Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian Nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India of British Rule with the help of Nazi Germany and imperial japan left a troubled legacy. The honorific Netaji  first applied to Bose in Germany in early 1942—by the Indian soldiers of the  and by the German and Indian officials in the  in Berlin. It is now used throughout India.

Subhas Chandra Bose was born to Prabhavati Bose and Janakinath Bose on 23 January 1897 in Cuttack—in what is today the state of Odisha in India, but was then the Orissa Division of Bengal Province in British India. A self-made man from the rural outskirts of Calcutta, he had remained in touch with his roots, returning annually to his village during the pooja holidays. Eager to join his five school-going older brothers, Subhas entered the Protestant European School in Cuttack in January 1902. English was the medium of all instruction in the school, the majority of the students being European or Anglo-Indians of mixed British and Indian ancestry. The curriculum included English—correctly written and spoken—Latin, the Bible, good manners, British geography, and British History; no Indian languages were taught. At home, his mother worshipped the Hindu goddesses Durga and Kali, told stories from the epics Mahabharat and Ramanaya, and sang Bengali religious songs. From her, Subhas imbibed a nurturing spirit, looking for situations in which to help people in distress, preferring gardening around the house to joining in sports with other boys.

1921–1932: Indian National Congress:

Subhas Bose, aged 24, arrived ashore in India at Bombay on the morning of 16 July 1921 and immediately set about arranging an interview with Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi, aged 51, was the leader of the Non-cooperation that had taken India by storm the previous year and in a quarter-century would evolve to secure its independence. Gandhi happened to be in Bombay and agreed to see Bose that afternoon. In Bose’s account of the meeting, written many years later, he pilloried Gandhi with question after question.

1933–1937: Illness, Austria, Emilie Schenkl

During the mid-1930s Bose travelled in Europe, visiting Indian students and European politicians, including Benito Mussolini. He observed party organisation and saw communism and fascism in action. In this period, he also researched and wrote the first part of his book The Indian Struggle, which covered the country’s independence movement in the years 1920–1934. Although it was published in London in 1935, the British government banned the book in the colony out of fears that it would encourage unrest.

1941–1943: Nazi Germany

Bose’s arrest and subsequent release set the scene for his escape to Germany, via Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. A few days before his escape, he sought solitude and, on this pretext, avoided meeting British guards and grew a beard. Late night 16 January 1941, the night of his escape, he dressed as a Pathan (brown long coat, a black fez-type coat and broad pyjamas) to avoid being identified.


18 August 1945: Death

In the consensus of scholarly opinion, Subhas Chandra Bose’s death occurred from third-degree burns on 18 August 1945 after his overloaded Japanese plane crashed in Japanese-ruled Formosa (now Taiwan). However, many among his supporters, especially in Bengal, refused at the time, and have refused since, to believe either the fact or the circumstances of his death. Conspiracy theories appeared within hours of his death and have thereafter had a long shelf life, keeping alive various martial myths about Bose.

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