Madhusudan embraced Christianity at the Old Mission Church in spite of the objections of his parents and relatives on 9 February 1843.
Michael Madhusudan Dutt, the pioneer of Bengali literature, was the popular and important poet and playwright of his times. Bengali literature flourished with his innovations and experimentations of blank verses, sonnet forms and western literary elements in Bengali poetry. He wrote the first epic in Bengali literature.
Born 25 January 1824, in an aristocratic family, with a strong financial background, in Sagordari, a village in Keshabpur Upazila, Jessore District of Undivided Bengal (now Bangladesh), his father was Rajnarayan Dutt, a pleader in the Sudder court, and his mother was Jahnabi Devi.
Education and Conversion To Christianity
As a young student, Dutt was influenced by the thoughts and actions of the Young Bengal – a movement by a group of illustrious former students of the Hindu College (now Presidency College) in Calcutta (now Kolkata) against the atrocities, blind beliefs and customs they held as illogical, prevalent in the Hindu society of 19th century Bengal. Dutta, a student of Hindu College himself, aspired to be an English poet and longed to travel to England to gain fame. When his father, concerned by these trends, arranged his marriage, he rebelled. The major aspect of his rebellion was his conversion to Christianity.
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The major aspect of his rebellion was his conversion to Christianity.
In his own words
Where man in all his truest glory lives,
And nature’s face is exquisitely sweet;
For those fair climes I heave impatient sigh,
There let me live and there let me die.
Madhusudan embraced Christianity at the Old Mission Church in spite of the objections of his parents and relatives on 9 February 1843. He did not take the name Michael until his marriage in 1848.
He describes the day as:
Long sunk in superstition’s night,
By Sin and Satan driven,
I saw not, cared not for the light
That leads the blind to Heaven.
But now, at length thy grace, O Lord!
Birds all around me shine;
I drink thy sweet, thy precious word,
I kneel before thy shrine!
He had to leave Hindu College on account of being a convert. In 1844, he resumed his education at Bishop’s College, where he stayed for three years.
In 1847, he moved to Madras (Chennai) due to severe family tensions and economic hardship, having been disinherited by his father. While in Madras, he stayed in the Black Town neighbourhood, and began working as an “usher” at the Madras Male Orphan Asylum. Four years later, in 1851, he became a Second Tutor in the Madras University High School. In addition, he edited and assisted in editing the periodicals, Madras Circulator and General Chronicle, Athenaeum, Spectator and Hindoo Chronicle.
Madhusudan died on 29 June 1873, in Calcutta General Hospital. Just three days prior to his death, Madhusudan recited a passage from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to his dear friend Bysack, to express his deepest conviction of life:
…out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot,
full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
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