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

StXviersCollege

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.

Hall and Anderson Store, Chowringhee, Calcutta, c1925

hall and anderson's premisesx
হল অ্যান্ড অ্যান্ডারসনের বিভাগীয় বিপণি, চৌরঙ্গি, কলকাতা, c১৯২৫
Hall & Anderson, a departmental store happened to be the first retail enterprise in Calcutta established by William Anderson and P. N. Hall, whose partnership started in 1894 in a humble shop in Esplanade East. Then they had moved to the old premises of Whiteway Laidlaw & Co.
Next they purchased land and buildings in the block on the corner of Chowringhee and Park Street. At first the store which Hall and Anderson built was more a conglomerate than a single shop. Numbers 8 and 10 Park Street were originally used for workshops. This whole complex was demolished in 1925 and the large building which we know today was opened in October 1925, being heralded as “the finest departmental store in India”. It had half a million square feet of floor space.
As was the case with other European retail businesses in Calcutta, they dealt only in imported or custom made goods. Hall and Anderson, in their later years, spent half the year in Europe selecting stock and came to Calcutta only for the cool season. The shop’s ads insisted that it stocked “the very latest from the English and Continental markets.” They were trend-setters in certain aspects of the retail trade. For instance, they were the first to introduce kitchenware and ironmongery as a department. Among the custom-made goods the furniture department was the most important. Hall and Anderson used good Burmese teak and Indian mahogany. Much of the initial ma¬king was subcontracted to Indian carpenters and cabinetmakers with the finishing being done in the Hall and Anderson workshops. The shop carried a large range of carpets including Indian carpets from Benares, Kashmir, Mirzapore and Ellora, as well as the usual Axminsters and Wiltons.
Hall and Anderson were quick to exploit the value payable post which, besides allowing them to trade over vast distances, also greatly reduced the risks of unpaid accounts of distant customers. Their postal department grew to be very large indeed. Orders came from all parts of India and from South-East Asia, Aden and Mesopotamia.
Hall and Anderson employed Indians but generally not as salesmen. They were, however, willing to train Bengalis and Anglo-Indians. More usually, they recruited young men from Britain, like Mr. Huggett who was in charge of the hardware and crockery department until 1946 and became manager of the store after the British partners sold the business to Sahan Lai Jajodia in that year. Source “Hall & Anderson by Christine Furedy.”
Photograph by Bourne and Sephard, c1925

Asiatic Society on Park Street, Chowringhee, Calcutta, c1833

পার্ক স্ট্রিট, চৌরঙ্গী রোডের মোড়ে এশিয়া সোসাইটির গৃহ , c১৮৩৩
The view shows the Asiatic Society buildings at the junction with Park Street. Founded in 1784, the society acquired this land from the government in 1805 and had constructed these buildings by 1808. Warren Hastings was its first patron and Sir William Jones its first president.
This lithograph derives from plate 15 of the ‘Views of Calcutta’, an album of paintings by William Wood