Bethune Society, Calcutta, 1851

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

বেথুন সোসাইটি, কলকাতা, ১৮৫১


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.

Mouat_frederic johnx

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.


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”.


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


Dalhousie Institute, Hare Street, Calcutta, 1865


ডালহৌসি ইন্সটিট্যুট, লাল দিঘীর দক্ষিন পার, কলকাতা, c১৮৬৫

The Dalhousie Institute, situated on the south side of Dalhousie Square, was originally constructed as a Monumental Hall to accommodate busts and statues of great men associated with the history of British India, as well as to provide a resort for mental improvement and social intercourse for all classes. The foundation stone of the institute was laid on March 4, 1865 by the then Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, the Hon’ble Cecil Beadon.
As it is revealed in Archiseek, an Irish architectural journal, that Mr. C.Q. Wray, architect, was assigned for designing the Dalhousie Institute, and that the Institute, as we stated at the time, is intended to be built on a site adjoining Government House at the estimated cost of Rs 25,000 . The cost of its construction was met partly by public subscription and partly from funds raised to commemorate the heroic deeds of those who distinguished themselves in the mutiny of 1857.

The large hall is to be used as a concert and public-meeting room, and will accommodate 1,000 persons seated. It is also to be appropriated to the reception of statues and other memorials of distinguished men. On either side of it are lecture-rooms, lavatories, and an extensive library. The design, externally, may be described as a Corinthian prostyle temple, octastylos; with a lower building, Ionic, on each side. The two outer columns on each side in the portico are close together, and the tympanum is filled with sculpture. Three statues take the place of acroteria on the pediment. The great hall has single Corinthian columns with antae projecting from the wall, on each side at intervals, and a vaulted ceiling, panelled, with lunettes above the entablature of the order. A recces at one end will receive an organ.”dalhousieinst-hall A view of the grand interior of the Institute’s Great Hall where people assemble to witness the statues exhibited.

During World War II, the Institute was requisitioned for the use of US troops and, in 1948, it was shifted from Dalhousie Square to its present location where the original marble plaque commemorating the event has now been relocated in the entrance hall of the current premises at 42 Jhowtalla Street. The building was designed by Walter Granville. The Institute was not a social club in its early years – no drinks were served and no ladies were admitted as members till 1887.As published in The Builder, January 24, 1863. Demolished in 1950

DalhousieInstitute-HareStreetxThis photograph of Hare Street from the ‘Walter Hawkins Nightingale (PWD) collection: Album of views of Calcutta, was most probably taken by photographer Samuel Bourne in the late 1870s. Dalhousie Square, named after Lord Dalhousie who was appointed Governor-General in 1847, was the main administrative area of Calcutta. The square also housed the headquarters of the East India Company known as the Writer’s Building, the Currency Office, and the General Post Office. Pictured here is a view from the top of the Telegraph Office, with the Dalhousie Institute situated below. The Dalhousie Square, with a corner of the Dalhousie Tank, and the General Post Office are in view on the right. This is an edited and enlarged version of the original image.

[A revised version replacing Nov. 28, 2013 post]

Calcutta Vernacular Literature Society, Calcutta, 1851

বঙ্গভাষাপ্রকাশিকা সভা, কলকাতা, ১৮৫১

Modernization of Indian literature … gained space where the English education was spread along with vernacular education, and where the English educated class took interest in the mother-tongue See Sisir Das
Along with the English-vernacular schools, there had been many dedicated societies in Bengal and other provinces for the promotion of literature in mother-tongues. Bangabhasa Prakashika Sabha in Calcutta was the pioneer among those, launched in 1836 under the leadership of Gourishankar Tarkabagish. later in 1853, Bidyotsahini Sabha was set up by Kaliprasanna Singha. The main objectives of these institutions were to promote Bengali education by means of polemics and build up public opinion. There were also many institutions of a different kind, established in response to the demand of the English-vernacular schools for language study books.
In Bengal, a Committee was formed in 1851 to initiate establishment of Banga Bhashanubad Sabha for the purpose of enriching the Bengali language by translating English works in Bengali. It was largely an initiative of Jaya Krishna Mukhopadhyay of Uttarpara. The Sabha was later became well known as the Vernacular Literature Society, which produced magazines and translations in Indian vernacular languages of well-known juvenile books such as Robinson Crusoe. The Society continued to function for little over a decade under the guidance of important personalities like J.R. Colvin, M. Wylie, W. Seton-Karr, J. Long, R.B. Chapman, W. Kay and H. Woodrow. In March 1862, following a proposal of its Secretary, the Vernacular Literature Society was amalgamated with the School Book Society. It was expected that, by the union of the two Societies, the objects of each would be better carried out. In accordance with the proposal, a conference of the two Societies was held on the 22nd April 1862, and eventually the two were united. Stock of books of the Vernacular Literary Society was taken over by the School Book Society in next October.
The Above featured painting of a Calcutta vernacular school belongs to the album entitled ‘A collection of Two Hundred and Fifty Coloured Etchings’ of Franz Balzac Solvyns, published in 1799

Calcutta School Society, Calcutta, 1818

কলকাতা স্কুল সোসাইটি, কলকাতা, ১৮১৮
With the change of socio-political scenario and as an impact of the growing influences of the orientalist movement, the policy guidelines of the Calcutta Free School Society founded in 1789 raised a serious question as to the extent of benefits it may provide to the indigenous people. Shortly after the renewal of the Charter of the East India Company the Court of Directors wrote In their letter to the Governor-General in Council of Bengal, dated 3rd June 1814, that they apprehend neither of the two government propositions, about (1) the revival and improvement of literature; and (2) promotion of knowledge of the sciences amongst the inhabitants be obtained through the medium of public colleges, if established upon a plan similar to those that have been founded at our Universities. That is because the natives of caste and of reputation will not submit to the subordination and discipline of a college. So the Indian Government did not take the 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.
An independent educational institution, The Calcutta School Society, set up in Calcutta on 1 September 1818. Like the Calcutta School-Book Society (1817), it was established jointly by Europeans and educated Indians. The Calcutta School Society was largely an initiative of David Hare and William Carey. Its aim was to introduce identical teaching methods at different schools, reconstruct and develop old schools, and build new ones if necessary. In the beginning, the managing committee of the School Society consisted of 24 members, of which 8 were Indians like Moulvi Mirza Kazim Ali Khan, Moulvi Belayet Hossain, Moulvi Dervesh Ali, Moulvi Nurunnabi, Babu Radhamadhab Bandyopadhyay, Babu Rasomaya Dutta, Babu Radhakanta Deb, and Babu Umacharan Bandyopadhyay. Mirza Kazim Ali and M Montaigue were its secretary and corresponding secretary, respectively. To bring the Bengali Schools under direct and systematic supervision, the city was divided into four districts,—to Baboo Doorga Churn Dutt was given the control of 30 schools having nearly 900 boys, to Baboo Ramchunder Ghose, 43 schools possessing 896 boys, to Baboo Oomanundun Thakoor, 36 schools possessing nearly 600 boys, and to Radhacaunt Deb, 57 schools posseasing 1136 boys. It is said “that these gentlemen entered very warmly into the views of the Society and expressed their entire willingness to take charge of their respective divisions.
The Calcutta School Society was a brainchild of David Hare. Hare, Raja Radhakanta Deb, and William Carrey were the main force behind its success in assisting and improving existing institutions, and preparing select pupils of distinguished talents by superior instruction for becoming teachers and instructors. It established two regular or, as they were termed, “normal” schools, rather to improve by serving as models than to supersede the existing institutions of the country. They were designed to educate children of parents unable to pay for their instruction. Both the Tuntuneah and the Champatollah school, চাঁপাতলা স্কুল, were attended with remarkable success. The former was situated in Cornwallis Street, nearly opposite the temple of Kali, ঠনঠনে কালীবাড়ি, and consisted of a Bengali and English department. The latter was held in the house afterwards occupied by Babu Bhoobun Mohim Mitter’s school, and which was entirely an English school. The two schools were amalgamated at the end of 1834. The amalgamated school was known as David Hare’s School. After a few years of successful running, the society fell into financial difficulties. However, it was given a government donation of Rs. 6000 and managed to continue for some time longer. In 1824, 66 schools with 3487 students were brought under the supervision of the society. The change in government regulations concerning language and teaching, the internal conflict among those following eastern and western ideologies, and the lack of initiative and enthusiasm on the part of Indians were some of the reasons why this private institution lost its importance and eventually ceased to exist in 1833. See
It may however be remembered that the tirelessly endeavor of a man like David Hare, who not only established some schools but gainfully experimented with new methods of teaching, at such places as Thanthania, Kalitala and Arpuly,আরপুলি পাঠশালা, where he visited everyday and met almost every student. It was much later that Alexander Duff or Henry Louis Vivian Derozio came on the scene and influenced the course of events. This Society contributed substantially to the flowering of the Bengal Renaissance.
Champatola-Colootola-map-(Plan of Calcutta. Survey of India.1854) where Calcutta School Society had their base

General Assembly’s Institution, Calcutta, 1830


জেনেরেল অয়াসেম্বলি’স ইন্সটিট্যুশন, কলকাতা, ১৮৩০
The college founder, Rev. Alexander Duff, was the first missionary to India from the Church of Scotland. His idea was to set up an institution which linked western education with Christian mission and the eventual progress of the people. Years later,   Duff committed himself to building education institutions aiming at academic excellence along with social awareness and character building.

Duff opened his first school in a house located at upper Chitpur Road in the Jorasanko neighborhood of Calcutta. Feringhi Kamal Bose, an affluent Hindu, made the house available. The school soon expanded into a missionary college, known as the General Assembly’s Institution that was founded by Duff and his fellow Scottish missionaries with the help of Raja Rammohan Roy, the illustrious social reformer in 1830. In 1834, Duff returned to Britain broken in health. During that sojourn, he succeeded in securing the approval of his church for his educational plans and in arousing much interest in the work of missions in India. In 1836, the Calcutta institution was moved to Gorachand Bysack’s house in the Garanhata neighborhood. On 23 February 1837, Mr. MacFarlon, the Chief Magistrate of Calcutta, laid the foundation stone for a new building belonging to the mission itself. John Gray designed the building while Capt. John Thomson supervised the construction, both of the British East India Company. The construction of the building was completed in 1839. In 1840, Duff returned to India. At the Disruption of 1843, he sided with the Free Church and gave up the college buildings, with all their effects. With unabated resolve he set to work to provide a new institution, later known as the Free Church Institution. After the unification of the Church of Scotland in 1929, these two institutions – General Assembly’s Institution and the Free Church Institution later merged to form the Scottish Churches College. Duff had the support of Sir James Outram, Sir Henry Lawrence, and the encouragement of seeing a new band of converts, including several young men born of high caste. In 1844, governor-general Viscount Hardinge opened government appointments to all who had studied in institutions similar to Duff’s institution. In the same year, Duff co-founded the Calcutta Review, of which he served as editor from 1845 to 1849.

It is important to mention hereabout the equation of Duff with the Derozians – the Young Bengal group of radical Bengali free thinkers emerging from Hindu College – named after their firebrand teacher, Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809 – 1831). The Young Bengal Movement peripherally included Christians such as Reverend Alexander Duff, and his students like Lal Behari Dey (1824–1892), who went on to renounce Hinduism. Because of their irreconcilable westernized stand, these argumentative scholars of Duff’s college were branded as ডেঁপো – a Bengali ascription coined after the name of Duff. Latter-day inheritors of the legacy of the Young Bengal Movement include scholars like Brajendra Nath Seal (1864–1938), who went on to be one of the leading theologians and thinkers of the Brahmo Samaj. Duff regarded the Derozians as rootless egoistic sophists with no ultimate care save for their own interests.. From their ranks, however, he hoped would come the leaders of the new India. But first they must replace their volatile skepticism with a more securely based commitment, that in Duff’s view, could only be adherence to Christianity. See

Several important Indian figures were products of Duff’s Institutions. Most notably, Rev. Lal Behari Dey, who wrote two books (Folk Tales of Bengal and Bengal Peasant Life) that were widely distributed among Indian schools, and Krishna Mohan Banerjee, who became registrar at the University of Calcutta and later became a co-founder of the Indian National Congress. Through the years a long line of illustrious personalities have been educated in these hallowed halls of learning. The splendorous architecture of the College including its magnificent prayer hall is eloquent testimony to its timeless heritage and the pioneering vision of its founding fathers. See

St Xavier’s College and the Collagiate School, Calcutta, 1860


সেন্ট জেভিয়ার্স কলেজ এবং স্কুল, কলকাতা, ১৮৬০

A quarter of a century before the the Belgian Jesuits set up the present St Xavier’s College in 1860, an international group of Jesuits commissioned by the English Jesuit Province landed in Calcutta to look after the interests of the Catholics. The team was headed by Dr Robert St Leger. The College of St Francis Xavier was opened at Moorghyhatta by Fr Chadwick, an English Jesuit in 1834. Next year, the college was shifted to 3 Park Street, and thereafter to 22 Chowringhee, where the Indian Museum now stands, to accommodate increasing number of students. Incidentally, the same year Mgr Carew took the charge of the affairs of the Catholic Church. In 1846, due to the feud between the Jesuits and Mgr Carew, the College was closed and the Jesuits left for their home shores.
At the demise of Mgr Carew in 1855, Mgr Olliffe took charge as the new bishop. Being an admirer of the Jesuits, he with the active support of some of his prominent associates, appealed the Belgian Jesuits to come to Calcutta to look after the education of the Catholic community! Click to See More
In response to the appeal of the English Jesuits, a host of seven Belgian Jesuits under the leadership of Henri Joseph Depelchin, SJ, then only 37, arrived at Calcutta in November 1859, . Within a fortnight, Depelchin announced in the newspapers that College of St. Francis Xavier would be opening on 6 January 1860. A prospectus, designed by a Brother Koppes, S.J., had already been published and distributed. The College opened eight days later than planned, with Father Jean Devos, S.J., as its first Rector. Within weeks, The college was moved to 30 Park Street where the Sans Souci theatre was located, before 1843, when a fire broke out, leaving nothing but ashes.sansSouci-theatre
[The Sans Souci Theatre of Calcutta. c.1840. One of the earliest known examples of a daguerreotype picture taken in Calcutta, which has survived only as a reproduction]
This address where the present day college campus stands tall, is an amalgamation of numbers 10 and 11 of Park Street. Premise number 11, was bought for Rs 45,000.00, by Fr. Depelchin. These funds were made possible with the generous donations of the Anglo-Indians and with help from the home Province of Belgium. The very first class had as few as 40 students. Later, in 1862, the college was affiliated to the Calcutta University. Soon, for the expansion work in terms of class rooms and facilities, the authority felt the need for development funds. They appealed to the public of Calcutta in newspapers for generous assistance and was responded with magnanimity by well wishers of the city in 1864. Besides Father Depelchin, S.J., and his assistant, Brother Koppes, S.J., the architect of the new school, went around personally collecting funds. The present imposing 5 storied building was built in an interval of 6 years, from 1934 to 1940 at a cost of Rs 9 lakhs, which was collected partly from the public of Calcutta, assistance from Belgium, and the huge rental received from the American army that occupied the building during the Second World War. See Evan Cotton. Calcutta, Old and New
The Goethals library, which is located above the College Chapel, houses some of the oldest periodicals, journals and books. The treasures were inherited, in 1908, by the Jesuit Fathers from the then Archbishop of Calcutta, Paul Goethals, S.J. Today, the treasures are well preserved and the library has become a spot of historical significance.

La Martiniere Boys’ School, Loudon Street, Calcutta, 1836

লা মার্টিনেয়ার বয়েজ স্কুল, লাউডন স্ট্রিট, কলকাতা, ১৮৩৬
Here is the magnificient building of the La Martinière Boys’ School in Calcutta with view of students playing crickets on its wide play ground. La Martinière Calcutta comprises two separate single-sex schools in Calcutta, established and funded in 1836 in accordance with the will of the French-born soldier of fortune and philanthropist Major General Claude Martin. He is estimated to have accumulated a fortune of about 400,000 rupees. The major portion of his monies and estate were left for founding three institutions, one each in Lucknow and Calcutta and his birthplace Lyon. He was a man who loved not only his own country but also the country of his adoption The schools are located in south Calcutta, with the boy school having it’s main gate in Loudon Street and the girl school having it’s main gate in Rawdon Street. They face each other across Rawdon Street. The main boys school building was completed in 1836 and is notable for its European Classical architecture, with the Round Chapel, ringed by imposing Corinthian pillars, at the heart of it. The Lower Circular Road end of the playing field was planted with seven ashoka trees, known informally as the “seven sisters”. These were uprooted to make way for Atmodya Bhavan built in 1979
The photograph was taken by Francis Frith in early 1850s

Bishop’s College, Shibpur, Calcutta, 1820

বিশপ কলেজ, শিবপুর, ১৮২০
The view shows Bishop’s College, established as part of a scheme for a theological college along the lines of that at Cambridge. It contained a chapel, houses, library and lecture rooms. The College was founded by the first Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, Bishop Thomas Middleton in December 1820 at Shibpur, on a site next to the Botanical Gardens by the side of river Hooghly. The original buildings still survive as part of the Bengal Engineering College. It was originally intended to serve as an Arts and Science College, as well as for the training of Indian Christians for the priesthood, and as catechists and teachers in Christian Colleges and Schools. Between 1832 and 1844 a number of Bengali Hindu converts joined the college, among whom were Mahesh Chandra Ghose, Krishna Mohan Banerjee and Madhusudan Dutta. With the introduction of the railway, it was felt that the college should be shifted to a suitable site in Calcutta and finally the site at Beckbagan, Lower Circular Road crossing was decided upon. See more
This coloured lithograph is taken from plate 18a of Sir Charles D’Oyly’s ‘Views of Calcutta and its environs’ painted in 1858.