This article explores the history of 4th September focusing on the abdication of Romulus Augustulus, the surrender of Castle Namur to the Grand Alliance, and the birth anniversary of Bhupendranath Dutta. It highlights Bhupendranath Dutta’s multifaceted contributions to Indian anthropology, his revolutionary activism, and his pioneering scholarship.
History of 4th September takes us to the year 476 when on this day Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor, abdicates after forces led by Odoacer invade Rome. This is marked as the traditional end of the Western Roman Empire.
Moving on with the history of 4th September we come to the year 1695 when on this day the French garrison of castle Namur surrendered to the army of the Grand Alliance under the command of King William III of England.
With this we come to the feature story from the history of 4th September where we discuss the life and works of Bhupendranath Dutta on the occasion of his birth anniversary.
Bhupendranath Dutta: The Unsung Hero of Indian Anthropology
In the annals of anthropology in India, there exists an overlooked figure whose contributions to the field were both pioneering and multifaceted. Bhupendranath Dutta, born on September 4, 1890, in Calcutta, is a name rarely found in standard encyclopedia books of anthropology. However, his life story and work are deserving of recognition for their profound impact on the study of society, culture, and human evolution.
A Multifaceted Revolutionary:
Bhupendranath Dutta’s life journey was marked by a unique blend of revolutionary activism and academic pursuits. He was the younger brother of the renowned Swami Vivekananda, and from a young age, he demonstrated his commitment to the cause of Indian independence from British colonial rule. At a remarkably early age, he assumed the role of editor for the revolutionary weekly newspaper, Jugantor, which vehemently criticized colonial rule. His writings against the British government led to his imprisonment for a year.
After his release, Bhupendranath embarked on a daring journey to the United States, assisted by Sister Nivedita under the pseudonym Basanta Kumar Brahmachari. There, he earned an undergraduate degree from New York University in 1912 and a master’s degree in Sociology from Brown University in 1914. Following the outbreak of World War I, he moved to Germany and joined the Berlin Committee, an anti-British organization formed by Indian exiles, serving as its secretary from 1916 to 1918.
Pioneering Nationalist Anthropologist:
Bhupendranath Dutta’s scholarly pursuits were as extensive as his revolutionary activities. He earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Germany in 1923, becoming a member of the German Anthropological Society and the German Asiatic Society. Remarkably, his scholarship extended beyond anthropology into sociology, history, law, philosophy, statistics, and literature. He authored books and articles in multiple languages, including Bengali, English, German, Hindi, and Iranian.
Some of his notable works include:
Bharater Ditio Sadhinotar Shongram (1949)
Barater Somaj Poddhotti (1958)
Amar Americar Abhijanta (1933)
Baishnab Sahitya Samajtatva (1945)
Bangalr Itihash (1963)
Dialectics of Hindu Ritualism (1950)
Hindu Law of Inheritance (1957)
Dialectics of Land Economics of India (1952)
Swami Vivekananda: Patriot – Prophet – A Study (1954)
Beyond academia, Bhupendranath was a dedicated political activist who fought for the rights of Indian peasants. He joined the Communist International founded by Lenin in Moscow in 1921 and presented his research on the political condition of colonial India to Lenin himself. This led to Lenin’s request for Bhupendranath to collect data on peasant organizations in India.
In the 1930s, he actively participated in the peasant movement in India and held prominent positions, including the presidency of Krishak Sabha in Bengal and the All India Trade Union Congress. During the Quit India Movement led by Mahatma Gandhi, he was incarcerated by the British government for his political activities.
A Trailblazing Anthropologist:
What sets Bhupendranath Dutta apart is his expertise in both physical anthropology and social-cultural anthropology. He contributed extensively to anthropological research, publishing numerous scientific articles in national and international journals, including the prestigious “Man in India,” founded by Saurabh Chandra Roy in 1921.
Two of his remarkable articles, published in “Man in India” in 1935 and 1942, provide valuable insights into his innovative thinking. In the 1935 article, “Ethnological Notes of Some of the Castes of West Bengal,” Bhupendranath examined castes from a dynamic and changing perspective, a novel approach for his time. He explored how castes could take on different appearances and functions under changing political and economic conditions.
His 1942 article, “Origin and Development of Indian Social Polity,” delved into the evolution of Indian society and the caste system, emphasizing the influence of economic and political factors. He argued that caste had no biological basis and provided a unique Marxist perspective on the caste system’s origin and transformation.
An Overlooked Legacy:
Despite his pioneering contributions to anthropology and sociology, Bhupendranath Dutta remains largely unsung in the history of Indian academia. Even prominent anthropologists like Nirmal Kumar Bose acknowledged his name but failed to grasp the uniqueness of his approach, which applied Marxist principles to the study of caste and Hindu ritualism.
His works continue to offer valuable insights into the complex social fabric of India and challenge prevailing notions. Bhupendranath’s holistic approach to anthropology, coupled with his dedication to social justice, make him a true trailblazer whose legacy deserves rediscovery and recognition in the field of Indian anthropology. His life story exemplifies the remarkable synergy between academic pursuit and activism, leaving a lasting imprint on the intersection of knowledge and social change in India’s history.
That’s all from the history of 4th September.
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