1940 -1950


DAS, Saibal, A picnic at the Anderson Weir, Randia, home video, 1948, 2.37 mins



DAS, Saibal, A Bengali family take up arms in the 1950s, ready to defend the motherland, home video, 1950, 16 sec

DAS, Saibal, Annual Sports Day at Hospital Grounds, home video, 1950, 28 sec

DAS, Saibal, Chandannagar Strand, longer clip, home video, 1950, 50 sec

DAS, Saibal, Chandannagar Strand, shorter clip, home video, 1950, 13 sec

DAS, Saibal, Eglise du sacré Coeur and bicycles, home video, 1950, 21 sec

DAS, Saibal, Independence Day Parade and Buildings around Mairie Park, shorter clip, home video, 1950, 25 sec

DAS, Saibal, Independence Day parade at Mairie Park, longer clip, home video, 1950, 2.03 mins

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

2010 – present


MUKHERJEE, Srijit (director), Jaatiswar [reincarnation]: A Musical of Memories, a Bengali music drama, 148 mins, 2014.

‘Kavigaan’, the Site of Contact: Re-exploring the Ambivalence of Colonial Encounter in Jaatishwar. Srijit Mukherjee’s Bengali movie, Jaatishwar (reincarnation), is a musical memoir, concentrating on the arrival and settlement of Hensman Antony (1786-1836), a folk artist of Portuguese origin, in colonial Bengal. ‘Antony Firingee’, as he was popularly referred to, refused to be a firingee or foreigner in derogatory terms, showing impeccable strength to resist such demarcation by becoming one of the popular Kaviyaals (folk artists) of his age. The film addresses the ambivalence, dormant in settler-native discourse – while Antony becomes a Kaviyaal, he is also shown as a social outcast, castigated by a section of local Bengali rural community; his world views and actions are held in tension with the conservative outlook of those communities. In the cosmopolitan Calcutta, he had to struggle harder for acceptance; but the enlightened upper-class ambience gives him a scope to display his talent and he eventually succeeds in creating a space for himself. Anthony’s negotiation with this ambivalence of colonial process – rejected by a section of the conservative rural population and at the same time accepted as the Kaviraaj, the lord of Kavigaan, by the most established singer Bhola Moira in a Kavigaan asor (gathering arranged especially for bard’s duel) arranged in the urban atmosphere of Calcutta – is remarkably addressed in his songs. When Antony sings ‘Sosur bari baper bari eki poshak eki besh/ ei desheri chhele ami Firingeero Bangladesh‘ [There is no difference between sosur bari ( house of in laws) and baper bari (paternal home), for both are different sides of the same coin (‘poshak’ and ‘besh’ both mean dress and used here as a metaphor for dwelling – native and adventitious, the idea being how the two distant places integrate) / likewise I belong to India/Bengal, and Bengal/India belongs to me], one unmistakably notes the earnest urge of a settler to belong to the community where he is a guest. Naturally therefore he is shown to be at ease in a distant land: ‘Ei banglay bangalir beshe anondete achi’ [I am perfectly happy in Bengal wearing the Bengali attire]. Srijit Mukherjee’s film presents Anthony as a de-anglicized Westerner, who gives up his Western clothes for a typical Bengali one. Jaatishwar thus overturns the imperial assumption of the West to look down upon the East as exotic, strange and unfamiliar by indigenising the Westerner. As he decides to settle down, he also endeavours to master the local language. He has no hidden agenda to dismantle the native’s house with the native’s tool; rather he believes that a culture and its language are interminably connected, and so learning one and leaving out the other would only be a half-learning. His sincere efforts got the recognition they deserved as he eventually began composing songs in the local language. He relished the wide repertoire of the music of Bengal with diverse flavours including bhaktigiti (devotional songs), folk songs, classical Bengali music, colloquial version of music from kavigaan asor (Bard’s Duel), songs of troubadours and collected bits and scraps from everywhere, his identity emerging to be a fascinating collage of musical memories.

The main storyline in the film is well complemented by the movie’s co-plot – the love story of a Gujarati (born and brought up in Kolkata) research scholar, Rohit Mehta, whose unrequited love for a fervent Bengali nationalist and feminist RJ, Mahamaya, makes him learn and compose in the language –thus enhancing his own narrative. In fact, the film is strategically set between two shifting time-frames – 19th century and the present—as it not only helps to propel the two plots forward, one captured through the tattered memory of a fictional reincarnation of Anthony and the other through the attempts of a research scholar who chose Anthony’s life and music as his dissertation topic under some Indo-Portuguese university exchange programmes, but also essentially captures the transnational nature of Anthony and his narrative.  Interestingly enough, it is the love for Bengali song that connects the apparently disjointed plots. Anthony’s journey through the labyrinthine paths of a foreign culture following his ecstatic passion and the ultimate recognition he got coalesces with Rohit’s voyage across the emotional turbulence of his life, as if he is following the footprints of a progenitor. The two plots develop in the same pace, one clasping hand with the other, Anthony’s promenade existing as a trace for Rohit.

The addiction towards music of all forms, however, was something with which Anthony was born, something which inevitably made him an outcast in his own trading family. His unflinching dedication to melody compelled him to leave his kith and kin and come to Farashdanga (now Chandannagar). He always harboured an intense desire to be one among the natives and so during his first days, he is shown enchanting a group of native enthusiasts circling him, with his sweet tunes from the far away land of Portugal. As it crosses the binaries of colonised/coloniser politics, it is music that systematically tends to unite the warring sides in Jaatishwar . No wonder Srijit Mukherjee includes within the primary narrative the early 19th century Bengali musical tradition when Kavigan (literally the songs of poets) reached its pinnacle of popularity.

It is Kavigan which becomes the contact zone in the movie. It is significant that Kavigan is a dialogic form of performing folk songs engaging two or more groups. In Kavigan, consisting of usually two competing groups, kaviyaals or sarkars were the chief song-smiths and the accompanying singers were known as dohar whose task lied in playing instruments and repeating the catchy refrains in a duel. Kavigan became the dominant form of musical expression in Bengal in the late 18th century, patronised by the wealthy zamindars and Rajas who arranged asor or jalsa (Jalsa is a synonym for asor, both meaning a gathering where people perform recitation, songs and dance)in the domestic sacred performance space (thakurdalan) to celebrate auspicious occasions. Long before the arrival of Anthony in Bengal more specifically in Farashdanga [Chandannagar], both kavigan and kaviyals wove the narrative of voice and texts, that are fundamentally Bengali in origin and practice. Conventionally, Kavigan is composed of five stages – Bhabani Bishayak (Goddess Durga being the subject of the lyrics), Sakhi Sangbad (Stories of Radha and Krishna), Biraha (sad love songs from the lives of common people), Kheur (frivolous lyrics revolving on affairs of gods and goddesses, sometimes scurrilous) and Lahar (personal verbal attack). The final stage of Lahar is the most deciding one, a slippery zone turning the fate of the kaviyal (lead singer) upside down, while the rest of the five are just preludes.

In Jaatishwar, Anthony’s first invited visit to a concert of Kavigan is at Shobhabazar Rajbari (now in Kolkata), as a guest of Raja Gopimohan Deb, was an occasion which was to change the course of his life. In the musical exchange of the two groups of poets – Haru Thakur on one side and Nilu Thakur, Bhabani Bene on the other – Anthony found a new vista to explore his musical passion, but for a Portuguese to want not only to speak in native tongue but also to compose lyrics for songs ranging from devotional to colloquial, was a Sisyphean task. The songs of the Bengal tradition at that time were deeply rooted in Baishnab Shakto Padabali, which is a verse form containing conversational lyrics between Radha and Krishna (Hindu God and Goddess) centring on the stories of their courtship, love and languish. Anthony started learning the philosophies of the East by acquiring Sanskrit and immersing himself in religious texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and Upa-puranas along with roaming from places to places in the lure of all forms of folk music – jhumur, panchali, bhaoaiya, baul and many more. At this pivotal crossroads of his life Anthony met Gorokkhonath who used to work as bandhondar (lyricist for a singer-poet), the helping mate for poets in the crisis of creativity. Together they formed an amateur group (dnarakobi used to be the Bengali term for such a group and it was essential for a Kaviyaal to form a dnarakobi) and Anthony’s voice was ready to enter the discursive grand narrative. It is to be noted that Anthony’s success in the primary stage owes much to the contribution of this Indian lyricist (Bengali language) and this explains his difference in temperament from the other dominant cultural representatives in the movie.

Beyond all the songs he composed and the melody he created, his expansive philosophy transmitted a kind of aura obliterating binaries. Anthony achieved the apex of fame and appreciation in a duel with Bhola Moyra arranged during the Durga Pujas (the most popular festival among Bengalis, the heart of Bengali culture). Bhola was one of the pioneering Kaviyals prized for his ability to spontaneously coin charismatic phrases and defeating him therefore was difficult. The musical conversation from the lahar stage of Kavigan between Bhola and Anthony, extracted from the film, is illuminating in the way how Anthony was treated as an over-ambitious marginal entity even after adopting the culture and language of Bengal wholeheartedly. Anthony’s prompt yet thoughtful reply reveals the complete transformation he underwent. Anthony’s identity was hybridized and marginalised from the perspective of the people desperately clinging to the centre which itself lost its validity when the voice of a foreigner became inseparably united with Indian ones, even in accents and intonations. To Bhola’s taunts — “Tui jaat firingee, jabarjangi/ toke parbo na to twrate/ son re bhroshto, boli spashto/ tui re nashto, mahadushto/ bhajge ja tui Jishu Khrishto/ Seeramporer girja te” [You are a foreigner, an upstart crow/ You have forsaken your religion/ You are rotten and wicked/ Why don’t you go and worship Christ at the church of Seerampore?], comes Anthony’s fitting rejoinder “Krishte ar Christe kichu tafat nai re bhai/ Sudhu namer fere manus fere…./ Amar khoda je, Hindur Hari se.…” [There is no difference between Krishna and Christ….Man is lost in the maze of names….My Allah and your Krishna are one….]. Anthony’s catholic ideas mesmerized his opponent, so much so that Bhola accepted Anthony as Kaviraaj (‘raj not as ruler but as superior proponent of song) greeting him with his own garland.  He further adds ‘Amar khoda je Hindur Hari se’ [my Allah and Hindu’s Hari are similar]. More than preaching communal harmony, Antony tries to liberate the Kavi clan from their narrow, selfish perception of a firingee. Truly, Jaatishwar offers a fresh perspective to colonial discourse where the settler tries to find a link among diverse religions through song. Aptly the lyricist, Kabir Suman, writes in one of the intense songs from the movie “Khudar Kasam Jaan” [In the name of Allah, my love]: ‘Girjar Ghontay mile jawa bhorer ajan..’ [The Church bells mingle with the morning prayer (ajan) for Allah]. Overlooking the religious divide, Anthony finally asserts the value of a common humanity above anything else.

These laurels, however, are counter-balanced by the disturbing twist in Anthony’s personal life.  His failure to create a ‘third way’ becomes evident towards the end of the movie. His appreciation and acceptance within the cultural frame cannot rescue him from the blind conservatism of the rural populace. The huge hiatus between the enlightened and the intolerant people are obvious by the time he reaches his home, at the outskirts of Farashdanga (Chandannagar). The puritan, moralist, rural society that never accepted Anthony’s voice against sati and always considered his marriage with Soudamini, the Brahmin-widow as a transgression, sets his house on fire, leaving him a deranged man, guilt-ridden and self-blaming for Soudamini’s death. The limitation of cultural interaction is stressed as Anthony Firingee, the song-poet whose devotional Agomoni songs ( songs sung to welcome Goddess Durga) are eternally valued, lost his everything to a retribution inflicted on him by the rural people for worshipping the idol of Goddess Durga in his courtyard.

The Bengali word Jatiswaar means a reincarnation, somebody who remembers his past life, a figure in transition, trapped in between a half-forgotten past and an out-of-the-place present. In the film Kushal Hazra, through the lens of whose memory the life and times of Anthony are viewed in glimpses, suffers from a split-personality disorder, he being reborn with the memory of a past where he left a commitment unfulfilled. The film is shot in many locations in Chandannagar – the Strand, in front of the Sacred Heart Church, including Central library and the crowded market place. Srijit’s narrative essentially talks about a Chandannagar (Farashdanga) from the pages of history expanding throughout the late 18th to the early 19th century during the Governor-Generalship of Lord Cornwallis and later. The film itself stands as a reincarnation of a musical past of Chandannagar, a city which was established as a French trading post in 1763, and which could not shake off the memories of a French past. It exists as a palimpsest of a European heritage in India that is never really lost.

Antara Mukherjee and Sayantani Chakraborti

সারসংক্ষেপ / SUMMARY
আন্তর্জাতিক পুরস্কার প্রাপ্ত ছবি জাতিস্ব র এর কেন্দ্রে একজন বিদেশি। উনিশ শতকের শুরুর দিকে সুদূর পতুগাল থেকে জলপথে পাড়ি দিয়ে বাংলায় এসে পৌঁছন হেন্সম্যান আন্টনি (১৭৮৬-১৮৩৬)। অল্পদিনের মধ্যেই বাংলা ভাষার সহজাত সারল্য ও ছন্দময়তা তাকে আকৃষ্ট করে। জন্মসূত্রে ব্যবসায়ী পরিবারের অংশ হলেও সুর ও ছন্দের সাথে অন্তরঞগতা আন্টনিকে করে তোলে ব্যতিক্রমি। গ্রামবাংলার সাবলীল জীবনধারায় শাস নেওয়ার অভিপ্রায় একসময় তাকে নিয়ে আসে ফরাসডাঙ্গার (যার এখন নাম চন্দননগর) উপকন্ঠে। এরই মধ্যে কোলকাতায় শোভাবাজার রাজবাড়ীতে রাজা গোপীমোহন দেবের আতিথ্যে এক কবিগানের আসরে ঊপস্থিত হন আন্টনি।
কবিগান বাংলা লোকসংস্কৃতি তথা লোকসংগীতের এক অবিচ্ছেদ্য অংগ যার জন্ম আঠারো শতকে। ইতিহাসের ভাষায় আনুমানিক আঠারো শতকের মাঝামাঝি সময় থেকে উনিশ শতকের শুরুর তিন দশককাল পরযন্ত ছিল সেই সময় যখন কবিগানের আসরের রমরমা প্রাণ সঞ্চার করত সমস্ত উতসব অনুষ্ঠানে।
রাজবাড়ীর কবিগানের আসরে গানের লড়াই আন্টনির গান শোনার নেশাকে খুঁজে দেয় এক নতুন দিশা। শুরু হয় আন্টনির বাংলা ও সংস্কৃত ভাষাশিক্ষা প্রাচ্যের দরশন-জ্ঞান লাভ এবং নানা ধরনের গান শুনে নিজেকে সমৃদ্ধ করা। এভাবেই নেটিভ ডিসকোরসে আন্টনি ফিরিঙ্গির প্রবেশ।
ক্রমাগত চড়চা এবং বাংলা ভাষায় গান রচনা করার অদম্য ইচ্ছে আন্টনির কবিয়াল হয়ে ওঠার স্বপ্নকে অল্পসময়েই সাফল্য এনে দেয়। সেসময়ের সেরা ও অপরাজিত কবিয়াল ভোলা ময়রাকে হারিয়ে আন্টনি হয়ে ওঠে সেরার সেরা। শুধু তাই নয় আন্টনির গানের মোহময় সুর উপনিষদের দরশন-প্রতিফলিত লিরিক মন জয় করে নেয় সকলের।
বাংলা গানের কবিয়াল হয়েও হিন্দু বাঙালি হয়ে ওঠা হয় না আন্টনির। তার গানের প্রতিভায় আপ্লুত মনে যে সমাজ আন্টনিকে সেরার তকমা দেয় সেই সমাজের গোঁড়া হিন্দুতবাদ তার অস্তিত্বকে বেধে রাখে মার্জিনে।
আন্টনি ফিরিঙ্গির কবিয়াল হয়ে ওঠার সফর জাতিস্মর ছবিতে (পরিচালক : সৃজিত মুখাজী) চিত্রীত হয় কুশল হাজরা (যিনি বিগত জন্মে ছিলেন আন্টনি) চরিত্রের স্মৃতিপটে। আন্টনির ঊপস্থিতি ও সান্নিধ্যে কবিগান প্রাচ্য ও পাশ্চাত্যের ডিসকার্সিভ আদানপ্রদান স্পেসে পরিবরতিত হয়।


Chandernagore, the ‘Blossoming Flower-Garden’: Colonial footprints on Native Soil.

            In Europe and the Hugli : The European Settlements on the West Bank of the River (2014) Suranjan Das and Basudeb Chattopadhyay pertinently observe that the “serene and picturesque riverfronts of Chandernagore and to a lesser extent Chinsurah provided solace to Devendranath and attracted two of his exceptionally talented children Jyotirindranath and Rabindranath”(53). Far from the maddening crowd of the busy metropolitan life in Calcutta, colonial Chandernagore, to a large extent, provided the much needed comfort to the father and the sons from the turbulence of mundane existence of the metropolis and renewed them with vigour. Beneath the fascination for the pristine natural landscape, however, lies a vital association of Tagore family with colonial Chandernagore. The Zamindar of Telenipara, Chandernagore, Annadaprasad Bandyopadhyay, was drawn towards the principles of Raja Rammohan Roy’s ‘Brahmo Samaj’ and subsequently established Brahmo society at Chandernagore in 1828. In ‘Chandannagore O Jorashankor Swornopokkhira’ (pp 23-28, 1995) [‘Chandernagore and the Golden Birds of Jorashanko’] Amol Kumar Mitra notes that  the Chandernagore branch of  ‘Brahmo Samaj’ was often visited by the practitioners from Calcutta. It is in this connection that Dwarakanath Tagore, Debendranath’s father, along with Raja Rammohan Roy, often visited Annadaprasad Bandyopadhya’s residence, ‘Lalkuthi’, at Hatkhola, Chandernagore. Mitra observes: “Dwarakanath O Annadaprasad er parosporik somporko kromosho paribarik o purushanukromik bondhuttye prosharito hoi. Maharshi Devendranath er songe bilokkhon somporko gothito hoi Annodaprasad er dui putro Satyadayal O Satyaprassanor sathe. Sei somporker sutre Maharshi Chandernagore e Gongar dhare Hatkhola semante Satyaprassono Bandyopadhayer sompotti bhukto ‘Riverview’ namok barite onekbar bhara niye rakhen. Ei tie Jorashakor nothite Barujjyeder Bagan name ullekhito”[“Gradually Dwarakanath and Annadaprasad became family friends and the friendship continued for generations. Debendranath developed a close intimate relationship with Annadaprasad’s sons, Satyadayal and Satyaprasanno. Due to this, Debendranath often rented Satyaprasanno’s house by the Ganges, ‘Riverview’, in the ‘Hatkhola’ locality of Chandernagore. This house is noted in the documents of Jorashanko as the garden-house of the Bannerjees”].  Maharshi Debendranath stayed at ‘Riverview’ thrice; firstly, for three months in 1878, a time when ‘Brahmo Samaj’ in Kolkata was passing through a crisis. The tussel between Shivnath Shastri and Keshab Chandra Sen led to a crack in the ‘Samaj’ and to discuss the matter with Devendranath, Shastri came to meet him at ‘lalkuthi’( ‘Rabindranath O Jorashankor Swornopokkhira’, p 24).; secondly, in 1879 when Maharshi stayed for two months and finally, five years later, in December 1884 till March 1885. Interestingly enough, in all three visits, Maharshi Debendranath stayed at the same house and was deeply engrossed in the activities of ‘Adi Brahmo Samaj’. In contrast, his sons, Jyotirindranath and Rabindranath, shifted residences within Chandernagore. Apart from staying in Barujyeder Baganbari [The garden house of the Banerjees] at Telenipara, near the Strand Road, Jatirindranath and Rabindranath also stayed at Moran Shaheber Kuthibari [The Bungalow of Moran Sahib] at Gondolpara.  Rabindranath, in his later life, stayed in his houseboat, ‘Padma’ on the Ganges and in Patalbari [The House Underground]1 on the Strand Road.  These three houses record three different intervals of his life – Barujyeder Baganbari pictures the jubilant days of  his boyhood and initiation into foreign language, Moran Shaheber Kuthibari records the mixed emotions of adulthood and the awakening of his poetic self and Patalbari phase impresses one as a sensitive intellectual eager to grasp the socio-political condition of  a colonial town. His creative works of the time bear out the point.  Colonial Chandernagore thus appear to be Rabindranath’s blossoming flower garden where bloomed the rare flowers which occupy a relevant space in the illustrious career of the master artist. No wonder colonial Chandernagore as a temporal space, becomes the metaphorical Kunstlerroman of Rabindranath Tagore.

            Along with cultivating French language, Rabindranath continued to compose Bengali poems, prose, short stories and songs in his subsequent visits to Chandernagore. Moran Shaheber Bari [The Bungalow of Moran Sahib], where Rabindranath moved in with his brother and sister-in-law after staying at the garden house of the Bannerjees , was a hugely built structure in Gondolpara, Chandernagore: “Kichudin por bari palte moran shaheber bunglowy. Sheo gangar dhare. Kadambarir bikkhipto moner opor diye gangar batash jeno sneher sparsho diye chue jay. Rabio satarko thaken jate bouthaner mone kono megh na jome. Jyotir anupasthitite hasigolpe gane kobitay bhorie rakhen kadambarir abasar”( Sengupta, 227) [“After a little while they came to the Bungalow of Moran Sahib by the Ganges. The mild breeze from the smooth waves of the Ganges heals the wound of Kadambari’s mind with a magic touch of warmth and care. Rabi pours all his attention on bouthan and never let loneliness envelop her forlorn mind. Even when Jyoti is not around, Rabi fills the air with laughter and stories, idle conversations and thus enlivens Kadambari’s leisure with his joviality”]. Tagore started writing his first historical romance Bouthakuranir Hat (The Young Queen’s Mart, published in1883) in this house. The circular dome-shaped room on the roof of the house which opened amidst the bounty of nature  inspired the poet to compose such immortal lines: “Anonto e akasher kole/ tolomolo megher majhar/ eikhane bandhiachi ghor/ tor twore kobita amar” (Jibonsmriti / My Reminiscences,  p 489 )[“Here, wherein the lap of limitless space clouds/ lie down to sleep, / I have built my house for thee, O Poesy”]. These lines succinctly confirm Chandernagore as the pristine abode where his poetic self flowered. Moreover, Tagore also composed prose pieces during his stay here. Tagore reminisces his days spent by the Ganges in Jibonsmriti [My Reminiscences]: “Gangar dhare bosia ‘Sandhyasangeet’ chara kichu-kichu godyo o likhtam. Seo kono bandha lekha nohe—seo akrakom ja-khushi tai lekha” (Jibonsmriti / My Reminiscences, p 491) [“Coupled with ‘Sandhyasangeet’ I also composed some prose-texts living by the Ganges. Those were not structured pieces, organized and framed—those were random delightful records”]. Bibidho Prasanga [Miscellany] written during 1883, is a reserve of precise and succinct passages numerous in number and diverse in thoughts. In chronicling the short essays Pal in Rabijaboni allocates a specific course of time, “Ei sankhipto prabandhaguli srabon 1288 theke suru kore kartik o agrahayon chara proti mas e koekti kore mudrito hoe boisakh 1289-sonkhyay sesh hoy arthat moran shaheb er bagane sutropat o sadar street er bashay abosthankaler kichudin porjonto ei rachonar dhara probahito hoe choleche.[“These short prose pieces started coming out in pages from July 1288 (in the Western system 1881), appearing almost regularly, one or two each month, except for the period of late October to early December, culminating in the issue of April 1289 (English 1882), which means, it all began at Moran Shahib’s Bungalow and went on continuing for some days after they shifted to the house at Sadar Street”]. Incidentally, immediately after Chandernagore, Jyotirindranath and Kadambari went to stay at a house in Sadar Street, Kolkata. From the conversational tone of the essays and the short and pithy style, the interlocutor’s presence can be sensed and Tagore had later acknowledged the anonymous participator in the conversation is none other than his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi. Long after he had left Chandernagore, the memories of the colonial town recur in his short stories, Apod and Adhyapok , like a leit motif.  Apod (The Unwanted, Galpoguccho, pp 239-246), written in 1894, set in a garden house by the Ganges in Chandernagore, is reminiscent of a young Tagore wandering and relaxing in the garden house of the Banerjees at Telenipara, Chandernagore. Moreover, the story begins on a stormy evening with the heated conversation between a couple, Sarat and Kiran who have come to Chandernagore for a change of place – as Tagore’s family members often came for a change of air – prescribed by a doctor with a view to improve the health of Sarat’s ailing wife, Kiran. In August 1898, Rabindranath brought back the memories of the two houses he stayed at Chandernagore in his short story Adhyapok [The Professor, Golpoguccho, 322-334). Adhyapak, which records an episodic chunk of Chandernagore, includes a reference to a garden house in Farashdanga where the protagonist, Mahindrakumar, a student of Arts, comes with an ambition to write something marvellous. The vivid description of leisurely afternoons spent by the Ganges is partly autobiographical. The bagan (garden) of Adhyapok in Farashdanga is an unmistakable reference to Barujyeder Bagan [The garden of the Banerjees] where Tagore himself stayed for some days in the prime of his youth in 1881-82. The third and fourth chapters contain glimpses of Moran Shaheber Kuthibari [The Bungalow of Moran Sahib]. One sultry afternoon rejuvenating his mind in the fresh air blowing from the river Ganges, Mahindrakumar’s attention was drawn towards his neighbour, Kiranbala’s residence: “Ganga hoite ghater siri brihat barir barandar upor uthiache, barandati dhalu kather chad diya chayamoy”.[“Steps led up from the edge of the Ganges to the veranda of the large house, the veranda is shadowed with a sloping wooden roof”]. This description of Kiranbala’s house is reminiscent of Tagore’s memory of youthful days spent in the palace like residence named Moran Sahib’s Kuthi [The Bungalow of Moran Sahib]. The author’s imagination casts a cloak of unfamiliarity around the house making it strangely intimate to the readers. In the short story, Kiranbala’s dwelling palace, resembling Moran Sahib’s Bungalow, is the next-door neighbour of Mahindrakumar’s place of stay which in its description echoes The House of the Banerjees at Telenipara, though in reality they were not so near. Thus Chandernagore townscape acted as the necessary catalyst in the alchemic transformation of a young, sensitive soul into a creative artist par excellence.

            Tagore and Chandernagore shared a strong, mutual connection. In April 1927, Rabindranath was invited as a chief-guest at an inaugural programme arranged by ‘Prabartak Sangha’, a Hindu religious institution in Chandernagore founded by Motilal Ray in 1920. Tagore went to Krishna Bhabini Nari Siksha Mandir, a girls’ school, established by Harihar Sett in 1926. On that day Tagore was also invited to a cordial tea-party in the French Residency especially organized by the French administrator in the honour of the poet. A charming event was organized in the green lawn of the residency by the Ganges. Eminent French scholar Sylvain Lévy, a former Professor at Visva Bharati and a devoted appreciator of Tagore, was also present there. Harihar Sett informs us: “Je sob forashi administrator Chandannagore e ashiten, sadharonbhabe tanhara onekei robindraonuragi chilen” (Sett, 38). [“Generally speaking, most of the French administrators who came to Chandernagore were fond of Rabindranath”]. Tagore’s companionship and presence thus were as craved among the natives and regional community in Chandernagore as much as it was sought after by the French. This explains his eagerness and enthusiasm to know about the state of French education. As he matured, he was curious to know the expansion of French education at Chandernagore and so interacted with the eminent people of the place. Staying in the houseboat near Ranighat in 1926, Rabindranath, for instance, welcomed the Mayor of Chandernagore, Sri Narayan Chandra Dey and the critical Francophile philanthropist, Harihar Sett in his houseboat. Harihar Sett in Rabindranath O Chandannagore recalls the meeting: “[…]Chandannagore e forashi bhasha sikkhar dhara o maan sombondhe obogoto hoibar jonnyo tini agroher sohit Narayanbabu ke bohu prosno koren” (Sett, 26) [“In order to be aware of the standard of French education in Chandernagore, Rabindranath, keenly enough, threw volleys of questions at Narayan Chandra Dey”]. Interest for the French culture and heritage coupled with his fascination for the natural ambience brought him back to Chandernagore in 1935. Now that his favourite Moran Sahib’s Bungalow gone, Rabindranath Tagore anchored in the house boat, ‘Padma’, near the uncared-for shore of the house of Banerjees and rented Patalbari [The House Underground] for sixty rupees a month. Incidentally, Patalbari was an exclusive house : “Chandannagar er e bariti anyanyo bari hote ektu alada rakomer. Anginar akdhar ghenshe por por eksari ghar. Dotola thik pothe giye misheche, nicher tola matir tole, joyare gangar jol chole ashe sekhane…” (quoted in Kabir Abash, pp 49) [“This house in Chandannagar is a bit different from all other houses. The rooms are placed in a line, one after the other, at one side of the veranda. The upper storey has merged with the road whereas the ground floor is underground, in the time of rise the water of the river would come and fill the floor…”]. While staying in the houseboat, he composed many poems, namely, ‘Bidrohi’, ‘Gitocchobi’, ‘Chutir lekha’, ‘Nimontron’, ‘Chayachobi’, ‘Natyasesh’ (Sett, 26). Chandernagore witnessed the final visit of Tagore in 1937. In an invitation to inaugurate the Bengali Literary Festival, Tagore expressed his desire to stay for a few days at Janhabi Nibas, which however, remained unfulfilled. Years later, French administrator Monsieur Baron came to Chandannagar in 1940, long after Tagore’s last visit and in homage to Tagore Baron read his Gitanjali [Song Offerings]. Mrinal Ghosh in Rabismriti, as recounted in Sett’s Rabindranath O Chandernagore, recollects how Baron became so influenced by Tagore’s poetic style that he used to read Gitanjali every day before he joined office. True Rabindranath died in Calcutta; yet memories of Chandernagore continued to stay with him, even when he was unable to visit the place. His short story, Pragatisanghar [Progress Retracted, Rabindrarachanabali, Vol XIV, pp 67-75] written almost at the end of his life, between 11-21 June, 1941, though set in Calcutta has an episodic reference to Chandernagore. The protagonist, Niharranjan, is born and brought up at French Chandernagore. His knowledge of the French language offers him a scope to address the visiting French scholars at his University: “Niharranjaner bari Chandannagare. Pratham boyesh e forashi school e tar bidyasikkha, shekhane or bhashar dakhol niye khub khyati peyechilo, e-sob katha or kolkatar bondhumahal keu janto na…ki aschorjo, abhinandan jakhon porlo tar bhasar chhotay forashi pandit ebong tnar du-akjon anuchar aschorjo hoe gelen. Tnara bollen – erakom marjito bhasha Francer baire kakhono shoneni. Bollen, e cheletir uchit Paris e giye degree arjon koreasha”(73)[“Niharranjan lives in Chandannagore. In the early years, he got his education in a French school, there he received acclaim and praise for acquiring the language so well, he never talked about these to his friends in Calcutta…to a great surprise, when the welcome note cascaded down gently, the splendour of his expression left the French scholar and his one or two companions speechless. They remarked – they had never come across such marvellous rendition of French beyond the boundaries of France and agreed in unison that the boy must come to Paris to get a degree”]. The excerpted passage unearths the fissure, latent in the discourse of colonization, which is potentially prone to disruption. Niharranjan went to a French school at Chandernagore and learnt the language so devotedly, that his proficiency surprised a Professor from the Sorbonne. Nihar’s perfect acquisition of a foreign language and culture, subverts the authority of the colonizer over the native rather than reinforcing it, for the native, by imitation, has now created a third space of resistance and contest. Education, the colonizer’s tool for disseminating their culture and thereby manoeuvring the ideological genesis of the native, was a facile method of spreading Orientalism. But in this colonial encounter, the native intellectual surpasses the structure provided by the authority, creating a fracture in the colonial discourse, where predominance of plurality essentially erases the leverage of the ruler. Not only that, the French Professor and his acquaintances in the short story even suggests Nihar to come to Paris to get a degree. It shows the great leap the native has made. He is able to speak in the tongue of the master and how his identity becomes the sign of deference and difference. Moreover, the quoted passage is also slightly revelatory in the attitude of the French towards the native. They seem to have a catholic mind to appreciate the other: “amra bideshi, jodi ba amader bhashay kimba boktritay kono truti hoy ta forashi adhyapak nischoi hashimukhe mene neben. Onra to ar Ingrej non, Ingreja bideshider kach thekeo nijeder adobkaydar skhalan soite paren na,             emon onder ahankar. Kintu forashider ta noy, barancha Jodi kichu asampura thake seta heshe graham korbe” (72). [“The language is not our own, if there is any mistake in the way we want to convey our thoughts in the language, the French professor would surely take that with a smile. They are not like the British, the British never tolerate a single flaw in the imitation of their etiquette, even from a person who is foreign to their language and culture, such is their pride. But the French are different, even if there is a sense of incompleteness in the expression, they would accept      that ungrudgingly and wholeheartedly”.] In this speech of an anonymous Bengali girl, who is Niharranjan’s classmate, Tagore points out the difference between the linguistic tolerance of the French and the British – while the British are always rigid, the French appears to have controlled parts of India, with a lighter hand. Though the story ultimately ends up to be a saga of unrequited selfless sacrifice, Tagore’s flashback strategy to include Chandernagore, thereby juxtaposing Niharranjan’s childhood knowledge of French reaping  fruitful harvest in his post-graduate days at Calcutta University, speaks volumes of his nostalgia and deep sense of belonging to a place where he has returned time and again. Colonized Chandannagar and French education, even as a short reference, therefore, is no meagre episode; one unambiguously discerns the ambivalence inherent in the colonial discourse of early twentieth century Bengal.

            That era is gone but the aroma of a historical past hangs around the dilapidated structures of Barujyeder Baganbari and Patalbari of the today’s waterfront town. The innumerable visits of Tagore and his family to this town, the unforgettable moments they spent in delightful conversations, had left unseen memories in the dust of the streets, in the crowd of concretes. These memories map the journey of an artist, his growth from a young aimless boy, immersed in music and poetry, into a mature individual, conscious of the presence of a foreign power ruling his land. In its relation with Rabindranath, Chandernagore, therefore, seems to veil a lost milieu of a magnificent history. And through his simultaneous fondness for French and native poems, songs and prose pieces, composed during his stay at Chandernagore, Rabindranath reconstructs Chandernagore as a well wrought urn, preserving the traces of a different French colonial era, long after the end of British colonial rule.

Antara Mukherjee & Sayantani Chakraborti


  1. Patalbari literally The House Underground or The Underground House at Chandernagore strand was a place frequented by Tagore between 1930s-40s. The house has a unique architecture – its ground floor is submerged in the Ganges and the first floor is just above the ground. The famous social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also stayed in the house. The house was owned by Jogendranath Khan who used to rent it for visitors keen on enjoying the beauty of the Ganges living by its side. Tagore’s letters and autobiographical writings record mentions of his stay in this spacious house many a times.
  2. Priyanath Sen was a bosom friend of Rabindranath Tagore. Prasanta Kumar Pal in Rabijiboni (Life of Tagore, II, pp 137) records the close friendship the duo used to share. Rabindranath used to depend on his friend for the appreciation of his literary works. He had a deep veneration for Priyanath’s expertise on different languages and literatures. In the Jibonsmriti (My Remniscences) he recollects how the scholarly erudition of Priyanath Sen and his keen perceptions, diverse range of knowledge and critical bent of mind helped Tagore compose lines of literary merit.
  3. History of English Literature was written by the French critic and historian H.A.Taine (Hippolyte Adolphe Taine) and was published in the year 1872. It was translated from French to English by Henry Van Laun.


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MUKHERJEE, Antara, Bhaswati GHOSH and Avijit DUTTA. eds., চন্দননগর:বিবিধ প্রসঙ্গ [Chandernagore: Myriad Perspectives], Kolkata: Rupali Publication, 2016, 112 pp.

Written during his sojourn at Chandernagore, Rabindranath Tagore’s Bibidha Prasanga (1881-1882) is a reservoir of random, precise and succinct passages, numerous in number and diverse in thoughts. These prose works were not structured pieces, organized or framed, but delightful records of colourful, indolent days Rabindranath Tagore spent in Moran Sahib’s Bungalow at Gondolpara, Chandernagore. The present volume derives its name from Tagore’s work not merely because both were conceived at Chandernagore by the Ganges, but also for its dappled nature. As Tagore’s Bibidha Prasanga did not follow any specific structure and accommodates the variant, multihued thoughts of the poet, similarly this volume is not confined to any specific form; it is an amalgamation of scholarly articles, recollection, audio-visual play, reports and interview. To say this is not to suggest that the diversity of thought, as expressed in the variety of articles, makes the book a ‘Melting Pot’ of ideas. Rather, like a ‘Salad Bowl’, the volume retains its exclusiveness, for each article exists with its own distinctness. In other words, the present volume is an attempt to represent Chandernagore from myriad perspectives.
In an attempt to gauge the significance of Chandernagore, the volume begins with Subhendu Majumdar’s article, which focuses on understanding the uniqueness of Chandernagore. He uses a Bengali word, ‘mahatya’ which almost means something like a combination of glorification and importance in English, and claims for Chandernagore a unique position as a muffusil (subdivisional) town primarily on three grounds. Firstly, as a French colony, he opines, Chandernagore has been a favourite hub for many luminaries of Renaissance Bengal. The serene natural ambience of the place with its broad, intellectual, cultural and cosmopolitan nature facilitated exchange of views, serious dialogues and logical interactions which, in turn, attracted eminent persons to this town from across the country. Secondly, it is also unique for its throbbing night life – pubs, hotels, brothels and French wine – outside Calcutta during the nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengal. Perceptively enough, he argues that this has been the cause of attraction for Europeans of all hues, army personnel, mill workers and the neo-elite ‘babus’ towards Chandernagore. Thirdly, as a non British empire, Chandernagore has always been the safest hiding place for the freedom fighters. Within its brief span, Majumdar’s article also pays tribute to the erstwhile revolutionary and Sub Director of Chandernagore College, Sri Charu Chandra Ray.
Biswanath Bandyopadhay’s article takes one back to the past, for it concentrates on the pre-colonial history of Chandernagore. His article is a valuable document which brings to light the forgotten zaminders ( feudal lords) of Chandernagore – Rameshwar, Sreeram and Ramkrishna – as well as the significance of the two rivers, the silted Saraswati and the fast flowing Bhagirathi, in understanding the socio-economic situation prevalent in those days. In an elaborate way, Bandyopadhay’s article, through facts and evidences, traces the emergence of different markets or ‘haats’, the conflict among the missionaries, history of caste mobilities, history of temples and deities and of the denizens in pre-colonial Chandernagore.
Beginning with the pre-colonial era, Avik Chattopadhay’s article sheds light on the divergent sports and games prevalent in Chandernagore. However, the article also includes the contributions of the French administrators in promoting sports at Chandernagore. He gives a detailed list of popular sports – like Kabaddi, Hockey, Cricket, Football, Badminton etc – played at Chandernagore, of the various sporting clubs and of the accolades won by them in State and National Championships. Mixing anecdotes and personal history, Avik Chattopadhay’s article also pays tribute to a number of sportsmen from Chandernagore, for instance, Satishchandra Palsai and Gour Gopal Ghosh.
Debangan Basu’s article contemplates on Sri Aurobindo and his self-concealment at Chandernagore from 21st February till 31st March, 1910. Basu briefly sketches the backdrop of Sri Aurobindo’s advent at Chandernagore and discusses the various houses he stayed during that period: the warehouse of old wooden furniture of Motilal Ray, Narendranath Banerjee’s house at Gondolpara, the garden house of the Kar’s and finally a rented room near ‘Gulir adda’( a place near the main market), Chandernagore. In describing his time at Chandernagore and the moments of his final departure from Chandernagore, Basu covers Sri Aurobinda’s interactions with Motilal Ray and the deep impact he had on Ray.
Basabi Pal (nee Ghosh) recollects her glorious childhood spent amidst luminaries in the French trading post. In her memoir, she fondly recounts tales of her family members which give one an idea of her passionate, emotional connection with Chandernagore. Particularly she gives an elaborate account of her relationship with Madame Leena Dey nee Beteille, which, in turn, becomes an evidence of camaraderie between a coloniser(French) and a colonised (Bengali) at Chandernagore.
This flavour is carried forward in Antara Mukherjee’s article which, though focuses on how architectural spaces at Chandernagore contribute to the development of artistic temperament of Rabindranath Tagore, precisely sheds light on Tagore’s passion for the coloniser’s language, French, and his awareness of the impact of colonial education at Chandernagore. Through his audio-visual play, Saumyadeb Basu recreates the era spent by the members of the Tagore household, Jyotirindranath, Kadambari and Rabindranath, amidst the picturesque landscape of Chandernagore. This artistic piece is a homage to them, for it challenges the mythical concept of the trio simply spending a sluggish time by the side of the Ganges. In Basu’s deft hands, the audio-visual play exposes the industrious time the brothers and the sister-in-law spent at Chandernagore. The audio-visual play, thus, is based on historical facts and should not be looked upon as a mere figment of an artist’s imagination.
The three contributors, Kusal Singharay, Santanu Chattopadhay and Arkapravo Banerjee, ponder on the cultural signifiers of Chandernagore: Jagadhatri Puja, Lighting Industry and Jolbhora Sandesh respectively. Kusal Singharay traces the origin of Jagadhatri Puja, the main festival of Chandernagore, in Krishnagar and its gradual observation at Chandernagore. Singharoy addresses the controversy surrounding Jagadhatri Puja’s origin at Chandernagore. Informative and impartial, the article includes the impressions that time has made on the celebration of the deity at Chandernagore. Within its brief space, Santanu Chattopadhay’s article lights up the different stages of construction of a design through the minimum units of lights, the gradual spread of workshops from Chandernagore to its adjacent towns and the mechanical changes brought about by the use of LED in place of bulbs. The ingenious and stressful process of lighting up the country and some parts of the world rightfully becomes a matter of pride for the local artisans. In a similar vein, the fame of the signature sweet of Chandernagore, Jolbhora, reaches far and wide due to its impeccable taste and the secret art of inserting an oasis of rose-syrup within an otherwise parched sandesh. Arkapravo Banerjee interviews Saibal Modak, the surviving fourth generation member of the Surjya Modaks, the representative confectioner of Chandernagore who is credited to be the inventor of Jolbhora, to gain an insightful knowledge of this sweet industry. The short interview ingeniously covers the genesis of Jolbhora, the method of importing and storing ingredients, the prestigious customers and the accolades received over the time.
The volume, thus, is a representative document of a town that has had a strong pre-colonial base which, through colonial encounter, underwent a whitewash. Yet Chandernagore has withstood the blows of the time and has managed to hold its signature placards – Jagadhatri Puja, Jolbhora Sandesh and Lighting Industry – quite high. No wonder Chandernagore has remained a favourite destination for distinguished personalities over the time. The seed of the desire to explore the rich social and cultural matrix of Chandernagore was sown in a seminar, entitled ‘Chandernagore: Socio-Cultural Reflections’, organised by the Seminar Committee of Chandernagore College in July 2016. Following the interest generated by the seminar, an extended one was jointly organised by the Departments of Economics and Sociology in September 2016. The present volume includes all the five invited lectures delivered in the two seminars. However, it would be wrong to refer to the volume simply as seminar proceedings. The uniqueness of the volume lies in its inclusion of articles by a cross-section of the society – artist, teacher, editor, journalist and an alumnus of the college – and their representations both in Bengali and in English. This merger of invited speakers, interested professionals and of two languages makes the volume varied or ‘bibidha’ in the true sense of the term.

Antara Mukherjee