Essay on the History of Early Newspapers of Indian


Since Indian newspapers started in the 18th century, many papers have fallen by the way side and many journalists during the earlier years had to enjoy the hospitality of one or the other of His Majesty’s innumerable prisons.

Despite these earlier handicaps, Indian journalism has flourished and is flourishing and, let us hopes, will go on flourishing forever. Earliest history of Indian journalism is represented by The Hindu of Madras, The Amrit Bazar Patrika of Calcutta and the Indian Patriot of former Malabar (now Kerala). The Hindu and Amrit Bazar Patrika are still going strong and are the brightest newspapers of the country.

The late C. Subramania Iyer was one of the greatest editors India has produced. He founded the Hindu of Madras and edited it for many years; and, after he left that paper, took on the job of editing the Swadesamitran, the leading Tamil daily in South India. Of him the late Sir C.Y. Chintamani says, in his book, Indian Politics Since the Mutiny: “He did for Madras, principally through the columns of the Hindu but also through the Congress and the Mahajana Sablia, what men like Surendranath Bannerjee and Motilal Ghosh did for Bengal, and Wache, Tilak and Gokhale for Bombay.


Pherozeshah Mehta and Dinshaw Wache also admired him, while Mr. Gokhale said that there was no other editor in India who had the same masterly grip of public questions as Mr. Subramania Iyer. He was among the Indian witnesses before the Royal Commission of Indian Expenditure…….. He wrote a very useful book entitled ‘Some Economic Aspects of British Rule in India.’

After Subramania Iyer left the Hindu, the late G. Parames- waran Pillai and the late Dewan Bahadur C. karunakara Menon in succession edited that paper, and both were brilliant journalists. Subsequently, Karunakara Menon started his own paper, The Indian Patriot, which he edited with great distinction until its closure in 1920.

Subramania Iyer, when he was editing the Hindu, had under him three men who all became famous journalists afterwards;-the late Karunakara Menon, K. Natarajan of the Indian Social Reformer and the late Sir C. Y. Chintamani, the editor of the Leader, Allahabad, from the day of its inception to the day of his death.

If the Hindu has been more or less of an institution in the “benighted” presidency, the Amrita Bazar Patrika holds an ana­logous position in Bengal. The late Babu Motilal Ghosh was not merely a brilliant journalist and writer, but also an inspired editor. One short, pithy sentence of his could damage his opponents more than whole leading articles of others. He would talk in parables; and, by so doing, would do more deadly execution in the enemy’s camp than all his colleagues put together.


His memory also would come to assistance wonderfully. Among his victims was no less a man than Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India. He once, in his convo­cation address to the students of the Calcutta University, “spoke of truth as a Western virtue, and more than hinted that the Orientals, like the Cretans, were liars, and that they were given to flattery, and other heinous sins”. What a satire, indeed!

Babu Motilal Ghosh retorted by juxtaposing an extract from Lord Curzon’s book: Problems of the Far East, with the offending passages in that speech. That extract revealed that Lord Curzon, in a previous avatar, had not, after all, been such a ferocious stickler of truth that he could be relied upon at a pinch, to go through fire and flood, if need be, its interest.

The following is that extract:

“Before proceeding to the Royal audience I enjoyed an interview with the President of the Korean Foreign Office…Having been particularly warned not to admit to him that I was only thirty- three years old, an age to which no respect attaches in Korea, when he put to me the straight question (always the first in the Oriental dialogue), ‘How old are you?’ I unhesitatingly responded, ‘Forty’, ‘Dear me’, he said, ‘you look very young for that.


How do you account for it ? ‘By the fact’, 1 replied, ‘that I have been travelling for a month in the superb climate of His Majesty’s dominions’. Finally he said to me, ‘I presume you are a near relative of Her Majesty the Queen of England.’ ‘No’, I replied, ‘I am not’. But observing the look of disgust that passed over his countenance, I was fain to add, ‘I am, however, as yet an unmarried man’, with which unscrupulous suggestion I completely regained the old gentleman’s favour’.

As Mr. Gardiner says, in conclusion, “India was dissolved in laughter. It almost forgave the insult for the sake of the jest”.

Such was Babu Motilal Ghosh. He was the Patrika’s second editor, having succeeded his elder brother, Babu Sisir Kumar Ghosh, in that office. It was originally published in Bengali, but to escape the consequences of the Vernacular Press Act, was changed overnight into an English paper, which was certainly a stupendous achievement.

Mention must also be made of the Hindoo Patriot of Calcutta, which had as its first editor Babu Harish Chandra Mukherji, and, as its second, that redoubtable genius, Babu Kristo Das Pal, “who would have made impact in any country and at any time”. This paper made history in Bengal; and later it fell to the Amrita Bazar Patrika to carry on. Kristo Das Pal was one of the greatest journalists and editors of any epoch and of any country.


In Allahabad, Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha founded the Indian People in 1903; it was later on incorporated with the Leader, which began its existence in 1909, owing to the efforts principally, of that revered son of India, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.

In Lahore there was the Tribune, which Sardar Dayal Singh Majithia started way back in the eighties. One of its ablest editors was the late Mr. N. Gupta, who went over to Lahore from Allahabad where he was Joint Editor of the Leader, with the late Sir (then Mr.) C. Y. Chintamani. A later editor of the Tribune, Kali Nath Roy, was also a journalist of the first rank.

The Pioneer of Lucknow and the Civil & Military Gazette of Lahore, had, at one time, the distinction of encouraging the budding genius of that Imperial laureate, that bard of the banjo, that master of the drum-and-trumpet history, Rudyard Kipling. The former, for long, was more or less a Government organ; what­ever it published was regarded as having come straight from the horse’s mouth, as it were.

A few words must be written about the Times of India of Bombay and the Statesman and the Englishman of Calcutta. The first-named was originally called the Bombay Times. When Robert Knight purchased it he rechristened it the Times of India. Shortly after purchasing it he left the Western Presidency to install himself in Calcutta, where he bought the Statesman. He conducted it in unexceptionable style and it was then really “the Friend of India”. During those days there was the Englishman, also a beautifully- written paper, which ‘ceased upon the midnight with no pain’ in 1920.


The men who were mainly responsible for putting the Times of India on the journalistic map were the Lovat Fraser and Sir Stanley Reed, the latter of whom retired from its editorship.

The Statesman had Sir Alfred Watson as its editor for some time; he had been connected with the old Westminster Gazette of London and had served under the late Mr. J.A. Spender. The association of Sir Alfred with that great Liberal journalist seemed to augur well for future of the Statesman, but events belied that pious hope. He cannot now be distinguished from a true-blue Tory.

In due course he left the country, and was succeeded by Mr. Arthur Moore; during his tenure the Statesman again became more or less a pro-Indian paper, and remained such even under Mr. Ian Stephens, who had taken over Mr. Moore’s duties. When Delhi became the seat of the Government of India the Statesman started publishing a Delhi edition; as a journalistic venture this was unique in India.

The Times of India’s nationalist outlook on Indian affairs dates- from the days of Sir Stanley Reed whose editorship shed great luster on the paper. Times of India have always been very ably edited since the Second World War when editorials became a class by themselves. Its weekly, ‘Letters from London’ were also of very high standard. It had the distinction of being the first newspaper in the country to have an Indian war correspondent.

Sir Pherozeshah Mehta founded the Bombay Chronicle under the brilliant editorship of Benjamin Guy Horniman; it had what may be called its heyday. That gentleman, after many journalistic vicissi­tudes, transferred his activities to Bombay’s second evening paper, the Bombay Sentinel. Its column of “Twilight Twitters” was decidedly the most exquisite thing in Bombay journalism for long; a long way behind comes the “Tete-a-tete” column of the Chronicle.

The Chronicle was edited by Mr. Syed Abdulla Brelvi, to whose credit it may be recorded that for over two decades he had contrived steadily to maintain the same high standard that had been set by his predecessor. It may also be stated that he had skillfully piloted his journal through really strenuous times, where a lesser man might have thrown up the sponge altogether.

What the Hindu is in the Madras (Tamil Nadu) State, the Leader was in the United Provinces then. When it first saw the light of day in 1909 it had two editors-the late N. Gupta, and the late Sir (then Mr.) C. Y. Chintamani. After a year or two the former resigned from his position to take up the editorship of the Tribune of Lahore. The latter continued to occupy its editorial chair till his death (July 1, 1941).

Journalism was his predominant passion, and though, with the passage of years, other interests also came to engage his attention, Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, who was Vice- Chancellor of Patna University and also was Finance Minister of the Bihar Government, was a barrister of great eminence and a journalist always. It was he who founded the Indian People of Allahabad and selected Chintamani as its editor.

It was to him again, that excellent periodical, the Hindustan Review, owed its inception, and it had, by the way, the unique distinction of being the first monthly in India. It is still published. It originally started as the Kayastha Samachar in July 1899, and was then edited by the late Babu Ramanaya Chatterjee, who was the Principal of the Kayastha Pathashala College, Allahabad, and who subsequently became the distinguished editor of the Modern Review of Calcutta.

In July 1900, Dr. Sinha converted it into the Hindustan Review. From then on up to 1921 it was issued from Allahabad.

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