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.

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.

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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

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