Jorasanko by Aruna Chakravarti

By  |  0 Comments

Before Independence India was a country full of extremely rich families owning hundreds and thousands acre of lands. Such families could be found in almost all the parts of the country. Under these rich families were the poor laborers and the workers. This system was known as the Zamindari system. Bengal was the place where the Britishers settled down first. When one thinks of Zamindars and Bengal together there is one family which comes into the minds of most of the people that is the Tagore family, which was known as the Thakur family during that era. The name Tagore of course strikes a bell in everyone’s mind and gets one thinking about one of the greatest poet that has ever lived in India, Rabindranath Tagore.

Like every regular family, there was a lot more to the Thakur family than it’s men. It is a popular saying that, ‘behind every successful man there is a woman’. So behind this extremely successful family were a bunch of women too. Women who made up, the household of the Thakur family. These women are the  ones who were almost lost in history but were brought back to life by Aruna Chakravarti in her book Jorasanko.


For all of you who aren’t aware about the name stands for. Jorasanko was the name of the house where the Thakurs resided. And a house can never be a home until there are people who are working towards it. During that time it was mostly women who bound the whole family together. Aruna Chakravarti tries to show exactly that. She starts her book by talking about Dwarkanath Thakur’s wife, who was a very religious woman, born and weaved into the ways of Indian lifestyle. Aruna begins by talking about her struggles in the household and with her husband, who had just become familiar with the western ways and had pick up alcohol. She talks about how she even though being really strong willed couldn’t accept the ways her husband lived his life.


Then she moves on to the second generation to Dwarkanath’s son’s wife, Sarda Sundari. Sarda is an obese and obsolete woman who does no work at all. And how she gives birth to many sons and brings them all up in very different manners. Sarda’s husband Debandranath Thakur, was the one who bought Arya Samaj into the family of the Thakurs. It is during Sarda’s time when the Thakur family faced a split and the split happened because Debandranath’s brothers were dead and the women did not get along with each other.

The first two generation of women do occupy a very important space in the book, but not a lot of place. Aruna enters the third generation of the Thakur women very fast.  One of the main reasons of this is that there was a practice of child marriage and Debandranath’s eldest son was married to a young girl named Jnanadanandini. She is one of the most important women of the household in that generation. Jananadanandini, even though married at a tender age was a very strong women. She was the one who gave the whole of Bengal a new way to tie a saree. She was iconic during that time. When Rabindranath Tagore was born, she was a motherly figure to him. In this book one finds out that his sister in law was more of a mother than his actual mother was. Actual mother always dismissed him.


One of the most important characters of the book is Kadambari, one of his sister in laws. Kadambari was married into the house at a very young age and there was not much of an age difference between her and Robi (Rabindranath Tagore). Mainly due to this they developed an unlikely friendship. The book talks about their friendship and also about Kadambari’s relationship with her husband. It also highlights the fact that most of Robi’s work was inspired by her as she was the first person he would show his work to.

The last woman to be talked about in the book was none other than Rabindranath Tagore’s wife. There is not much to be said here. She is depicted as the person she is truly said to be. She was indeed the pillar in his life without which the whole structure of his family might’ve fallen down.

The book even though set up in the time were women were not considered to be that high brings out the very reason why women are so important and how they support a family. Aruna tries to show the fact that behind every family there are a bunch of women working to make the family what it is today and the author has managed to succeed in doing the same. As one reads the book, they come across such interesting facts about the family that the whole glamour of being a zamindar in that age vanishes.


The social evils present during that time are very much there in the book. The most common would be child marriage. How girls were to marry men twice their age. How women had to cover their faces before they stepped out of the house and how they would spend a lifetime within the four walls of their house. But slowly and steadily even within the book one sees all the stereotype breaking. But there are some that still continue to exist till the end of the book.

On an ending note, this book is something each and everyone should read irrespective of the fact whether they like history or not. This book talks not only about one of the greatest families of India, but also about the evils that have existed in our society and somewhat still do. They tell us about the hardships that the great family had to suffer and it also gives a lot of importance to Bhramo Samaj. This winter if you want to read something different then, give this book a try. It will not blow your mind of but it will send you into a deep thinking mode for sure.