Once during a particular session of the General Assembly of the League of Nations in Geneva, an old gentleman with flowing white beard was mistaken for Tagore. This gentleman had the typical venerable bearded appearance of the Brahmo-samajis of the late 19th century, who looked very much like St Peter.
This venerable gentleman was Ramananda Chatterjee, who was the founder, editor and owner of the Modern Review, which he started from Calcutta in the year 1907. For his pioneering efforts in journalism, he has been described as the Father of Indian Journalism.
Early Life and Education
Ramananda Chatterjee was born on 29 May 1865 in Pathakpara village in the district of Bankura in Bengal under the British India. He was the third child to Srinath Chattopadhyay and Harasundari Devi. His was a middle class Bengali Brahmin Hindu family.
He had his primary education in a Bengali medium school in Bankura. As a child he was fond of poetry. He liked the patriotic poetry of poet Rangalal Bandyopadhyay. In 1875, he passed the Student-Scholarship Examination from Bankura Banga Vidyalaya. In 1883, he passed the Entrance Examination from Bankura Zilla School. He then went to Kolkata to pursue higher education.
In 1885, he passed the F.A. from the St. Xavier’s College, and then got admission in the City College. In 1888, he appeared for the B.A. examination and stood first class first in Calcutta University.
Ramananda Chatterjee also won the Ripon Scholarship. He was offered the post of assistant editor at the Indian Messenger, a journal of the Brahmo Samaj. This opened up his future career in journalism.
In 1890, he got Masters Degree in English from Calcutta University.
Teaching and Journalistic Career
In 1893, Ramananda Chatterjee joined City College as a lecturer. He founded the children’s magazine Mukul, along with Jagadish Chandra Bose.
In 1895, he moved to Allahabad with a teaching job at the Allahabad Kayastha Pathshala.
In 1897, he became the chief editor of the Bengali literary magazine Pradip. In 1901, he left Pradip and launched Prabasi, a Bengali magazine.
In 1907, Chatterjee launched the English magazine Modern Review. This magazine brought far-reaching changes in Indian journalism.
He also wrote a book, Towards Home Rule, which was published in 1917.
His Contributions and its Impact
Ramananda Chatterjee was the most influential Indian editor in the last few decades of colonial rule. He started publishing The Modern Review in 1907.
On the death of Ramananda Chatterjee in 1943, in an obituary written by the historian Jadunath Sarkar, it is written that the list of contributors in the 37 years that Chatterjee edited the journal; looks like a list of the greatest Indian intellectuals of that time.
Every issue of the review had a lot of intellectual content. Besides the new Indian elite, the British colonial authorities read it to understand Indian nationalist opinion on contemporary issues.
The Modern Review had a galaxy of great personalities of that time who contributed with their articles. Some of these names were, Rabindranath Tagore, M.K. Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose, Sister Nivedita, Verrier Elwin, Lala Lajpat Rai, Premchand, Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, C.F. Andrews and several others.
Nirad Chaudhuri, the renowned writer also served as an assistant editor of the Modern Review. He was inspired by Ramananda-babu’s unwavering advocacy of women’s education and of women’s liberation.
Ramananda Chatterjee left behind a rich legacy for later generations of journalists. He was beyond caste or communal prejudice. He was wholly committed to democratic values and an equitable social and economic order.