Comparing Byomkesh Bakshi to Sherlock Holmes

Recently I got involved in an interesting debate on the similarities between Saradindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi stories and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings featuring Sherlock Holmes.

Most people are unaware that Holmes was also modeled partly after two earlier detectives, Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin and Émile Gaboriau’s Monsieur Lecoq. Still, because of Holmes’ systematic and deliberate use of scientific methods, most detectives that follow him at least bear some similarities.

As far as I am aware, all of the Byomkesh Bakshi stories are original. Therefore, I have no reason to doubt that Saradindu carefully crafted each storyline based on his own constructed plots. In fact, I actually prefer some of Byomkesh’s investigations.

Also, during his literary career, Saradindu himself drifted from his original style. His earliest Byomkesh stories are written in a formal first-person style with Ajit narrating, while his later works are more literary, free-flowing in third-person narrative. During the course of his detective career, Byomkesh gets married to Satyabati, and has a son. On the other hand, Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler Dr. John Watson are essentially unchanged during the decades they work together (even though we know that Watson was married).

Still, if we want to search for similarities between the two great detectives we should start at the very beginning. The earliest Byomkesh Bakshi stories have some superficial resemblances to the Sherlock Holmes stories. In fact, Pother Kanta, the first story featuring Byomkesh was written close to twenty years after Holmes’ final case.

Similarities between Byomkesh Bakshi and Sherlock Holmes:

  1. Both have featured in adventures that are written up for the public by their less observant colleagues (either Ajit or Dr. Watson).  Both detectives show extreme loyalty to their friends, but also scold them when they make errors (Reference: Chorabali and “The Solitary Cyclist“).
  2. Both detectives have faced bumbling, arrogant, but ultimately inefficient police officers from the force in the form of Bidhubabu at Lalbazar or Inspector Lestrade at Scotland Yard (Reference: Arthamanartham and “The  Norwood Builder“).
  3. Both find that the personal classified advertisements are the most informative section of the newspaper. (Reference: Pother Kanta, Holmes referred to it as the Agony Column in “The Engineer’s Thumb“).
  4. Both realize that following the law isn’t always the moral thing to do. Both Byomkesh Bakshi and Sherlock Holmes are willing to give extrajudicial justice after conferring with Ajit and Watson, respectively. (Example: Chorabali, “The Abbey Grange“).
  5. Both have had to take on cases of national importance to avert war or prevent information leaking to enemies. (Example: Upasanghar, “The Second Stain“).
  6. Both have been involved in murder cases in which a strong-willed female character has lied in order to protect someone that they loved dearly. (Example: Satyabati in Arthamanartham,  Lady Braceknstall “The Abbey Grange“).
  7. Both have had to lay a trap so that an enemy tried to kill them. Ultimately this enemy got caught after assassinating a dummy. (Example: Anukulbabu stabs a pillow in Satyanveshi, Colonel Moran shoots a dummy of Holmes in “The Empty House“).
  8. Both have had to show exceptional sleight-of-hand to replace or swap an item in plain view of others. (Example: the statue in Seemanto-heera, the confidential papers in “The Second Stain“).
  9. Both detectives have had to use psychology to the the information that they need. (Example: In Upasanghar, Byomkesh fakes his death and advertises it to get Anukulbabu to reveal himself. In “A Scandal in Bohemia“, Holmes fakes a fire-hazard to get Irene Adler to reveal the whereabouts of an incriminating photograph. Subsequently, suspicions are aroused in both and they flee).
  10. Both detectives have solved a case in which a valuable gem was hidden inside a plaster statue. Both had to break the statue in the final act to recover the gem. (Example: the Nataraja statue in Seemanto-heera, the sixth and final statue of Napoleon in “The Six Napoleons“).

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Filed under Athamanartham, অর্থমনর্থম্‌, পথের কাঁটা, সীমন্ত-হীরা, Basic information on this site, Byomkesh stories, Byomkesh trivia, Pother Kanta, Seemanto-heera

23 responses to “Comparing Byomkesh Bakshi to Sherlock Holmes

  1. sourish

    sotti prosongsoniyo lekhata
    bt ja mil sesob to sudhu golper ghotona… puro tai lekhaker sristi..
    bt personal mil
    mane character mil jodi kichui thake ta dekhale valo hoto…
    asa kori pore aro valo lekha pawa jabe apnar kach theke….

    • Anirban

      Thanks for reading. Aamar mote plot-er mil-er moddhe lekhak-er sristhi bojha hai bhalo kore. Character-er mil achchei shegulo specifically relative to plot point out korechi. Similar situation-e character-der similar reaction-er theke beshi boro charitrik mil paowar upai achche ki? Aaro explicitly point out kora jai kintu tate hoyto shadharon pathok (jini hoyto duto porenni) bored hoben.

      Character-er mil gulo ektu beshi obvious bishesh kore main characters Byomkesh aar Ajit ke Sherlock aar Watson-er shonge mapping korle. Tobe ei niye aaro detail-e lekhar ichche achche.

      Abar dhonnoybad janai porar aar montobbo korar jonno. Agamidin-eo porte thakun. 🙂

    • srijan mukherjee

      thik kotha ami ete akmot

  2. Sayari

    Very nice, indeed! Very well put. Just 1 thing I want to add here is, though all the Byomkesh stories are original, I see a great similarity between “The Six Napoleons” and “Seemantaheera” where the gem(s) was hiding inside a mold of plaster of paris!

    Please continue this great writing!

  3. Pinaki Roy

    Please go through my book “The Manichean Investigators: A Postcolonial and Cultural Rereading of the Sherlock Holmes and Byomkesh Bakshi Stories” (New Delhi: Sarup and Sons, 2008) for a wider range of discussions on this issue.

  4. Dear Dr. Roy, I’ve seen your book. It is an monumental, academic work representing years of effort.

    I’d love if you’d contribute something as a guest here.

    Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  5. Dr. Nishant Kumar

    Dear Anirban,
    I am a great fan of Holmes and naturally when DD aired BB on National TV (Thank goodness there was no cable then!), it was but natural for me to be drawn to it like a fish to water. The biggest handicap I have had to face is my lack of knowledge of Bangla, the language of Sharatchandra, Bimal Mitra and the legendary filmmaker Satyajit ray. Anyways, I must commend you on compling the the very topic which I have been thinking of writing upon for the last 16 years but couldnt due to my laziness of not taking Bangla lessons. Kudos. And thanks for the wonderful website and info on Byomkesh da.

  6. dilip

    well written. keep it up.

  7. ananya

    This is a pet peeve of mine for long. WHY, and WHY must every detective under the sun be compared to SH? Anyway, it’s a commendable job on your part. Loved the analysis. Just wish people could learn to see beyond “Sherlock Holmes” whnever the words “great detective” are articulated.

  8. Debashis

    1. Byomkesh and Ajit met first to share a lodging. So did Holmes and Watson.
    2. Putting together the words in a piece of torn paper – The Reigate Square and Byomkesh o Boroda.

  9. Aditya

    Oh C’mon..its utter foolishness to compare an under-average almost copied literature like byomkesh bakshi with Sherlock Holmes.
    Sherlock Holmes was being written decades before bromkesh. Shardindu ji copied not only the holmesian deductive methods but had also copied the way of narration. What was the need of Ajit in this. Creativity dies here.

    Secondly , the conclusion of byomkesh stories are superficial and without any reasoning. Like in Pother kaanta:
    1 first it is said that the criminal would’ve been alone as the accuracy in the shooting was extraordinary.
    Now how can someone shoot a gramaphone pin so accurately by a cycle spring mechanism . Ha! Bogus.

    Please dont compare such aweful literature with the great worlwide loved Sherlock Holmes!

    • Aryan

      Dumbass kid…everything in this world is influenced by older things….Almost every fiction and fantasy story present media can offer can be traced back to older folklores and ultimately to ancient mythology. That’s it…and as for the serial, there’s a generation of Indians dying for it so obviously it was one of the nicest thing our media can offer.

    • Aryan

      Under average’re the under average one in the IQ dept. it was influenced by SH that’s that. ‘Holmesian’ deductive methods were implemented in almost every GOOD detective novels all over the world and Byomkesh Bakshi excels in that and a lot miserably fails. Oh you don’t like the cycle spring thingy???Ever care to look into the ‘Goof’ section of Western movies in IMDB, there’s lot of inaccuracies. Typical pseudo-intellectual self cannibalizing Indian who is too critical of a fine piece of Art made by an Indian during British times almost a century ago while openly embraces something which itself is a ‘copy’. Moreover that was the way a lot of Indians got a taste of Western style detection in an Indian way…so its simply EPIC…

  10. Ananya

    @Aditya: NO detective literature in the entire universe can claim to be one hundred-percent logically accurate. FYI, if you didn’t note, Sherlock Holmes himself was a “copy” of M. Lecoq. And also, almost every detective lit contains a narrator-sidekick, not just Byomkesh. Does that make them all un-original? Must be so in your view. Also, NOT everybody thinks Holmes is the greatest. Many feel he’s overrated. You want illogical? In the “Speckled Band”, the girl is an overly-dumb character who cannot recognize a damn SNAKE when she sees one. Snakes DO NOT drink milk or any other liquid. Un-scientific to the core. Illogical–the very character of Holmes. Somebody who is more of a robot than a human being. Atleast Byomkesh is HUMAN in that sense, he possesses realistic emotions.

    • Gorab

      i think to some extent u r right but to some u r wrong. To become a good detective you have think with ur brain not with ur heart
      And more ove u cannot say that holmes is more of a robot. Because he poseses some emotons. We have seen him in number of cases savin persons though they were wrong

  11. Biswarup

    jara Byomkesh ke heo korchen tader jonno bole rakhi, sudhumatro niros goenda golpo eti noe,bangla sahitter utkristo gune somriddho rohosso uponnas, bangla sahitter jara samojhdar non tader jonno Byomkesh noe.

  12. Kamli Mudliar

    Nice work of comparison! I would like to read more like comparison between “The Adventure of the three students” and ‘the gold coins of Jehangir’ Feluda story.

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