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

CalcuttaSocForPreventionOf Cruelity2AnimalsX1

কলকাতা পশুপীড়ণ নিবারণী সভা, কলকাতা, ১৮৬১

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

Colesworthey Grant

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

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

Among books Colesworthey published, the most renown titles are:

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

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

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

Calcutta Armenians, Calcutta, c1660


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.