Dwarkanath Ganguly (20 April 1844 - 27 June 1898) was a Brahmo reformer in Bengal of British India. He contributed substantially towards the enlightenment of society and the emancipation of women.
Dwarkanath Ganguly was born at Magurkhanda village in Bikrampur, now in Bangladesh. At the time of Ganguly's birth, his father, Krishnapran Ganguli lived in Faridpur in connection with some family work. His mother hailed from a rich family. Once she wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Puri. In those days, one had to use boats and elephants for transport. Her parent's family would have been too happy to support her financially for that but she was too upright a person to accept such support. Instead, she covered the long distance for the pilgrimage on foot. This incident portrays the strong will power of Ganguly's mother. The same would be apparent in his life later.
He had his early education in his village pathsala (school). Later, when he expressed the desire to learn English he joined the English school in nearby Kalipara in spite of severe physical difficulties. He studied up to the entrance class but failed to clear the examination. He started his teaching career and worked at three places - Sonarang in Bikrampur, Olpur in Faridpur and in the minor school at Lonsingh.
During Ganguly's school days he was strongly influenced by Akshay Kumar Datta's Dharma Niti (Religious principles). He was aroused about the plight of the Bengali woman, and was influenced by Dutt's main thesis that "the first vital step to social regeneration is liberating woman from her bondage."
When he was 17 years old, he heard that the relatives of an unfortunate girl who had strayed from her course killed the girl by poisoning her. On enquiry, he came know that it was not uncommon to kill girls in such a manner in kulin (orthodox upper caste) Brahmin families. He was so shocked that he vowed not to go in for polygamous marriage, a system in vogue in orthodox upper caste society in those days.
While he was still working at Lonsingh, he started publishing a weekly magazine named Abalabandhab (Friend of Women) from Dhaka. Amongst those who supported him was Pran Kumar Das, son of Abhaya Kumar Das, a well-known deputy magistrate and a leading member of Dhaka Brahmo Samaj, earlier founded by Braja Sundar Mitra.
The noted American historian David Kopf writes, "This journal, which is probably first in the world devoted solely to the "liberation of women," represented clearly what we have described elsewhere as the compassion for the Bengali woman as proletariat. Ganguli played the role of a humanitarian muckraking journalist bringing to light concrete cases of exploitation and extreme suffering of women, as for example, the sensation he created when he featured the story of one East Bengal village where 'in a single year thirty-three kulin women committed suicide or were murdered.' According to Ganguli every one of them was the victim of premarital or extramarital conception as a result of rape or seduction."
Sivanath Sastri says, "We were wonderstruck on reading Abalabandhab. Who was the person who was expressing such liberal opinion about the education and development of women from a far away village? In the course of time, Ganguli-brother came to Calcutta to meet the contributors from the city to his magazine. We met our hero. At a gathering of friends, they decided to shift Abalabandhab to Kolkata. Accordingly in 1870, Ganguly came to Kolkata with Abalabandhab." Life became difficult for Dwarkanath. He lacked the support base he had at Dhaka.
Apart from Abalabandhab, Dwarkanath raised a storm within the Brahmo Samaj regarding the issue of women sitting behind the screen during prayer meetings. With his strong reformist views, he was obviously opposed to many of the conservative ideas not only in society but even in the Brahmo Samaj. That was the beginning of the split in the Brahmo Samaj of India, which ultimately led to the formation of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj in 1878. Ganguly served several terms as secretary of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj.
When a Unitarian English lady Annette Akroyd started the Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya in 1873, Dwarkanath served that boarding school as headmaster, teacher, dietician, guard, and maintenance man. After school hours, he used to sweep the premises on his own. The school was later renamed Banga Mahila Vidyalaya and was subsequently merged with Bethune School. In this activity, he was assisted by Sivanath Sastri, Durga Mohan Das, Ananda Mohan Bose, Annadacharan Khastagir, and others. He rendered financial assistance to Brahmo Balika Shikshalaya.
In 1876-77, Ganguly concentrated on the wretched conditions of the workers in the tea gardens of Assam. He published a series of articles on the Slave Trade of Assam in K. K. Mitra's nationalist newspaper Sanjibani. Later, he even took the matter to the forums of the Indian National Congress.
A number of years after the death of his first wife, he married, in 1883, Kadambini Bose, one of the first woman graduates in the British Empire. Dwarkanath fought for her admission into Calcutta Medical College and secured it. Kadambini later became the first Indian woman doctor.
In 1891, the orthodox Hindu journal Bangabasi lashed out at Kadambini Ganguly as a despised symbol of modern Brahmo womanhood and accused her, then a mother of five children, of being a whore. Immediately, Sivanath Sastri, Nilratan Sircar and Dwarkanath Ganguly, instituted legal action against the journal and its editor, who was subsequently sentenced to six months' imprisonment and made to pay a fine of one hundred rupees.
They had eight children. Amongst them Jyotirmoyee was a noted freedom fighter and Prabhat Chandra was a journalist. His eldest daughter from his first marriage, Bidhumukhi, was married to Upendra Kishor Ray Chaudhuri.
His notable works are Bir Nari (play), Kobigantha, Nababarshiki, Jibanalekhya, Suruchir Kutir (Novel), Jatiya Sangeet (compilation), Saral Patiganit (text book), Bhugol (text book), Sasthyatattwa (text book).
Ganguly died on June 27 in 1898.