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Home > 2021 > Arabinda Poddar (1920-2021): A Historian of ‘Bengal Renaissance’ | Arup Kumar (...)

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 28, New Delhi, June 26, 2021

Arabinda Poddar (1920-2021): A Historian of ‘Bengal Renaissance’ | Arup Kumar Sen

Friday 25 June 2021, by Arup Kumar Sen


Arabinda Poddar recently passed away after living a long life of 100 years. His name is not well-known among the young scholars of history. He was a bilingual intellectual, who wrote on important thinkers/writers of undivided Bengal, including Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore, in Bengali and English.

Arabinda Poddar wrote a well-researched treatise on the ‘Bengal Renaissance’, which is still a contested issue in the cultural history of Bengal. The book titled Renaissance in Bengal: Quests and Confrontations 1800-1860 was published by Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, in 1970.

The book was “an attempt at an evaluation of Bengal’s renaissance, the promises it held out and the fulfilment it achieved, during the first sixty years of the nineteenth century”. The author did not endeavour to write “a systematic historical account of the intellectual movement”. On the contrary, his “assessment has been made...on the basis of a study of the contributions of only those considered to be representatives of the epoch”.

Arabinda Poddar’s discourse on ‘Bengal Renaissance’ explored the contributions and thoughts of Rammohan Roy, Radha Kanta Dev, Akshay Kumar Dutt, Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt and the Derozians (Derozio and his followers).

Three important chapters incorporated in the book — ‘Education and Social mobility’, ‘Growth of Scientific Studies’ and ‘The Urban Elite and Bengal’s Renaissance’ — provided the social perspective of 19th century Bengal, which the author found worth exploring to situate the “intellectual movement”, known as ‘Bengal Renaissance’.

 Arabinda Poddar’s assessment of ‘Bengal Renaissance’ and its key thinkers/actors may have been contested by contemporary historical research. However, we should pay our posthumous tribute to him for writing a scholarly treatise on ‘Bengal Renaissance’ more than 50 years ago.

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