2000 – 2010

ADDHYA, Akshay Kumar, Hooghly Chuchurar Nana Kotha (Various Aspects of Hooghly Chinsurah), Vol 1, Hooghly: Hooghly Samvad, 2005, 215 pp.

Akshay Kumar Addhya’s Hooghly Chuchurar Nana Kotha (Various Aspects of Hooghly Chinsurah), Vol 1, is a collection of articles based on historical events, as mentioned in the title page verso. The book deals with the history of Hooghly in general, and that of Chinsurah in particular, from 17th century onwards. It is the first part of a three volume series on the twin towns beside the River Hugli. At a first glance, it would appear that they shared a very different destiny from that of French ruled Chandernagore, but the fact is that their destinies and habitats were so intertwined with one another, and even with those of the British, that it resulted in a curious amalgamation of facts and fiction about the European colonial powers who once ruled the banks of the Hugli.

The history of colonial Chinsurah is not linear like that of French ruled Chandernagore. Addhya mentions in detail, the rise of Chinsurah from a marshy wooded land to the most beautiful town in India, under Dutch entrepreneurship. When the Dutch arrived in Chinsurah around 1627, the Portuguese were already settled in the neighbouring town of Hooghly and were locked in a power struggle with the Mughals. So, the Dutch decided that it wouldn’t be in their favour to settle in Hooghly and hence zeroed in on the neighbouring mostly uninhabited wooded marshy area. Addhya dwells upon a rather interesting deduction – the origin of the name Chinsurah. It is mostly thought that the area was wooded by Chinchira trees, a variety of cane, just as Hooghly was wooded by Hogla trees, a bush-like small plant which grows along the banks of rivers and canals and is now seen mostly in the Sunderbans. So, it was rather by a quirk of destiny that the town of Chinsurah came into being. The Dutch had of course obtained permission for trade in Bengal from Jahangir in 1615 and formed the Dutch East India Company in 1625. They decided to stay in the good books of Shah Jahan who ascended the throne in 1628, after Jahangir died in 1627. Hooghly was razed to the ground by the Mughal army under the orders of the new Badshah in 1632, who had been denied asylum by the Portuguese Michael Roderigues, while as Prince Khurram, he had revolted against his father and was fleeing the Mughal army. The Portuguese by that time were in decline, mostly being reduced to pirates in the river, resulting in the Hugli being referred to as the Rogue’s River (Hamilton, 1739). The Mughals razed the Portuguese Fort to the ground and built a new fort. A mighty fall for the Portuguese, who had shifted from erstwhile Saptagram port (around 1580) and built the Hooghly town and port, due to progressive silting of the River Saraswati, which made navigation impossible. Quite like the Dutch, who had arrived at Chinsurah by chance, the Portuguese too had arrived at Hooghly, a similarly marshy wooded land by the river, when they were forced to abandon Porto Pekino (Saptagram Port). The fall of the Portuguese proved beneficial to both the Dutch and the English. After eighteen years, in about 1650, the British East India Company established a Kuthi Bari (factory) in Hooghly, under the supervision of John Brookman. Addhya mentions a rather interesting snippet of history – it was in this kuthi of the British that Job Charnock had first arrived as the Administrator. His flight from Hooghly after a conflict with the Mughals (1686), again was a chance factor, which resulted in the formation of the city of Calcutta, from three villages of Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kolikata, similarly situated in a marshy wooded land by the River Hugli, a little downstream. When on 24th August, 1690, Charnock finally and unwillingly descended from his boat at Sutanuti Ghat, it was the third time he had done so – the second time being on 20th September, 1687, after Mughal soldiers had forced him to flee Hijli. Dejected Charnock at that time of course had no idea that he was giving rise to an everlasting legend and earning for himself a permanent place in history. Job Charnock’s name would have been reduced to the footnotes of history, had the Battle of Plassey not occurred sixty seven years later, in 1757, and the British gained supremacy over Bengal, with Calcutta as its capital city and in time became the undisputed rulers of the Indian subcontinent for 190 years. Addhya’s perceptions give rise to the pertinent question as to whether besides politics, intrigues and battles, destiny played a great role in the formation of the strategic settlements of the great European colonial powers, beside the Hugli.

Addhya mentions in detail the non-linear history of Chinsurah. The nurseling of the Dutch was not destined to stay in their hands forever. It had been under the control of the British twice before they finally possessed it on 7th May, 1825 – the first time had been from 1781 to 1783 and the second time had been from 28th July, 1795 to 20th September, 1817. The Dutch were not thrifty like the British and they overspent. Soon, their trade suffered and maintaining Chinsurah became a huge liability to them. Hence, they were forced to surrender to the British now and then, before finally giving it up on 7th May, 1825, by a treaty signed in London on 17th March, 1824, in which an amicable settlement was reached. The British gained control of Malakka, Chinsurah and Kalikapur, the kuthis of Dhaka, Patna, Falta and Balasore from the Dutch. The Dutch gained the island of Sumatra and Fort Malabar from the British. It was a sad moment for the Dutch. They had nursed Chinsurah from its inception to its metamorphosis into the most beautiful town in colonial India, perhaps giving a tough competition to the aesthetically rich French, who were busy laying out neighbouring Chandernagore into a lovely nook by the river. Though the Dutch were mainly known for their trade and the beautiful buildings they created, yet Addhya mentions that towards the end of their reign, they took interest in the spread of education among the natives. Reverend Mundy was instrumental in setting up fourteen primary schools beside the Hugli River in Chinsurah. The Chinsurah Free School was set up by the endeavours of an organisation named Chinsurah Free School Society, in which, one of the principal members was the last Dutch Governor of Chinsurah, Daniel Overbeck (1818-1825). After the transfer of power in 1825, the British Government sanctioned a monthly sum of Rs 800/- for Reverend Mundy’s schools. They also sanctioned an extra allowance of Rs 50/-, over the original allowance, for the Chinsurah Free School and entrusted it to Overbeck. Overbeck was hugely interested in social work. He laid the foundation stone of the clock tower of the Armenian Church in 1822, which was built by the widow of Simon Fanoos Begram in memory of her late husband. He was also one of the principal witnesses in the sensational court case of Jaal Pratap Chand (1839), at the Hooghly Court, involving the identity of the prince of Burdwan, who had disappeared and had supposedly reappeared after twenty years, of whom he had previously been a close friend. Overbeck never left Chinsurah – he, along with his family members are buried in the Dutch cemetery at Dharampur in Chinsurah. He survived for nearly fifteen years after the transfer of power (died on 25th September, 1840, aged 76 years) and survived on pension from the British, which was one-third of his previous salary as the Dutch Governor. Addhya mentions that only a handful of people remained in the former Dutch colony – Overbeck, Holf, G.Herklots, a shoemaker called Feith, a Frenchman called Michel, who had worked in the Dutch factory and Berg Andreas, the Danish owner of an indigo factory. Overbeck was the mute witness of the transformation of Chinsurah under the British rule. He must have been a sad man who witnessed the demotion of the once mighty Fort Gustavus into a British soldier barrack, which exists even today as the Chinsurah Court. Also exists the beautiful Dutch Villa, the former residence of the Dutch Governor and a part of Fort Gustavus. Addhya paints a poignant picture when he opines that modern Chinsurah may have forgotten Overbeck but his name as if reverberates in the air whenever the two brass drums donated by him to the ancient Shiva Temple of Sandeswartala is played in honour of the Lord.

Not much of the evidence of Dutch history remains in modern Chinsurah – a cemetery, vestiges of some former grand buildings, remnants of the Dutch drainage system, some canons strewed about and the grave of Sussanna Anna Maria Yeats (died 12th May, 1809). This octagonal architecture by the GT Road, recently renovated by the Archaeological Survey of India, is one of the few remaining reminders of the past. Also remains the grand heritage buildings of the erstwhile aristocratic families like the Seal, Mondal, Som and a few others, in various conditions of disrepair. The British exist in the clock tower at Gharir More, built in 1914, in the memory of Edward VII, the court house, the various government buildings, Hooghly Mohsin College, the Burdwan Commissioner’s bungalow with the Dutch inscription and a few other places. The Armenian Church remains closed throughout the year, except on Christmas Day, because of the absence of a single member of the Armenian community in the town. Addhya is able to clearly convey that the heritage of modern Chinsurah has descended from a combined mixture of Dutch, Armenian, Mughal, British and Bengali influence. The dusty suburban town is now perhaps of little significance, but whenever the national song Vande Mataram is played, we stand up in reverence not only to our country, but to the little town who was a gracious host to Bankim Chandra (who stayed here from 1876 to 1881, and wrote the song for his novel Anandamath, published in 1882) and also to those numerous soldiers of the freedom struggle who strode the path to the great Indian independence. Addhya tries to encapsulate a large span of time and events in his book and this is a herculean task which needs to be lauded in all its truest sense.

Purba Chatterjee

MAJUMDAR, Subhendu. ডুপ্লে কলেজ থেকে চন্দননগর কলেজঃ একটি ঐতিহাসিক পরিক্রমা (From Dupleix College to Chandernagore College: A Historical Journey). Chandernagore: n.pub, 2006. 67pp.

Indo-French Educational Connections: Chandernagore College, Then and Now. Chandernagore College had its origin probably in a free primary school established in 1835, known popularly as Piru Saheb-er School [The School of Mr. Piru]. Initially, the school was partly funded by the French Indian Government at Pondicherry and partly relied on generous contributions from private individuals. Originally it was located on the south-west of Fort de Orleans, by the Grand Trunk Road (then known as Rue de Paris). M. Piru, however, was only a teacher in the school, which was headed by M. Rissy (due to which the school has also been called by some as Rissy Saheb-er School [The School of M. Rissy]. In the opinion of Sri Hari Har Sett, who became the first President of the Free City, as well as others, it was this school which later came up at Rue General Martin (later Rue Barabazar), and was taken over and re-established by Rev. Fr. Magloire Barthet, a Jesuit priest of the order of Frères du Saint Esprit, who is also credited with founding the Sacred Heart Church, into St. Mary’s Institution/ Ecole de Sainte Marie in 1862. Like its predecessor, St. Mary’s Institution, too, was a free primary school, Ecole Elémentaire, with French as the medium of instruction in place of English. However, due to the pressing need for English education, an English section was opened alongside the earlier French section in 1872. As per necessity, arrangements were made with the British government to let the students of the English section of St. Mary’s Institution appear for the Entrance examination under the University of Calcutta. When St. Mary’s Institution was handed over to the French Indian Government on December 15, 1887 by the missionaries, the institution was secularised and came to be known as ‘Ecole Publique de garçons’ [Boys’ Public School]. The school formally begin its journey as a college only in 1891 and was affiliated to the University of Calcutta for Intermediate classes up to the First Arts (F.A.) standard. Students of the institution first appeared for the F.A. Examinations in 1893, with three students passing in the second division and three passing in the third division.

The second phase: Collège Dupleix
In 1901, ‘Ecole Publique de garçons’ was renamed ‘Collège Dupleix’ by an order from the French Indian Government, in memory of Joseph François Dupleix. The College then had, apart from Intermediate classes, an English school section teaching up to the Matriculation standard of the University of Calcutta and a French section teaching up to the standard of ‘Brevet Elémentaire’ of the French curriculum. In terms of administration, the College followed the Directorial system, with a Director and a Sub-Director for both the school and the College sections. The institution was placed under the control of the ‘Chef du Service de l’Instruction publique’ (Director of Public Instruction). The College had the following Directors from its affiliation in 1891 to its shutdown in 1908, namely M. De Larue,
M. J. F. Duillo, M. Sirot, M. F. Decosta and M. Poudens. In 1893 the eminent Indian revolutionary Sri Charu Chandra Roy was appointed as a Professor of English in the institution. A member (later President) of the revolutionary group Bandhav Sammilani at Gondalpara, Sri Roy was led into the mainstream of revolutionary activities by Barindra Kumar Ghose, brother of Aurobindo Ghose. He was, for a long time, the Sub-Director (and the Director for a short while in 1903) of the College and was widely popular. His fervent patriotism, towering personality, depth of knowledge and selfless love for students made him an admirable figure among the young ones. It was he who was largely responsible for the emergence of the College as among the epicentres of revolutionary activities that followed the Partition of Bengal in 1905. Among his students were eminent revolutionaries like Upendranath Bandopadhyay, Narendranath Bandopadhyay, Rash Behari Bose, Srish Chandra Ghosh, Dr. Nagendranath Ghosh, Kanailal Dutta and Manindranath Nayek. It was this group of revolutionaries- known infamously as the ‘Chandernagore gang’ in the report of Charles Tegart on the revolutionary activities in Bengal in 1913- that was involved in a number of activities such as the spread of Swadeshi and boycott in Chandernagore, the obtaining of arms from France and supplying them to various revolutionary groups, the attempt to blast the train of Andrew Fraser at Mankundu, the supply of arms at Alipore Jail, Kolkata, for the murder of the treacherous Naren Goswami by Kanailal Dutta, the attempt at the life of M. Tardival, the Mayor of Chandernagore and finally the granting of shelter to Aurobindo Ghose; however, there is hardly any documented evidence to trace whether the College campus was used as a centre for revolutionary activities or not. The ever-increasing participation of the students and the youth of Chandernagore in the anti-British revolutionary activities alarmed the British rulers. In 1908 Charu Chandra Roy was arrested by the British police due to alleged involvement in the Maniktala bomb conspiracy case. The year also saw the historical shutdown of Collège Dupleix on account of its role in the spread of revolutionary activities. Although official records stated that college classes were abolished due to lack of students, it was evident that the French government had been under pressure from the British; Prof. Sudhangshu Sekhar Dutta, opines that the French Indian Government found it difficult to continue the Intermediate classes attached to Collège Dupleix, and ultimately had to abolish them in the year 1908.

The third phase: re-establishment, Sett, Roy and the world wars
Collège Dupleix, thus abolished by the French Indian Government, remained closed for a period of 23 years. However, efforts were made towards the end of 1917 by Sri Hari Har Sett who promised to bear all costs for two successive years for the maintenance of the College if the College was re-established. Although M. Martineau, the then Governor of French India, agreed to this proposal and issued an decree dated July 27, 1918 to this effect, it did not come into effect, as the new Governor, M. Gerbinis, was not in favour of spreading English education. The efforts of Sri Narayan Chandra De, the then Mayor of the city of Chandernagore, too, turned futile as the grants which he had promised on behalf of the Municipality was considered inadequate by the ‘Conseil Général’ (General Council) of French India; thus from the year 1908 till 1930, Chandernagore could only look forward to and rely on the mercy of Hooghly College for imparting higher education to her children.
The first successful lead in the matter, however, was given by Sri Charu Chandra Roy, the then Mayor of Chandernagore as well as a member of the Conseil Général. Sri Roy, aided by M. Champion, the then Administrator of Chandernagore, was able to bring home to the French Indian Government the dire necessity of reinstating the abolished College-classes in Chandernagore, and the latter ultimately had to yield to the popular demand voiced through him as well as many others. In 1931 the new Governor of French India, M. Adrien Juvanon, granted Rs. 6000/- for the re-establishment of the College. Rs. 4000/- was granted by Charu Chandra Roy on behalf of the Municipality, as promised earlier, and the long-closed College Dupleix was finally re-established as ‘Collège Dupleix – Cours Intermédiat’ on July 4, 1931. The College, on its re-establishment, was kept on an experimental basis from 1931 to 1939. The University curriculum, meanwhile, had undergone radical changes, with the setting up of different faculties of Arts and Science. The College was, therefore, affiliated to the I.A. and I.Sc. standard of the University of Calcutta, and was started in Somerset House, a rented house on the south of the Kuthir Math. In 1932, M.J. Buffard, the teacher of French was temporarily appointed the Principal of the college.The laboratory equipment and library of the College were in a deplorable state. For this purpose, Sri Charu Chandra Roy secured donation of valuable books from a number of benevolent gentlemen of Chandernagore. While M. V. Champion and M. Lehureux donated collections of French Books, Sri Panchanon Banerjee of Gondalpara, Sri Satyakishore Banerjee of Telenipara, Sri Phatiklal Das,Ex-Director of the college, donated valuable books on History, English literature and Sanskrit respectively. During this year 120 students were admitted; 84 in the First year and 36 in the Second year. The institution was placed under the direct control of Governor of the French India, and was financed by the French Indian Government which realised an annual grant from the local Municipality for the purpose. In October, 1933, Sri Dhirendranath Mukherjee, the Professor of Mathematics, was appointed the Principal of the College. From 1933 to 1938, every year the College ran the risk of being abolished. It was mainly due to the efforts of Sri Mukherjee, together with the tireless efforts of Sri Charu Chandra Roy and Sri Sadhucharan Mukherjee (both elected members of the Conseil Général), that such an unpleasant consequence was averted, and a permanent status was finally given to the College by an decree dated June 2, 1938. The College now came to be known as ‘Collège Dupleix- Section d’Etudes Supérieures Franco-Anglaise de Chandernagor’.

The College came under the Public Instruction Department of the French Indian Government and the service of the College staff was regularised. In order to separate the College from the school section, an decree issued by the Chef du Service de l’Instruction publique in 1945 changed the name of the College to ‘Collège de Bussy’, after the French general de Bussy. The wide popularity of the College due to the brilliant instruction and University results now called for degree courses. Due to the efforts of Prof. Sudhangshu Sekhar Dutta, who was also a member of the Representative Assembly at Pondicherry, degree courses were introduced in the college in the year 1947-48 in English, Bengali, Sanskrit, Philosophy, History and Mathematics, together with the introduction of Honours courses in English and French. The tutorial staff was strengthened by fresh recruitment and the library was enlarged to meet the growing demand.

The Present: Chandernagore College, the free city and beyond.
In 1948 the city of Chandernagore was declared a free city (ville libre). The administrative council of the Free City was intent on the development of higher education and thus concentrated on the expansion of the college. In 1948, the College de Bussy was renamed Chandernagore College by virtue of an administrative order which also caused the junior section of the college to be named Kanailal Vidyamandir, after the famous revolutionary and martyr Kanailal Dutta. On 2nd May 1950, Chandernagore was included in the Union of India as a Union Territory, before being included in the state of West Bengal on 2 October in the same year. The responsibility of the college, too, went in the hands of the Government of West Bengal in 1954, following the recommendations of the Jha Committee, article XIV, which stated that the maintenance of Chandernagore College should be the responsibility of the State Government. Since then, it has flourished profoundly. Presently, Changernagore College is affiliated to the University of Burdwan and has been considered equipped enough to run a postgraduate degree course in French. This has been one of the missions set during the Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1981. Interestingly enough, the joint efforts of the French and the Bengalis, which contributed to the advancement of the institution, is, perhaps, best reflected in the successful commencement of postgraduate courses both in Bengali and French. This institution is in a position to set up a language lab, for four languages (French, English, Bengali and Sanskrit) are being taught here.

The college is a historical monument, bearing testimony to the collaborative efforts of the French and the Indians (Bengalis, to be specific) in colonial Hooghly. It reflects how amicable relationship between the settler and the native could ultimately pave way to the development of education in colonial Chandernagore. The efforts of Rissy and Piru, the missionary zeal of Father Barthet, the untiring attempts of Harihar Sett and Charu Chandra Roy and the immense contribution of Prof. Kalicharan Karmakar reflected the Indo-French cultural and educational ties in colonial Chandernagore. Still popularly known as ‘Dupleix College’, Chandernagore College bears the memory of French Governor-General Dupleix, as it had borne the name of de Bussy, in whom the people of Chandernagore had once found their spirit of patriotism, liberty and hatred against the British.

Antara Mukherjee and Arcaprova Raychaudhury

Suggested reading:
BASU, Sitis Chandra. ‘A Brief History of Chandernagore College’. Chandernagore: n.pub, 1955.
DATTA, Sudhangshu Sekhar.’Our College’.Chandernagore: n.pub, 1955. 23pp.
MAJUMDAR, Subhendu. ডুপ্লে কলেজ থেকে চন্দননগর কলেজঃ একটি ঐতিহাসিক পরিক্রমা (From Dupleix College to Chandernagore College: A Historical Journey).Chandernagore: n.pub, 2006. 67pp.
SAMANTA, Basanta Kumar. চন্দননগর কলেজের সংক্ষিপ্ত ইতিহাস (১৮৬২-১৯৮১) ‘A Concise History of Chandernagore College 1862-1981’. (Golden Jubilee Volume, Chandernagore College). Chandernagore: n.pub, 1981. 52pp.

সারসংক্ষেপ / SUMMARY
ইন্দো-ফরাসী সম্পর্কের ঐতিহ্য বহন করে চলা প্রতিষ্ঠানগুলির মধ্যে অন্যতম হল চন্দননগর কলেজ যা ‘ডুপ্লে কলেজ’ নামেই বেশি পরিচিত। এটির বিবর্তনের ইতিহাসের মোট চারটি পর্যায় লক্ষ্য করা যায় – সেন্ট মেরী’জ ইন্সটিটিউশন (1862) , কলেজ ডুপ্লে (1901) , কলেজ দ্য বুসী (1945) ও চন্দননগর কলেজ (1948)। চন্দননগরের বিশিষ্ট জননেতা হরিহর শেঠ ও অন্যান্যের মতে, চন্দননগরে অবস্থিত ফরাসী দুর্গ ফোর্ট দ্য আরলিয়ঁ’র দক্ষিণ-পশ্চিম কোণে অবস্থিত ‘পিরু সাহেবের স্কুল’ (1835 সালে তৈরি হওয়া এই স্কুলটি পরে রূ দ্য জেনারেল মার্ত্যাঁ’য় উঠে আসে) থেকেই চন্দননগর কলেজের যাত্রা শুরু। 1862 সালে বিশিষ্ট ফরাসী ধর্মযাজক রেভারেন্ড ফাদার ম্যাগলোয়ার বার্থে এই স্কুলটিকে প্রতিষ্ঠা করেন ‘একোল দ্য স্যাঁৎ মারী’ বা ‘সেন্ট মেরী’জ ইন্সটিটিউশন’ রূপে। 1872 সালে এখানে ইংরেজি শিক্ষা চালু হয় ও 1887 সালে এটি ফরাসী সরকারের আওতায় আসে। 1891 সালে সেন্ট মেরী’জ ইন্সটিটিউশন কলকাতা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের অনুমোদন লাভ করে ও 1893 সালে এখানকার ছাত্ররা প্রথম এফ.এ. পরীক্ষায় বসার সুযোগ পান। 1901 সালে বিখ্যাত ফরাসী সমরনায়ক জোসেফ ফ্রঁসোয়া ডুপ্লের নামে কলেজটির নাম রাখা হয় ‘কলেজ ডুপ্লে’। এই সময় থেকেই এটি হয়ে ওঠে বিপ্লবী আন্দোলনের প্রাণকেন্দ্র, যার মূল উদ্যোক্তা ছিলেন স্বনামধন্য বিপ্লবী তথা কলেজের ইংরেজির অধ্যাপক ও সাব-ডিরেক্টর শ্রী চারুচন্দ্র রায়। 1908 সালে মানিকতলা ষড়যন্ত্র মামলায় চারুচন্দ্র ব্রিটিশ সরকার দ্বারা গ্রেফতার হন। একই সাথে কলেজটিও অনির্দিষ্টকালের জন্য বন্ধ হয়ে যায়। প্রায় 23 বছর বন্ধ থাকার পর হরিহর শেঠ, চারুচন্দ্র রায় ও তদানীন্তন মেয়র নারায়ণচন্দ্র দে’র প্রচেষ্টায় 1938 সালে কলেজটি খোলে ও আই.এ. কোর্সে পঠনপাঠন শুরু হয়। শ্রী ধীরেন্দ্রনাথ মুখোপাধ্যায় প্রথম প্রিন্সিপাল নিযুক্ত হন। কলেজটির উন্নতির জন্য বই ও অন্যান্য সামগ্রীর যোগানের মাধ্যমে নিরলস প্রচেষ্টা চালান হরিহর শেঠ ও চারুচন্দ্র রায়। 1945 সালে কলেজটির স্কুল ও কলেজ সেকশন পৃথক করা হয়। একই সঙ্গে কলেজটির নাম পরিবর্তন করে ‘কলেজ দ্য বুসী’ রাখা হয়। 1947 সালে এখানে সর্বপ্রথম ডিগ্রী কোর্স চালু হয়। 1948 সালে চন্দননগর মুক্ত নগরী ঘোষণা হলে এক প্রশাসনিক নির্দেশে কলেজ দ্য বুসী পরিচিত হয় ‘চন্দননগর কলেজ’ নামে। বিখ্যাত বিপ্লবী শহীদ কানাইলাল দত্তের নামে স্কুল সেকশনটির নামকরণ করা হয় ‘কানাইলাল বিদ্যামন্দির’, যা বর্তমানে হুগলি জেলার সেরা বিদ্যালয়গুলির মধ্যে অন্যতম। 1950 সালে চন্দননগর ভারত সরকারের আওতাধীন হলে কলেজটি পরিচালনার দায়িত্ব এসে পড়ে পশ্চিমবঙ্গ সরকারের হাতে। সরকারী পরিচালনায় চন্দননগর কলেজ সময়ের সাথে সাথে যথেষ্ট উন্নতি লাভ করেছে। বর্তমানে এখানে অনার্স ও জেনারেল কোর্স ছাড়াও র
বাংলা, ফরাসী ও ভূগোলে স্নাতকোত্তর কোর্স চালু করা সম্ভব হয়েছে। শুধুমাত্র একটি শিক্ষা প্রতিষ্ঠান হিসেবেই নয়, ইন্দো-ফরাসী সম্পর্কের বিকাশ ও শিক্ষার প্রসারে তাদের যৌথ উদ্যোগের এক অন্যতম নিদর্শন হিসেবে চন্দননগর কলেজ আজও বর্তমান।

CHATTOPADHYAY, Jogendrakumar, Smritite Sekal (Memories of those Days), Kolkata: Charjapad Publications Pvt. Ltd., 2009, Edited by Prabir Mukhopadhyay, 282 pp.

Smritite Sekal (Memories of those Days), a memoir in Bengali, by Jogendrakumar Chattopadhyay (1867–1959), a resident of French Chandernagore at the end of the nineteenth century, is a rare find in its ability to evoke the spirit of the milieu of the last three decades of the nineteenth century, a transitional period for the Bengali society, as he witnessed it himself. He was a witness to the effects of the great Bengal Renaissance. There was a huge change in the attitude of both the colonial rulers and the natives, who were eager to perceive and let in the light of the occident into their centuries old cloistered world. The light as if spilled into the opening decades of the twentieth century and Jogendrakumar’s later entries (till 1955), present a totally new and different world than from where he had started.

The complete memoir published in January, 2009 (previously it was spread across various articles published in newspapers and magazines over a long period of time) , is a piece of oral history and the 2009-Introduction by Alok Kumar Ghosh, makes mention of Allan Nevins (1890-1971), the famous historian, who started work on oral history at Columbia University in 1948. Nevins produced an impressive body of work, including two Pulitzer Prize winning historical biographies: Grover Cleveland, A Study in Courage (1932) and Hamilton Fish, The Inner History of the Grant Administration (1936). His greatest work was an eight volume series on the American Civil War, titled Ordeal of the Union (Published 1947–1971). He founded the Oral History Research Office in Columbia in 1948, the first programme of its kind, which is now said to contain almost 8000 tape-recorded audio memoirs and nearly 1,000,000 pages of transcript. At a paper read at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in Chicago, Illinois, December 29th, 1959 and published in the American Historical Review, 65, no 2, January 1960, pp 253-270, Nevins expressed his opinion of history, which he said, should not be dehumanized : “that instead of dissecting impersonal forces, or presenting those misty wraiths the economic man or sociological man, the historian should narrate the past in terms of living men and women seen as individuals, groups, or communities ; and that he should give due emphasis to personal motivation and initiative.” Ghosh also mentions Tagore, who had perhaps felt the absence of a more personal perspective on history and had once lamented that had Vidyasagar a Boswell to record his words, we would have had a clear knowledge about the great man’s sharpness, strength and sublimity. Jogendrakumar’s up and close encounters with famous personalities like Iswarchandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891), Bankim Chandra Chatterjee (1838-1894), Bhudeb Mukherjee (1827-1894), Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Surendranath Banerjee (1848-1925), Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), to name a few, certainly creates a ‘Boswellian Effect’.

Jogendrakumar was definitely no Boswell and his memoirs can never be compared to Life of Samuel Johnson, which was a far more intimate account, as Boswell hung like a slave to every word Johnson uttered. Jogendrakumar did not dwell on a single personality like Boswell, his was a broad spectrum of events and men he happened to meet along the way and he had his own perceptions regarding them, unlike Boswell. Jogendrakumar’s reminiscences about the great men he intimately encountered at the height of the Bengal Renaissance in mostly Chandernagore and sometimes in Chinsurah and Hooghly in his childhood and and early youth (from around 1880 to 1895) and later as an experienced journalist in Calcutta (from about 1901-1955), serves a justifiably valid and varied picture of his life and times. His nuanced observations on the various social customs prevalent in the casteist upper reaches of the Bengali society in the latter part of the nineteenth century, especially the Brahminical hegemony (being a Brahmin himself), along with the novel intermingling of French and British cultures, present a rich documentation of the times.

Jogendrakumar’s memoirs attain poignancy on account of the fact that he was fortunate enough to glimpse at men and society at a period when it was on the brink of a huge transition: the great Bengal Renaissance (a period roughly extending from 1800 to about 1920), was beginning to bear fruit and the men who had led it were still around to oversee the effects, as it were. It is rather interesting to note that French Chandernagore at that time was considered the cauldron of culture, which was a curious amalgamation of Indo-French –British concoction, considering the British and French were close colonial neighbours in Chandernagore, Chinsurah and Hooghly . Charming Chandernagore by the River Hugli was the place to go if one wished for a short vacation for leisure or health. The elite of Calcutta often maintained Bagan Baris, mostly along the Strand, where they came down for leisure or for convalescence. The riverside and the charming ambience of French Chandernagore was considered ideal for recuperating after illness. Hence, Jogendrakumar’s close encounters with Vidyasagar, Tagores or the great scientists Prafulla Chandra Roy or Jagadish Chandra Bose. He remembers seeing Maharshi Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905), father of Rabindranath Tagore, meditating in his bajra (launch), while it slowly plied up and down the Hugli from Chandernagore to Chinsurah. Iswarchandra Vidyasagar stayed in Chandernagore for nearly a year, around 1890, the year before he died, in the hope of recuperating his health.

Who would have thought that people flocked to Vidyasagar in the evenings (the author included), in the house which he had rented, named River View, beside Patal Bari at the end of the Strand (the house has been long razed to the ground and a vacant plot remains), and that the ‘stern’ Vidyasagar would take great delight in feeding them with ‘mishtanna’ (Bengali sweets) kept in earthen pots arranged under his bed, while being greatly worried about how he would use the western toilet, since he had come to live in a ‘sahib para’, the ville blanche, surrounded by the French (around 1890)? It is a heartening picture of the same Vidyasagar, the polymath of the Bengal Renaissance, he who had dared to breach the ultra-orthodox Brahmin Samaj (society) while being a Brahmin himself (his full name being Iswarchandra Bandyopadhyay), who was instrumental in the Widow Remarriage Act (1856) being passed, who had advocated women’s education and set up thirty five girls’ schools throughout Bengal, reconstructed the Bengali language, was the Principal of the Sanskrit College in Calcutta (1851-1858). The great scientist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray (1861-1944), regarded as the father of chemical science India, since he established the first school of chemical research in India, deemed it healthy to stroll barefoot on the Strand. Jogendranath remembered a young Jagadish Chandra Bose (1858-1937), eminent physicist, and his wife often taking a ride in their private boat on the Hugli. Once Jagadish Chandra’s wife fell into the river from the ‘bhaule’ (boat), not being able to maintain balance, when a wave in the wake of a passing steamer hit the boat. She was saved by a boatman who immediately jumped into the water and who was promptly rewarded with hundred rupees by Jagadish Chandra.

Equally interesting is the anecdote on Monsieur Curzon, a French gentleman who created a private zoo in his large house and which provided a constant source of entertainment for many people, who even crossed the river at weekends by boat to have a look at it (around 1882, when Jogendrakumar was a student of Hooghly Collegiate School). There is also the curious case of conscription, which the French considered introducing in Chandernagore, in around 1887-88. This was intended as a provisional law by which the trained soldiers would not have had to go anywhere and face any conflict, except if and when some outside force attacked the French colonies in India. Though everyone knew that it was a rare possibility, the very thought created so much panic among the people that they appealed to the Administrator. The French administration decided not to pursue the matter further, maybe because there was no possibility whatsoever of such a situation arising in the near or distant future. Yet contrarily in 1914, during the First World War, the youth of Chandernagore willingly participated on behalf of the French, leading the way for Pondicherry, Mahe and Karaikal to follow suit.

Jogendrakumar’s journalistic prowess (he had been the assistant editor of ‘Hitabadi’ for a long time, the association extending from 1905 to 1948) lend his writings a definite touch of precision. Jogendrakumar had written articles based on his memoirs in various newspapers and magazines during his lifetime. Smritite Sekal (Memories of those Days) is a collection of those articles in chronological order (extending from 1896 to 1955) .His articles on various aspects of erstwhile society –education system, modes of communication, dress, food, language, marriage, position of women, caste system or the Brahminical ideology, serve as valuable snippets of history, the more personalized and dehumanized ones (as perhaps envisaged by Nevins much later), in the period from about 1880 to 1955.

His memories of his school days, successively at St. Mary’s Institution, Garbati School and Hooghly Collegiate School, serve to enlighten us about the erstwhile system of education and the measures taken by the French to perpetrate their language and culture among the locals. Mention is made of St. Mary’s Institution (Ecole de Sainte Marie, founded in 1862, by Rev. Fr. Magloire Barthet, a Jesuit priest), initially run by French Missionaries and later taken over by the French administration (December 15, 1887) and renamed as ‘Ecole Publique de Garçons’ and which still later metamorphosed into College Dupleix in 1901, by an order from the French authorities in India. The missionaries lay stress on the teaching of French language and education was made free to provide incentive. As a result, children from impoverished families flocked to this school, while those who could afford, sent their children to Garbati School, locally called ‘Garer School’ (established in 1860), which lay in an extended part of Chandernagore dominated by the British and which lay more stress on the teaching of English and Bengali. Jogendrakumar mentions a unique way the missionaries used to punish errant students. The ‘copy book’ was used instead of rods, where the students had to complete two hundred lines of specially designed handwriting, after school was over and every other student had gone home. It is evident that education was starting to undergo a radical change during this time. Like in Europe, where Renaissance (from the 14th to the seventeenth century) brought out the society from the darkness of the middle ages, from the confines of religious rigours, brought about the age of reason when men were able to accept logical thoughts and not those dictated by the Church, when education thrived and attained a secular form, likewise in Bengal too, education was released from the confines of Sanskrit ‘tols’ and Islamic Madrasas and attained a secular status under the new system of education where schools established by the colonial masters and initiated by people like Vidyasagar, stressed on a general secular order, acceptance of western thoughts and an unbiased approach towards gender equality in education.

Talking of cross-cultural bonding across the state, eminently engrossing is Jogendrakumar’s article on the days of inception of Viswa Bharati at Santiniketan (1901), and his observations on this grand endeavour by Tagore, who by the way was quite a frequent visitor to Chandernagore and was famous for his prowess of the French language and culture. Tagore’s Santiniketan faced a lot of flak in the initial days for it was the only place in the country which advocated and practised a co-educational system of education where men and women studied together. Jogendrakumar fondly remembers a letter written by Tagore to him (1901), asking him to send his son Dhiren to the newly established school at Santiniketan. Jogendrakumar and his family had not been able to refuse the summons of Tagore and Dhiren had indeed studied in Santiniketan for two years. Tagore and Jogendrakumar became mutual admirers and had maintained a lifelong friendship. The same can be said of Harihar Sett too, the man conferred with the Légion d’honneur (1934), the man who became the first President of the newly formed Chandernagore Municipality (1947) when it was declared Ville Libre (Free Town), the man considered as the architect of modern Chandernagore for his immense contributions to the uplift of Chandernagore, in the years following independence. Harihar Sett was a prolific letter writer and had established friendships with many eminent persons of the period (famously with Tagore) through his letters. He had written to Jogendrakumar asking him about his memories of old Chandernagore and the famous personalities he had encountered. Jogendrakumar had responded and the letter to Harihar Sett, dated 18th September, 1955, has been compiled as an annexure at the end of the book, followed by an interview of Jogendrakumar, given to Ananda Bazar Patrika on 6th September, 1955.

The observations made by Jogendrakumar are entirely his own and should not be considered as fait accompli, since it is palpably limited to his own spectrum of vision mainly as he himself mentions, among the Brahminical order and the educated class and does not consider the society as a whole. It is more of an elite viewpoint and does not deal with the subaltern classes. But, it makes for an engrossing reading, provided one is generous enough to consider that he lived a century apart from us and his views may not always be in agreement with our modern sensibilities, besides the language not corresponding to the Bengali written nowadays, with the possibility of being somewhat of an impediment to the uninitiated. However, the publication of the book has been a very good initiative and is sure to quench the thirst of those inquisitive minds who wish to get a glimpse behind the curtains of the great Bengal Renaissance and the alluring mystique of Chandernagore, a quaint little crescent–shaped French town by the Hugli.
Purba Chatterjee

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