Bagha Jatin, born as Jatindranath Mukherjee was an Indian revolutionary philosopher who sacrificed his life to execute his ideas into action to overthrow the British government in India. He was the founder of the Jugantar movement that was the central association aiming at an armed insurrection in India.

Jatindra was born in Kayagram village in the Kushtia, subdivision of Nadia district (now Bangladesh) on 7 December 1879. Having lost his father Umesh Chandra at the age of five, he and his elder sister Vinodebala were brought up by their mother Sharat Shashi Devi, a poet and ardent servant devoted to social welfare.

As Jatindra grew older, he gained a reputation for physical bravery and great strength. Fond of legends, he became a popular figure for playing god-loving roles like Prahlad, Dhruva, Harish Chandra, Rana Pratap and Pratapaditya Founder of a few football clubs and aakhraas (gymnasium), he included the study of the writings of eminent thought-leaders and to meditate on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.

Soon after joining the Calcutta Central College to study Fine Arts, he started visiting Swami Vivekananda, whose social thought, and especially whose vision of a politically independent India – indispensable for the spiritual progress of humanity – had greatly influenced Jatindra. Disgusted with the colonial system of education that taught to become clerks for English merchant enterprises, he gave up his studies and accompanied Nivedita to classes at the pioneering Dawn Society held by eminent thought leaders of the new generation.

Keeping in mind one of Tagore’s speeches against racial discrimination practiced by the ruling class, over the years Jatindra became famous for his open theatrical challenges to the blows and kicks received by innocent Indians from the British officers. In reply to Bipin Chandra Pal’s series of articles on such discrimination, did not Tagore by praising Pal’s “initiative” suggesting an urgent need to deal a blow against a blow, agreeing that there is no better tonic than a clenched fist, appraised Jatindra’s action.

In the winter of 1905, Jatindra was informed of the Prince of Wales (future George V) visiting India to quench the forest fire of revolt raging against the Partition of Bengal. With a view to demonstrate before the Prince the crude behavior of Her Majesty’s representatives towards the helpless citizens of India, Jatindra chose a group of British soldiers teasing a few Indian ladies who were eagerly waiting inside a cabriolet. An oral warrant followed by Jatindra’s dexterous thrashing of the Tommies roused a great cheering of the crowd. Back home after the tour, the Prince had a long conversation with Morley (Secretary of State in charge of the Indian affairs), disgusted with the “ungracious bearing of Europeans to Indians.” [1]  

Jatindra’s meeting Sri Aurobindo in 1903 further ignited his fervor for revolution against the British. As his right-hand man, Sri Aurobindo entrusted Jatindra to create a secret society for training dedicated youth in favour of an armed rising of 1857 model in  British India. Jatindra taught  how to die in order to wake up the Nation, attain freedom and leave posterity happy, all in a nutshell : amra morbo, jati jagbe. That society – the Jugantar (“Epoch’s End”) – was to know Bagha Jatin as its Commander-in-chief.

In 1906 Jatindra had to fight with a Royal Bengal tiger single-handed to save the life of a stripling in his village, and to kill it by using sheerly a dagger. Awarding a commemorative silver shield for Jatindra’s heroic gesture, the Government did not fail to notice people’s admiration for him through the nickname Bagha Jatin (“Valorous like a tiger”).

In 1908, bemused by the news that Jatindra’s giving a substantial lesson to four military aggressors had roused a commotion in the written press and Jatindra was to appear for a case, his boss Henry Wheeler enquired of Jatindra how many men he could deal with at a time, the reply  was: “In case of honest people, I can’t manhandle even one. But I can easily cope with a host of them, if they be foul.” Warned by Sri Aurobindo, Jatindra started to maintain a distance with the Maniktola bomb factory: this saved him from getting arrested in Alipore bomb case.  He was arrested, however, in January 1910, in connection with the Howrah-Sibpur conspiracy case and locked in Alipore Central jail.  After spending eleven months as under-trial prisoner for “waging war against the Crown”, Jatindra and all  his associates  were  acquitted and released in 1911, thanks to Jatindra’s policy of a decentralized federation of secret units spread all over Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and North India. A number of officers of the 10th Jat Regiment posted at Fort William of Calcutta happened to be sworn members of the Jugantar: with the approval of Jatindra, they introduced Naren Chatterjee to several barracks in Benares, Nainital, Lahore and Peshawar, thus tampering with the loyalty of Indian soldiers.

In 1912, Jatindra met the German Crown Prince in Calcutta and asked him for arms for an insurrection, in order to create a socialist government in India. The German Crown Prince promised to provide arms and funds for the proposed Indian revolution against the British.[2]

Finding Rash Behari Bose slightly dejected, his friend Motilal Roy took him to assist Jatindra who was then, in 1913, busy with his vast relief mission during the Damodar floods. Attracted by Jatindra’s leadership, Bose met him several times, receiving from him the mandate of developing new contacts with the native army officers in charge of the Fort William, which was the nerve-centre of British military hold on the Empire.

When World War I broke out, Just an estimated 15,000 British Indian soldiers were left to guard India. Jatindra saw this as an opportune time to launch an insurrection against the British forces. Jatindra made a plan to receive arms consignments from Germany with the S.S. Maverick at Balasore coast. Jatindra’s emissary Satyen Sen, a leading figure of the Gadhar, with two important Gadhar members named Kartar Singh and Pingley reached Calcutta in November 1914 with the finalized programme, known as the Zimmerman Plan.

Jatindra sent the two Gadhrites with a note revealing thus to  Rash Behari Bose the progress in favour of the rising as conceived by Jatindra and elaborated by Viren Chattopadhyay. German Ambassador von Bernstorff quoting his Military Attaché wrote on 7th December 1914 that he had already purchased for India 11,000 rifles, 4 million cartridges, 250 Mauser pistols, 500 revolvers with ammunition.[3]

Waiting for the Maverick, Jatindra  and four of his select associates, had taken shelter at Kaptipada, near the coast of Balasore. However an Indian member of the Gadhar sold the plan to the authorities inside India; and on the international front, a Czech spy named EV Voska leaked this information to the British via his American chainwork. According to Ross Hedvick, had Voska not betrayed, “nobody today would have heard of Mahatma Gandhi and the father of the Indian nation would have been Bagha Jatin.”

Connecting the leads, the armed detachment of British Police arrested Saileswar Bose, the follower of Jatindra who was looking after the Universal Emporium, a frontal unit in Balasore town. They discovered a small handwritten note in which ‘Kaptipada’ was mentioned. By the time they reached there Jatindra along with his associates had fled the spot. 

After two days, with his four men, Jatindra the strategist stopped at a convenient mound girdled by “white-ant heaps with bushes growing upon them…about the height of man or perhaps four feet. The anthills stand on the embankment of an old tank.  The embankment is slightly rising  above the level of the surrounding country. The embankment ran round the old tank which is now nearly silted up.”[4] Further precision brought in about ther bush which was “a very think one like a holly bush, and about two and half yards in length”.[5]

The contingent of Government forces approached them in a pincers movement. A gunfight ensued, lasting seventy-five minutes. While the British side was armed with highly sophisticated rifles, Bagha Jatin and his team fought with Mauser pistols.”

It ended with an unrecorded number of casualties on the Government side; on the revolutionary side, Chittapriya Ray Chaudhuri died, Jatindra and Jyotish Pal were seriously wounded. His two other associates, Manoranjan Sengupta and Niren Dasgupta, were captured. They were later executed in Balasore jail. His fourth associate Jyotish was sent to Andaman jail. There were significant causalities on the British side also.⁣

Bagha Jatindra died in Balasore hospital on 10 September 1915.⁣In 1925, Gandhiji in a private conversation with Charles Tegart, the Commissioner of Calcutta police, mentioned Bagha Jatin as a “divine personality”, whereas Tegart had told his colleagues that if Jatin were an Englishman, the English people would have built his statue next to Nelson’s at Trafalgar Square. 

About Author:

This article is written by Mr Prithwindra Mukherjee, grandson of great freedom fighter Jatindra Mukherjee. We are honoured to be able to share an article written by Mr Prithwindra Mukherjee himself. 

Prithwindra Mukherjee is the recipient of India’s highly prestigious award Padma Shri 2020 for his work in the field of literature and education.

He retired in 2003 from a career as a researcher in the Human and Social Sciences Department (Ethnomusicology) of the French National Centre of Scientific Research in Paris. He is the author of a number of books and other publications on various subjects. Read more about him here.


[1] India under Morley and Minto by M.N. Das, George Allen and Unwin, 1964,p.25

[2] « Nixon’s Report » in Terrorism in Bengal, Government of West Bengal, 1995 : Vol.II, p.62  

[3] Microfilm Reels 363 on British India; Reels 397-401: “Activities & Istigation against our Enemies : India”

[4] Statement by District Magistrate Kilby. Cf :Undying Courage: the Story of Bagha Jatin, by Prithwindra Mukherjee, Academic Publishers, 1992, pp.170-171

[5] Statement by Sergeant Rutherford (ibid).