||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (October 2014)|
Signet Press edition cover
|Translator||Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri|
|Cover artist||Satyajit Ray|
|Publisher||M. C. Sircar & Sons Limited (original Bengali),
Katha Books (English translation)
Published in English
|1 July 2002|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Pages||175 pp (Eng. trans. edition)|
|ISBN||NA & (Eng. trans. ISBN 81-87649-30-5)|
Chander Pahar (Bengali: চাঁদের পাহড়, English: Mountain of the Moon) is a Bengali novel written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay in 1937. Chronicling the adventures of a Bengali boy in the forests of Africa, it is considered to be one of the most loved adventure novels in the Bengali literature and is one of Bibhutibhushan's most popular works.
This novel tells the story of an ordinary young Bengali boy, Shankar Roy Chowdhury from a nondescript village of Bengal, and his adventures in Africa through the years 1909 and 1910. The 20 year old protagonist had just graduated from college and due to his family's financial struggles, is on the verge of taking up a job in a jute mill in Shyamnagar, a prospect he absolutely loathes.
Since childhood, geography has been his favourite subject. He has wanted to follow in the footsteps of renowned explorers like Livingstone, Mungo Park, and Marco Polo, all of whom he has read about. He yearns for adventure, wilderness, forests, animals and the continent of Africa. By a stroke of luck, he secures a job as a clerk at the Uganda Railway through an acquaintance already working there - and so joyously rushes to Africa without a second thought.
There he spends a few months laying rail tracks but soon encounters the first of many dangers in Pre-World War I Africa: man-eating lions, who claim the lives of a few of his new-found friends. Later he takes up a job as station master in a desolate station amidst the Veldts. Here his presence of mind enables him to have a narrow escape from another hazard in Africa: the deadly black mamba. While at this post, Shankar encounters, rescues and nurses Diego Alvarez, a middle-aged Portuguese explorer and gold/diamond prospector. Alvarez's arrival becomes a turning point in Shankar's life. While recuperating, Alvarez narrated his earlier exploits in Africa with his friend Jim Carter. Lured by a priceless, uncut yellow diamond gifted by the Chief of a Kaafi village, Alvarez and Carter had resolved to find the cave of these yellow diamonds, located on the Mountain of the Moon-Chander Pahar- in the Richtersveldt, which was believed to be guarded by the mythical monster, the Bunyip.The explorers set off, much against the villagers' advice, braved the dense jungle and hostile environment but met with disaster- for Carter was gruesomely killed, supposedly by the Bunyip.
Shankar, highly inspired by Alvarez's exploits, resigns from his job and accompanies Alvarez as they decide to venture out once more and find the mines. They meet with innumerable hardships, a raging volcano being the greatest challenge. But the volcano was unknown to the world outside, thus making Shankar and Alvarez its first discoverers. Eventually, they get lost in the forests where Alvarez suffers death at the hands of a mysterious monster, the same that had taken Carter’s life, the Bunyip.
A grieved and demoralised Shankar sets out to attempt to reach civilisation. He finds the Bunyip's cave and the diamond mines by accident. He enters the cave but eventually gets lost. With great difficulty, he gets out, marking his way with "pebbles" and taking some back with him as a memento, not knowing each is a piece of uncut diamond. He finds the remains of the Italian explorer, Attilio Gatti, and learns that the cave he found earlier really was the diamond mine. Gatti, as Shankar learns from a note by him, had uncut diamonds in his boots. The note said that whoever reads the note can take the diamonds as long as he buries his skeleton, with Christian rites. Shankar does so, and keeps the old diamonds. He becomes lost in the deserts of Kalahari and nearly dies of thirst. Fortunately he is rescued by a survey team, and taken to a hospital in Salisbury, Rhodesia, from where he sets sail for home. Before going back, he wrote his account in a newspaper which earned him quite some money. In that he named the volcano after Alvarez. He ends the book saying that he will return to that cave one day with a large team, and continue the legacy of Alvarez, Carter and Gatti.
Characters in "Mountain of the Moon"
- Shankar Roy Chowdhury - The hero of the story, a young Bengali man from a village in Bengal. He is a smart, brave person who has a penchant for adventures.
- Diego Alvarez - A Portuguese explorer. He acts as a friend and mentor to Shankar, and together they try and explore the deepest reaches of Richtersveld for the Mountain of the Moon.
- Jim Carter - A British explorer, Alvarez's companion in his previous expedition. Alvarez revealed to Shankar that Carter was killed by the Bunyip while he and Carter were exploring the Mountains of the Moon.
- Attilio Gatti - An Italian explorer. He discovered the diamond mine caves in c. 1879 but dies in a cave (later discovered by Shankar) on his way back, in the hands of his traitorous followers.
It is worthwhile mentioning here that Bibhutibhushan never traveled outside of India . His detailed and realistic portrayal of African grasslands and jungles is totally based on travel-magazines and guide books about Africa that he had read. In the light of this fact, his mastery over prose and description of nature assumes greatness of a higher level.
In other media
A film based on the novel, directed by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee was released in 20 December 2013 (27 December 2013 in all over India). The film, highly acclaimed and praised by critics, is produced by Shree Venkatesh Films and has been shot on various locations across Africa. The film is reportedly being made with a budget of nearly 150 million (US$2.4 million), thus making it one of the most expensive movies ever made in Bengali film industry.
The director of the movie adaptation Kamaleshwar Mukherjee mentioned Chander Pahar as his "dream project". The film has reportedly incorporated CGI and visual effects at par with Hollywood and Bollywood standards.Dev plays the role of the main protagonist, Shankar. Most of the other cast members are from South Africa. According to the crew members, it took a considerable time to decide who will play the role of Diego Alvarez and South African actor Gérard Rudolf was selected in the end. The first theatrical trailer of the film was released by Shree Venkatesh Films, at the Kolkata Nicco park on 14 November 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chander Pahar.|
|Bengali Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Sunīlakumāra Caṭṭopādhyāẏa (1 January 1994). Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyaya. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 17–. ISBN 978-81-7201-578-7. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- "Film on Chander Pahar - Times Of India". Articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Kamaleshwar Mukherjee's Trip To South Africa For Chander Pahar, Starring Dev". The Telegraph (Calcutta, India). 9 January 2013.
- "Kamaleswar's African safari". The Times of India.