Apart from being the City of Joy, Kolkata also takes pride in being the cultural capital of India. Be it films, theatre, music and literature—the Bengalees have excelled and left their mark everywhere. In this listicle, we’ll make an effort to know and understand the contribution of some of the greatest literary figures of Bengal—some of whom you know very well while some of whom might pose to be quite new for you—
12. Michael Madhusudan Dutt
One of the greatest poets of Bengal, Michael took on to Christianity to escape to the West where his poems would be more appreciated. But, after realizing his mistake, he came and to India, and started writing poems in Bengali—a language which he despised once—and what followed is history. Our recommendation would be the poems written to the divine mother of Bengal in his repentance.
11. Satyajit Ray
This maverick personality wasn’t only an artist, a scriptwriter, musician and artist, but also a master writer. From hundreds of children fiction to essays on filmmaking and from biographies to science fictions—he has written and excelled in everything. In fact, he’s the creator of Feluda—the favorite detective of each and every Bengali across the globe!
Also Read: Five Great Film Directors From Bengal
10. Upendrakishore Raychowdhury
He was a master of many trades—be it music or painting or entrepreneurship or spinning wonderful tales! He is still renowned as the best writer for children and had established the first children magazine in Bengal. This great personality is often quoted as being the best literary figure after Tagore, and is also the grandfather of Satyajit Ray and father of Sukumar Ray
9. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
Although it’s a known fact that Bankim is the writer of the National Song of India—Vande Mataram, not many people are aware of the fact that it was he who penned the first Indian novel in English—“Rajmohan’s Wife”. Apart from that, he has numerous Bengali novels in his kitty, each of which deals with different topics! If you hadn’t read anything by him, it’s high time you do!
8. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay
Sarat Ch. Chattopadhyay is regarded as the writer for the common masses. With simple language, no frilly decorations and more socially inclined plots, he’s unanimously regarded as one of the best novelist of Bengal; according to some groups, he’s even a better writer than Tagore, whether or not it’s true, it’s a well acknowledged fact that his mass appeal was way stronger. Parineeta, Devdas, Srikanto—were all the gems out of his pen!
7. Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay
One of the leading writers of Bengal, this school teacher from Bengal is often regarded as the one to usher in modern writing in Bengal. From novels for children to short stories, he has excelled in whatever he wrote. Our recommendation would be the autobiographical novel, Pather Panchali which was scripted into a movie later on by Ray.
That the job of literature was to portray the society that we’re living in and open it stark naked was exemplified vividly by Shankar. It was due to this reason perhaps many of his novels were transformed into quality films by great directors including Ray. No matter if you’re into reading or not, you’d appreciate his novels—we bet!
5. Sunil Gangopadhyay
Among the few literary geniuses to revolutionize the Modern Bengali literary arena, Sunil Gangopadhyay was the foremost. Although he wrote over 200 novels and short stories, he has always declared poems to be his “first love”—and well, why not! Try reading the translated poems in the Nikhilesh and Neera series (Murmur in the Woods and For You, Neera respectively) you too would fall in love with poetry!
4. Joy Goswami
One of the greatest Bengali poets of this generation, Joy Goswami is known for his vivid description, surreal imagination and brilliant verse selection. Do read his “Ghumiyechi, Jhaupata”, you’ll be mesmerized by the thoughts (and pains) evoked through the suave words!
3. Badal Sarkar
One of the greatest and most influential playwrights of all times (the one whom Girish Karnad considers his virtual Guru), Badal Sarkar defied the traditional drama that were played on stage, and aimed at a more surreal and absurd theatre that would go perfectly with the time of turmoil that contemporary Bengal was going through. We recommend you his “Ebong Indrajit” (Evam Indrajit) that became a landmark in field of Indian Drama.
2. Sukumar Ray
This no-nonsense genius is widely regarded among the literary geniuses around the world as the father of non-sense verse! From children short-stories to novels and plays (which are being researched upon the scholars even now), this maverick genius has written it all—and won accolades from all! He’s one of the “unputdownable” writers of all ages!
1. Rabindranath Tagore
Is there anything left to be said about this master who was a playwright, a musician, a composer, a lyricist, an author, poet, painter, linguist, educationist—phew, and so much more? There’s a saying in Bengal that says there’s one “Rabindranath” for all occasions—from the cradle to grave, and true it is! Well, did you know he also once wrote the screenplay for a film?