Kali Charan Banerjee

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Kali Charan Banerjee (1847–1902), spelt also as Kalicharan Banerji or K.C. Banerjea or K.C. Banurji, a Bengali convert to Anglican Church, was the founder of Calcutta Christo Samaj, a Christian parallel to Brahmo Samaj.[1][2][3] [4]

K.C. Banerji was also one of the pioneers of Indian Christian movement, founder of the movement for emancipation, and was the finest orator in the whole assembly of Congress sessions.[citation needed]


He was born at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh state where his father lived, and moved to Calcutta(present Kolkata) for education and made that city as his home for rest of his life. K.C. Banerjee was a lawyer by profession from Bengal, and was both a devout Christian and a prominent member of Congress in its early years.[1]

He taught reading and writing as a teacher to Brahmabandhab Upadhyay aka Bhabani[Bhawani] Charan Banerjee, a Roman Catholic; Hindu Sadhu(Sanyasi); and Bengali Catholic nationalist, related to K.C. Banerji, who happens to be the uncle of Upadhyay—he laid the foundation for a Vedanta-based Christian theology, Vedantic Thomism - Upadhyay came to know Jesus Christ from his uncle Reverend Kalicharan Banerji and Keshub Chunder Sen, Brahmo Samaj and Naba Bidhan leader - he died prematurely as a prisoner, charged with sedition by Colonial government of Calcutta.[1][5][6][7]

Congress leader[edit]

He being a fine orator and representative of Bengali Christian community, he joined the Indian National Congress(Congress) in 1885, and regularly addressed the Congress annual sessions in moulding the policy of national movement. Rev. Kalicharan Banerji along with G.C. Nath from Lahore, and Peter Paul Pillai from Madras(present Chennai), represented Indian Christians at the four sessions of the Congress between 1888 and 1891, and became a prominent leader in the Congress in the early years of formation.[2][3][5]

With regular participation in the annual sessions of Congress, he was able to influence and succeed in putting a number of proposals before the Colonial British government of Calcutta for administrative reforms. In 1889 Congress session, he was responsible for resolution demanding improvement in the educational systems, particularly University education—higher education. He also presided over the grand meeting that discussed the advantages of the municipal elective system, of the Indian League—This seems, attracted Richard Temple, then-Lieutenant governor of Bengal - Temple then called Babu Shishir Kumar Ghose and discussed about his willingness to introduce elective system in municipal bodies.[8][9]

In 1889, he was instrumental in protesting against the prohibition of teachers participating in political movements, imposed by the Colonial British Raj in Calcutta.[citation needed]

Indian Christian leader[edit]

He strongly advocated for and defended the Indian Christian nationality in 1870. At the age of 25, he started a newspaper called The Bengal Christian Herald, later changed its name to The Indian Christian Herald.[4] In his own words as reported in The Bengal Christian Herald:

In having become Christians, we have not ceased to be Hindus. We are Hindu Christian....We have embraced Christianity but we have not rejected our nationality. We are intensely national as any of our bretheren.[2][4]

He was one of the active member of Bengal Christian Association, the first Christian organisation for promotion of Christian Truth and Godliness, founded in 1876 by a group of Christians in Calcutta with an intention of creating a national and independent Indian church. Krishna Mohun Banerjee was its first president.[2][4]

In 1877, he along with J.G. Shome created a forum by organizing the Bengali Christian conference to present their programme. They criticized the missionaries of denationalizing the Indian Christians and making them into compound converts:

They criticized the missionaries of denationalizing the Indian Christians, making them into compound converts, but

first and foremost of transferring the theological and ecclesiastical differences of the West of India, thereby dividing the Indian Christians into numerous denominations. At the same time, they demanded indigenous forms of worship.[4]

A group of Christians under the leadership of K.C. Banerjee and J.G. Shome left their churches and founded Calcutta Christo Samaj in competition to Brahmo Samaj at Calcutta in 1887 that has no clergy, but affirmed only the apostles creed. Their purpose was to propagate the Christian truth and promote Christian union. They intended to garner all Indian churches together and thereby eliminate denominationalism.[2][4][10]

He being a Protestant Christian, a group of nationalist leaders who associated themselves with the Indian National Congress perceived that "Christianity in India was full of stagnant Western waters and could be cleansed only through Indian Christian literature." [sic]—the attempts of Protestant Christians to indigenize Christianity created rift between Protestants and Catholics leading to establishment of non-denominational missionary organizations; consequently, in 1887, he along with Shome founded the Calcutta Christo Samaj. K.C. Banerjee later changed his attire to wearing the clothes of Sannyasin, and moved closer to Scottish missionaries in Bengal; his association with Scottish missionaries in Bengal brought closer and impressed Scottish missionaries in Madras too, especially Madras Christian College—then-epicenter of the "Re-thinking Christianity in India Group". The Re-thinking Group of Madras, asserted that the missionary emphasis on institutions like Church in India was not wise and reiterated that Christianity must understand the spiritual genius of India, forms of worship, and categories of thought so as to take root in the Indian soil; as a result, development of spirituality through Bhakti tradition, and inculturation of the Christian faith through the avatar entered into their religious affairs.[2][3]

Kalicharan Banurji along with Shome representing Bengali Christians participated in a decennial missionary conference at Calcutta in 1882, and in Re-thinkers assemblage at Bombay(present Mumbai) in 1892 strongly advocating for united and single Indian church—one, not divided, native, not foreign.[10] In the Bombay conference, he presented a paper entitled "The Native Church - Its Organization and Self Support"—an excerpt of that paper:

That the missionaries of India, the majority of whom represent foreign missions, should,in conference assembled, embody, in their programme, the conception of 'The Native Church', is an indication of momentous significance. It signifies, on their part a readiness to recognize the ideal that the Native Church in India should be one, not divided; native, not foreign. Nay, it conveys the promise that, henceforth, they shall not impose by rule, upons the converts they are privileged to gather, the accidents of denominational Christianity, at once divisive and exotic, with which they themselves happen to be identified.[4]

Kalicharan Banerjee and Tamilians like Parani Andi(known also as Pulney Andy), V.S Azariah, P. Chenchiah, and K. T. Paul were credited for being the pioneers in reformulating "Rethinking Movement in Indian Christianity"—indigenous mission reflecting the cultural heritage of India and stand aloof from Western cultural domination—Re-thinking in the context of developing Indian expressions of Biblical life and faith against the traditional patterns implanted by Western minds. As a result, The National Church of Madras in 1886, The Christo Samaj of Calcutta in 1887, The Marthoma Evangelical Association of Kerala in 1888, and The Hindu Church of the Lord Jesus in Tinnevelly in 1903 were seen as the first attempts to create indigenous missions by Indian Christian community in India.[4][10][11]

In spite of Church organisation becoming a Rethinking group in 1877 and then into a new Church movement in 1887, Calcutta Christo Samaj survived only for few years since "non-denominational Indian church" failed to overtake the already well-established missionary churches with solid foundation and adequate local resources, long before.[10] According to B.R. Barber, biographer of K.C. Banurji:

for eight years these pioneers of unity struggled onward seeking to found the church of India; but denominationalism proved far too strong for them. The Samaj never grew to any proportions, and finally died out in 1895.[4]

Gandhi Vs Kalicharan Banerji[edit]

Gandhi, having told his Christian friends in South Africa that he would meet the Christian Indians and acquaint himself with their condition; accordingly, Gandhi while taking shelter at Gokhale's residence, decided to visit Babu Kalicharan Banerji, whom Gandhi held high regard as he took a prominent part in Congress in spite of isolating himself from Hindus and Mussalmans. When Gandhi went to Kalicharan's home, Mrs. Kalicharan was on her death-bed, and in his own words:[12][13]

I sought an appointment, which he readily gave me. When I went, I found that his wife was on her death-bed. His house was simple. In the Congress I had seen him in a coat and trousers, but I was glad to find him now wearing a Bengal dhoti and shirt. I liked his simple mode of dress, though I myself then wore a Parsi coat and trousers. Without much ado I presented my difficulties to him. He asked: "Do you believe in the doctrine of original sin?"

"I do," said I. "Well then, Hinduism offers no absolution therefrom,Christianity does," and added: "The wages of sin is death, and the Bible says that the only way of deliverance is surrender unto Jesus." I put forward Bhakti-marga (the path of devotion) of the Bhagavad Gita, but to no avail. I thanked him for his goodness. He failed to satisfy me, but I benefited by the interview.[12]

Gandhi, having grasped the concept of Hinduism and also the traditions he was following, he seems to have pulled by the attractiveness of the example of Jesus; accordingly, in 1901, he made one determined effort to see if Christianity was the path he should follow. In 1925, when presenting to Christian missionaries, he described this step, which involved going to see Indian converted Christian Kali Charan Banerjee:[14]

I told Mr. Banerjee, “I have come to you as a seeker—” . . . Well, I am not going to engage you in giving a description of the little discussion that we had between us. It was very good, very noble. I came away, not sorry, not dejected, not disappointed, but I felt sad that even Mr. Banerjee could not convince me. This was my final deliberate striving to realize Christianity as it was presented to me.[14]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Gispert-Suach, George (2002). "Two-Eyed Dialogue: Reflections after Fifty Years" (PDF). The Way. pp. 31–41. Retrieved 22 April 2012. the Rev. Kali Charan Banerjee, himself a convert to the Anglican Church. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Christians and the Indian National Movement: A Historical Perspective" (PDF). biblicalstudies.org.uk. Retrieved 13 May 2012. In 1887, K. C Banerji and Shome formed the 'Calcutta Christo Samaj' which was a Christian parallel to the Brahmo Samaj 
  3. ^ a b c "Uncapping the Springs of Localization: Christian Acculturation in South India in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, by M. Christhu Doss" (PDF). mgutheses.in. Retrieved 14 May 2012. The growing Indian national movement in Bengal, which later came to be called the “Bengal storm”40 by Stephen Neill, made an indelible mark on the intelligentsia of Indian Christianity. For many of the leaders of socio-religious movements, Christianity was closely linked with imperialism, which later resulted in the revival and reassertion of Hinduism in conscious opposition to Christianity.41 Nevertheless, a number of educated Christians, both Indian and foreign theologians including Kali Charan Banerjee, Sathianadhan, K. T. Paul, Vedanayagam Samuel Azariah, Whitehead, C.F. Andrews, Appasamy, Chenchiah, and Vengal Chakkarai, became critical not only of the British raj but of the Western captivity of the Indian church at large. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Rethinking "Rethinking"" (PDF). biblicalstudies.org.uk. Retrieved 14 May 2012. KaIi Charan Banurji and 1. G Shome, both BengaIis about whom more will be said below under "new church attempts," spoke for a radical change in the way Christianity functioned in India. 
  5. ^ a b "Brahmabandhao Upadhyay and Questions of Multiple Identities.George Pattery,s.j.". goethals.in. Retrieved 12 May 2012. Upadhyaya came to know Jesus Christ through Sen and through his own uncle, Reverend Kalicharan Banerji 
  6. ^ Hay, Stephen N.; William Theodore De Bary; William Theodore De Bary (2001). Sources of Indian Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. pp. 732–. ISBN 81-208-0467-8. 
  7. ^ "BRAHMABANDHAV UPADHYAY". Calcutta, India: telegraphindia.com. 9 October 2011. Retrieved 12 May 2012. Brahmabandhab was born Bhavani Charan Banerjee in a Hooghly village, the son of a police officer. He attended a Christian school, but received lessons in Sanskrit from a private tutor. His uncle, the freedom fighter Kalicharan Banerjee, 
  8. ^ "PICTURES of INDIAN LIFE". archive.org. Retrieved 13 May 2012. A grand meeting, to discuss the advantages of the municipal elective system, of the Indian League was held under the presidency of Babu Kali Charan Banerji. The proceedings attracted the notice of his Honour Sir Richard Temple, the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal. The latter called upon Shishir Babu and asked him it he was willing that the elective system should be introduced in the municipal bodies in the country. 
  9. ^ "Indian Christian’s contribution to the field of Social Work". sites.google.com. Retrieved 12 May 2012. Kali Charan Banerjee, Bengali Christian proposed government administrative reforms through educational system. Swedeshi Movement of 1905 and Non-cooperation movement was supported by Hindu Christians believing “It is not religion but human values and patriotism stands first. Brahma Bandhab Upadhya was in forefront of the movement as leader. 
  10. ^ a b c d Sharma, Suresh K.; Usha Sharma (2004). Cultural and Religious Heritage of India: Christianity. Mittal Publications. pp. 210–212. ISBN 978-81-7099-959-1. ISBN 81-7099-959-6. 
  11. ^ "School of Gandhian Thought and Development Studies" (PDF). mgutheses.in. pp. 31–32. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "M. K. GANDHI'S : AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY or THE STORY OF MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH - A MONTH WITH GOKHALE-I1" (PDF). egyankosh.ac.in. Retrieved 13 May 2012. I had heard of Babu Kalicharan Banerji and held him in high regard. He took a prominent part in the Congress, and I had none of the misgivings about him that I had about the average Christian Indian, who stood aloof from the Congress and isolated himself from Hindus and Mussalmans. 
  13. ^ "A Month With Gokhale - II". mkgandhi.org. Retrieved 12 May 2012. I had heard of Babu Kalicharan Banerji and held him in high regard. He took a prominent part in the Congress 
  14. ^ a b "GANDHI AND JESUS - The Saving Power of Nonviolence" (PDF). xaryknollsocietymall.org. Retrieved 12 May 2012. despite this growing confidence in his tradition and grasp of Hinduism, Gandhi continued to be pulled by the attractiveness of the example of Jesus and a desire to follow his own lights wherever they might lead. 
  15. ^ "Encounter with Mahatma Gandhi". voiceofdharma.org. Retrieved 12 May 2012. he[Gandhi] told them about his meeting with Kali Charan Banerjee. “In answer to promises made,” he said, “to one of these Christian friends of mine, I thought it my duty to see one of the biggest of Indian Christians, as I was told he was, - the late Kali Charan Banerjee. 

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