It is a well-known fact that in 1913 Rabindra Nath Tagore became India’s first Nobel Laureate.
However less is known about other Indian men/women of letter and literature - who were either
asked to propose a candidate or were nominated for the literature Nobel Prize. The following
short article is intended to fulfil this gap.
Peace NP nominators and nominees show that Kolkata’s
nominators and nominees played a dominant role.3
ccording to the rules and regulations of the Noble
According to the record of the Nobel Foundation until 2010
Foundation Nobel Prizes only those documents,
out of 107 literature Nobel Laureates only one person
which are older than 50 years for the study of the
history of the can be used. Thus
the following article has been
limited until the year
1950. The
documents of the Nobel Committee
show that Indian scientists working
in the field of medicine were the
first to be nominated for a Nobel
Prize1, whereas chemists presented
a very poor picture as none of the
Indian chemists was ever
nominated for the Nobel Prize
(henceforth NP). Physicists were
rather better, because in 1930 CV
Raman became not only India’s but
Asia’s first Physics Nobel
Laureate. MN Saha and HJ Bhabha
were other two Indians who were
Figure 1: Rabindra Nath Tagore’s nomination by TS Moore (courtesy Archive of the Swedish Academy
nominated for the NP.2 A
of Literature, Stockholm).
geographical distribution of Indian
comes from India, namely, RN Tagore (for his nomination
see Figure 1). These laureates wrote in 25 languages, and
* University of Oldenburg, Germany. Research Group - Physics
Bengali is the only Indian language in this list (http://
Education, History and Philosophy of Science, Institute of Physics
nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/shortfacts.html, July
- Dept. Energy and Semiconductor Physics, PO Box 2503, 26111
Oldenburg. E-mail: Rajinder.singh@uni-oldenburg.de
29, 2011).
In the following paragraphs we shall see India’s NP
The last nomination for the Literature NP was in the
nominators and nominees and their geographical
year 1943. It was in favor of Sri A Ghosh - a Kolkata
born Philosopher and author (according to the record of
the NC). His nominator was F Younghusband from the
Nominators and their Nominees - 1914-1950
Royal Society of Literature, London. He was an Indian
born military officer, explorer and spiritual writer. It is a
In 1916 Roby Datta - an author from Kolkata was
well-known fact that A Ghosh was known as a world
nominated for the literature NP. His nominator was RYN
Chondhury - Secretary of the Bengal Academy of
renowned poet, nationalist, freedom fighter and philosopher.
Not surprisingly he was also nominated for the Peace NP
Literature. Datta was also proposed by the Kolkata base
in 1950.
MM Gangedy - Member of the Royal Asiatic Society of
London. Datta, who had studied at Christ’s College
TABLE 1: India’s literature Nobel Prize nominees and
Cambridge had written the Echoes from East and West,
(Galloway and Porter, Cambridge, 1909). It was stated in
literature/nomination/nomination.php? action=
the book that “The volume contains poetical renderings
from master-pieces in 16 Indo-European languages, and
Nov. 27, 2010). The emphasized candidates were also
is the first great contribution to Comparative Poetry. It
nominated for the peace NP
has been highly spoken of in the English and the Indian
for the year
flippy.php?id=echoesfromeastwe00dattrich, May 2, 2010).
Sakuntala and Her Keepsake, (Das Gupta & Co., Calcutta,
TS Moore (UK)
R Tagore
1915) written by Datta was commented by the critic and
RYN Chondhury, Kolkata
R Datta
poet A Symons as follows, “… Your ‘Sakuntala’ is far
MM Gangedy, Kolkata
R Datta
superior to the two English versions [of Jones and Monier
Williams] …. It will take rank among the best translations
H Hammarskjöld, Sweden
S Radhakrishnan
in English literature.
DR Bhandharkar, Kolkata
H Banerje
It lasted more than
15 years before next Indian
S Sen, Kolkata
B Majumdar
candidate was proposed for the literature NP. As we see
M Husan, Dacca
S Chaudhuri,
from Table 1 from 1933 until 1937 S Radhakrishnan was
M Catterjee, Kolkata
B Majumdar
continuously nominated by H Hammarskjöld - a Swedish
Member of the Nobel Committee. In 1936 DR Bhandarkar
KR Danungo, Dacca
S Chaudhuri
- Professor of History and Sanskrit from the University of
F Youndhusband, UK
S Aurobindo/
Kolkata nominated H Banerjee. It will be of interest to
Aurobindo Ghosh
note that he was also nominated3 for Peace NP in 1934,
The analysis of the Table 1 shows that in the first
1936 and 1938. H Banerjee was the President of the Aryya
half of the twentieth century:
Mission Institution Kolkata. He was the author of Peace,
(JC Ghose Cotton Press, Calcutta, 1921). At the time of
14 national and international proposals followed
his nomination he was the President of the United Mission
in favor of 7 Indians. Out of them only RN Tagore
was the successful candidate.
Kolkata. He edited Religions of the World, (Ramakrishna
Mission, Institute of Culture, Calcutta, 1938). In 1937 two
Out of 14 nominations 7 were sent by foreigners.
Indians that is, B Majumdar and S Radhakrishnan were
In contrast Indian nominators proposed only their
proposed. The former was nominated by S Sen, a Professor
of Literature at the University of Kolkata. Two years later
So far the geographical contribution of the
M Chatterjee from the same university nominated
nominees is concerned, with the exception of S
Majumdar. In 1938, S Chaudhuri - English language
Radhakrishnan; all other Indian candidates were
philologist and advocate was proposed by M Hasan - a
Kolkata based. Seen in term of nominators, two
Professor of English at the University of Dacca. Next year
proposals came from Dacca, while 5 from Kolkata.
he was nominated by KR Danungo - a Professor of History
From the forgoing discussion it is concluded that in
from the same University, that is, Dacca.
VOL. 78, NOS. 9-10
the history of the literature NP, Bengal
(in particular
the documents referred to in this article. I am grateful to
Kolkata) played the dominant role. These results are very
Prof. Michael Komorek - University of Oldenburg for
similar to that of the Medicine-, Peace-, Chemistry- and
providing research facilities. Last but not the least, I thank
Physics NPs. Without exaggeration it can be said that in
Prof. SC Roy - Editor-in-chief and the team of Science
the first half of the 20th century Kolkata was the intellectual
and Culture for the editorial work.
center of India.
R. Singh, Science and Culture 77, 338-339 (2011).
Thanks are due to Madeleine Broberg and Gunnel
R. Singh, Notes Rec. R. Soc. Lond. 61, 333-345 (2007).
Landberg - of the Archive Swedish Academy for sending
R. Singh, F. Riess, Science and Culture 78, 22-28 (2012)