Rajmohan’s Wife (A Novel)

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Item Code: IDK979
Author: Bankim Chandra Chatterjee
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788129113832
Pages: 124
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
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Book Description

Strangely enough, Bengal’s first great novelist, like Bengal’s first great modern poet, made his debut in the field of literature in the English language. Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was only twenty-seven when he won a permanent place in the history of Bengali literature with his first novel in his mother tongue, Durgesh-Nandini, published in 1865. Two years before that he had completed a novel in English. This was entitled Rajmohan’s Wife and was published as a serial in 1864 in the weekly periodical, the Indian Field, then edited by Kishori Chand Mitra. The files of the Indian Field being now almost unobtainable, the existence of a complete English novel by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was almost forgotten, and even his biographer and nephew, Mr Sachish Chandra Chatterjee, was almost forgotten, and even his biographer and nephew, Mr Sachish Chandra Chatterjee, has stated that Bankim did not completed this English novel. A happy chance, however, enabled Mr Brajendra Nath Banerji to recover the complete story with the exception of the first three chapters. He had occasion, in connection with a different line of investigation, to go through the files of the famous Indian paper the Hindoo Patriot for 1864, facilities for consulting which were very kindly obtained for him by Sir Jadunath Sarkar from Mr. Sitanath Pal, a grandson of the great Bengali publicist, Kristodas Pal. With this volume of the Hindoo Patriot were found, bound by chance, all but three of the issues of the Indian Field in which Bankim’s novel had appeared. Thus the historian of Bengali literature had reason to be grateful for a binder’s mistake.

This first serious work of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was issued by the Modern Review office, Calcutta, in 1935, and was thus made accessible to a wider circle of readers than could possibly consult the files of the long-defunct Indian Field. As regards the missing fist three chapters of Bankim’s original it was possible to substitute for them a version as close to Bankim’s own as could be prepare a Bengali version of his first novel. But he did not proceed further than the first seven chapters of the English original. This fragment was carried to completion in his own way by his nephew, Mr Sachish Chandra Chatterjee, who did not know that the fragment was actually a Bengali rendering of the English original, Rajmohan’s Wife. He, on the contrary, believed it to be an entirely new work and gave to it, as completed by himself, the name of Vari-Vahini. It is by means of Mr Brajendra Nath Banerji’s English version of the first three chapters of this Bengali book that the missing beginning of Bankim’s English novel has been supplied. Rajmohan’s Wife as here presented thus comprises Bankim’s own original English from Chapter IV to the ‘Conclusion,’ and an English rendering of Bankim’s Bengali version from Chapter I to III.

Back of the Book

Marking Bankim Chandra Chatterjee’s debut as a writer, Rajmohan’s Wife is the first published novel in English by an Indian. The novel was serialized in 1864 in a short-lived magazine published from Calcutta, but it did not appear as a book in the author’s lifetime. The book soon went into oblivion. A neglected but an interesting book, its plots and characters symbolically map the birth of modern India as well as the modern Indian woman through political, cultural and social contexts.

It depicts the story of the trials and tribulations of the beautiful and heroic Mantangini, the female protagonist, as she selflessly rebels against her cruel and brutish husband, Rajmohan, to save her lover. Caught between the forces of temptation, transgression and the conventional image of the obedient and chaste Indian wife, Mantangini embodies the hopes of an emerging India that was struggling for selfhood and dignity.

In the 1930s, all but the first three chapters of the text were rediscovered. The missing chapters were retranslated into English from a Bengali version which Bankim Chandra Chatterjee himself had started writing, and the reconstructed whole was then published. The present edition reprints the 1940 version and is once more made available to the reader.

Famously known as being the writer of Vande Mataram, the national song of India, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee was the first to break the dry monotony of Bengali prose and bring in a touch of informality and intimacy. The latter part of his career brought out best sellers like Kapalakundala and Krishnakanta’s Will. He remains to be one of India’s most celebrated writers.


1 The Drawers of Water 1
2 The Two Cousins 7
3 The Truant’s Return Home 11
4 The History of the Rise and Progress of a Zamindar Family 13
5 A Letter-A Visit to the Zenana 21
6 Midnight Plotting 27
7 Love Can Conquer Fear 34
8 Forwarned and Forearmed 42
9 We Meet to Part 50
10 The Return 55
11 When Thieves Fall Out 60
12 The Friends and the Stranger 66
13 The Protectress 72
14 Between Rival Charmers 78
15 Consultations and Council 87
16 What Befell Our Hero 93
17 The Vigilance of Love 97
18 Captors and Captive 102
19 Madhav and Tara 111
20 Some Women are the Equals of Some Men 117
21 The Last Chapter in Life’s Book – and in This 121
Conclusion 123
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