Suniti Devi and the Social Reform Movenment of 19th Century Bengal

in Published Volumes


Ushasi Banerjee
Independent Scholar
Department of History
University of Calcutta
College Square,Kolkata,West Bengal,India


Abstract:: Keshab Chandra Sen, an eminent personality of 19th century Bengal, played an instrumental role in the social reform movement. But the marriage of his minor daughter, Suniti Devi to the Maharaja of Coochbehar in March, 1878 damaged his reputation as a reformer. In traditional historiography, this event has been interpreted as a shameful episode in the ‘glorious’ history of Bengal Renaissance. But the background and the context that led to this marriage, especially the way the matrimonial alliance served British imperial interests, have often been ignored. This paper seeks to understand the event in some detail and demonstrates how child marriage got justified when it proved to be beneficial to the imperialists and the Brahmo missionaries of Keshab Sen’s clique. The article will illustrate that the social reform movement of 19th century Bengal, though incorporated debates on women’s
condition, mostly neglected the question of female agency.

Key Words:Imperialism,Modernity, Marriage, Social Reform Movement, Female Agency etc