)

Lays of Ancient India: Selections from Indian Poetry Rendered into English Verse (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1894)

The Literature of Bengal: A Biographical and Critical History from the Earliest Times Closing with a Review of Intellectual Progress Under British Rule in India (Calcutta: Thacker Spink & Co.; London: Archibald Constable & Co., 1895)

Three Years in Europe, 1868 to 1871 (Calcutta: S.K. Lahiri & Co., 1896)

Maha-bharata: Epic of the Bharatas (London: Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson, 1898)

The Civilization of India (London: J.M. Dent, 1900)

The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule (Vol. 1) (Great Britain: Kegan Paul, 1902)

The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule (Vol. 2) (Great Britain: Kegan Paul, 1904)

Ancient India: 2000 B.C. – 800 A.D (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1904)

Ideas of IndiaIdeas of India