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Bamabodhini Patrika of 19thcentury Bengal gave women of the Andarmahal a space to write

25 August, 2020 21:50:36
Bamabodhini Patrika of 19thcentury Bengal gave women of the Andarmahal a space to write

Throughout history women were central to creating social wealth. The utilitarian purpose of education did not apply to women as no professions were open to them. For the privileged daughters and wives of the upper class, the most important agency in the transfer of knowledge, culture and tradition was not formal institutions of instruction, but the family. Through socialization with many tiers of relations within the extended family, the female child learned attitudes, patterns of behavior, norms, manners and morals in preparation of her destined vocation as wife and mother of a large household. But as the winds of change came to Bengal along with most parts of the world in the 19th-century, the secluded domestic space also felt the stirrings of physical and psychic mobility. 

At the height of the social movement of Bengal, widely known as the ‘Bengal Renaissance’, the Women’s Question became an integral part of social reorganization as all economic and political relations were being renegotiated and reshaped in the colonial environment. The demand for institutionally trained educated women was generated by the changes occurring in the family structure of the newly arising professional class who were employed in the colonial service. The joint family structure was breaking up as wives began to accompany their husbands to wherever their husbands would be stationed, far away from home, and would thus be required to raise a family and run a household without the guiding hands of a host of female relatives of various generations who were readily available in the traditional joint family system. But more important was the creation of the generation of Western-educated males whose changing ideas regarding what an ideal family should be, demanded the companionship of an educated wife. The lack of a purpose for formal education for girls slowly began to erode in the 19th-century when the perception of the wife as companion rather than the vehicle for procreation and reproduction began to take form. 

Umesh Chandra Dutta

Umesh Chandra Dutta (1840–1907) was one of the pioneer Brahmos who established the Brahmo Samaj at Harinavi in the face of severe opposition from locals. He was one of the founders of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and contributed substantially to the cause of education, particularly women's education. He, along with some other young Brahmo activists, established the Bamabodhini Sabha in 1863. Its declared aim was to educate Bengali housewives and to publish suitable books and journals for them. Bethune School was founded in 1849, and the total number of girls’ schools in Bengal in 1863 was just 35 and a mere 1183 students had enrolled in these institutions. Umesh Chandra and his associates worked ceaselessly to educate and emancipate Bengali women through the medium of a journal. The outcome was the birth of ‘Bamabodhini Patrika’, the first exclusive platform to exchange ideas and speak about issues pertaining solely to women. 

Prior to this, Peary Chand Mitra and Radhanath Sikdar had taken an initiative and launched ‘Masik Patrika’ in 1854 with the same object but they could not sustain it for long. The magazine folded up after four years. Umesh Chandra launched the monthly journal, ‘Bamabodhini Patrika’ from the stables of Bamabodhini Sabha in August 1863 (Bhadra 1270). 

Right from the very beginning, ‘Bamabodhini Patrika’ caught the attention of readers because the editor had the acumen to feel the pulse of the educated middle-class and upper middle-class Bengali psyche and the magazine catered to their taste. As a result, the journal was a success right from the word ‘go’ and held on to its numero uno position till 1922. In the beginning, Kshetramohan and Basantakumar Dutta helped Umesh Chandra with the editing of the journal. After him, Sukumar Dutta and Tarakumar Kabiratna took charge. 

Bamabodhini Patrika brought both conservative and liberal writers in its fold. The magazine covered a vast array of topics including religion, ethics, science, history, household medicine, childcare, women’s education and so on. Bamabodhini Patrika witnessed a turning point in our history and recorded in its pages the role of women in a changing society. It was always vocal about discrimination against women. The journal greatly influenced the womenfolk in many ways. They were sensitized about their rights in the male-dominated society. Many women started their literary career through contributing articles in this journal. 

Story Tag:
  • Journal, 19 th century Bengal

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