Ashwinikumar Datta was born in an upper middle
class Kayastha family at Laulcale, Patuakhali,
in the district of Barisal on 15 January 1856.
His father, Broja Mohan Datta, was a Munsiff
and Deputy Collector and rose to be a District
Judge. His mother Prasannamoyee Devi was a pious
lady of independent spirit. Ashwinikumar derived
his love of freedom and devotion to God from
At the age of five he took admission in the
pathshala of his ancestral village, Batajore
(Barisal). He passed the Entrance examination
from Rangpur in 1870, and the First Arts examination
from the Presidency College, Calcutta. He next
went to Allahabad to study law and passed the
law examination in 1877. Returning to Bengal,
he graduated from the Krishnagar College in
1878 and passed M.A examination in 1879 and
the B.L examination in 1880 from the same institution.
He was married to Sarla Bala, daughter of Chandra
Kumar Roy, in April 1878.
He began his life as a teacher in Krishnagar
Collegiate School in 1878. Next year he got
the post of Headmaster at Chatra, near Serampore.
But soon after he joined the Bar at Barisal,
in 1880. he built up a lucrative practice but
did not find it congenial to his temperament.
Like Bipin Chandra Pal born of rich parents,
Ashwinikumar also was laid under no necessity
to work for a living. As he had no children
of his own, he adopted the entire school-going
children of his district as his own and devoted
all his wealth to their education. He established
the Brajamohan School in the name of his father
on 27 June 1884.
Five years later the Brajmohan College was started
as a second grade College. He served as an honoary
lecturer of English in this institution for
seventeen years. It was affiliated upto the
B.A standard in 1898. Arrangements were also
made to teach the Pleadership and B.L degree
courses there at the same time. Under the guidance
of Ashwinikumar both the School and the College
became ideal institutions. The motto of the
School was Truth, love and purity.
Every effort was made to inculcate these principles
among the students. Associations like the Band
of Mercy, Band of Unity and
Band of Hope and Little Brothers
of the Poor were organized in the School.
The College was spoken of the highly appreciative
terms by competent authorities. Ashwinikumar
also organized the Bakharganj Hitaisini Sabha,
and its auspicious started a Girls School in
Ashwinikumar took an active interest in politics
from his early life. In 1880 he organized the
Peoples Association, first at Serampore
and then at Barisal. He was elected a delegate
to the second session of the Congress, held
in Calcutta in 1886. In 1887 he attended the
third session at Madras and spoke on the reform
of the Legislative Council. He was one of the
few persons who tried to have mass contact
on that early stage of the evolution of the
Congress at the Madras Session he
produced a petition to the House of Commons
for introducing reforms in the legislature.
In 1897 at the Amraoti session of the Congress
he warned that the Congress would sink into
a three-days fun, if its ideals did not reach
the rural people. His position in the Congress
may be ascertained from the fact that in 1898
he, along with D. E. Wacha, Madan Mohan Malaviya,
Subrahmania Iyer, R. N. Mudholkar and the President
and ex-President, was empowered to draw up a
constitution for the Congress.
The Constitution draw up was adapted in 1899.
The partition of Bengal transformed him from
a Moderate to an Extremist. In 1906 he resided
over Shivaji festival. Bipin Chandra Pal writes
in his Spirit of Indian Nationalism
that during the Swadeshi agitation Ashwinikumars
word was lord to the people of Barisal.
The Government of East Bengal and Assam proposed
to deport him on 3 July 1907, but the Government
of India did not agree. When, however, the proposal
was repeated on 10 December 1908, Ashwinikumar
was deported. He was detained in Lucknow jail,
where he devoted his time to learning Gurumukhi
and studying he Grantha Saheb. He was released
on 9 February 1910.
Ashwinikumar also took great interest in the
civic affairs of Barisal. He was elected a Commissioner
of the Barisal Municipality, when it was first
established in 1885. In 1897 he rose to be its
Chairman. It was mainly through his efforts
that the district board was set in Barisal in
1887. He organized famine relief in 1906 and
also helped those who suffered from cyclone
in 1919. in 1913 he was elected President of
the Bengal Provincial Conference held in Dacca.
In 1921 he was the chairman of he Reception
Committee when this Conference met at Barisal.
He also promoted the Railway and Steamer strike
in Assam and Bengal to protect the interest
of the laborers in tea gardens. He was really
the uncrowned king of East Bangal. He was in
favor of boycotting he legislature set up under
the Montagu-Chelmsford scheme, and welcomed
the non- cooperative movement launched by Mahatma
Ashwinikumar led a simple, austere life. He
was converted to Brahmoism by Krishna Goswami
in 1886. He used to read the Pali Buddhist texts,
the Gita, the Bible and the Grantha Saheb with
devotion. He tried to eradicate untouchability,
prostitution and drinking habit. He also tried
to promote cottage industry but was not averse
Ashwinikumar wrote a number patriotic songs,
which he published as Bharat Geet.
His Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga
and Prema have become classic in
Bengali literature. His Bhakti-Yoga
has moulded the life of thousands of patriotic
men and women in the pre-Independence days.