Romesh Chunder Dutt

Romesh Chunder Dutt

Romesh Chunder Dutt, CIE (Calcutta August 13, 1848 — Baroda November 30, 1909), or R. C. Dutt, was a Bengali writer, civil servant, economic historian, and translator of Ramayana and Mahabharata. He was president of the Indian National Congress in 1899.

Formative years

Dutt was born August 13, 1848 into a Kayasth Bengali family distinguished for literary and academic achievements. His parents were Thakamani and Isam Chunder Dutt. His father, Isam, was a Deputy Collector of Bengal, whom Romesh accompanied on official duties. He was educated in Bengali District schools, then at Hare School, founded by the philanthropist, David Hare, in Kolkata. Romesh's uncle, Shoshee Chunder Dutt, an accomplished writer, became his guardian in 1861. "He used to sit at night with us and our favorite study used to be pieces from the works of the English poets." [ [ R. C. Dutt, "Romesh Chunder Dutt," (1968) Internet Archive, Million Books Project, p. 10.] ] He was a relative of Toru Dutt, one of nineteenth century Bengal's most prominent poets.

He entered the University of Calcutta, Presidency College in 1864, then passed the First Arts examination in 1866, second in order of merit, and won a scholarship. While still a student in the B.A. class, without his family's permission, he and two friends, Beharilal Gupta and Surendranath Banerjee, left for England in 1868.Jnanendranath Gupta, "Life and Works of Romesh Chandra Dutt, CIE", (London: J.M.Dent and Sons Ltd., 1911); while young Romesh came out unnoticed, Beharilal, possibly his closest friend ever, was chased all the way down to the Calcutta docks by his "poor" father, who could not, however, successfully persuade his son to return to the safety of his parental home. Later, in England, both the friends took the civil service examination successfully, becoming the 2nd and 3rd Indians to join the ICS. The third person in the group, Surendranath Banerjee, too cleared the test, but was disqualified on the trivial ground of being over-age.] Only one other Indian, Satyendra Nath Tagore, had qualified for the Indian Civil Service, before. Romesh aimed to emulate Satyendranath Tagore's feat. For a long time, before and after 1853, the year the ICS examination was introduced in England, only British officers were appointed to covenanted posts. [Nitish Sengupta, "History of the Bengali-speaking People," UBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd. (2002), p. 275. ISBN 8174763554.] The 1860s saw the first attempts, largely successful, on the part of the Indians, and especially members of the Bengali intelligentsia, to occupy the superior official posts in India, until then completely dominated by the British.

At University College London, Dutt continued to study British writers. He studied law at Middle Temple, London, was called to the bar, and qualified for the Indian Civil Service in the open examination in 1869. [ [ "Selected Poetry of Romesh Chunder Dutt (1848-1909)", University of Toronto (2002) On line.] ]

Civil Service

In 1871 Dutt entered the Indian Civil Service, or ICS, as an Assistant Magistrate of Alipur. His official career was a test and a proof of the liberal promise of equality to all her Majesty's subjects "irrespective of color and creed" in Queen Victoria's Proclamation of November 1, 1858, [, November 1, 1858] which often contrasted with an implicit distrust of Indians, especially from those in positions of authority within the elite colonial administrative system.

A famine in Meherpur, District of Nadia in 1874 and another in Dakhin Shahbazpur (Bhola District) in 1876, followed by a disastrous cyclone, required emergency relief and economic recovery operations, which Dutt managed successfully. By December, 1882, Dutt achieved his appointment to the executive branch of the Service, the first Indian to achieve executive rank. He served as administrator for Backerganj, Mymensingh, Burdwan, Donapur, and Midnapore. He became Burdwan's District Officer in 1893, Commissioner of Burdwan Division in 1894, and Divisional Commissioner for Orissa in 1895.

As Dutt's biographer commented, "In the absence of even the rudiments of representative institutions entry into the higher Civil Services presented the only opportunity to an Indian to influence the government of his own country." [ [ R. C. Dutt, "Romesh Chunder Dutt," (1968) Internet Archive, Million Books Project, p. 51.] ] He sat for a time in the Bengal Legislative Council. Although he won high praise for his administrative work, and the Companionship of the Indian Empire was awarded him in 1892, [ [ J. K. Ratcliffe "A Note on the Late Romesh C. Dutt", "The Ramayana and the Mahabharata condensed into English Verse" (1899) at Internet Sacred Texts Archive] ] Dutt did not always agree with official views on the causes of poverty in India or on the problems of administration.

As his official recommendations and reports reflected, Dutt was especially troubled by the lack of assured tenants' rights or rights of transfer for those who tilled the land. He considered the land taxes to be ruinous, a block to savings, and the source of famines. He also felt the effectiveness of administrators was limited by the absence of representative channels for the concerns of the population being governed. He retired from the ICS as the Commissioner of Orissa in 1897 while only 49 years of age. Retirement freed him to enter public life and pursue writing.


Dutt served as the first president of Bangiya Sahitya Parishad ( _bn. বঙ্গীয় সাহিত্য পরিষদ) in 1894, while Rabindranath Tagore and Navinchandra Sen were the vice-presidents of the society. [ "Vangiya Sahitya Parishad"] , Banglapedia] This was the society founded by L. Leotard and Kshetrapal Chakraborty in 1893 to cultivate Bengali literature. Enriched by contributions from Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Romesh Chunder Dutt, Satyendranath Dutt, Binoy Krishna Deb, Ritendranath Tagore, Premsundar Bose and Jatindranath Pal, its collections include over 150,000 books and important Bengali and Sanskrit manuscripts and cultural artifacts, including the only manuscript of Shrikrsnakirtana.


Poverty and low wages were among the indirect products of colonial rule. Romesh Dutt traced a decline in standards of living to the nineteenth-century deindustrialization of the subcontinent and the narrowing of sources of wealth which followed:

India in the eighteenth century was a great manufacturing as well as great agricultural country, and the products of the Indian loom supplied the markets of Asia and of Europe. It is, unfortunately, true that the East Indian Company and the British Parliament ... discouraged Indian manufactures in the early years of British rule in order to encourage the rising manufactures of England . . . millions of Indian artisans lost their earnings; the population of India lost one great source of their wealth. [ [ Economic History of India, vol. pp. vi–vii, quoted by Prasannan Parthasarathi, "The Transition to a Colonial Economy: Weavers, Merchants and Kings in South India 1720–1800", Cambridge U. Press. On line, excerpt.] ]

Radhakamal Mukerjee and Romesh Dutt directed attention to the deepening internal differentiation of Indian society appearing in the abrupt articulation of local economies with the world market, accelerated urban-rural polarization, the division between intellectual and manual labor, and the toll of recurrent devastating famines. [ [ Manu Goswami, "Autonomy and Comparability: Notes on the Anticolonial and the Postcolonial", "Boundary 2," Summer 2005; 32: 201 - 225 Duke University Journals.] ]

Dutt was appointed a Lecturer in Indian History in the University of London in 1898, shortly after his retirement from the Civil Service. However, he returned to India in 1904 to become Revenue Minister for the state of Baroda for three years. He came back to India again in 1908 as a member of the Decentralisation Commission. [ [ "Selected Poetry of Romesh Chunder Dutt (1848-1909), Notes on Life and Works," "Representative Poetry Online," University of Toronto (2002) On line.] ]

ee also

* Bengal Renaissance
* Economic History of India
* Indian National Congress


* cite book
title=Three Years in Europe, 1868 to 1871
author=Romesh Chunder Dutt
publisher=S. K. Lahiri

* cite book
title=The Peasantry of Bengal
author=Romesh Chunder Dutt
publisher=Thacker, Spink & Co.
; ed. Narahari Kaviraj, Calcutta, Manisha (1980)
* cite book
title=The Literature of Bengal
author=Romesh Chunder Dutt
; 3rd ed., "Cultural Heritage of Bengal" Calcutta, Punthi Pustak (1962).
* "Mādhabī kaṅkaṇa" in Bengali (1879)
* "Rajput jivan sandhya" (1879); "Pratap Singh: The Last of the Rajputs, A Tale of Rajput Courage and Chivalry, " tr. Ajoy Chandra Dutt. Calcutta: Elm Press (1943); Allahabad, Kitabistan, (1963)] .
* "Rig Veda" translation into Bengali (1885): "R̥gveda saṃhitā / Rameśacandra Dattera anubāda abalambane ; bhūmikā, Hiraṇmaẏa Bandyopādhyāẏa," Kalakātā , Harapha (1976).
* "Hinduśāstra : naẏa khaṇḍa ekatre eka khaṇḍe / Rameśacandra Datta sampādita," Kalikātā, Satyayantre Mudrita, 1300; Niu Lāiṭa, 1401 [1994] .
* "A History of Civilization in Ancient India, Based on Sanscrit Literature." 3 vols. Thacker, Spink and Co.; Trübner and Co., Calcutta-London (1890) Reprinted, Elibron Classics (2001).
* "A Brief History of Bengal," S.K. Lahiri (1893).
* "Lays of Ancient India: Selections from Indian Poetry Rendered into English Verse." London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner (1894); Rupa (2002). ISBN 8171678882
* "Reminiscences of a Workman's Life: verses" Calcutta, Elen Press, for private circulation only (1896); Calcutta: n.p. (1956).
* "England and India: a record of progress during a hundred years, 1785-1885" (1897); New Delhi, India : Mudgal Publications, 1985.
* "Mahabharata: the epic of India rendered into English verse," London: J. M. Dent and Co., 1898. [ "Maha-bharata, The Epic of Ancient India Condensed into English Verse" Project Gutenberg, on line.]
* "The Ramayana: the epic of Rama rendered into English verse," London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1899. 194 p.
* "The Ramayana and the Mahabharata: the great epics of ancient India condensed into English verse," London: J.M. Dent and Co., 1900. Reprint 1910. xii, 335p. Also, Everyman’s Library, New York, Dutton (1929). [ Internet Sacred Texts Archive.]
* "Shivaji; or the morning of Maratha life," tr. by Krishnalal Mohanlal Jhaveri. Ahmedabad, M. N. Banavatty (1899). Also: tr. by Ajoy C. Dutt. Allahabad, Kitabistan (1944).
* "Open Letters to Lord Curzon on Famines and Land Assessments in India," London, Trübner (1900) 2005 ed. Adamant Media Corporation, Elibron Classics Series, ISBN 1-4021-5115-2.
* "The lake of palms. A story of Indian domestic life," translated by the author. London, T.F. Unwin (1902); abridged by P.V. Kulkarni, Bombay, n.p. (1931).
* [ "The Economic History of India Under Early British Rule. From the Rise of the British Power in 1757 to the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837." Vol. I. London, Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner (1902) 2001 edition by Routledge, ISBN 0415244935. On line, McMaster] ISBN 8185418012
* [ "The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age. From the Accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 to the Commencement of the Twentieth Century," Vol. II. London, Kegan Paul, Trench Trübner (1904) On line. McMaster] ISBN 8185418012
* "Indian poetry. Selected and Rendered into English by R.C. Dutt" London: J. M. Dent (1905).
* "The Slave Girl of Agra: An Indian Historical Romance," Based on Madhavikankan. London: T.F. Unwin (1909); Calcutta, Dasgupta (1922).
* "Vanga Vijeta"; in translation, "Todar Mull: The Conqueror of Bengal," trans. by Ajoy Dutt. Allahabad: Kitabitan, 1947.
* "Sachitra Guljarnagar," tr. by Satyabrata Dutta, Calcutta, Firma KLM (1990)


External links

* [ J. K. Ratcliffe "A Note on the Late Romesh C. Dutt", "The Ramayana and the Mahabharata condensed into English Verse" (1899) at Internet Sacred Texts Archive]
* [,%20s.v%20digital%20library&slocation1=NONE&sourcelib1=CPBL%20Kadapa&scannerno1=0&digitalrepublisher1=Digital%20Library%20Of%20India&digitalpublicationdate1=2005-09-10&numberedpages1=&unnumberedpages1=&rights1=&copyrightowner1=&copyrightexpirydate1=&format1=Tagged%20Image%20File%20Format%20&url=/data_copy/upload/0070/837 J. N. Gupta, "Life and Works of Romesh Chunder Dutt", (1911) Digital Library of India, Bangalore, barcode 2990100070832 On line.]
* [ M Mofakharul Islam, "Dutt, Romesh Chunder", "Banglapedia"]
* [ R. C. (Rabindra Chandra) Dutt, "Romesh Chunder Dutt," (1968) Internet Archive, Million Books Project]
* [ "Selected Poetry of Romesh Chunder Dutt (1848-1909)," "Representative Poetry Online," University of Toronto (2002) On line.]
* [ Bhabatosh Datta, "Romesh Chunder Dutt", Congress Sandesh, n.d.]
* [ Shanti S. Tangri, "Intellectuals and Society in Nineteenth-Century India", "Comparative Studies in Society and History," Vol. 3, No. 4 (Jul., 1961), pp. 368-394.]
* Pauline Rule, "The Pursuit of Progress: A Study of the Intellectual Development of Romesh Chunder Dutt, 1848-1888" Editions Indian (1977)

NAME=Dutt, Romesh Chunder
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Dutt, R.C.; Dutt, Romesh; Dutta, Ramesh Chandra
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Historian, economist, writer, translator, civil servant, politician
DATE OF BIRTH= 13 August 1848
PLACE OF BIRTH= Calcutta, India
DATE OF DEATH= 30 November 1909
PLACE OF DEATH= Baroda, India

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