Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob started with a ‘Literary Heritage Tour’ of Kolkata, where we visited the residence and workplaces of famous Bangla icons. I was fortunate to be a part of it. We visited the house of Raja Rammohan Roy(now the Kolkata Police museum) , Rammohan library, Upendra Kishore Roy Choudhury’s House, Vidya Sagar’s House and bangiyo, Shahitya Parishad with distinguished writers, bloggers and media persons.
The first stop was The Kolkata Police Museum
This house at 113, A. P. C. Roy Road was built for Raja Ram Mohun Roy around the year 1814. In 1996 this building was converted into a Museum of Kolkata Police. It houses important relics and documents related to India’s freedom strugle.
Recently 64 files related to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his family members are kept there by the Government of West Bengal for public viewing.
The next stop was Ram Mohun Library & Free Reading Room
In 1904 some Bengali literati of eminence were among the founding fathers of the Rammohun Library & Free Reading Room. The proposal to establish a library as a tribute to Raja Rammohun Roy, the great harbinger of the Renaissance in Bengal, was first mooted on 27th chaired by Dr. Mahendralal Sarkar at the City College Hall.
A four storied building stretched over 1600 sq ft area located at the crossing of the Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road and the Sukhia Street near Maniktala. The ground floor houses the historical Auditorium .In fact, a trio of auditoria marked as Heritage Halls in Kolkata are – Town Hall, Albert Hall and the Rammohun Library Hall.
The first floor spaces out to the Museum & Archive; and a part of the Library; The second floor accommodates the Library, Reading Room, and the Office; and On the third floor is a Conservation Laboratory that caters to the preservation of rare books, the rich legacy of the Bengal renascence.
The next stop was the House of Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury
Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury was the father of the famous writer Sukumar Ray and grandfather of the renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray. He was a versatile genius, excelling in the fields of children’s literature, music, painting and printing technology. He was the father of the famous writer Sukumar Ray and grandfather of the renowned filmmaker Satyajit Ray.
Upendrakishore first introduced modern blockmaking, including half-tone and colour block making, in South Asia. In 1913 he founded what was then probably the finest printing press in South Asia, U. Ray and Sons at 100 Garpar Road. Even the building plans were designed by him. At its inception the firm was named U. Ray after its owner; and Sons was added in 1900 when his son Sukumar Ray joined the firm. Upendrakishore ordered the necessary equipment from A.W. Penrose & Co., of 109 Farringdon Street, London.
Upendrakishore’s son Sukumar Ray going abroad on the Guruprasanna Ghosh Scholarship at Presidency College, Calcutta in 1911 to study at the London County Council School of Photoengraving and Lithography. An integral part of the firm, Sukumar was to take over the running of the press when his father fell ill and his knowledge and technical expertise regarding latest printing techniques, half-tones and multiple stops picked up at LCC and later at the School of Technology at the University of Manchester
In April 1913, when the building for the new press at 100, Garpar Road was still under construction, Upendrakishore started the magazine Sandesh, a popular children’s magazine in Bengali that is still published today. It was the first magazine for children in India that had coloured pictures, and it became an institution in Bengal.
The building had three storeys and a fine flat roof, which Upendrakishore had used for his astronomy. The printing machinery was housed at the front of the building on the ground floor and directly above that were the block-making and typesetting rooms. The Ray family lived at the back on all three floors. To reach them, a visitor entered a small lane to one side of the house.
The Next stop was Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir
Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir is the erstwhile residential house of Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an academic educator, writer, translator, printer, publisher, entrepreneur, reformer, and philanthropist. and a key figure of the Bengal Renaissance. His efforts to simplify and modernize Bengali prose were significant. He also rationalized and simplified the Bengali alphabet and type.
Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir features two purposely renovated buildings and is in operation since 2000. The main building features a special study centre of IGNOU and the Vidyasagar Memorial Museum.
An exquisite terracotta mural, measuring 20×60 ft, which depicts the life and works of Vidyasagar is the main highlight of the museum.
The second building of Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir houses a well-stocked library and a well-equipped auditorium.
The last stop was Bangiya Sahitya Parishad
Bangiya Sahitya Parishat Museum of Old Manuscripts, called ‘Bangiya Sahitya Parishat Puthisala’, was established in 1894 as per the proposal of Jatindranath Roychowdhury and Rajanikanta Gupta. The museum boasts a collection of 9427 manuscripts in Bengali, Sanskrit, Hindi, Assamese, Oriya, Tibetan, Persian and Ceylonese including manuscripts written on ancient writing materials like palm-leaf, paper made of cotton pulp, bark of trees etc.
The most notable collection of the museum are :
- (a) Only extant manuscript of ‘Srikrishnakirtan’ by Badu Chandidas.
- (b) Manuscript of ‘Manasamangal’ composed by Khemananda.
- (c) Manuscript of ‘Premabilas’ written by Dhayamani Pattamahadevi, queen of the King of Bishnupur.
- (d) Manuscript of ‘Chaitanyabhagabat’ by Brindaban Das in Bengali and English.