|Born||11 February 1861|
Khanyan, Bengal, British India
|Died||27 October 1907 (aged 46)|
Calcutta, Bengal, British India
|Occupation||Theologian and Nationalist leader)|
Brahmabandhav Upadhyay (born Bhavani Charan Bandyopadhyay) Bengali: ব্রহ্মবান্ধব উপাধ্যায় (1 February 1861 – 27 October 1907) was a theologian, journalist and Indian freedom fighter. He was closely attached with Keshub Chandra Sen, classmate of Swami Vivekananda and close acquaintance of Rabindranath Tagore.
Brahmabandhab Upadhyay was born as Bhavani Charan Bandyopadhyay in a Kulin Brahmin family. The term Kulin indicates to a cult in barhmanical Hindu society of early era when a person was allowed to marry any number of wives. His grand father was known to have married fifty six wives. His father, Debi Charan Bandyopadhyay was a police officer of the British regime. Debicharan had three sons. The eldest was Hari Charan, who became a doctor in Calcutta, the second was Parbati Charan who practiced as a pleader, and the third was Bhavani Charan. He was born in village Khannyan in Hooghly district of undivided Bengal (presently in West Bengal). Bhavani Charan lost his mother Radha Kumari when he was only one year of age and was raised by one of his grand mothers.
Bhavani Charan received his education in institutions such as Scottish Mission School, Hooghly Collegiate School, Metropolitan Institution (now Vidyasagar College), and the General Assembly's Institution (now Scottish Church College in Calcutta. In the General Assembly's Institution, during 1880s, he was in the same class with Narendranath Dutta, who, at a later date, became Swami Vivekananda. He was a friend of Rabindranath Tagore.
Bhavani Charan was hailed from a religious Hindu Brahmin family. At 13 he had undergone the Upanayana ceremony, the investiture of the sacred thread necessary to mark the coming of age of a Brahmin boy.
While he was in the college, he was inclined to Brahmoism, under the influence of Keshub Chandra Sen and Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore. In 1881 he adopted Brahmoism and became a preacher. He went to Hyderabad town of the province of Sindh (presently in Pakistan) as a school teacher of a Brahmo school.
When Keshub Chandra Sen died in the year 1884, Bhavani Charan came back and slowly got inclined to Christianity. On February 1891 he was baptized a Christian by the Reverend Heaton of Bishop's college, an Anglican clergyman, and six months later, conditionally, in the Catholic Church of Karachi. It was a remarkable journey in his life exploring the theological beliefs and ideologies which did not end there being converted to Catholicism, though, during this phase he was successful to attract a large number of educated Bengali Hindu youth to be converted to Christianity.
In 1894 Bhavani Charan adopted this name, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay, declaring himself as a Christian Sanyasi (Monk). Latinized form of the Greek name Θεοφιλος (Theophilos), taken from Bhabani Charan's baptised name Theophilus, which meant "friend of god", derived from θεος (theos) "god" and φιλος (philos) "friend". "Upadhyay" is close to mean a Teacher.[circular reference]
In January 1894, Bhrahmabandhab started editing "Sophia", an apologetical journal, in Karachi. At one time he shifted his base to Jabalpur in Central Province (now Madhya Pradesh). There he established Kanthalik Math, a hermitage for the converts. He also initiated the Concord Club, and initiated a religious journal titled Concord. When he shifted his base to Calcutta in 1900, Brahmabandhab lived in a rented house at Beadon Street, Calcutta. Within a short distance was Bethune Row, where he had established his office to run his weekly magazine "Sophia". He published a series of articles through which he defended the catholic church and its manifestations.
Brahmabandhab claimed himself to be called as a Hindu Catholic, and wore saffron clothes, walked barefoot and used to wear an ebony cross around his neck. In 1898 he argued in an article titled "Are we Hindus?", "By birth we are Hindu and shall remain Hindu till death. .. We are Hindus so far as our physical and mental constitution is concerned, but in regard to our immortal souls we are Catholic. We are Hindu Catholic."
Brahmabandhab envisioned as indigenous church in India embracing fundamental manifestation of Indian living. He is identified as one of the first Christians propagating Sannyasi life style in Ashram.
Brahmabandhab toured England and Europe during 1902-3. The Archbishop of Calcutta gave him a recommendation: "By means of this statement we declare Brahmabandhav (Theophilus) Upadhyay, a Calcutta Brahmin, to be a Catholic of sound morals, burning with zeal for the conversion of his compatriots."
In course of time Brahmabandhab's attachment to Hinduism became evident. During August 1907, two months before his untimely death, he declared to undergo prayashchittya (expression of reparation in Hindu custom) through a public ceremony for the purpose of readmission in the Hindu society (Samaj), completing a full circle in his religious voyage throughout his life.
While Bramhabandhab was in Brahmosamaj, he initiated a boys' school in Sindh in the year 1888. He also taught for some time in Union Academy, which was established 1887 as the "Bengalee Boys High School" founded in Shimla under the chairmanship of Sir Nripendra Nath Sircar. He brought out a monthly journal titled The Twentieth Century in association with Nagendranath Gupta (1861-1940).
Brahmabandhab and his disciple Animananda started a school in Kolkata in 1901 . Aim of the school was to teach and propagate the Vedic and Vedantic ideas of life along with modern education among the elite class of the society. Rabindranath tagore was very much attracted to this idea of reviving the old Indian ideal of paedagogy, and offered them to shift their school to Santiniketan in his father's estate. This way Tagore's school at Shantiniketan was conceived, which later became known and famous as Viswa Varati. There were three teachers, namely Reba Chand, Jagadananda Roy and Shibdhan Vidyarnab, apart from Rabindranath and Brahmabandhab, and there were five students, namely, Rathindranath Tagore, Gourgobinda Gupta, Premkumar Gupta, Ashok Kumar Gupta and Sudhir Chandra Nun. This collaboration could not continue for long and in 1902 Brahmabandhab and Animananda left Shantiniketan.
During 1902 to 1903 Brahmabandhab toured Europe. He lectured in Oxford and Cambridge Universities and preached Vedantism. When he came back, he saw Bengal as a hot seat of political activities, and he too fervently plunged into the political doldrums. He was gradually coming to the conclusion that before India could become Catholic, she must be politically free. His journal "Sofia" soon became the strongest critique of the British imperialism.
When he was in the high school, Bhavani Charan became inclined towards the Indian nationalist movement for freedom, and during his college education, he plunged into the freedom movement. His biographer, Julius Lipner, says that Brahmabandhab "made a significant contribution to the shaping of the new India whose identity began to emerge from the first half of the nineteenth century". He was contemporary to and friend of the poet Rabindranath Tagore and Vivekananda. According to Lipner, "Vivekananda lit the sacrificial flame or revolution, Brahmabandhab in fuelling it, safeguarded and fanned the sacrifice."
Brahmabandhab Upadhyay acted as editor of Sandhya, till the last day of his life. After the movement of partition of Bengal in 1905, there was a boost in nationalist ideologies and several publications took active and fierce role in propagating them, including Sandhya.
In March 1907, Sandhya elaborated its motto as, "If death comes in the striving, the death will be converted to immortality." In May 1907, Sandhya reported, "People are soundly thrashing a feringhi whenever they are coming across one. And here whenever a feringhi is seen the boys throw a brickbat at him. And thrashing of European soldiers are continuing..." Further it added, "Listen and you will hear the Mother's trumpet are sounding. Mother's son do not tarry, but to get ready; go about from village to village and prepare the Indians for death." In September 1907 Sandhya wrote, "God gives opportunities to all nations to to [sic] free themselves from their stupor and strength to make the necessary beginning." Bramhabandhab wrote in Sandhya on 26 October 1907, a day before his death, "I will not got to the jail of the feringhi to work as a prisoner.. I had never been at any one's beck and call. I obeyed none. At the fag end of my old age they will send me to jail for law's sake, and I will work for nothing. Impossible! I won't go to jail, I have been called."
On 10 September 1907, Bramhabandhab was arrested and prosecuted on a charge of sedition. His articles were found to be inflammatory. Bramhabandhab refused to defend himself in the court, and on 23 September 1907 a statement was submitted through his counsel to the court, Barrister Chittaranjan Das:
I accept the entire responsibility of the publication, management and conduct of the newspaper Sandhya and I say that I am the writer of the article, Ekhan theke gechi premer dai which appeared in the Sandhya on the 13th August 1907, being one of the articles forming the subject matter of this prosecution. But I do not want to take part in the trial, because I do not believe that, in carrying out my humble share of the God appointed mission of Swaraj, I am in any way accountable to the alien people, who happen to rule over us and whose interest is, and necessarily be, in the way of our true national development.
During the trial Brahmabandhab reported pain his abdomen and was admitted to the Campbell Hospital of Calcutta. He had undergone hernia operation but could not overcome his sufferings and succumbed to death on 27 October 1907 under a precarious situation at the age of 46 only.
A detailed account of the last moments of Brahmabandhab Upadhyay and the funeral procession to the cremation ground can be found in Animananda, The Blade (p. 173-178):
The news of his death spread fast and crowds began to gather at the Campbell Hospital. Due to the increasing number of people and mounting excitement, hospital authorities decided to remove the body from the hospital premises. Upadhyay's body was carried from the hospital and was placed on the roadside under a tree while further preparations were made. His friends and relatives carried the body in a flower decked bier towards the Sandhya office, occasionally stopping on the way. Nearly five thousand people had gathered when the funeral process started from the Sandhya office at around 4 p.m. The procession, chanting bande mataram, proceeded to the cremation ground. When the body reached cremation ground, patriotic songs were sung and a number of poignant speeches were made. Since Upadhyay had no offspring, the funeral pyre was lit by his nephew, following Hindu custom. Songs continued to be sung and people came up to the pyre to pay homage till well into the night.