Vishwanath Datta (Bengali: বিশ্বনাথ দত্ত) was born in 1835. His parents were Durgaprasad Datta (father, Swami Vivekananda’s grandfather) and Shyamasundari Devi. Shyamasundari was an educated woman. She wrote a Bengali poetical work “Gangabhakti Tarangaini” (Bengali: গঙ্গাভক্তি তরঙ্গিনী). Durgaprasad and Shyamasundari had two children— first a daughter, died when she was only seven years old, and then the son— Vishwanath Datta. Durgaprasad renounced the world and become a Sannyasin. At that time Vishwanath was just six or seven months old. Vishwanath’s mother Shyamasundari died of cholera (cholera was a common cause of death those death, Narendranath’s great-grandfather Rammohan Datta too died of cholera). At the time of Shyamasundari’s death, Vishwanath was only 12 years old. As a result, orphan Vishwanath was brought up by his uncle Kaliprasad Datta and his wife Vishweswari Datta.
Vishwanath took his school education from Gourmohan Addy’s school (later known as Oriental Seminary), In the school he reportedly studied under a teacher named Rasikchandra whose second son Kali Prasad Chandra became a monk and was known as Swami Abhedananda in later days. In course of time, Vishwanath passed his junior and senior school examinations and finally graduation.
After completing graduation, Vishwanath Datta tried to start his own business, but there he was unsuccessful. On 11 April 1859, he joined law practice as an articled clerk under attorney-at-law Charles F. Peter. On 29 January 1861, he was transferred to the firm of Henry George Temple. There too he worked as an articled clerk. He worked there till 10 October 1864.
Marriage and personal life
In 1851, Vishwanath Datta married Bhuvaneswari Basu, daughter of Nandalal Basu (father) and Ragumani Basu (mother). Vishwanath and Bhuvaneswari Datta had 10 children.
In chronological order, ♀ indicates “daughter” or “female and ♂ indicates “son” or “male”
- Son (♂) — name unknown — died at the age of 8 month.
- Daughter (♀)— name unknown — died at the age of 2 and a half years.
- Haramani (♀) — died at the age of 22.
- Swarnamayi Devi (♀) — died at the age of 72.
- Daughter (♀)— name unknown — died at the age of 6 years.
- Narendranath Datta (pre-monastic name of Swami Vivekananda) (♂) — born 12 January 1863, died 4 July 1902, aged 39 years
- Kiranbala (♀) — died at the age of 16 years or 18 years (uncertain)
- Jogindrabala (♀) — died at the age of 22 years or 25 years (uncertain)
- Mahendranath Datta (♂) — born 1869, died 1956, aged 88
- Bhupendranath Datta (♂) — born 4 September 1880, died 25 December 1961, aged 81
On 14 March 1866, Vishwanath Datta applied to be enrolled as an attorney-at-law or proctor in the court of Chief Justice Sir Barnes Peacock. Along with the application, he submitted two reference letters. Those two references were given by Girish Chandra Bannerjee and Digambar Mitter. The application was reviewed and passed by Justice Walter Morgan. At the same time he and his partner Ashutosh Dhar, who was also an attorney, started a attorney’s office and named it Messrs Dhar & Dutta. Later Vishwanath Datta separated and started his own firm.
During his last days, Vishwanath Datta was suffering from Diabetes and heart problems. He died at a Saturday night in the month of Magh (Magh is January-February in English calendar) of 1884. It was a sudden death. According to the Calcutta Corporation death register, he died because of high diabetes.
Vishwanath Datta’s character
Vishwanath Datta was a learned person. He was well-versed in Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali, Persian, Arabic and Urdu (some scholars have opined, Vishwanath did not know Sanskrit and did not read Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads). He was free from religious superstition and used to mix freely with people of other religions. He had great admiration for Islamic culture and Urdu literature.
Sulochona — novel written by Vishwanath Datta
Vishwanath Datta wrote a novel in Bengali language named Sulochona (Bengali: সুলোচনা). It was a semi autobiographical novel and was set in the 19th century Calcutta. The plot of the novel centred around a large joint-family dispute. The novel was first published in 1882. Then it went into oblivion, there was no reprint. Very recently (in this twenty-first century) the novel has been re-published, ISBN 81-7267-014-. The preface of this revised edition was written by Bengali writer Manishankar Mukhopadhyay.
Major events of Vishwanath Datta’s life — Timeline
In this section we’ll make a table of the major events of Vishwanath Datta’s life—
1835: Born, parent Durgaprasad Datta and Shyamasundari Datta
1835/36: Durgaprasad left home and became a monk.
1847: Shyamasundari died of cholera. Orphan Vishwanath was brought up by his uncle Kaliprasad Datta and his wife Vishweswari Datta.
1851: Vishwanath married Bhuvaneswari Basu
11 April 1859: Joined law practice as an articled clerk under attorney-at-law Charles F. Peter
29 January 1861: He was transferred to the firm of Henry George Temple, here he worked till 10 October 1864.
12 January 1863: Birth of Narendranath Datta.
14 March 1866: Applied to be enrolled as an attorney-at-law or proctor in the court of Chief Justice Sir Barnes Peacock. The application was successful.
1869: Birth of Mahendranath Datta.
1880: Birth of Bhupendranath Datta.
1882: Novel Sulochana was published.
January/February 1884: Death of Vishwanath Datta
Swami Vivekananda’s quotes and comments on Vishwanath Datta
Read Swami Vivekananda’s reminiscences of his father here
You may also read: Biography of Durgaprasad Datta — Swami Vivekananda’s grandfather
- Bulletin of the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. The Institute. 2006
- Samkara (1 January 2011). The Monk as Man: The Unknown Life of Swami Vivekananda. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-310119-2
- The Vedanta Kesari. Sri Ramakrishna Math. 2006
- The Vedanta Kesari. Sri Ramakrishna Math. 2007.