Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay’s Pather Panchali


Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) is the story of a Brahmin Family in rural India before Independence. The story is told as seen through the eyes of the two children of the family, Durga and Opu. The backdrop of the story shows the vivid picture of the village life, its heart wrenching poverty, the colourful festivals and the excitement that it brings with it to the lives of the children.

       “’I can’t see anything,’ said Opu. ‘How shall we get back home if we go too far?’ But his eyes were peering thirstily into the distance. He was itching to go and yet at the same time he was afraid. Suddenly Durga swallowed her fears. ‘What is there to be afraid of?’ she explained. ‘Come on; let’s go Opu. It can’t be all that far. We can get back by midday. And what’s more, we might see a train. If we are late we can always tell Mummy that we were looking for the calf.’ Then the brother and sister climbed down the embankment together. It was late morning and the sun was hot; but they ran and they ran and they ran. A small marsh came into view infront of them. Durga looked at her brother and laughed. ‘If mummy finds out what we have been doing, she will beat the skin off our backs.’ Opu laughed with her, but his laugh had a tone of alarm in it. Then once more they ran and they ran and they ran. For the first time in his life he was really free, free of all ‘don’t’ s’, free of the restrictions of the small circle which had hitherto imprisoned him; and his young blood thrilled to the joy of release. For the first time there was no need to worry about what was going to happen next.”

Pather Panchali is one of the most remarkable works of Bengali Literature.  Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay has told the story with such deep felt emotions that you will be teleported to this amazingly beautiful village of Nischindipur, in rural Bengal, every time you read it. You will be compelled to live their lives and be one of them. You feel the pain of Sorbojoya to see her two darling hungry children who find joy even in the nothings of life, be excited when Opu and Durga collect the monsoon shower mangoes together, heartbroken when the two of them follow the chinibas (sweet vendor) around the village but can’t buy any themselves and be merry to eat the wild berries instead, and feel the heart-warming sibling love when Durga roams around in the jungle the whole day to find Opu the makal fruits he was so fond of. Those are the moments that touch your heart and stays there for a long time afterwards.

         “Life can be very sweet, when it is made up of dreams and fond imaginations. The dreams may be false, the imaginings carry no promise that they will come to pass; but if none of them are ever realized, they are still life’s greatest, its only treasure. So let them come. Let them live on in our lives for ever. For in comparison with our dreams, realization may prove a thing of naught, and its profit an insubstantial trifle.”


The book has been translated in English by T.W. Clark and Tarapada Mukherji. The translation is impeccable and justly captures all the emotions of the original work.

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