Subhas Chandra Bose was born on 23 January 1897 (at 12.10 pm) in Cuttack, Orissa Division, Bengal
Province, to Prabhavati Dutt Bose and Janakinath Bose, an advocate belonging to a Bengali Kayastha family.
He was the ninth in a family of 14 children. His family was well to do.
He was admitted to the Protestant European School (presently Stewart High School) in Cuttack, like his
brothers and sisters, in January 1902. He continued his studies at this school which was run by the
Baptist Mission up to 1909 and then shifted to the Ravenshaw Collegiate School. After securing the second
position in the matriculation examination in 1913, he was admitted to the Presidency College where he
studied briefly. He was influenced by the teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Ramakrishna after reading
their works at the age of 16. He felt that his religion was more important than his studies.
In those days, the British in Calcutta often made offensive remarks to the Indians in public places and
insulted them openly. This behavior of the British as well as the outbreak of World War I began to
influence his thinking.
His nationalistic temperament came to light when he was expelled for assaulting Professor Oaten (who had
manhandled some Indian students for the latter's anti-India comments. He was expelled although he appealed
that he only witnessed the assault and did not actually participate in it. He later joined the Scottish
Church College at the University of Calcutta and passed his B.A. in 1918 in philosophy.
Subhas Bose (standing, right) with friends in England, 1920
Bose left India for Europe on 15 September 1919, arriving in London on 20 October. He had made a promise
to his father to prepare and appear for the Indian Civil Services (ICS) examination, for which his father
has made available Rs 10,000. In London, Bose readied his application for the ICS, staying in Belsize Park
with his brother Satish, who was preparing for the bar exam. According to historian Leonard A. Gordon:
"Subhas’ Civil Service application demonstrates his family’s connectedness to the small, interrelated
elite of Bengal. For references, he gave the names of the two highest-ranking Indians in the councils of
the British-Indian establishment, Lord Sinha of Raipur, Under Secretary of State for India and the first
Indian to serve as governor of a province under the Raj, and Mr Bhupendranath Basu, a wealthy Calcutta
solicitor and a member of the Council of India in London."
Bose was eager to gain admission to a college at the University of Cambridge. However, it was already past
the deadline for admission. With the help of some Indian students there and Mr. Reddaway, the Censor
of Fitzwilliam Hall, a body run by the Non-Collegiate Students Board of the university, for making
available the university's education at an economical cost without formal admission to a college, Bose
entered the register of the university on 19 November 1919. He chose the Mental and Moral Sciences Tripos
and simultaneously set about preparing for the Civil Service exams.
He came fourth in the ICS examination and was selected, but he did not want to work under an alien
government which would mean serving the British. As he stood on the verge of taking the plunge by
resigning from the Indian Civil Service in 1921, he wrote to his elder brother Sarat Chandra Bose: "Only
on the soil of sacrifice and suffering can we raise our national edifice."
He resigned from his civil service job on 23 April 1921 and returned to India.
1921–1932: Indian National Congress
He started the newspaper Swaraj and took charge of publicity for the Bengal Provincial Congress Committee.
His mentor was Chittaranjan Das who was a spokesman for aggressive nationalism in Bengal. In the year
1923, Bose was elected the President of All India Youth Congress and also the Secretary of Bengal State
Congress. He was also the editor of the newspaper "Forward", founded by Chittaranjan Das. Bose worked as
the CEO of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation for Das when the latter was elected mayor of Calcutta in
1924. In a roundup of nationalists in 1925, Bose was arrested and sent to prison in Mandalay, where he
In 1927, after being released from prison, Bose became general secretary of the Congress party and worked
with Jawaharlal Nehru for independence. In late December 1928, Bose organised the Annual Meeting of the
Indian National Congress in Calcutta. His most memorable role was as General Officer Commanding (GOC)
Congress Volunteer Corps. Author Nirad Chaudhuri wrote about the meeting:
Bose organized a volunteer corps in uniform, its officers were even provided with steel-cut epaulettes ...
his uniform was made by a firm of British tailors in Calcutta, Harman's. A telegram addressed to him as
GOC was delivered to the British General in Fort William and was the subject of a good deal of malicious
gossip in the (British Indian) press. Mahatma Gandhi as a sincere pacifist vowed to non-violence, did not
like the strutting, clicking of boots, and saluting, and he afterward described the Calcutta session of
the Congress as a Bertram Mills circus, which caused a great deal of indignation among the Bengalis.
A little later, Bose was again arrested and jailed for civil disobedience; this time he emerged to become
Mayor of Calcutta in 1930.
1937–1940: Indian National Congress
In 1938 Bose stated his opinion that the INC "should be organised on the broadest anti-imperialist front
with the two-fold objective of winning political freedom and the establishment of a socialist regime." By
1938 Bose had become a leader of national stature and agreed to accept nomination as Congress President.
He stood for unqualified Swaraj (self-governance), including the use of force against the British. This
meant a confrontation with Mohandas Gandhi, who in fact opposed Bose's presidency, splitting the Indian
National Congress party.
Bose attempted to maintain unity, but Gandhi advised Bose to form his own cabinet. The rift also divided
Bose and Nehru. Bose appeared at the 1939 Congress meeting on a stretcher. He was elected president again
over Gandhi's preferred candidate Pattabhi Sitaramayya. U. Muthuramalingam Thevar strongly supported Bose
in the intra-Congress dispute. Thevar mobilised all south India votes for Bose. However, due to the
manoeuvrings of the Gandhi-led clique in the Congress Working Committee, Bose found himself forced to
resign from the Congress presidency.
On 22 June 1939 Bose organised the All India Forward Bloc a faction within the Indian National Congress,
aimed at consolidating the political left, but its main strength was in his home state, Bengal. U
Muthuramalingam Thevar, who was a staunch supporter of Bose from the beginning, joined the Forward Bloc.
When Bose visited Madurai on 6 September, Thevar organised a massive rally as his reception.
When Subhas Chandra Bose was heading to Madurai, on an invitation of Muthuramalinga Thevar to amass
support for the Forward Bloc, he passed through Madras and spent three days at Gandhi Peak. His
correspondence reveals that despite his clear dislike for British subjugation, he was deeply impressed by
their methodical and systematic approach and their steadfastly disciplinarian outlook towards life. In
England, he exchanged ideas on the future of India with British Labour Party leaders and political
thinkers like Lord Halifax, George Lansbury, Clement Attlee, Arthur Greenwood, Harold Laski, J.B.S.
Haldane, Ivor Jennings, G.D.H. Cole, Gilbert Murray and Sir Stafford Cripps.
He came to believe that an independent India needed socialist authoritarianism, on the lines of Turkey's
Kemal Atatürk, for at least two decades. For political reasons Bose was refused permission by the British
authorities to meet Atatürk at Ankara. During his sojourn in England Bose tried to schedule appointments
with several politicians, but only the Labour Party and Liberal politicians agreed to meet with him.
Conservative Party officials refused to meet him or show him courtesy because he was a politician coming
from a colony. In the 1930s leading figures in the Conservative Party had opposed even Dominion status for
India. It was during the Labour Party government of 1945–1951, with Attlee as the Prime Minister, that
India gained independence.
On the outbreak of war, Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy
Lord Linlithgow's decision to declare war on India's behalf without consulting the Congress leadership.
Having failed to persuade Gandhi of the necessity of this, Bose organised mass protests in Calcutta
calling for the 'Holwell Monument' commemorating the Black Hole of Calcutta, which then stood at the
corner of Dalhousie Square, to be removed. He was thrown in jail by the British, but was released
following a seven-day hunger strike. Bose's house in Calcutta was kept under surveillance by the CID.