Bengal National College, Calcutta, 1906

SubodhmullickHouse12WellingtonSq

PLACE OF ORIGIN

বঙ্গীয় জাতীয় মহাবিদ্বালয়, কলকাতা, ১৯০৬

The urge for setting up an institution that would impart education along nationalist lines was strongly felt by the early 20th century intelligentsia when Bengal was torn apart by the Curzon administration to reinforce British dominance politically and culturally. Backed by the Universities Act of 1904 the Calcutta University Senate and Syndicate were reshuffled co-opting more white members to ensure sufficient government control in policy making. The government also decided to disaffiliate certain new private colleges, which were looked upon by them as hotbeds of nationalist agitation. These offensive measures of the then Government frustrated the sentiment of educated middle class and incited a move for alternative systems of education.

A protest meeting was organized on November 5, 1905 under the auspices of the Dawn Society of Satish Chandra Mukherjee. The meeting was addressed by Rabindranath, Satish Chandra Mukherjee and Hirendranath Datta urging the students to severe all connections with the Government controlled university.
On November 9, a mass meeting was held at the Field and Academy Club. In that meeting it was decided that if it is the aim of the British government to destroy the freedom movement and if they exert such tyranny and oppression on young students, the people of the country would establish a national university. Subodh Chandra Mullick pledged a donation of one lakh Rupees.

Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick

Many others came forward to donate generously for the cause, including some native kings and princes and other like-minded dignitaries like Brojendra Kishore Roy Choudhury, Maharaja Suryya Kanto Acharya Choudhury. Leaders like Chitta Ranjan Das, Bipin Pal, Ramendrasundar Trivedi began to address Subodh Chandra as the ‘Raja’. Rabindranath congratulated the endeavour saying that after a long time, the Bengalis received a gift. Subodh Chandra’s contribution to the nationalist education movement seems however far greater than the sum he donated. He committed to establishing nationalist university even before its idea mooted, played a critical role in designing the institution incognito, and remained a part of its history ever since.

To challenge the British rule over education a huge meeting was sponsored by the Landholders’ Society at Park Street on November 16, 1905, attended by around 1500 delegates together with Rabindranath Tagore, Aurobindo Ghosh, Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick and Brajendra Kishore Roychowdhury.

Bengal National College-191_bowbazar_streetxtr2x

191/1 Bowbazar Street where BNC held its classes

Minutes. Exec Committee Meeting July 21, 1906

On 11th March, 1906, the National Council of Education, Bengal, or Jatiyo Siksha Parishad was founded to provide a platform for ‘a system of education – literary, scientific & technical – on national lines & under national control’ following a declaration made in a meeting held in Bengal Landholders’ Association. With Dr. Rashbehari Ghosh as the president, plans were afoot to establish a national college & school in Calcutta. In a public meeting, held on the 14th August, 1906 at the Town Hall, the Bengal National College & School was inaugurated.
The institution started to work from 15th August, 1906 in a rented house on 191/1, Bowbazar Street with Sri Aurobindo Ghosh as Principal and Sri Satish Chandra Mukherjee as an Hony. Superintendent. The institution had four departments – Literary, Scientific, Technical & Commercial. Scholars like Sakhram Ganesh Deuskar, Radhakumud Mukhopadhyay, Binay Sarkar, Khirode Prasad Vidyabinode voluntarily agreed to serve this new university. Rabindranath agreed to lecture on literature, Ananda Coomaraswamy on Oriental Art, Sir Gurudas Bandyopadhyay on Mathematics, Hirendranath Dutta on Upanishads.

The same time, another nationalist body, the Society for Promotion of Technical Education in Bengal, was set up with contending ideas by Taroknath Palit under patronage of Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandy, Bhupendra Nath Bose, Nilratan Sircar and others who laid stress on the technical education alone. Under its management the Bengal Technical Institute was establish on July 25, 1906 with the objectives of spreading technical education among the masses.
In 1910 the two societies merged. The two colleges were virtually the faculties of “Humanities and Science” and of “Technology” of the National Council of Education. Several national schools also were founded in this period at different places in Bengal. Even after the merger, it was painfully observed that ‘not a student cared to come for a literary and scientific instructions along national lines’ See S. N. Sen

Sri Aurobindo Ghosh 1908

Sri Aurobindo clinically analyzed the conditions that failed the nationalist education movement originated in 1905. Some of the major causes of its collapse he pointed out were given here in a nutshell. To the majority of Council members, he thought, Nationalist Education was merely an interesting academic experiment, and regarded it merely as the ladder by which they climb and busy trying to kick it down. To others the only valuable part of it was the technical instruction given in its workshops. They really were shutting off the steam, yet expect the locomotive to go on. He also stressed on the unrealistic approach of its planning and designing. Curriculum of the Council is extraordinarily elaborate and expensive, as it was on the vicious Western system of driving many subjects at a time, serving as ‘a brain-killing and life-shortening machine’. See Sri Aurobindo –

The institution had many ups and downs in its struggling history before being reincarnated in the form of the present-day Jadavpur University.

The photograph featured at the top shows the house of Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick, at 12 Wellington Square. This was where the idea of national university in nationalist line was seeded and grown into Bengal National College with the initiative and care of Subodh Chandra and Aurobindo who stayed with him as his honourable guest. When he served as the Principal, Aurobindo would go from the Bengal National College to the evening gathering at this house to exchange views and plans in nationalist line.

Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Calcutta, 1861

CalcuttaSocForPreventionOf Cruelity2AnimalsX1

কলকাতা পশুপীড়ণ নিবারণী সভা, কলকাতা, ১৮৬১

The life and soul of the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was Colesworthey Grant, an eminent artist and a true friend of Calcutta people. He lived  in this city at the time of Company Raj, and here he died. He was one of those great raconteurs, like Charles D’Oyly, who had left for us vibrant visual documentation of the way of life in urban and rural Bengal that he captured in his innumerable drawings and sketches.
Colesworthey Grant was born in London on the 25th October, 1813 of a Scotch father and a Welsh mother. While living in Hare Street with his brother George, Colesworthey had a much loved Persian cat. The cat was unfortunately worried to death by his neighbour’s dogs. That downhearted event made a deep impression on his sensitive mind. In his morning walks and drives also he noticed that “the cattle and horses with hideous wounds, galls dislocations and mutilations” were being unmercifully used. Colesworthey began to agitate the matter. The result was the establishment of the Calcutta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the 4th October, 1861, at a public meeting presided over by the Venerable Archdeacon Pratt and attended among others, by the Rev. Dr. Alexander Duff, Dr, Fredrick John Mouat, Baboo Peary Chand Mittra, Seth Apcar, Mr. M. Rustomjee, Raja Pratap Chandra Singh Bahadur, Maulavie Abdul Luteef Khan, Colesworthey Grant, and others. It was the first organization of its kind in Asia. Lord Elgin, the then Viceroy of India, lent his powerful support by consenting to become its first patron of the Society, and Colesworthey Grant its Honorary Secretary. The Royal Society of London gave it the benefit of its experience. See Manmathanath Ghosh

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Colesworthey Grant

Peary Chand Mittra, the life-long friend and biographer of Colesworthey, took the advantage of his position as a member of the Bengal Legislative Council to introduce in the Council two Bills for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which was passed into law as Acts I and III of 1969, in spite of opposition from a few Europeans, including Stuart Hogg, then Commissioner of Police, and later on, Chairman of Calcutta Corporation. The Corporation of Calcutta could not be persuaded to take up the responsibility unless the terms were revised, and finally decided to entrust the Society with its own administration and the Act was put into operation with effect from October, 1926. Till then it was an unregistered body.
On the 17th November, 1932, the Govt. appointed a Committee consisting of 9 members under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice H.G. Pearson to examine as to how the working of the Society could be improved. Though the Pearson Committee noted along with its other recommendations that the Society should be registered under the Society’s Registration Act (Act XXI of 1860), it was registered much later i.e., on the 5th February, 1954. See CSPCA website

At the beginning, the Society’s business used to be transacted at the residence of the Honorary Secretary, Mr. Grant, for which no rent was charged to the Society. After his death, the Society’s address was shifted to 276, Bowbazar Street from where it operates still now. Colesworthey Grant was in true sense the life and soul of the Society. The Royal Society presented him with accolade for his commendable devotion to the cause of humanity. Colesworthey died on the 31st May 1880. An obelisk was erected at the north-east corner of Dalhousie Square, where Colesworthey used to help animals drink water from a fountain, to commemorate the memory of the noble and kind man who toiled incessantly for the good of his fellow creatures.

Among books Colesworthey published, the most renown titles are:

Anglo-Indian Domestic Life: A Letter from an Artist in India to His Mother in England. 1862. and

Rural life in Bengal; illustrative of Anglo-Indian suburban life … letters from an artist in India to his sisters in England. 1864

However, his least-known work on Cruelty that he addressed to the children for arousing in their young minds empathy for the unkindly treated domestic animals and an urge to protect them from tortures and exploitation.
ColesworteyonCruelty-Childrenbook

Armenian Ghat, Calcutta, 1734

BathingGha-t-fromFrederickPelitiWebsite

আর্মানি ঘাট, কলকাতা, ১৭৩৪

Armenian Ghat was built in 1734 by Manvel Hazaar Maliyan, a celebrated Calcutta trader of Armenian origin. This elegant ferry ghat was just one of the many contributions made by the benevolent Armenian toward developing Calcutta’s infrastructure and sociocultural rapport. Hazaar Maliyan, better known in Calcutta society as Huzoorimal – an westernized version of the conventional form of his Armenian name. Armenians were involved in spice to jewelry trade, and this river pier was built specifically to tackle the docking of the merchants of the town.

The Armenian Ghat, locally called Armani ghat, stood on the Hooghly river bank with its gracefully designed cast iron structure. The Ghat was situated on river edge besides the Mallick Bazaar flower market adjacent to the old Howrah Bridge. As in other ghats on the holy river, people used to come here also to take bath, and devotees to worship.

EIR[booingCounter-Armanighat

A cropped image from a panoramic photograph of river ghats, by Bourne and Shepherd, c.1880’s. See

It also facilitated running of some well-liked public transport services conducted by the EIR company. From 15th August 1854, the company(EIR) ran a regular service, morning an evening, between Howrah and Hugli with stops at Bali, Serampore and Chandernagar. The fare ranged from Rs.3 by first class to 7 annas by third class. The main booking office was at Armenian Ghat, and the fare covered the ferry to the station on the opposite bank. Besids the passanger ferry services, The Cachar Sunderbund dispatch steamers are berthed at Armenian Ghat, while the Assam Sunderbund vessels work from Jagarnath Ghat.

During 1854 – 1874, the Eastern Railways had their Calcutta Station, and Ticket Reservation Room in Armenian Ghat. From this counter the passengers had to buy train tickets and then cross the Ganges on Railway owned steamers/ launches to board their train from platform at Howrah.  This arrangement continued until the construction of Howrah Pantoon Bridge was complete in 1874.

Cropped view of ‘Old Court House Street, Calcutta’, by Bourne and Shepherd, c.1880’s. See full view

Armenian Ghat turned into a demanding spot for the Calcutta commuters, and it helped them when the Tramway Company introduced in February 1873 their trial service to run a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) horse-drawn tramway service between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on trial. After a short break the Company, registered as Calcutta Tramway Co. Ltd, laid anew Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square and Strand Road. The service discontinued in 1902.

The Armenian Ghat, one of the prime heritage sites of the city is now lost to oblivion and the eyeful marina is replaced by an unimaginable open-air gym.

The Photograph of the Armenian Ghat featured at the top was taken by Chevalier Federico Peliti, the famous Italian hotelier and restaurateur of Calcutta who happened to be an excellent amateur photographer. Date unknown.

 

See
ARMENIAN GHAT PAVILION: AN UPDATE OF 28 MAY 2015 POST