Friday, December 16, 2016

Rajnarain Bose's house in Deoghar[1]

Introduction

Manindranath and
son Asoke
My father Asoke (son of Manindranath, the youngest son of Rajnarain Bose) left Deoghar, our ancestral home, when he was only about 12 years of age. This was prompted by the untimely and early death of both his parents - one after the other. After their death, almost everything at the Deoghar home was reportedly taken away by people (including some relatives) on various pretexts. My father - far too young to comprehend what was going on - could save absolutely nothing for himself when he had to leave Deoghar. He came to Calcutta to reside with his aunt Leelabati Mitra at 6 College Square. He never went back. (If anyone has any photograph, correspondence, diary or memorabilia relating to him or other relatives, I would be grateful if the present owner narrate details or offer me a copy of the available documents.)

Rajnarain's earliest residence at Boral

The house was at Boral, South 24 Parganas, West Bengal, where Rajnarain first came to stay for a considerable period of time. It was in ruins when my father - the young Asoke - returned to Calcutta from Deoghar, with the minimum of possessions.

Realising that he would not be able to protect or preserve Rajnarain Bose’s residence at Boral, my father Asoke donated the property to the Boral-based Rajnarain Bose Memorial Committee. I had paid a visit to the library some years ago and left my contact details, hoping that someone will be in touch, eventually. None ever did. The present constitution and activities of the committee, if it exists at all and is still functional, are not known.

Rajnarain's former residence at Boral has been turned into a school, and is functioning quite well.

Deoghar:

I travelled to Deoghar on 23 May 2011. The day was my father’s 100th birthday. That was my first ever visit to Deoghar. The visit was possible, thanks to Prof. Buddhadev Chakrabarty, one of the grandsons of Sri Anukul Thakur, founder of the Satsang Ashram in Deoghar.

What I discovered there saddened me deeply. Let me begin with the section of the road from its meeting point with the Jasidih-Deoghar-Baidyanath Dham highway, located just before one enters the city proper. The road leads to Ranchi, Dumri and Giridih. The road crosses the railway line, continues past the grounds and the house (on its left) that once belonged to Rajnarain Bose. The section of the road named after Rajnarain Bose had originally begun from the road junction and went past his residence. The identifier street signs that used to be at the road junction seem to have disappeared long ago.

What I discovered there saddened me deeply. Let me begin with the section of the road from its meeting point with the Jasidih-Deoghar-Baidyanath Dham highway, just before one enters the city proper. It leads to Ranchi, Dumri and Giridih. The road crosses the railway line, continues past the grounds and the house (on its left) that once belonged to Rajnarain Bose. The section of the road named after Rajnarain Bose had originally begun from the junction and went past his residence. The street signs that used to be at the road junction seem to have disappeared long ago.

I came across a crumbling, concrete road sign opposite the circuit house and a little away from his house, that displayed the words “Rajnarain Bose Path” (in Hindi and Bengali) and “Rajnarain Bose Road” in English. The colour on the concrete slab had faded. This was the only evidence about the road’s history[1]. The road was still recorded in the books of the Deoghar Municipality as ‘R. N. Bose Road’. But not a single signage on either side of the road or on the many shop signboards displayed his name or the official name of the road. For all practical purposes, the entire stretch of the road had come to be colloquially known as ‘Satsang Road’.

The same fate had befallen his house. I understand that, after he had passed away, a claim against my grandfather for some small amount was said to have been lodged in a local court. My father was far too engaged in Calcutta battling for survival to further get involved in fighting a claim about which he had no idea or information whatsoever, in a distant court at a place he had left for good. In due course, the entire property consisting of several acres of land and the house appears to have been grabbed by others.

The vast open space that had stretched from the house right up to the front gate, and the area all around the house, appears to have been sold off in odd parcels over time. Disorganised, unplanned constructions have come up all over that land, including the side and at the back of the house. A large number of tiny roadside shops have come up along the boundary wall facing the main road.

I met Dr. Gourab Ganguli, Principal of A. S. College of Management, Deoghar, who provided to me some interesting pieces of information about Swarnalata Bose and the house where she had lived, Rishi Rajnarain Bose, the house where he had spent his last years, and about the library named after him. While recounting the details, he remarked that if the people or the local administration of Deoghar had any idea about the person that had once resided there, or about the famous personalities (like Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore) that had visited that house, or like Sri Aurobindo (of Pondicherry) who lived there, that section of the road would have been paved in gold.

The original house had also undergone change, and renamed as ‘Adharayatan’. (The present owner, one Sri Sudhirata Chatterjee, is reportedly bogged down with litigations against his family members.) The facade is different, the big varandah in front is gone, the house itself has been partitioned inside and additional rooms created.

Rajnarain Bose is now a forgotten chapter in the history of Deoghar (and in Bengal). There is absolutely nothing to indicate that Rishi Rajnarain Bose once lived there. There is no signboard or plaque to inform passers-by about the historical significance of that house, the legacy that the house carries, or the stature of the visitors that had once set foot in that house more than hundred years ago. (Reminds me of a close friend of Rajnarain, Michael Madhusudan and the lines from his famous poems, “দাঁড়াও পথিকবর, and “রেখো মা দাসেরে মনে.)

I enquired about another piece of property named Swarnalata Kutir, located in Rohini. Swarnalata was one of the daughters of Rishi Rajnarain, and the mother of (among others) Sri Aurobindo and the revolutionary, Biplabi Barin Ghosh. The house had once belonged to Lajjabati Bose, another daughter of Rajnarain, and was later gifted to my father Asoke. I understand that the property was “purchased”, and is presently owned, by Satsang Ashram. It is strange how the transaction took place without any knowledge of the actual, original owner or any member of our family and the ownership passed on.

Incidentally, Rajnarain Bose Memorial Library (near the clock tower in the busiest area of Deoghar, Baidyanath Dham) still stands, but is in extremely bad shape. No one uses the library any more; there is no fund to maintain the library nor for the purchase of new books. The ground is nowadays being used to hold local fairs. Property developers are waiting to grab the property some day. It may happen sooner rather than later.

I had an occasion to re-visit Deoghar on 21 December 2011. I found that the brick and cement road signage, which was till then the only indicator of the official name of the road, had been demolished by a bulldozer of the local municipality during its anti-encroachment drive. With that, all visible connections between Rajnarain Bose and Deoghar, now stands erased.

The only question that remains now is, can anything be done in Deoghar to preserve , in whatever manner possible, the memories of one of the greatest sons of Bengal and the ‘Grandfather of Indian Nationalism’? 
Further, would it be possible to preserve the houses of Rajnarain Bose and Swarnalata Kutir, places where many revolutionaries and renowned personalities had visited and also spent a part of their lives?
Can any sign board be suitably placed at the site of his former residence to serve as a reminder of its most famous resident? 
Can the former residences of Rajnarain and his sister Swarnalata be declared as heritage sites, properly identified, marked and protected?

+++++++++++++++
Notes:
  • Many have written back to me, but only to my e-mail ID. Such comments do not have a long shelf life. Nor can the other visitors to the site read them. Please, therefore, click on "Add your comments" below, and share your views with other visitors to this site.
  • For more of Deoghar in pictures, copy and paste this link to the address bar: https://picasaweb.google.com/110000807581780528807/RajnarainBoseAndDeoghar03
  • Contact: Rupnarayan Bose, E-mail: rnbose@gmail.com, Phone: +91 9830402343



[1] This is about Rishi Rajnarain Bose, my great grandfather. More specifically, it is an update on the house at Deoghar, Jhargram, India, where he had spent the last years of his life after he moved from Midnapore. For a full profile of his life, refer to the book Rajnarain Bose - A Tribute by Rupnarayan Bose.

No comments:

Post a comment