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.

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Bethune Society, Calcutta, 1851

Medical College Hospital Calcutta-1835x-inscribed-W.H.CA Vendis-CompanySchool

বেথুন সোসাইটি, কলকাতা, ১৮৫১

Bethune_John_Elliot_Drinkwater

Eliot Drinkwater Bethune

The Bethune Society, a literary association named after Eliot Drinkwater Bethune, was established in Calcutta jointly by some liberal Europeans and enlightened natives in December 1851. The Society was set up for the consideration and discussion of questions connected with literature and science ‘with the object of promoting the spirit of inquiry and knowledge among the Bengalis on the one hand, and establishing racial harmony between the Europeans and the natives on the other’ [See Sirajul Islam]. It was Dr FJ Mouat, the Secretary to the Medical College and of the Council of Education who actually initiated and brought about this noble institution of non-political and non-theocratic character to carry on the name of the Hon’ble Mr. Bethune, Legislative Member of the Supreme Council and President of the Government of Education, then lately deceased, and to commemorate his great services and boundless liberality in promoting the cause of the Native Female Education.

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Frederic John Mouat

In contemporary society, he was well known for his liberal views and acts. Bethune drafted a bill making the Europeans and Indians equal in the eye of law. In the first meeting held on 11 December 1851 in the Medical College Theatre, Mouat explained how a society ‘not so serious as the Asiatic Society and nor so light-hearted as many others around’ was necessary for serving the rising middle class of the country. He also proposed to bear personally the entire operational cost of the Society for one year.
The first Council of the Society was formed with the FJ Mouat (President), Ramgopal Ghosh and Rev. James Long (Vice-President), Peary Chand Mitra (General Secretary), and the Major GT Marshall, Rev Krishnamohan Banerjee and Debendranath Tagore as founder members. There had been quite a large number of learned dignitaries enrolled themselves as honorable members of the Society, namely, Dr Spunger, Dr Goodeve Chackerbutty, L Chat Esq, Baboo Ramgopal Ghose, Radhanath Sikdar, Ram Chandra Bose, Kylas Chandra Bose, Huro Mohan Chatterjea, Jagadisnath Roy, Nabin Chandra Mittra, Peary Mohun Sircar, Russick Lal Sein, Prassunna Kumar Mitra, Gopal Chandra Dutt, Hurry Chandra Dutt, Dukhina Ranjan Mookerjee. Begun with only 21 members, the Society’s membership rose to 250 in 1860.

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Peary Chand Mittra

The Bethune Society lasted for forty years. The Society, for the impressive contributions it made all these years toward the intellectual improvement of the society at large deserves a special place in the social as well as educational history of the country. The Hall of the Medical College in which the Society used to hold its meetings resounded time and again with the eloquence of learned men like Dr Mouat, Dr Duff, Collonel Goodwyn, Dr Rever, Gr Chevers, Rev. Dall, Goodeve Chackerbutty, Rev K M Banerjee, Rev Lal Behari Day, Koylas Chunder Bose,Grish Chunder Ghose, Kissory Chand Mittra, Peary Churn Sircar, Prossunno Coomar Surbadhicary, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Ramchandra Mitra, Haramohan Chattopadhyaya, Radhanath Sikdar, Raja Pratapchandra Singha, Nabin Kristo Bose, Rajendralala Mitra, Dr Mahendra Lal Sircar”.

RamgopalGhosh

Ramgopal Ghosh

On the invitation of the Bethune Society, young Rabindranath, made his first public reading on the subject of Music at the Medical College Hall, the evening before he started on the voyage to England in 1878. The event was presided by Reverend K. M. Banerji. [See Tagore. Reminiscence] The lectures delivered were subsequently published as articles in Society’s Transactions, or separately in book form [ see B.S. Selections]. Due to their inherent values the Society publications are referred to even today in studies on indigenous arts and sciences. ‘In those days H E the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and the highest officials did not hesitate to attend the meeting of the Society without special invitation to listen to the lectures of the eminent speakers’ [see Manmathanath].
Though short lived, the Bethune Society was successful in achieving its objects: it could help develop scientific outlook among many Bengalis and promote understanding and toleration between the Indians and the Europeans. [Sirajul Islam]

The painting featured at the top depicts the front view of the Medical College Hospital, Calcutta where the meetings of the Bethune Society were held. This is a Company school of painting inscribed ‘W.H.CA Vendis’ at lower right, dated c1835. Courtesy: Christie’s

Calcutta School-Book Society, Calcutta, 1817

Town+Hall+Calcutta+A+View-James+Baillie+Fraser1826
কলকাতা স্কুল-বুক সোসাইটি, ১৮১৭

The thriving desire among the Bengali communities for learning English and western sciences marked the beginning of the 19th century Bengal with the establishment of Fort William College in 1800 by Marquis Wellesley. For Bengali Hindus, in particular, the urge for English education was so desperate that they went to establish institutions at their own cost. It was largely because of the fact that English was the language of the Rulers, and their language brought many occupational and professional advantages. This trend of thoughts led to the founding of the Hindu College and the Oriental Seminary in early part of 19th century. Further move toward educational progress was taken place with the establishment of a School Book Society in Calcutta in 1817. [See Salauddin Ahmed]

The want of elementary books in Bengali and Hindustani languages had for some time been experienced at Fort William College. An establishment of an independent Institution to take charge of such business was being considered in the light of existing trend of thoughts. Presumably, some enthusiast within the circle of Fort William College, like a David Hare, might have actually initiated the idea and helped in forming an association for careful inquiry and deliberation on the subject.
The association set up for this purpose led to a more extended meeting in the month of May 1817, at the College of Fort William, when some preliminary rules were framed for the Institution, proposed to be established under the name of the Calcutta Book Society. A provisional Committee was appointed, with Sir Cecil Beadon, Esq as its President, and eight Members, namely D. Elliott, W Gordon Young, W. N Leer, J Wanger, H Woodrow, Kalikrishna Bahadur, Kashiprasad Ghosh, and Ramgopal Ghosh. The Bank of Bengal was the Treasurer. The Committee was formed: to take measure for making its purpose known to public; to procure it pecuniary support of all classes of the community; and to gather ‘the aid of labours and advice of learned men’. On receiving the report of the Provisional Committee, the School Book Society was finally organized and ‘instituted’ on the 4th July of 1817 with a set of operative statements of objectives, such as,
That the Institution was to be denominated ‘The Calcutta School-Book Society’;
That the Society was to manage preparation, publication, and cheap or gratuitous supply of works useful to Schools and Seminaries of learning;
That the Society was not to furnish religious books but free to supply of moral tracts non-interfering with religious sentiments of anyone;
That the Society was to furnish books of school instructions in English and Asiatic languages; and more.
The remaining objectives defined the constitution of the Society, delineated the rights and privileges of its members, ‘who may be of whatever nation, subscribing any sum annually to the funds of the Society’, and allowed formation of School-Book Associations auxiliary to the Society for the benefit of obtaining school books worth full amount of their annual subscriptions at cost price. [See Provisional Committee Report]

‘The Calcutta School-Book Society, in fact, was the first institution of its kind, which was sponsored by a number of public spirited individuals belonging to different religious denominations and situations.’ Thus the first managing committee of the Society for the year 1817-18 included orthodox Hindus like Pundit Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, Radhakanta Deb, Ramkamal Sen and Tarinicharan Mitra. The Muslim members of the Committee were Maulvi Aminullah, Maulvi Karam Hussain, Maulvi Abdul Wahid and Maulvi Abdul Hamid. The missionaries and churchmen were represented by William Carey and the Rev. J. Parson and the Rev. T. Tomason; while among the officials were W.B. Bayley, who was elected President of the Society, Sir Edward Hyde East and J H Harrington. The two Indian secretaries of the Society were Tarinicharan Mitra and Maulvi Abdul Wahid. The Society was patronized and subscribed to by the Governor-General Lord Hastings and his wife and many English officials and businessmen and also by a considerable number of Hindu and Muslim zamindars and merchants. Even the orthodox Hindu and Muslim communities were so much enthused over the prospect of English education that they unhesitatingly joined hands with the Christian missionaries and Britishers in developing the Society. [See Charles Lushington]

Shortly, it became clear that the objectives of the Society could not be advanced proficiently unless a sufficient number of schools was there to utilize Society’s publications. Hence the Calcutta School Society came into existence in September 1818 to set up elementary schools and support those already existed. [See puronokolkata]
The Second Annual General Meeting of the Calcutta School Book Society was held on September 21, 1819 at the Town Hall, Calcutta with the Honourable Chief Justice W.B. Bayley as the Chairman. It was reported that last year an amount of Rs. 5290 as donation and Rs 2935 as subscription were collected by the Society. During its initial four years, the Society produced and distributed as many as 126446 copies useful works in different languages without financial support of the Government. However, an annual Government Grant of Rs.7000 was made available from 1821 onward. On the motion of Rev. Dr. Carey it was ‘Resolved unanimously, that the special thanks of this meeting be presented to the Native gentlemen, whether in or out of the Committee, for their seasonable and zealous exertions in the various departments of the Society’s undertakings, without whose valuable cooperation the numerous works described in report could never have been accomplished.’
In July 1830, the Society obtained permission to reprint books published by the London Society for Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The same year, Calcutta Christian Observer openly admired the Society as a ‘truly valuable Institution’ while reviewing its 10th Annual Report, and reported that the copies issued from the depository within the given period, 1832-33, amounted to 26,380. Of these no fewer than 14,792 were books in the English language. They also noted with some pleasure the decrease in the demand for books in the Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian languages, being the spoken language of no one. [See Calcutta Christian Observer. V.3]
The Society gained its importance on two grounds: Preparation of School Books, and Procurement of School Books. “The elementary Class-Books in English which are used in the Government Schools were for the most part compiled under the direction of the Calcutta School Book Society. They consist of a series of English Headers, and of Treatises on Arithmetic, Geography and History. It does not appear that any difficulty whatever was experienced by the Society in procuring books. The Branch Depositories of the Calcutta School Book Society in every part of the country supplied all the ordinary Class-Books; and such other books as were required could easily be procured in Calcutta or direct from England”.
In regard to Vernacular Class Books, James Kerr reported, “The preparation of classbooks in the Vernacular languages, was one of the first objects that engaged the attention of the friends of Native Education. Long before the re-organization of the Educational Committee in 1835, the Calcutta School Book Society had commenced its useful labours, and had published and brought into circulation many thousands of class books. The Society still exists, and has only relaxed in its efforts, because a large number of books, all those are most useful for the purpose of a good elementary education, have now been prepared.” [See James Kerr]

Much later, the Calcutta School-Book Society and the Vernacular Literature Society was amalgamated on the 22nd April. The stock of books of the Vernacular Literature Society was taken over next October. The current address of the Society was no.9 Government Place East. The Society’s Depository was removed from Lower Circular Road to 12 Lal Bazar next month.
As it was amply verified, by the old records and reviews available today, that the Calcutta School-Book-Society admirably served the purpose for which it was started.

The above colored acquaint painted by James Baillie Fraser in 1826 depicts the Town Hall of Calcutta, erected in 1813, where most of the meetings of the Calcutta School-Book Society took place.

Calcutta Armenians, Calcutta, c1660

S.S._Catherine_Apcar_c._1900

কলকাতা আর্মানীসমাজ, কলকাতা, c১৬৬০-

The Armenians had trading relations with India from ancient time, and known as the “Merchant Princes of India”. Initially they settled in Emperor Akbar’s court. Some came to Serampore and Calcutta to settle there, supposedly under the invitation of Job Charnock. The recently deciphered inscription on Rezabeebeh’s tomb in the Church of Nazareth, upsets the accepted chronicle of British settlement in Calcutta. The text reveals that Rezabeebeh, wife of the late ‘Charitable Sookias’ had lived in Calcutta until she died on July 11, 1630 – about 60 years before Charnock settled.

The Armenians were among the first trading communities of Calcutta. The city still bears the footprints of the vibrant community thrived in her soil. There exists a locality in Barabazaar named Armanitola where the Armenians stayed initially, and nearby a street that bears the name Armenian Street. The Armenians had also populated an area close to Free School Street, called Armani-para, or the neighbourhood of Armenians. Armenians concentrated first in North Calcutta areas, and when the area became crowded, they moved to the Central Calcutta and thereafter toward South Calcutta where they owned almost whole of Queen’s Park and Sunny Park.ArmeniansOfCalcutta1909

The Armenian community of Calcutta might be divided into three classes in the chronological order. The Armenians, who were direct descendents of the original settlers, distinguished themselves with their upbringing in a unique socio-cultural environment of the birth place of Bengal Renaissance, backed by English Education. This millue of Armenians differed from their forefathers and from all other contemporary Armenians primarily in respect of their choice of professions. These Armenians were Calcuttans in a sense, and may be categorized as ‘Calcutta Armenians’. Then there was a large group of Armenians came from Julfa to stay in Calcutta during the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. These Julfa Armenians, with a traditional mind-set, engaged themselves in trade and commerce activities. Besides the ‘Calcutta Armenians’, and the Julfa Armenians’, there was ‘Charmahalis’ the third group of Armenians in Calcutta. Charmahalis, a clannish and ambitious lot, emigrated from the Armenian villages of Charmahal during early 20th century. At first the Armenian colonies were not very big. As found in the records of the Colonial Office the number of Armrnians in Calcutta is 464 in 1814, 480 in 1815, 505 in 1836, and 777 in 1901 Census. See Montgomery Martin. Statistics of the Colonies

The Calcutta Armenians were usually bracketed with Anglo-Indians because of their similarity in respect of their fair complexion, spoken English, European lifestyle, and their personal names that sound alike. The Armenian surnames had generally an ending ‘ian’ or ‘yan’. The Calcutta Armenians shortened or modified their names as for example, Khojamalian became Khojamall, Grigoryan became Gregory, Abgaryan became Apcar. As for the first names, men and women liberally used European versions of their names. ‘It is worth mentioning that Indian surnames as Seth, Vardhan, Kochhar, Narayan, Nair, and Gauhar have an Armenian origin…’ See: Armanians in Calcutta/ Susmita Bhattacharya, 2009

With time, the social structure of the Armenian community changed. A purely mercantile community at the beginning, they took opportunities for diversifying their enterprises and became owners of merchant ships, collieries, real estates, racehorses, jewelries, and the kind of business. Their successful ventures in money making and their philanthropic contributions made them important members of the Calcutta society. The lifestyle of the Calcutta Armenians of later generations changed enough to accept new professions to become noted scholars, doctors, lawyers, architects. In their construction business, Armenians set a high standard for private and public buildings. They built hundreds of residential houses, public buildings, mansions and palaces all over Calcutta. It was the Armenian architects who took leading part in converting Calcutta into a ‘city of palaces’, where they built every other landmark buildings, like Park Mansion, Queen’s Mansion, Harrington Mansion, Nizam Palace, Grand Hotel, and many others. Armenians also built unique churches, educational institutions, ferry ghats and bathing ghats and excavated tanks as well.

The Armenian Church of the Holy Nazareth, an Armenian Apostolic church is located in the northwest corner of Barabazar, and is called “Mother Church of the Indian Armenians”. It is possibly the oldest church in the Calcutta built in 1724 on the burial ground of the community by Agha Nazar after a fire destroyed the previous Armenian church that had been built on the land in 1688.armenian-nazareth--church The Holy Nazareth structure is one of three Armenian churches in Calcutta; the other two are Saint Mary’s Church and the church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator.

The most significant gift of the Armenians to the city was the Armani-ghat, or, Armenian Ghat that stood on the river bank till recently with its beautiful structure, reminding their socio-economic relationship with the city life. The Ghat was constructed in 1734, on river edge adjacent to the old Howrah Bridge, by Manvel Hazarmall, better known locally as Huzoorimal, to facilitate shipment of goods from foreign shores. This was where the Eastern Railways, during 1854 – 1874, had their ‘Calcutta Station and Ticket Reservation Room’ for the passengers to buy train tickets and cross the Ganges on Railway owned steamers/ launches to board their train from platform at Howrah. Manvel Hazarmall also gave away several bighas of land at Kalighat where he constructed a pucka ghat near the temple, and excavated a large tank at Boitakkhana which went by his name till filled up. A street, Huzurimal Lane, named after him still exists in Nebutala area.

Personal details of Manvel Hazarmall are little known, besides that Aga Hazarmall Satoor was his father’s name, and that Manvel was wealthy and influential nobleman friend and subsequently executor of Omichand, the wealthiest native resident of the town in his day. The other fact we came to know was that the beautiful belfry serving as a clock-tower of the Nazareth Church, was built in 1734 by Mavel Hazarmall, following the wish of his father, Aga Hazarmall Satoor died the same year and buried there.

Among those Armenian families settled in Calcutta immediate after Hazarmalls, the most reputable was the Apcars, originally from New Julfa. Aratoon Apcar was the first Apcar settled in India, He landed to Bombay as a boy of sixteen, founded there Apcar & Co. and in1830 moved to Calcutta where he made his fortune. Arratoon’s second son, Seth Apcar was the first Armenian Sheriff of Kolkata. The youngest son, Alexander Apcar was the Consul for Siam. Alexander’s son, Apcar Alexander Apcar, a keen cricketer, was president of the Calcutta Turf Club, and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. Arratoon Apcar’s younger brother, Gregory Apcar was noted for his charitable work, particularly to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian College, which was founded by another noble Armenian, Asvatoor Mooradkhan in 1821.

The same year The Armenian Philanthropic Academy was founded seemingly by Arratoon Apcar and others at 358 Old China Bazar Street, with a mission to educate children in the language and faith of their forefathers, without which their ethnicity could not have been so faithfully preserved in the land of their adoption. See: Seth.Armenians in India,1937

The painting featured at the top is a portrait of the ship, ‘S.S. Catherine Apcar’ – an oil on canvas by a late 19th Century School of oil painter, apparently unsigned. c1893. It was a passenger vessel, built in 1892 by D & W Henderson Ltd Glasgow for Apcar Brothers Calcutta, who was the owner until 1912 when BI Company bought it. The vessel was scrapped in 1929.

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

The Hon’ble Company’s Botanic Garden, Calcutta, 1787

বোটানিকাল গার্ডেনস, শিবপুর, কলকাতা, ১৭৮৭

The idea for a botanical garden was first tabled in the summer of 1786 by Robert Kyd, a Secretary to the Board in the Military Department of Fort William, as a potential safeguard against famine. But it soon became something much bigger and more ambitious.

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Colonel Robert Kyd

Ten years earlier he had visited the western borders of Assam, and from there he had brought young plants of a species of cinnamon growing wild there. Within the next few years other specimens had been obtained from Bhutan, and still other plants of the true cinnamon from Ceylon. All these plants were “deposited in the Governor-General’s garden,” the garden of Warren Hastings’ old house in Alipore. There the plants throve very well to prove their successful transplantation to Bengal. As Ceylon and the profitable cinnamon trade was at that time in the hands of the Dutch, the Board of Directors readily agreed to a proposal which seemed to promise a prospect of successful competition, the proposed garden was sanctioned, and Colonel Kyd was appointed honorary superintendent, a post which he held till his death. See

Botanic Garden House -1775

Shalimar, the house where Col. Kyd lived. A lithograph by Charled D’Oyly

In a letter dated 20 November 1787, Kyd sets out his vision for the garden to be part of the wider pursuit of scientific knowledge. Gradually the East India Company (EIC) did begin to actively support Kyd’s initiatives. The botanical garden in Bengal was one of the first instances of this support and it made the Gulf a part of an expanding European scientific enquiry that Kyd hoped might ‘add to the Fund of General Knowledge’. In response to an official request, the EIC Resident, Edward Galley, received in October 1787 from Persian Gulf a gift of six exotic plants. Besides the ‘Bussora Date Tree’ and the ‘famous Persian Tobacco’, there was also a tree that produces Varnish Gum.

Basra Date Palm, the Botanical Garden in Bengal--photo-430_8_0018_webcrop_2

Persian Flora

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Basra Date Palm

The garden was established in 1787 with its official name ‘The Hon’ble Company’s Botanic Garden, Calcutta’. Subsequently, it was renamed ‘The Royal Botanic Garden, Calcutta’ in the early 1860s. This amazing garden is laid out on a sprawling 272 acres of lush greenery on the west bank of river Hooghly. Over 12,000 trees and shrubs belonging to 1400 species together with thousands of herbaceous plants are in cultivation in the open in 25 Divisions, Glass houses, Green Houses and conservatories. The best-known landmark of the garden is The Great Banyan, an enormous banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) that is reckoned to be the largest tree in the world, at more than 330 metres in circumference. They are also famous for their enormous collections of orchids, bamboos, palms, and plants of the screw pine genus (Pandanus). See

The featured image above is of the Great Banyan Tree at botanical gardens, Calcutta – a black and white photograph (albumen print) by Bourne & Shepherd. Undated. Source: Smithsonian Institution

Cowrie Currency and Calcutta’s Money Market

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation কলকাতার পোদ্দারি কারবার , টাকা-কড়ির বিনিময়

By 1756 Calcutta had reached such a stage of industrial progress, that its trade is stated to have exceeded one million sterling yearly, and that some fifty vessels or more annually visited its port. To conduct business with Indian producers it became vital for the Company to have interpreters, brokers and other native agencies. The brokers, like the Setts and Basaks, were weavers by caste. The Setts controlled the broker’s office in Calcutta until the end of the dandi system in 1753. By the beginning of the 19th century they had become Shroffs. The shroffs were essentially money-exchangers whose main business was to test the purity of coins and exchange coins. They also exchanged bullion for currencies, and vice-versa. In wider sense, the shroffs, or saraffs, were moneylenders and bankers, who accepted deposits and transferred funds from one place to another by means of hundis, that included bills of exchange and promissory notes.

Merchants-of-calcutta--1887

Marwaris

The banking house of Jagat Seths played the most significant role in Bengal’s monetary economy in pre-colonial to early-colonial period. Jagat Seth, besides the enormous assets accumulated in his house, had enough control over the mint at Murshidabad to make use of its resources for meeting the demands of the credit-hungry European Companies.Their control over the urban money market in Bengal was so profound that no money merchant or bullion dealer dared offer a higher price than Seths did. The grand success of the house of Jagat Seths was largely because of the business climate sustained in that time in which money-changing and banking activities flourished vigorously, and naturally produced numerous sarrafs and bankers of lesser fame. Sarrafs dealing in rupee coin generally operated at urban commercial centres, where various types of rupee coins came for circulation and were exchanged with one another.

Money-changer 1920

In Bengal, however, low-value exchanges were dominated by the cowrie currency, and there was hardly any copper coin in circulation in the 17th-18th centuries. Copper Mint began operation in Calcutta in April 1865, and it provided all copper and bronze coins for India from 1889 until 1923. It is understood that there were many wealthy sarrafs qua sarrafs operated in urban Bengal who dealt in rupees and sometimes in gold coins. But there were a section of sarrafs operated in the rural markets – in haats and bazaars. They were called potdars – a term referred to in Chandimangal, the Bengali poetic work written in the second half of the 16th century. Potdars, as the book defined, were professionals engaged in exchanging gold, silver coin, and cowrie. More substantial cowrie dealing sarrafs got their stocks from domestic merchants who used to sell goods to cowrie-importing traders. Agents of big merchants and European companies needed cowries for procurement of goods, and they managed to receive these shells from the saraffs. There are another class of cowrie-dealing sarrafs, who operated at the lower-end of money-changing business and dealt with small rural vendors. In the early part of the day, the vendors took cowrie from them in exchange, and in the afternoon, bring back their cowrie and go away with the rupees. In the International sphere, a commodity currency that could not be clipped or fabricated, serverd at least partly, as a medium of exchange. In West Africa there was widespread circulation of cowrie. In some important European cities, like London, Lisben, Humbourgh, Amsterdam developed strong cowrie markets in the 17th and 18th centuries, and their chief supplier was Dutch East India Company. Overtime, the Dutch wrested control of the European cowrie trade from the Portuguese. Before the Mughals, cowries were exchanged with silver coins of the Afgan era. Mughals were not in mood to disturb the tradition of cowrie usage.

Money-changer-Hindu-1859

Hindu money-changer. 1859

We came to know from Chandimangal, a late 16th century work, the units of counting cowries, were One ganda = 4 pieces One pan = 80 pieces One kahan = 1,280 pieces The rates varied under changing conditions of demand and supply. When a particular currency became scarce, its price in terms of other currencies went up. As reported by C.R. Wilson, the quoted price of a silver rupee in cowrie at the Fort William was 2560 in 1703. Again by a proclamation dated 10th October, 1804, the collectors were asked to accept revenue in sicca rupees, failing that , in cowries, the rate of exchange being 4 kahans and 12 pans or 5240 pieces for one Calcutta sicca rupees. ‘The widespread circulation of cowrie represented a dualistic monetary structure in Bengal. … The decline of cowrie took place in a phase of vigorous empire-building launched by the colonizing state’. See for more

The picture featured above: John Mowbray, Calcutta merchant, seated at a desk piled with account books, attended by a banian or money agent and messenger. Oil on canvas by Thomas Hickey. Originally published/produced in c.1790.

Bazaar Firms and Small-scale Trades, Calcutta, 19th Century

BlackTownBazaar Leading to Chitpore Road of 1819-JamesFraser
কলকাতার ঘরোয়া ব্যবসা-বাণিজ্য, ঊনবিংশ শতাব্দী
The retail sector was divided mainly between the modern firms based on the British model of the partnership company and the bazaar firms where the traditional Indian trade practices being followed, disregarding the overwhelming  developmental trend of modern retailing trade in the port city of Calcutta. The bazaar sector of the city’s markets includes small scale trade. There was a large-scale involvement of the native population in this sector. Nearly a third of the inhabitants of Calcutta are engaged in manufactures, and nearly a fourth in trade, while personal service accounts for a sixth. Assuming that a man does not begin to work until fifteen years of age, it would appear that no less than 96 per cent, of the males above that age are actual workers ; the corresponding proportion in the case of women is only 32. The industrial population is most numerous in the areas of Colootolla, Moocheepara, Jorasanko, Bhawanipur, Intally, and Beniapukur.  Jorasanko, Burra Bazar, and Jorabagan wards have the greatest number of persons engaged in business of commerce. The professional element is strongest in Burtolha in the north, and in Bhawanipur in the south of the city.

groceryshop

মুদিখানা

Calcutta itself contains but few factories, only three jute-mills and two jute-presses lying within its limits. In the outskirts of the city, however, several smaller industrial concerns are situated, including 63 oil-mills chiefly worked by cattle, 24 flour-mills, 2 rice-mills, 16 iron foundries, and 12 tanneries, which employ less than 13,000 persons all told.

(c) British Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

কুমোরশালা

The chief home industries are pottery and brasswork. Calcutta exports little of its own manufactures.
Calcutta came into existence as a trading town, because its position enabled merchants to tap the rich tratific of the valley of the Ganges. The luxurious courts of the Mughal rulers had fostered the manufacture at Dacca and Murshidabad of beautiful silks and muslins, which were eagerly bought up in Europe. The saltpetre of Bihar was in great demand in England for the manufacture of gunpowder during the French wars; and rice, sesame oil, cotton cloths, sugar, clarified butter, lac, pepper, ginger, myrabolans, and tassar silk werealso in request. Bengal produced all these articles, and Calcutta was the only seaport from which they could be exported.

(c) Asian Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

কাঁসারিশালা

The racial division within the retail trade was obviously a major distingui-shing factor in retailing in such a colonial city. All European shopkeepers shared to some extent the elite status of the ruling power and the special privileges which British trades¬men won for themselves in trade. The existence of an almost exclusively Indian bazaar sector also affected the development of the elite European retail trade. There were goods and services which were offered very cheaply by the bazaar firms that their equivalents were not marketed by elite shops. For instance, fresh food was marketed through the bazaar and Calcutta possessed no European greengrocers or butchers. The effect of the bazaar competition was noted by a visitor to Calcutta as early as 1840: “European tradesmen must be very industrious and methodical and produce excellent workmanship for everyone of them has a host of would-be native rivals in the bazaars.”  He added that “even in the streets where Europeans are numerous there are many native dealers; these dealers are very content with a small profit and can live comfortably a whole year on a sum which would not support the European shopkeepers more than a few days.”  In the early days, the European shopkeeper had the advantage of easier access to prized imported goods (even of a prosaic nature) but by the mid-19th century the bazaar was dealing with a wide range of imported manufactured goods. Consequently the European shops became even more exclusive: they did not deal in “cheap lines:” they stressed the quality of their goods and services. See Furedy

(c) Asian Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

কামারশালা

In respect of internal trade, the principal articles which make up the imports to Calcutta are :—from Bengal, raw and manufactured jute, rice coal, linseed, opium, tea, grain and pulses, hides and skins, silk, and indigo ; from the United Provinces, opium, oilseeds, grain and pulses, hides and skins, and wrought brass ; from Assam, tea, oilseeds, grain and pulses, and lime. In 1901-2 the imports from Bengal were valued at nearly 49 crores.
For More See
The painting featured at the top represents a view in the Lal Bazaar leading to the Chitpore Road, by James Baillie Fraser in 1826. – The Native Shop in Calcutta Bazar, a chromolithograph reproduction of a painting by William Simpson, 1867 – Above representations of the three local trade shops of potters, brassware-makers, and blacksmiths, are paintings by Arthur William Devis in early 19th century

Hindu College, Gol Dighi, Calcutta, 1817

HinduCollege-Goldighi
হিন্দু কলেজ, গোল দিঘী, কলকাতা, ১৮১৭
“Previous to 1835, all the larger educational establishments supported by Government, with the exception of Hindu College of Calcutta, were decidedly oriental in character” [Review/ James Kerr] . The Hindu College, Calcutta was the earliest institution of higher learning in the modern sense in Asia.
The idea of setting up institution like the Hindu College dawned in the minds of Bengal intelligentsia a year after the Court of Directors of the Company had expressed concern about two distinct propositions – first, the encouragement of the learned natives of India for the revival and improvement of literature; and secondly, the promotion of a knowledge of the sciences amongst the inhabitants of that country. The Board advised the Indian Government not to take initiative in the matter of the education of the people of this country. It was the people themselves who had to take the initiative and to do the needful. See
Sometime in April 1815, Raja Rammohun Roy discussed among few friends about the pressing need for uplifting the society from the swamp of idolatry and superstitions to a higher moral plane and the critical role the proposed Atmiya Sabha might play there. David Hare differed from Raja’s views and suggested founding a College for the education of native youths in Western literature and science, which would be a far more effective means of enlightening them with rational understanding of truth. The proposal was earnestly accepted by Rammohun. Mr. Hare himself soon after drafted a proposal for establishing the College. The proposal was handed over to Sir Edward Hyde East by Baboo Baidyanath Mukherjee, a close associate of Rammohun. On 14th May 1816, Sir Hyde East called a meeting of distinguished native gentlemen and pundits at his house and it was resolved “that an establishment be formed for the education of native youth”. See
The meeting proved to be quite satisfying to Sir Hyde East. Four days after he wrote to J A Harrington, his friend, that one of the singularities of this meeting was that it had brought together members belonging to various castes whom nothing else could have done. This letter did no mention of the name of David Hare, though he was the ‘originator of the plan’, neither the meeting papers did. That might be because of Hare’s usual reluctance to come in the forefront. The case of Raja Rammohun Roy however was different. Although his august name has almost always been found in history books in association with the Hindu College, the fact remains that “Rammohun retired, even before the foundation of the College was formally resolved upon.” He decided to step aside to ensure cooperation and supports of the orthodox Hindus who were not in a mood to help the cause if Raja Rammohun remains connected. The meeting was received with unanimous approbation of all those present including the most eminent pundits, who sanctioned their express support. A large sum of money was immediately subscribed. The fund was later multiplied by the donations presented by Maharaja Tej Chand of Burdwan (Rs 12,000), Gopee Mohun Tagore of Pathuriaghata (Rs 10,000), and the Mullicks of Burrabazar (Rs 25,000). The second meeting, held on Tuesday the 21st May 1816, resolved that the name of the proposed institution was to be “Hindoo College”, and a General Committee was to be appointed for setting its objectives. The Committee was composed of 10 Europeans and 20 Indians – all elite and enlightened members. In its next meeting on the 27th May, Lt.-Col. Francis Irvine and Dewan Baidyanath Mukherjee were appointed as the European and ‘Native’ Secretaries, respectively. The European members, however, withdrew themselves in a body when the Committee met next on 11th June. Their withdrawal was volunteered in accordance with the contemporary governmental policy of non-interference with the local educational affairs, as indicated earlier. Committee continued to work at the same venue. On the 25th June, a sub-committee was appointed, which worked out the Rules for the College, and submitted those on 20th August 1816 to the General Committee for finalization. The Rules, 34 in number, were divided in 3 sections, viz. Tuition, Funds & Privileges, and Government. The primary objective of the institution was defined under the Rule 1 as “the tuition of the sons of the respectable Hindoos, in the English and Indian languages and in the literature and science of Europe and Asia. The set of Rules provided the essential functional framework for the College to begin with. It stated that “the College would include a School designated ‘Pathsala’, and an Academy, designated ‘Mahapathsala’”; that “the work of the school should commence first”; that “the English language shall not be taught to boys under eight years of age, without the permission of the managers in each particular instance.”; that “In the school shall be taught English and Bengali, Reading, Writing, Grammar and Arithmetic by the improved method of instruction”; that “in the Academy besides the study of such language as cannot be so conveniently taught in the School, instruction shall be given in History, Geography, Chronology, Astronomy, and Mathematics, Chemistry, and other sciences”; and many other.
The Committee met on December 12th 1816 to settle appointments of teachers. In its next two meetings on the 6th and the 13th of January 1817 the Committee completed the groundwork for the College to take off. The first batch consisting of 20 male students,13 of them as ‘free scholars’, hailing from Bengali Hindu families, attended their class in a rented house of Gorachand Basak at 304 Chitpur Road, Garanhata, marking the beginning of Hindu College. Between the year 1817 and 1823, the school moved about from place to place. From Basak’s the class shifted to the house of Roopchand Roy in Chitpur Road, and thereafter to the house of Firinghi Kamal Bose, a friend of Rammohun, at 51 Upper Chitpur Road, the place where the General Assembly’s Institution publicly started later. Its next flight was into the heart of the Bow Bazar, and from there the College moved off to a scarcely more congenial vicinity — the well known Tiretta Bazar. In the mean time the Government had resolved to establish a Sanskrit College supported by an annual grant of Rs 30 thousand. The building was planned by B. Buxton and constructed by Burn & Mackintosh. See the –  hindu-college--019PHO0000247S3U00003000[SVC2]Hand-coloured photo-print, by Frederick Fiebig in c.1852  Agreeing with the proposal initiated by David Hare, the Government decided later to accommodate the pathsala and the Mahapathsala sections of the Hindu College under the same roof of the proposed two-storied Sanskrit College building in its two one-storied wings. For the erection of the building the Government granted Rs. 1,24,000 and “Mr. David Hare gave up for the benefit of the College the piece of land he owned on the north side of the Gol Dighi. The foundation stone of the building was laid on the 25th February 1824. Three years elapsed before it was ready for the reception of the students. [C. R., June, 1852, pp. 346-48].

On 15th June 1854, the upper section of the school, the Hindu Mahapathshala or the Hindu College, was made an open center for modern liberal education and was separated as Presidency College. The junior section, Pathsala, gained independent status as ‘Hindu School’ – a national heritage of institutional education, history and reform.
The Hindu College, produced the brilliant flowers of ‘Young Bengal’. Kindled by the teachings of their tutor Vivan Derozio, youngmen like Dakhinaranjan Mookherjee, Ram Gopal Ghose, Tarachand Chakravarty, Krishnamohan Banerjee, Ramtanu Lahiri and many others, brought out a revolutionary change in the society by their thoughts and deeds. By them, “a powerful and gigantic social movement was unleashed in Bengal the repercussions of which were felt all over India”.
See

Above, the black and white sketch of the three-part building, captioned HINDU COLLEGE, with the pond GOL DIGHI in front, was drawn by an anonymous contemporary artist.

Hindu School, Gol Dighi, Calcutta, 1817

HindooCollege3x
হিন্দু স্কুল, গোলদিঘী, কলকাতা, ১৮১৭
Hindu School, the junior section of the Hindu College, is reputed to be the oldest and leading institution in India to impart modern education to the young students in European and Oriental subjects. The School, designated Pathsala, was established in 1817 along with the Hindu College, designated Mahapathsala, by stalwart educationalists like David Hare, Diwan Baidya Nath Mukherjee, Maharaja Radhakanta Deb, and others in a ahead-of-era intent.
It all started in the year 1815 when Raja Rammohun Roy entertained a few friends at his house and suggested the establishment of  Atmiya Sabha  for improving the moral conditions of our countrymen. The Raja was animated with a fervent desire to lift the society from the swamp of idolatry and superstitions to a higher moral plane. David Hare differed from his views and suggested establishment of a College. It was Hare’s considered opinion that education of native youths in Western literature and science would be a far more effective means of enlightening them with rational understanding of truth. The proposal was enthusiastically accepted by Rammohun. That was how the idea of Hindu School and College sprouted.

The General Meeting was held on the 21st May 1816, in a house on the Old Post Office Street that was lately occupied by Chief Justice Colvile, and tenanted afterwards by Messrs. Allen Judge and Banerjee, and a conclave of other lawyers. Among those who did not attend the meeting was Raja Rammohun Roy. Though he had heartily entered into the plans of David Hare, and zealously aided in their development, Rammohun willingly allowed himself to be laid aside lest his active co-operation should mar the accomplishment of the project, saying— “If my connection with the proposed college, should injure its interests, I would resign all connection.” The meeting resolved that an institution for promoting education be established. The institution shall include a Patshala, or a School, and an Academy, Maha Patshala, The former to be established immediately, the latter as soon as may be practicable. The primary object of this Institution is the tuition of the sons of respectable Hindus in English and Indian language, and in the literature and science of Europe and Asia. The English language shall not be taught to boys less than eight years of age, without Manager’s permission. The school shall teach English and Bengali, Reading, Writing, Grammar and Arithmetic by the improved method of instruction. On January 20th , 1817 , The first batch consisting of 20 male students hailing from affluent Bengali Hindu families of Calcutta, met at the rented house of Gorachand Basak at 304 Chitpur Road in Garanhata marking the beginning of Hindu School.

In 1825, with the help of the British Government, a school building was built for 1 lakh 24 thousand rupees, towards the north of Goldighi, now College Square, on a land donated by David Hare. Dewan Baidya Nath Mukherjee was deputed to collect the subscriptions for the new school. Sir Edward Hyde East, Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court was invited to chair the committee and Joseph Baretto became the Treasurer. The principal donors being the Maharajah of Burdwan Tejchand Bahadur and Gopee Mohun Thakur, each contributing Rupees 10,000. On the opening day there were 20 pupils on the rolls but within the next three months the number swelled to 69.

On 15th June 1854, the upper section of the school, the Hindu Mahapathshala or the Hindu College, was made an open center for modern education including eastern and western philosophy and science and was separated as Presidency College. The junior section, Pathsala, gained independent existence as Hindu School – a national heritage of institutional education,  and educational reform. Here, in this Hindu College, by De’rozio and other teachers, a group of young men of Bengal was baptised with the teachings of modern science and social philosophy. It produced Dakhinaranjan Mookherjee, Ram Gopal Ghose, Tarachand Chakravarty, Krishnamohan Banerjee and others, the brilliant flowers of  Young Bengal, the makers of Modern Bengal. The tree of education had already taken root and the blossoms everyone could see around. By these students of Hindu College, a powerful and gigantic social movement was unleashed in Bengal the repercussions of which were felt all over India.
See Pearychand Mitra. 1877

The Sketch of the Hindu College building is reproduced from the Calcutta Christian Observer, v. 2, 1833