Sukumar Ray

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Sukumar Ray
Sukumar Ray.jpg
Bornসুকুমার রায়
(1887-10-30)30 October 1887
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
(present-day Kolkata, West Bengal)[1]
Died10 September 1923(1923-09-10) (aged 35)
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
OccupationWriter, poet, editor
Alma materPresidency University, Kolkata
London College of Communication
PeriodBengal Renaissance
Notable worksAbol Tabol, Pagla Dashu, HaJaBaRaLa
SpouseSuprabha Devi
ChildrenSatyajit Ray (son)
ParentsUpendrakishore Ray Chowdhury (father) Bidhumukhi Devi (Mother)
RelativesDwarkanath Ganguly
Kadambini Ganguly

Sukumar Ray (Sukumār Rāẏ ; 30 October 1887 – 10 September 1923)[2] was a Bengali writer and poet from the Indian subcontinent. He is remembered mainly for his writings for children. He was the son of children's story writer Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury and the father of Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

Family history[edit]

According to the history of the Ray family, one of their ancestors, Ramsunder Deo (Deb), was a native of Chakdah village in Nadia district of present-day West Bengal, India. In search of fortune he migrated to Sherpur in East Bengal. There he met Raja Gunichandra, the zamindar of Jashodal, at the zamindar house of Sherpur. King Gunichandra was immediately impressed by Ramsunder's stately appearance and sharp intellect and took Ramsunder with him to his zamindari estate. He made Ramsunder his son-in-law and granted him some property in Jashodal. From then on Ramsunder started living in Jashodal. His descendants migrated from there and settled down in the village of Masua in Katiadi upazila of Kishoreganj district.[3][4]

Early years[edit]

Sukumar Ray with his father Upendrakishore Ray, mother Bidhumukhi and five siblings.

Sukumar Ray was born in a Brahmo family in Calcutta, British India (present day West Bengal) on 30 October 1887. His family hailed from Masua village of Mymensingh division of Eastern Bengal in British India, presently in Bangladesh.[5] Sukumar's father Upendrakishore Ray was a famous Bengali writer, painter, violin player and composer, technologist, amateur astronomer and entrepreneur.[6] Sukumar's mother Bidhumukhi Devi was daughter of Dwarkanath Ganguly.[7]

Born in the era which can be called the pinnacle of the Bengal Renaissance, he grew up in an environment that fostered his literary talents. His father was a writer of stories and popular science; painter and illustrator; musician and composer of songs; a technologist and hobbyist astronomer. Upendrakishore was also a close friend of Rabindranath Tagore, who directly influenced Sukumar. Among other family friends were Jagadish Chandra Bose, Prafulla Chandra Roy, Atul Prasad Sen etc. Upendrakishore studied the technology of blockmaking, conducted experiments, and set up a business of making blocks. The firm M/s U. Ray & Sons, where Sukumar and his younger brother Subinay were involved. His sister, Shukhalata Rao, became a social worker and children's book author. Like his father, Ray also had a close acquaintance with Rabindranath Tagore.[8]

Education and profession[edit]

A group photo of Monday Club founded by Sukumar Roy
First row sitting from left: Subinoy Ray, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, Atul Prasad Sen, Shishir Kumar Datta, Sukumar Ray
Middle row from left: Jatindranath Mukhopadhyay, Amal Home, Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyay, Jibanmoy Roy
Standing from left: Hiran Sanyal, Ajit Kumar Chakrabarty, Kalidas Nag, Pravat Chandra Gangoadhyay, Dr. Dwijendranath Maitra, Satish Chandra Chattopadhyay, Shrish Chandra Sen, Girija Shankar Roy Choudhury
Sukumar Ray with his wife Suprabha Ray (1914)

In 1906, Ray graduated with double Honours in Physics and Chemistry from the Presidency College, then affiliated with the University of Calcutta. Before that he attended City College School, Surya Sen Street along with his classmate who inspired his famous funny character "Pagla Dashu", which appeared in several of his penned story. He was trained in photography and printing technology in England at the School of Photo-Engraving and Lithography, London,[9] and was a pioneer of photography and lithography in India. While in England, he also delivered lectures about the songs of Rabindranath before Tagore won the Nobel Prize. Meanwhile, Sukumar had also drawn acclaim as an illustrator. As a technologist, he also developed new methods of halftone blockmaking, and technical articles about this were published in journals in England. The Penrose Annual published two articles by Ray. While in the United Kingdom he joined the Royal Photographic Society in 1912 and remained a member until his death, gaining his Fellowship in 1922.[citation needed]

Upendrakishore started a publishing firm, U. Ray and Sons, which Sukumar and Subinay helped to run. While Sukumar went to England to learn printing technology, Upendrakishore purchased land, constructed a building, and set up a printing press with facilities for high-quality halftone colour blockmaking and printing. He launched the children's magazine, Sandesh, in May, 1913.[2] Very soon after Sukumar's return from England his writings and sketches started appearing in Sandesh. After Upendrakishore died on 20 December 1915, Sukumar ran the printing and publishing businesses and the Sandesh for about eight years. His younger brother Subinoy helped him, and many relatives pitched in writing for "Sandesh".[6]

House Sukumar Ray at 100 A, Garpar Road Kolkata - Heritage Building Tag by KMC

Contribution in literature[edit]

Sukumar Ray delved into a unique genre of pure nonsense and gibberish, a pioneering work in Bengali literature with a few exceptions, work that was compared to Lewis Carrol's Alice in Wonderland. Amazing sense of humor, sharp power of observation and unfathomed wit merged with a profound command on selection of words produced a class of humor which was equally approachable by children as well as the grown ups. Satyajit Ray, in the preface of the first edition of the compilation of Sukumar Ray's complete works in his centenary year, Sukumar Sahitya Samagra, wrote:

"উপেন্দ্রকিশোরের সম্পাদনাকালে সন্দেশে প্রকাশিত সুকুমারের কয়েকটি রচনায় তাঁর সাহিত্যিক বৈশিষ্ট্যের স্পষ্ট ইঙ্গিত পাওয়া যায়। ১৯১৪ সালে বেরোল আবোল তাবোল শ্রেনীর প্রথম কবিতা "খিচুড়ি"। এই প্রথম সুকুমার সাহিত্যে উদ্ভট প্রানীর আবির্ভাব। এখানে প্রানীর সৃষ্টি হয়েছে ভাষার কারসাজিতে -

হাঁস ছিল সজারুও, (ব্যাকরণ মানিনা)
হয়ে গেল হাঁসজারু কেমনে তা জানিনা।

এই উদ্ভট সন্ধির নিযমেই সৃষ্টি হল বকচ্ছপ, মোরগরু,গিরগিটিয়া, সিংহরিণ, হাতিমি।[6]"

After his father's death in 1915, Sukumar had to take over responsibility of publication of "Sandesh", and his creativity reached its pinnacle. The 45 limericks in Abol Tabol and many other creations published in Sandesh still amuse the readers of all ages. He created many characters in his prose and poems. Kaath Buro, Tash Goru, Huko Mukho Hangla, Kumro Potash etc. were fictitious characters, though they were very close to our known world. He himself described his works as the product of Kheyal Ros[6] (হঠাৎ ইচ্ছা;ঝোঁক/Wish; Whims; Freak; Fancy).


Sukumar Ray died on 10 September 1923 at his Garpar residence in Kolkata[10] of severe infectious fever, leishmaniasis, for which there was no cure at that time. He left behind his widow and their only child, Satyajit, who was only two years old at that time. Satyajit Ray would later shoot a documentary on Sukumar Ray in 1987, 5 years before his own death.


  • Abol Tabol (The Weird and the Absurd)
  • Pagla Dashu (Crazy Dashu)[11]
  • Khai-Khai (Eat-Eat)
  • Heshoram Hushiyarer Diary (The diary of Heshoram Hushiyar) (early science fiction parody)[12]
  • HaJaBaRaLa (Mumbo-Jumbo)
  • Jhalapala O Onanyo Natok (Cacophony and Other Plays)
  • Lakkhaner Shoktishel (The Weapon of Lakkhan)
  • Chalachittachanchari
  • Shabdakalpadrum
  • Bohurupi (Many personalities)
  • Abak Jalpan (Weird Drinking of Water 1914)
  • Bhasar Atyachar (Torture of Language 1915)
  • Desh-Bidesher Golpo (Tales from Many Lands)
  • jiboner hisab (Bidye bojhai babumoshai)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ray, Sukumar". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/107500. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^ a b Ray; Sukumar (tr. Chatterjee; Sampurna) (September 2016). Wordygurdyboom!. Penguin Books India. pp. 177–. ISBN 978-0-14-333078-3. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  3. ^ Sukumar Samagra Rachanabali 1, 1960, Asia Publishing Company, p 1
  4. ^ Sukumar Ray: Jibankatha (Bengali Ed.), Hemanta Kumar Adhya, Pustak Bipani, Kolkata, 1990, p. 6
  5. ^ Raychowdhury, Hitendra Kishore (1984). Upendra Kishore O Moshua - Ray Poribaarer Golposholpo. Firma KLM Private Limited. p. 1.
  6. ^ a b c d Ray, Satyajit; Basu, Partha, eds. (1987). Sukumar Sahitya Samagra Centenary Edition. Ananda Publishers Ltd.
  7. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra; Basu, Anjali, eds. (1998) [First published 1976]. Sangsad Bāṅgālī Charitābhidhāna (Biographical dictionary) (in Bengali) (4th ed.). p. 67. ISBN 81-85626-65-0.
  8. ^ Sarker, Sushanta (2012). "Rao, Shukhalata". In Islam, Sirajul; Jamal, Ahmed A. (eds.). Banglapedia: National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Second ed.). Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.
  9. ^ "Sukumar Ray |". Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  10. ^ "LIfe of Sukumar Ray". Freehostia.
  11. ^ Amaresh Datta (1987). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: A-Devo. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 694–. ISBN 978-81-260-1803-1. Retrieved 3 October 2012.
  12. ^ Early Bengali science fiction, 'Amardeep Singh,'

External links[edit]