Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

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Henry Louis Vivian Derozio
Bust of Derozio at the Esplanade
Bust of Derozio at the Esplanade
Born(1809-04-18)18 April 1809
Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Died26 December 1831(1831-12-26) (aged 22)
South Park Street Cemetery, Mother Teresa Sarani, Kolkata, India
OccupationTeacher and poet and dancer
LanguageEnglish and Bengali
GenreAcademic, Educator
Literary movementBengal Renaissance
Notable worksTo India - My Native Land

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (18 April 1809 – 26 December 1831) was an Indian poet and assistant headmaster of Hindu College, Kolkata, a radical thinker and one of the first Indian educators to disseminate Western learning and science among the young men of Bengal.

Long after Derozio's death (by cholera), his influence lived on among his former students, who came to be known as Young Bengal and many of whom became prominent in social reform, law, and journalism.

Early life[edit]

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was born on 18 April 1809 at Entally-Padmapukur in Kolkata. His father was Francis Derozio. His original family name was 'De Rozario'.[1] He attended David Drummond's Dhurramtallah Academy school, where he was a pupil from the age of eight to fourteen.[1]

He quit school at the age of 14 and initially joined his father's concern at Kolkata and later shifted to Bhagalpur. Inspired by the scenic beauty of the banks of the River Ganges, he started writing poetry.

This was the time when Hindu society in Bengal was undergoing considerable turmoil. In 1828, Raja Ram Mohan Roy established the Brahmo Samaj, which kept Hindu ideals but denied idolatry. This resulted in a backlash within orthodox Hindu society. It is in the perspective of these changes that Derozio was appointed at Hindu college, where he helped release the ideas for social change already in the air. At 17 years of age, he was considered a great scholar and a thinker. Within a short period of time, he drew around him a group of intelligent boys in college. At the age of 18, he got the post of a lecturer in English Literature and History at the Hindu college. He constantly encouraged them to think freely, to question and not to accept anything blindly. His teachings inspired the development of the spirit of liberty, equality, and freedom. They also tried to remove social evils, improve the condition of the women and the peasants, and promote liberty through freedom of the press, trial by jury, and so on. His activities brought about the intellectual revolution in Bengal. It was called the Young Bengal Movement and his students, also known as Derozians, were fiery patriots.

Hindu College and Social backlash[edit]

In May 1826, at the age of 17, he was appointed teacher in English literature and history at the new Hindu College. Derozio's intense zeal for teaching and his interactions with students created a sensation at Hindu College. His students came to be known as Derozians. He organised debates where ideas and social norms were freely debated. In 1828, he motivated them to form a literary and debating club called the Academic Association.In 1838, the Young Bengals established the second society called the Society for the Acquisition of General Knowledge. Its main objective was to acquire and disseminate knowledge about the condition of the country.


Due to his unorthodox (legendarily free) views on society, culture and religion, the Hindu-dominated management committee of the college, under the chairmanship of Radhakanta Deb, expelled him as a faculty member by a 6:1 vote, for having materially injured [the student's] morals and introduced some strange system the tendency of which is destruction to their moral character and to the peace in Society. In consequence of his misunderstanding no less than 25 Pupils of respectable families have been withdrawn from the College.

Literary works[edit]

Derozio was generally considered an Anglo-Indian, being of mixed Portuguese descent, but he was fired by a patriotic spirit for his native Bengal, and considered himself Indian. Derozio was perhaps the first nationalist poet of Modern India. In his poem To India - My Native Land he wrote:

My Country! In the days of Glory Past
A beauteous halo circled round thy brow
And worshiped as deity thou wast,
Where is that Glory, where is that reverence now?
Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last,
And grovelling in the lowly dust art thou,
Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee,
save the sad story of thy misery[2]

Derozio wrote many wonderful poems in English before his untimely death of which "The Fakir of Janghira" was one of the most important.[3] His poems are regarded as an important landmark in the history of patriotic poetry in India.[4]


His ideas had a profound influence on the social movement that came to be known as the Bengal Renaissance in early 19th century Bengal. And despite being viewed as something of an iconoclast by Alexander Duff and other (largely evangelical) Christian Missionaries; later in Duff's Assembly's Institution, Derozio's ideas on the acceptance of the rational spirit were accepted partly as long as they were not in conflict with basic tenets of Christianity, and as long as they critiqued orthodox Hinduism.

Derozio was an atheist[5] but his ideas are generally believed to be partly responsible for the conversion of upper caste Hindus like Krishna Mohan Banerjee[6] and Lal Behari Dey to Christianity. Sameran Roy, however, states that only three Hindu pupils among his first group of students became Christians, and asserts that Derozio had no role to play in their change of faith.[7] He points out that Derozio dismissal was sought by both Hindus such as Ramkamal Sen, as well as Christians such as H. H. Wilson.[7] Many other students like Tarachand Chakraborti became leaders in the Brahmo Samaj.[8]

A commemorative postage stamp on him was issued on 15-December-2009.[9]


Derozio died of cholera at an early age of 22 on 26 December 1831 in Calcutta. His body was buried in South Park Cemetery of Kolkata.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bhattacharya Supriya (1 September 2009). Impressions 8, 2/E. Pearson Education India. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-81-317-2777-5. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ M. B. Chande (1 January 2000). Indian Philosophy in Modern Times. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 245. ISBN 978-81-7156-896-3. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  4. ^ M.K. Naik (1984). Perspectives on Indian Poetry in English. Abhinav Publications. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-391-03286-6. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
  5. ^ [2] Hindu-School, Kolkata Hindu School, Derozio
  6. ^ Das, Mayukh (2014). Reverend Krishnamohan Bandyopadhyaya. Kolkata: Paschimbanga Anchalik Itihas O Loksanskriti Charcha Kendra. ISBN 978-81-926316-0-8.
  7. ^ a b The Bengalees: glimpses of history and culture (1999), Samaren Roy, Allied Publishers, ISBN 978-81-7023-981-9, p=119
  8. ^ Derozio and the Hindu College
  9. ^ "Stamps – 2009". Department of Posts, Government of India. Retrieved 2 August 2013.


External links[edit]