Henry Louis Vivian Derozio

18 Apr 1809
26 Dec 1831
Poet
Offer Flowers
Light a Candle
Pray for the soul
Seek Blessings

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 (of 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.

Henry Louis Vivian Derozio was born on 18 April 1809 at Entally-Padmapukur in Kolkata. His father Francis Derozio was a well-respected man in Anglo-Indian community. His original family name was ‘De Rozario’. (Also spelt D’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 released 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. 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. His activities brought about intellectual revolution in Bengal. It was called the Young Bengal Movement and his students, also known as Derozians, were fiery patriots.

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.

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


Derozio wrote many wonderful poems in English before his untimely death of which “The Fakir of Janghira” was one of the most important.[2] His poems are regarded as an important landmark in the history of patriotic poetry in India.

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 others like 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[4] but his ideas are generally believed to be partly responsible for the conversion of upper caste Hindus like Krishna Mohan Banerjee 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.[5] He points out that Derozio dismissal was sought by both Hindus such as Ramkamal Sen, as well as Christians such as H. H. Wilson.[5] Many other students like Tarachand Chakraborti became leaders in the Brahmo Samaj

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

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