Bhabani Bhattacharya

Date of birth: 
10 Nov 1906
City of birth: 
Bhagalpur, Bihar
Country of birth: 
Date of death: 
09 Oct 1988
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Sep 1927
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

September 1927 - December 1934




Bhabani Bhattacharya was born in Bihar to Bengali parents. In 1927 he graduated with a degree in English literature from Patna University. In 1928 Bhattacharya moved to England to continue his studies. His initial intention was to continue studying English literature at King’s College, London. However after an acrimonious encounter with one of his professors he decided on a degree in history instead. While studying for his degree at the University of London, Bhattacharya was taught by the political philosopher and author Harold Laski who would be, along with Tagore and Gandhi, a lasting influence on his writing.

During his time in London, Bhattacharya became closely associated with Marxist groups and an active member of the League Against Imperialism. While in London, Bhattacharya contributed to a number of journals and newspapers. He published in The Bookman, the Manchester Guardian and the Spectator, which at the time was edited by author of the bestselling Lives of a Bengal Lancer, Francis Yeats-Brown, who would become a close friend. Both he and Tagore urged Bhattacharya to use English as a medium of expression for his fiction, rather than Bengali. In 1930 Bhattacharya translated Tagore’s The Golden Boat to wide acclaim. He graduated from the University of London with a degree in history in 1931, returning for his PhD, which he received in 1934. From 1932 to 1933 he travelled widely through Europe, including Berlin, Budapest, Warsaw, Paris and Vienna.

Bhattacharya returned to India in December 1934 and settled in Calcutta. He married Salil Mukherji in 1935. In 1949 he moved to Washington as Press Attaché for the Indian Embassy. In 1947, So Many Hungers was published. Music for Mohini, one of his most acclaimed novels, was published in 1952 and Shadow from Ladakh, which received the Sahitya Akademi Award (India’s highest literary award), in 1966. His novels were translated into twenty-eight languages. In 1969 he left India to become Visiting Professor at the University of Hawai’i. In 1972 he moved permanently to the US. He died of a heart attack in 1988.


Lionel Britton, John Galsworthy, M. K. Gandhi, Harold Laski, Rabindranath Tagore, Francis Yeats-Brown (editor of the Spectator).

Published works: 

The Golden Boat (translator) (London: Allen & Unwin, 1930)

Music for Mohini (New York: Crown Publishers, 1952)

So Many Hungers! (London: Victor Gollancz, 1947)

He Who Rides a Tiger (New York: Crown Publishers, 1954)

A Goddess Named Gold (New York: Crown Publishers, 1960)

Towards Universal Man. Essays by Rabindranath Tagore, selected and edited by Bhabani Bhattacharya, under the auspices of the Tagore Commemorative Volume Society (Bombay: Asia Publishing House, 1961)

Shadow from Ladhak (New York: Crown Publishers, 1966)

Contributions to periodicals: 

The Bookman (‘Bengali Fiction Today’, LXXXIII.493, October 1932, pp. 26-7)

Secondary works: 

Chandrasekharan, K. R., Bhabani Bhattacharya (New Delhi: Arnold-Heinemann, 1974)

Desai, Shantinath K., Bhabani Bhattacharya: Makers of Indian Literature Series (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1995)

Shimer, Dorothy Blair, Bhabani Bhattacharya (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1975) 

Archive source: 

Contemporary Collections, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston