Friday, 16 September 2011

Brojen Das – first Asian English Channel swimmer with world records is a Bangladeshi

The word ‘’Brojen’’ means the king of heavens. It’s a name in Bangladesh and the person who was named Brojen Das was a swimmer for whom Bangladesh and the whole nation is proud of his achievement.
Brojen Das
Brojen Das was a long distance swimmer. He was the first Asian to swim across the English Channel. The strait between southern England and northern France known as English Channel. It is about 560 km long and varies in width from 240 km at its widest, to only 34 km in the strait of Dover. Channels narrowest part   of English side known as Dovar and French side known as Calais. Usually the swimmers swim to cross the English Channel in this narrowest part. But due to high waves and tides it becomes more than 56 km way to swim.
Brojen Das was born on 9th December 1927 in Kuchiamora village of Sirajdikhan Upazila, Munshiganj in Bangladesh. His father Harendra Kumar Das was a supplier in army and he had a business of cement trading. Harendra Kumar Das had three sons but no daughter. Brojen Das did his primary education in his native village. He completed his matriculation (final school examination) in 1946 from the AKL Jubilee High School, Farashgonj, Dhaka. Then he passed Intermediate and Bachelor of Arts from Vidyasagor College, Kolkata in West Bengal in India.
As other Bangladeshi boys Brojen Das also started swimming nearby his village river Dholeshory. After completing primary school he moved at Farashgonj,in Dhaka with his parents. The turbulent waters of river Buriganga was his first training ground. From his early life he showed his swimming ability. He championed himself as a master swimmer in an inter-school competition in 1943-45 and inter-college competition in 1948-49. Later in 1952, he became a champion in 100 – meter freestyle in West Bengal in India. The sports lovers in the then Pakistan saw an emerging star in the sports arena when Brojen Das became champion in 100 m, 200 m, 400 m and 1500 m freestyle swimming in 1953 in Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan). He also became the Pakistan’s national champion in 100 m and 200 m freestyle swimming, in 1955.  In the same year, he became champion in 100 m, 200 m and 400 m of freestyle swimming in the Pakistan inter university competition. So in most local and national swimming competitions and tournaments Brojen Das proved himself to be an outstanding swimmer.
King of the Channel-certificate of  Brojen Das achievement
Brojen Das was a short course swimmer. But When he was preparing himself to take part in the Olympic Competition in Melborn, Australia, in 1956, he was not counted as a member of the Pakistan swimming team. They took four West Pakistani swimmers in the swimming team. This incident changed his mind and he decided to do something best himself. His transition to long-distance sea-swimming gave him immortality and eternal fame in the annals of swimming history. His career took a new turn when he got an invitation to participate in the English Channel swimming competition in 1958. He took this challenge. To make him capable for this competition he started to train up himself hard. He then made the river Sitalakhya and most turbulent part of the lower Meghna river as his training field. Finally, he swam from    Narayanganj to Chandpur, a distance of about 75 km. He also accomplished with credit a non-stop 48 hours swimming, covering approx. 97 km in Dhaka swimming pool.
Then Brojen Das arrived in England in June 1958 for the Billy Butlin Channel event as the only participant from South Asian countries. 30 swimmers from 23 countries took part in this competition. The swimming begun at midnight of August 18, 1958 and ended in the afternoon of the next day. 21 of the 30 swimmers dropped out, mostly due to exhaustion, but Bangladeshi Brojen Das continued undaunted to not only to secure the first position in the competition but also became the first Asian ever to complete the swim.
In 1959, he not only succeeded in swimming from the Capri Island to Naples in Italy, but also succeeded in three long-distance international swimming competitions. He swam from England side to France, that took 13 hours and 26 minutes. In the same year he crossed the Channel again from France side to England and took 13 hours 53 minutes to complete the swim. It was also a world record that he was the first long distance swimmer who completed 3 long distance swim in a year.
Above: Brojen Das with India's former PM
Jawaharlal Nehru and down:with
Pakistan's former President Ayub Khan
1961, Brojen Das jumped into the channel from French side on 8th September for the fifth time to upgrade his own timing and had the motto to cross the channel in the record time. In the beginning the sea was very good and quite. But the sea turned very rough towards the end. It was very hard and challenging to complete the swim. It took 11 hours and 48 minutes for him. He decided himself to try again at the next neap tide. On September 21, 1961, within 12 days of his fifth swim, a record in itself, with his hard determination and single-mindedness, Brojen Das completed his swim from France side in 10 hours 35 minutes, breaking the 11 years-old record by 15 minutes. In fact, in 1961, Brojen Das earned glory and fame when he created World Records in Channel swimming to put his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. Not only did he cross the English Channel in record time, he crossed it six times and created two world records on the same day.
For his excellent and incredible performance in swimming arena Brojen Das was rewarded many times. The most notable awards that he got were : in 1959  the Pakistan Government honoured him by giving the ‘’Pride of Performance’’. His name was enlisted in the ‘’ International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame’’ in 1965. Bangladesh Government gave him the National Award in 1976 for his valuable contribution in the field of sports and games. He earned the trophy of ‘’King of Channel’’ from the Channel Swimming Association of the United Kingdom in 1986. He was conferred by Bangladesh government ‘’Swadhinata Padak’’ (post humously) in 1999. He was also awarded by some other Bangladeshi organizations. One of the most significant awards was Dhaka University Blue in 1956.
Above:Brojen Das with his
     daughter and son-in-law at his age
65+; down : with his children
 when they were little
Brojen Das was actively involved with various sport clubs and organizations. He was president of Farashgonj Sporting Club. He acted as an advisor to the U.S. Olympic swimming team which took part in 1964 Tokyo Olympic. He was Vice- President of World Long Distance Swimming Association, Atlanta, USA. Brojen Das was General Secretary of Bangladesh Swimming Federation, 1972-1975. He was honorary Life Member of Royal Live Saving Society, UK, from 1959, honorary life member of Dhaka Club, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Many other swimming clubs and organizations of India, UK, Bangladesh made him their honorary member and showed his name even in their executive board to be self honoured.
Due to his achievement he was invited by many countries presidents, prime ministers and even by the queen of UK to meet with them. He came to close contact  with many celebraties and legendary people. He got many compliments and recognitions but the best one I think he got when he met legendary boxer Mohammad Ali during the SAF games in 1985 in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The boxing legend said, ‘’You are the king of Channel and I am the king of Ring. But I think your achievement is even greater than mine.’’
In his personal life Brojen Das was married with Madhu Chanda Bose on the 10th February, 1965 in Calcutta, West Bengal. Madhu Chanda Das is a classical music singer. Brojen Das had one daughter Sanghita Pal and one son Soumojit Das.
Brojen Das with legendary boxer
Mohammad Ali during the SAF games
in Dhaka in the year 1985
After swimming music and film were another great passion for him. He was involved in producing and distributing with several Indian Bangla films. Stree, Sai Chok, Babu Moshaai, Gopal Bhar etc. were most box office hit movies. Brojen Das acted also in Gopal Bhar film and his Stree movie was box office hit movie. Legendary hero Uttam Kumar and heroin Supria were in the main role of this film.
Brojen Das became sick when he got first heart attack in 1984. Second time it happened in 1990 and then he did open heart surgery in 1991 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. After operation he was much better. Few years after in 1997, doctor found that he had cancer in throat. Just after one year he died at the age of 71 on 1st June 1998 in Calcutta, West Bengal, India. His body was cremated at Postagola cremation site in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 3rd June 1998 at night.  
Cremated body’s ash of Brojen Das was then thrown in the river Buriganga where he started swimming from his boyhood and earned his name and fame in Channel swimming.



  1. Hi,
    Nice writing on first Asian English Channel swimmer with world records is a Bangladeshi

  2. Brojen Das was the first athlete in the world who had crossed the English Channel for six times.We are very pleased to writing with him.Thank you very much for your wonderful post.
    Read more: Population of Bangladesh