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Full text of "Twelve men of Bengal in the nineteenth century"

TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

IN THE 

NINETEENTH CENTURY 



BY 

F. B. BRADLEY-BIRT 

INDIAN CIVIL SERVICE 



With Twelve Illustrations 



FOURTH EDITION 



CALCUTTA : 

S. K. LAHIRI AND CO., COLLEGE STREET 
[ALL RIGHTS RESERVED] 

Price Re. I/- 



Printed and published by S. K. Banerjee at the Cotton 

Press, 57, Harrison Road, Calcutta for Messrs. 

S. K. Lahiri & Co. 10-1-27 XX. 



PREFACE. 

THE following pages attempt to give a necessarily 
short but, it is hoped, complete sketch of the lives of 
twelve among the most prominent men of Bengal in the 
Nineteenth Century. The difficulty of selection where 
so many names occur will be obvious. I have, 
however, by no means attempted to select the twelve 
most distinguished names of the century, but rather 
those whose lives may be regarded as typical of the 
varied conditions of Bengal during that momentous 
period in its history. The selection has been further 
guided by a desire to cover the whole of the century 
so that the book may be not only a record of the 
lives of Twelve Men of Bengal but a comprehensive 
though brief sketch of the wonderful revival, social, 
moral and intellectual, which came to the Province 
during the period. Among the six Hindus and the 
six Muhammadans, to whom the present volume 
has been limited will be found the social reformer and 
the merchant prince, the religious revivalist and the 
philanthropist, the Government official and the 
educationalist, the descendant of a long line of ruling 
chiefs and the self-made man who won his own way 
to wealth and influence. If by serving to remind 
the people of Bengal of the splendid examples that 
the great men of their own race have set before them, 
and by bringing home to Englishmen a greater know- 



iv TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

ledge of a few of the noble and devoted lives lived 
by men of Bengal in the Nineteenth Century, this 
little book may in its own small way increase the 
respect and sympathy between men of different 
creeds and races, it will amply fulfil its purpose. 

Save in the case of Haji Mahomed Mohsin, of 
whose family I know of no representative surviving 
and in writing of whom I have had the kind assistance 
of the Mutwali of the Hooghly Imambara, I have to 
thank very cordially the representatives of the subjects 
of these sketches for the material assistance they 
have given me and for the interest they have taken 
in the book. 

F. B. B-B. 



CONTENTS. 

PAGE. 

1. RAM MOHAN ROY .. .. 1 

2. HAZI MAHOMED MOHSIN . . 35 

3. RAMTANU LAHIRI . . x . . 61 

4. NAWAB AMIR ALI KHAN BAHADUR .. 89 

5. MAHARAJADHIRAJ MAHTAB CHAND RAI 

BAHADUR or BURDWAN . . . . 101 

6. NAWAB ABDUL LATIF KHAN BAHADUR ,. Ill 

7. KESHUB CHANDRA SEN . . . . 141 

8. NAWAB SIR KHAWJA ABDUL GHANI MIA 173 

9. MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW . . 185 

10. NAWAB BAHADUR SYED WALAYET ALI 

KHAN .. .. ..199 

11. MAHARAJA SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 219 

12. NAWAB SIR SYED HASSAN ALI MIRZA 

KHAN BAHADUB, AMIR-UL-OMRAH . . 24.1 




Ram Mohan Roy 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 
17721833. 

AMONG the famous men of Bengal in the nine- 
teenth century no name deserves a more honoured 
place than that of Earn Mohan Roy. At once the- 
pioneer of the great Renaissance that was slowly 
dawning in Bengal and the first representative of 
India to the British people, he opened up to his 
fellow countrymen new paths of progress and reform. 
When as yet the old traditions and the old beliefs, 
clothed in the gathering ignorance of centuries, still 
held their ground unchallenged, he zealously sought 
fresh knowledge and, when found, proclaimed it 
unafraid. Against ignorance and superstition he 
waged constant warfare, striving always to find the 
truth in all things. Hinduism both in its social and 
religious aspects had fallen on evil days. Sunk in 
apathy and fast bound by tradition, it was left to 
Ram Mohan Roy and his little band of followers to 
prepare the way for its Renaissance. By his cease- 
less labours in the cause of education, his successful 
advocacy of the abolition of Sati, his endeavours to 
purify the Hindu faith, and by his wonderful bring- 
ing together of East and West in the last three vears 

O o *t 

of his life, he has left an undying claim upon the 
gratitude of his fellow-countrymen. 

c? 



2 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

Ram Mohan Roy was born on May the 22nd. 1772, . 
at Radhanagar near Krishnagar. He came of a 
Brahman family, Kulins of the highest caste, which 
had won rank and wealth in the service of the Nawabs 
of Bengal. His grandfather, Brajabinode Roy, was 
like all his family a zealous follower of the Vaishnava 
sect. Nothing but the most unusual circumstances, 
therefore, accounted for the fact that his fifth son 
Ram Kanto Roy, the father of Ram Mohan Roy, was 
married to a girl whose father not only was a Bhanga 
Kulin, one who had broken his Kulin caste, but 
was also a priest of the rival sect of the Saktas. 
Brajabinode Roy, it is said, lay dying on the banks of 
the Ganges when a priest suddenly appeared before 
him and craved of him a boon. The dying man, 
anxious to comply with a priest's request, gave the 
required promise and further at the priest's request 
.swore by the holy Ganges to fulfil it. The priest 
thereupon asked to be allowed to bestow his daughter 
in marriage upon one of Brajabinode's sons. This was' 
a request that Brajabinode, as an orthodox Kulin, 
would have scouted had he not sworn by the sacred 
river, but, having done so, he had no alternative save 
to fulfil his promise. So, calling his sons, he turned 
to the eldest and bade him espouse the girl, only 
to meet with a determined refusal. His next three 
.sons also declined in their turn. Ram Kanto Roy, 
the fifth son, however, unwilling to refuse his father's 
last request reluctantly consented to take the unwel- 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 3 

<come "bride and in due course married her. It was a 
strange union from which to spring so ardent a 
reformer as Ram Mohan Roy. 

Brought up in the midst of such orthodox 
surroundings Ram Mohan early showed signs of a 
religious bent of mind. His father, having retired 
from the service of the Nawab, was spending his days 
in pious meditations and religious exercises at Radha- 
nagar and he early took steps to secure for his son a 
sound classical education. When the latter had 
finished -his first course of study at the local patshala 
where he hajl already acquired considerable profi- 
ciency in Persian, he was sent to Patna and Benares 
to acquire Arabic and Sanskrit. Here his studies 
appear to have been somewhat more liberal than 
those usually indulged in at the time and he is said 
to have become acquainted with Arabic translations 
of Euclid and Aristotle as well as with the Koran. 
The latter made a deep impression on his mind and 
it is probable that it was this early study of it that 
later led him to question the orthodox beliefs in 
which he had been brought up. His first religious 
enthusiasms, however, were naturally for the old faith. 
It is said that at the age of fourteen nothing but 
his mother's, earnest entreaties withheld him from 
leaving home as a sannya&i. Every home influence 
ran on orthodox lines. Already long before he 
had reached an age of discretion he had been 
married three times according to Kulin Brahman 



4 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

usages. There is no record of the first marriage 1 
but he was married for the second and third 
time when he was only nine years old. His 
father, zealous and devoted, from the first continually- 
instructed him in the religious observances of his 
faith, while his mother having accepted her husband's 
beliefs showed all the enthusiasm of a convert. It 
is thus evident that from his earliest years nothing 
but the most orthodox influences surrounded the 
future reformer. How great a hold they retained 
over him through all his schemes for advancement 

and reform his future actions show. The sacred 



Brahmanical thread was worn by him till the end, 
being found upon him after his death in England 
fifty years later. 

Yet so eager had been his thirst for knowledge- 
that* before he had reached his sixteenth year he 
was able to discuss religious matters on an equality 
with his father. Gradually the discussions, grew 
into arguments, respectful always on Ram Mohan's 1 - 
side yet none the less determined and sincere, until 
at last father and son realised that they differed 
.fundamentally and hopelessly on matters of belief. 
It was a terrible blow to Ram Mohan's orthodox 
parents and relations. Hinduism, as they practised 
it, he regarded as overlaid with superstition 
and idolatry. Already his studies in the sacred 
books of his faith had led him to regard the 
modern practice of it as a false and degenerate 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 5 

exposition of the pure original belief. With 
Hinduism as yet he had no quarrel, but with the 
abuses that had crept into it he thus early began 
his long and gallant struggle. So incompatible 
had his views become with the orthodox home life 
of his family and so great was his desire for 
more knowledge that he decided to leave home 
-at least for a time. Eager to study other religions, 
to see if they had preserved the truth he so 
much desired to find, his thoughts turned towards 
Buddhism and Tibet. Though not yet seventeen 
he made light of difficulties and dangers and 
setting out on an adventurous journey spent 
three years in travelling through Tibet, studying 
Buddhism and holding long discussions with the 
most learned Lamas of the day. Their religion, 
however, pure as it had been in its origin, he regard- 
ed as having become as corrupt as his own and he 
returned home 'disheartened and disappointed. 

Life in the old home, surrounded by all the 
i 
old observances in which he had lost faith, he 

soon again found to be impossible. Deeply as he 
regretted the breach with his father to whom 
lie was deeply attached, he nevertheless recognised 
the inevitable, and went to reside at Benares, 
which attracted him as the centre of Hinduism 
where he might hope to find its best exposition and 
where he might continue his studies in Sanskrit and 
Persian. Here he remained for several years, deeply 



6 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

immersed in the study of the Hindu Shastras, and 
striving always to gain from them a firm foundation 
of belief. 

It was not until 1806 that Ram Mohan first be- 
gan the study of English and seven years later that 
he entered the service of the East India Company. 
He appears to have spent the greater part of his 
ten years service under Mr. John Digby, of the 
Civil Service, whom he served as Dewan or 
Sheristadar in Bhagalpur and Rungpur. Mr. Digby, 
who later edited Ram Mohan's translations of the 
Kena Upanishad and his abridgment of the Vedanta. 
had a high opinion of his abilities and wrote in 
high praise of the work he did in connection with 
the survey and settlement operations in which he 
was chiefly concerned. For five years he was 
stationed at Rungpur and it was here that he first 
began those small gatherings of his friends for read- 
ing and discussions in his own house which were 
afterwards to become such a famous centre of thought 
and interest. Already he had begun to publish his 
writings. The first of an immense number of publi- 
cations on an infinite variety of subjects was a 
treatise in Persian with an Arabic preface entitled 
Tahfut-ul^nuahhidin, being a protest against the 
idolatry which had crept into so many established 
religions. For long he had refrained from any public 
exposition of his opinions, from the filial desire not to 
do violence to his father's feelingsX The breach with 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 7 

his father had been a constant grief to him and though 
he stood by the old man's bed-side when he lay dying 
in 1803, they were far apart in spirit. After his 
father's death Ram Mohan inherited none of the family 
property and his relations with his mother and other 
relatives became unfortunately still more strained. 
From all of them he suffered the most bitter perse- 
cution, his mother being particularly incensed against 
him and making life impossible for him anywhere 
in the neighbourhood of his old home. He pro- 
tested vehemently against the charges of heresy and 
godlessness that were brought against him, but they 
would have none of him. In after days when he 
had come into possession of the family property, he 
showed his liberality and forbearance by allowing 
his mother to continue the management of it, and 
to retain the position she had always held. 

Practically disowned by his family there was thus 
nothing to prevent Ram Mohan from pursuing the 
course which he considered right. Coming to reside 
in Calcutta, he quickly formed a circle of his own. 
His striking personality and force of character from 
the first exercised an extraordinary influence over all 
those with whom he was brought in contact. He had 
all the advantages of distinction of manner and 
appearance as well as brilliant conversational powers. 
" Ram Mohan Roy " wrote an Englishman who knew 
him well " surpassed the generality of his countrymen 
in his personal appearance almost as much as in his 



8 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

mental powers. His figure was beyond the common 
height and muscular in proportion. His coun- 
tenance wore an expression of blended dignity and 
benevolence that charmed at first sight and put 
his visitors at their ease while it checked an 
irreverent familiarity." "It was in argument, how- 
ever," notes another English friend in the English 
Court Journal. " that this exalted Brahmin was most 
conspicuous : he seemed to grapple with truth intui- 
tively and called in invective, raillery, sarcasm and 
sometimes a most brilliant wit, to aid him in confut- 
ing his opponents : if precedent were necessary, a 
remarkably retentive memory and extensive reading 
in many languages supplied him with a copious fund : 
and at times with a rough unsparing, ruthless hand 
he burst asunder the meshes of sophistry, error and 
bigotry in which it might be attempted to entangle 
him. In conversation with individuals of every rank 
and of various nations and professions, he passed 
with the utmost ease from one language to another, 
suiting his remarks to each and all in excellent taste 
and commanding the astonishment and respect of his 
hearers." 

When this brilliant personality first made itself 
felt in Calcutta in the early years of the nineteenth 
century Hinduism had reached well nigh its 
lowest ebb. Not yet wholly emerged from the 
troublous times of the eighteenth century, it was not 
in a position to reap the full advantages of the 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 9 

rule of law and order which under British supremacy 
was gradually settling down upon the distracted land. 
Hindu Society, in the usual acceptation of the term, 
there was none. Nothing that could be called 
public opinion existed. Bengal had no literature, 
scarcely even a language of its own. Such education 
as existed was confined to Sanskrit. Persian and 
Arabic, and even the study of these languages had 
fallen into decay. Hinduism and all that it 
represented had fallen on evil times. To the task of 
restoring and reforming it and of constructing 
the fabric of Society anew, of bringing together 
all that was best and noblest, and of making for 
the first time in their history the Bengali race into 
a people with great thoughts, high hopes and aspira- 
tions, Ram Mohan Roy set the whole force of his 
brilliant intellect and personality. It was but a 
reformer's accepted fate that he should meet with 
opposition and distrust from those whom he most 
strenuously strove to serve. Far in advance of his 
time he encountered constant abuse and bitter persecu- 
tion, yet even by exciting opposition he did his country 
service. In so doing he aroused public interest where 
there had been none before : he made men think for 
themselves and realise their great responsibilities : 
and above all he created that potent force public 
opinion, to lead the nation along straight and honest 
paths. A keen patriot he gratefully recognised 
iow much the British Goverment had done for his 



10 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

long distracted country and it was his keen endeavour 
to awaken his fellow-countrymen to the advantages 
that it offered them, and to raise them, moraly and 
mentally, from the slough of despond into which they 
had fallen. 

It was in 1815 that Ram Mohan founded the 
Atmiya Sabha, the Friendly Association, the first 
Society of its kind in Bengal. It was a develop- 
ment of the informal gatherings for reading and dis- 
cussion which he had long held privately in his own, 
house, and its object was mental, moral and spiritual 
improvement. It met once a week for recitation and 
reading of the Hindu sacred books and at its 
gatherings were to be found most of the more ardent 
younger spirits of the day in Calcutta. From this 
small beginning came great events. Gradually it 
was borne in upon Ram Mohan Roy and his little 
circle of followers that the first and most urgent need 
of their fellow-countrymen was a more modern 
system of education, adapted to the needs of modern 
conditions, which in the last half century had so 
completely changed the face of Bengal. After many 
discussions a practical scheme was determined upon. 
An English College for the education of Hindus in 
English and western Science should be forthwith 
started in Calcutta. Gaining the sympathy of such 
man as David Hare, the one-time watchmaker who 
had so zealously espoused the cause of education in 
Bengal, Sir Hyde East, the Chief Justice. Baidyanath 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 11 

Mukherjee and Dwarkanath Tagore, a meeting was 
convened on the 14th of May 1816 to carry out the 
scheme. It was held in Sir Hyde East's house, and 
Ram Mohan, probably divining that the animosity 
he had aroused in certain quarters might endanger 
the scheme if too prominently associated with his 
name, was not present and when it was proposed 
at the meeting to place his name on the Committee,, 
several members threatened at once to withdraw if he 
was to be in any way connected with it. When 
this was communicated to him by his friend David 
Hare, Ram Mohan immediately insisted on the 
withdrawal of his name, anxious only that the scheme 
on which he had set his heart should not be endangered. 
If he could carry that through to a successful issue 
it mattered little that his name was not to be publicly 
associated with it. Yet that he was the moving 
spirit throughout, few were in doubt, and so energetic 
was the enthusiastic little band of reformers that 
the Hindu College was able to begin its work on 
January the 20th, 1817. Other schools were founded 
about this time by the London Missionary Society 
at Chinsura and the Baptist Missionaries at Seram- 
pore and with all these efforts to provide modern 
education on modern lines Ram Mohan heartily 

sympathised. 
\ 

Meanwhile Government had still to be convinced 

of the advisability of departing from the old system 
of education on strictly classical lines. From the 




12 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

outset the East India Company had been guided by 
a sincere desire to avoid all appearance of endeavour- 
ing to force western ideas upon the eastern mind. 
Not only in the matter of religious beliefs but on 
.all things social and educational it strove to avoid 
even the suspicion of interference. The pioneers of 
the English in India showed themselves far more 
ready to adapt themselves to the East than to force 
the east to imitate or adapt itself to them. The 
Company had hitherto directed all its efforts to 
improving on its own lines what it already found 
in existence. An extraordinarily large proportion 
of Englishmen in the earliest days threw themselves 
eagerly into the study of Sanskrit and they were 
quick to discern how lamentably it had fallen into 
decay among the Bengal pundits and how shallow 
was their knowledge of the Vedas and Vedantas, 
the Gita and the Puranas, which had well-nigh ceased 
to be read. As for Bengali it had scarcely yet 
attained the dignity of a language. When the Fort 
William College was started in order to give young 
Civilians a knowledge of the vernacular, there were 
no text books in Bengali, no Bengali grammar and 
few books of any kind in Bengali prose. Even in 
such Bengali books as there were, Persian words very 
largely predominated. It is astonishing to find in 
what little respect the vernacular was held. W T hen 
Mr. Adam, a friend of Ram Mohan, suggested that 
certain lectures should be given in Bengali, the 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 1$ 

Indian members of his committee strongly opposed 
the suggestion, saying, that 'anything said or written 
in the vernacular tongue would be degraded and 
despised in consequence of the medium through 
which it was conveyed.' It was not till 1847 that 
the Vetala Panckabinsati the first book in pure 
Bengali was published. 

The establishment of the Fort William College, 
of the Hindu College and of the various Missionary 
Schools gave a considerable impetus to the cause of 
education. Government, anxious to fulfil its part,, 
inaugurated a scheme for a Sanskrit College in 
Calcutta, an annual grant of a lac of rupees being 
set aside for the revival of classical learning. Ram 
Mohan, convinced that it was along modern lines that 
the education of his countrymen must proceed if 
they were to grapple adequately with modern condi- ' 
tions, wrote to Lord Amherst, the Governor General,, 
urging the necessity of adopting the study of west- 
ern sciences through the medium of English. " If 
it had been intended to keep the British nation 
from real knowledge " he wrote, "the Baconian philo- 
sophy would not have been allowed to displace the 
system of the schoolmen which was the best calcu- 
lated to perpetuate ignorance. In the same manner 
the Sanskrit system of education would be the best 
calculated to keep this country in darkness, if 
such had been the policy of the British legislature. 
But as the improvement of the native population 



14 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

is the object of the Government it will sub- 
sequently promote a more liberal and enlightened 
system of instruction embracing mathematics, 
natural philosophy, chemistry, anatomy with other 
useful sciences, which may be accomplished with 
the sums proposed, by employing a few gentlemen 
of talent and learning, educated in Europe, and 
providing a College furnished with necessary books, 
instruments and other apparatus." The letter was 
forwarded to the Governor General by Bishop Heber, 
who admired its ' good English, good sense and 
forcible arguments ' and it was largely owing to 
Ram Mohan's exertions that, although the Sanskrit 
College was founded in 1824, a building was founded 
for the Hindu College adjoining it, the foundation 
stones of both being laid on the same day. Misfor- 
tune however befell the Hindu College almost at 
the outset. The merchant who had been entrusted 
with its funds, amounting to Us. 1,13,179, suddenly 
failed, only Rs. 23,000 being recovered. The loss of 
this sum would have been the ruin of the College 
had not government at once come forward to its 
assistance, which was the means eventually of bring- 
ing it into closer touch with the authorities and placing 
it financially on a firmer footing. The formation of 
the Committee of Public Instruction in 1823 by 
order of the Company showed the interest that 
'Government was taking in the matter and assured a 
ibrighter outlook for education in time to come. 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 15 

Ram Mohan had meanwhile been waging inces- 
sant war against what he rightly considered one of 
the most depraved customs that was forming a dark 
blot upon the Hindu faith. Of the evils of Sati he 
had had bitter experience in his own family. On the 
death of his elder brother he had hastened home 
to be present at the funeral ceremony, only to be 
horrified by a scene that remained burned for ever in 
his memory. Before his arrival his brother's widow 
had announced her intention of immolating herself on 
her dead husband's funeral pyre and in spite of all 
his protestations she remained firm in her resolve. 
Ram Mohan, helpless in the face of her determina- 
tion and the approval of all her relatives, could do 
nothing. But when the torch had been applied 
and the flames leapt up, her courage forsook her 
and she tried to escape from the burning logs. 
Thereupon the priests, helped by her relatives and 
friends, thrust her back with long bamboo poles and 
forced her down among the flames, until she lost con- 
.sciousness, the drums and musical instruments sound- 
ing loudly meanwhile to drown her shrieks. Ram 
Mohan, one against many, was forced to stand by, a 
reluctant spectator of this heart-rending scene. Then 
and there he vowed that he would devote himself heart 
.and soul to the abolition of this revolting practice, 
and from that time onward he became the leader of 
the gallant little band of men to whose exertions 
it was largely due that Sati was finally prohibited. 



16 TWELVE MEX OF BENGAL. 

Ram Mohan carried out his campaign with 
characteristic thoroughness. Having suffered so 
severely from persecution himself, he was utterly 
opposed to coercion in any form. He would avoid, 
if possible, even compelling people to do what was 
right, if by any means they could be brought to do 
what was right by persuasion and a greater diffusion 
of knowledge. He therefore first endeavoured by 
every means in his power to bring home to this 
fellow-countrymen the real hideousness of the 
practice. His pen seemed never to flag and treatises, 
letters and articles, written many of them in the 
vernacular and in the simplest possible language SO' 
that they might reach the humblest, were disse- 
minated far and wide. In them he was careful to 
maintain an attitude of orthodox Hinduism. He 
insisted on the fact that Sati, though sanctioned by 
the shastras, was not enjoined by them as a compul- 
sory religious duty. He pointed out how the 
practice had largely grown up owing to the avari- 

' cious desire of thejrelatives to avoid the cost of 

* 

supporting the widow and how it was too often 
regarded not as a religious act but as a choice enter- 
tainment that appealed 1 ? to the lowest human 
instincts. One of his treatises was in the form of a 
dialogue between an advocate and an opponent of 
Sati, The opponent maintains that though there 
may be some sanction in the sacred writings for the 
practice, yet that Manu. the greatest, of all law 



RAM MOHAN ROY 17 

givers expressly enjoined that a widow should live 
as an ascetic. and should ' continue till death forgiv- 
ing all injuries, performing honest duties, avoiding; 
every sensual pleasure and cheerfully practising the 
incomparable rules of virtue.' 

Not content with combating the evil from 
the comfortable vantage of his desk, he was wont 
constantly to go to the Calcutta burning ground and 
attempt by personal persuasion upon both the victim 
and her friends to prevent the Sati. It has often, 
been the practice to tie the victim down upon the 
funeral pyre so that escape was impossible, but 
Ram Mohan insisted that the pyre should first be 
lighted so that the widow might voluntarily enter 
the flames if she so desired, quoting certain 
passages in the Shastras that required this to be 
done. His hope that the sight of the flames might 
turn the widow from her intentions was often 
fulfilled though in other cases, the fear of the priests 
and the exhortations of her own relatives or promises 
of reward in the life to come, drove her to self- 
inimolation. Finally, disheartened at the slow pro- 
gress of his campaign, Ram Mohan organised a peti- 
tion to the Governor-General which was signed by a 
great number of the most respectable inhabitants 
of Calcutta. 'Your petitioners are fully aware from 
their own knowledge,' it ran, 'or from the authority 
of credible eye-witnesses that cases have frequently 
occurred where women have been induced by the 
2 



18 

persuasions of their next heirs, interested in their 
destruction, to burn themselves on the funeral pyre 
of their husbands ; that others who have been in- 
duced by fear to retract a resolution rashly expressed 
in their first moments of grief, of burning with their 
deceased husbands, have been forced upon the pile 
and there bound down with ropes, and pressed with 
green bamboos until consumed with the flames ; 
that some, after flying from the flame, have been 
carried back by their relations and burnt to death. 
All these instances, your petitioners humbly submit, 
are murders according to every Shastra, as well as to 
the common sense of all nations.' 

The question of Sati had for years been engaging 
the anxious attention of Government. Here again 
its sincere desire not to interfere with native customs 
and observances, more especially in the case 
of a religious rite, had prevented the Company 
from taking active steps. From the outset the 
Company had scrupulously maintained the principle 
it had adopted of full and complete religious 
toleration. Yet here was a religious observance 
which to them was opposed to every sentiment of 
humanity. It was, a difficult position. Sati was 
undoubtedly a rite sanctioned by the Hinduism of 
the day, with which according to the principle they 
had adopted they should not interfere, yet it was 
impossible for them to stand by and see human life, 
as they considered it, wantonly sacrificed. It was 

i 



RAM MOHAN HOY 19 

sufficiently repugnant to them when the victim 
willingly immolated herself. When, however, as 
"happened in so many cases, she was actually forced 
on to the funeral pyre against her will, it was im- 
possible to stand by and permit it. Several instances 
Tiad occurred in which the local officers had humanely 
prevented widows from being forced against their will 
to commit Sati, and cases brought by the aggrieved 
relatives had come before the courts. The practice 
of Sati not being illegal, the courts could only declare 
illegal any interference with it. The Judges were 
thus put, as they hastened to protest, in a most 
embarrassing position, being practically forced to 
give the 'barbarous rite' their protection and lay 
themselves open to the charge of unnecessarily aiding 
and abetting suicide. After much anxious discussion 
and consultation with some of the most learned . 
pundits of the day, the Governor-General issued 
instructions to all officers on April the 17th, 1813. 
TSven Ram Mohan Roy had hesitated to advise the im- 
mediate total abolition of Sati by Government. Bit- 
terly opposed to the practice as he was. he yet dreaded 
compulsion in any form, trusting to persuasion and 
Tioping that as education spread among his fellow- 
countrymen they would of their own free will abandon 
-so inhuman a rite. Government's instructions to its 
officers accordingly were that though the practice 
could not be forcibly prevented where it was coun- 
tenanced by Hindu religion and law, it should be 



20 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

prohibited in all cases where it had not the sanction 
of Hindu law, that is, where the victim was unwilling. 
In January 1815 a further step was reached when 
the Sati of a widow with very young children was 
forbidden, while two years later a further Letter of 
Instruction was issued. Meanwhile it was a fact to 
which Government could not shut its eyes that, 
since the year 1813 when the first instructions to 
officers had been issued, the practice, so far from 
diminishing, had increased to an alarming extent. 
During the four years 1815 to 1818, in which statis- 
tics were taken, the number of Satis was more than 
doubled. Government, deeply concerned in the 
matter, still hesitated, in view of the general 
prevalence and acceptance of the practice, to decree 
its abolition, Lord Amherst the Governor-General 
still trusting that 'general instruction and the 
unostentatious exertions of local officers would 
. gradually bring about the extinction of this barbarous 
^rite.' Lord William Bentinck, however, who suc- 
ceeded Lord Amherst as Governor- General in 1828 
was of another opinion. While believing no less than 
Ram Mohan Roy, whom he personally consulted on 
the subject, in the advantages of persuasion over force,, 
he was unwilling to wait indefinitely for a reform 
that he considered urgently needed. Statistics still 
showed that, however much had been hoped from a 
gradual spread of education and a quiet insistence 
on the part of local officials,, the practice was not- 



RAM MOHAN ROY 21 

yet sensibly on the decline. The gradual enlighten- 
ment of the people would take years, perhaps 
generations, and hundreds of innocent human lives 
would meanwhile be wantonly sacrificed. To 
Lord William Bentinck's credit it will always be 
remembered that he boldly took the course he con- 
sidered to be right, a course which, though it met 
with much opposition at the time, has received the 
full approval of posterity. On December the 4th, 
1829, was published the decree that finally abolished 
Sati throughout British India. Henceforward it 
was punishable as a criminal offence. All persons 
who aided or abetted it, whether the widow consented 
or not, were declared guilty of culpable homicide, 
and where violence was used against the victim it 
was in the power of the court to pass sentence of 
death. To Ram Mohan Roy, convinced of its wisdom 
and necessity, the measure was a welcome one and 
in the address presented by him and his friends to 
the Governor-General shortly afterwards was ex- 
pressed their 'deepest gratitude for the ever-lasting 
obligation conferred on the Hindu community at 
large,' for which they were 'at a loss to find language 
sufficiently indicative even of a small portion of the 
sentiments they desired to express.' The services 
that Ram Mohan had rendered in the cause of 
abolition were fully recognised. It was his insistence 
on the fact that Sati was nowhere enjoined as a 
compulsory duty in the Shastras and that there 



22 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

were passages in" Hindu law " entirely inconsistent 
with it, that induced the British Government to* 
abandon in this one instance its position of non- 
interference with religious practices, and that made 
its abolition possible in the face of the very strong 
opposition it aroused. 

Throughout all his efforts in the cause of educa- 
tion and the abolition of Sati, Ram Mohan's quest 
after knowledge in matters of belief had been 
unceasing. Always with earnest and single mind 
he had sought the truth. To all that was best in 
Hinduism he whole-heartedly adhered. It was 
only its errors and abuses against which he waged 
continual war. To all that was good and 
honourable and true in whatever religion it might 
be found he gave his allegiance. Once in the early 
days, his wife having overheard a long religious 
discussion between her husband and his friends, 
asked of him in bewilderment "Which religion 
then is the best and highest ?" For a moment struck 
by the directness of the question, he paused, then 
answered in the illustrative manner that so 
appeals to the eastern mind " Cows are of 
different colours but the colour of the milk they 
give is the same. Different teachers have different 
opinions but the essence of every religion is to 
adopt the true faith and to live the faithful life." 
Of his large-heartedness and broad-mindedness there 
are innumerable examples. Although not a Christian 



RAM MOHAN ROY 23 

he was keenly alive to the good work that the 
missionaries 'were doing among his fellowcountry- 
inen, and he gave his fullest sympathy and support 
to any society or any scheme that cordially co- 
operated in the great work of educating and raising 
the status of the Hindu community. With this 
object, in spite of his theological differences with 
it, he warmly supported the Presbyterian Church 
in its work in Calcutta and to him in some measure 
may be attributed the coming of Alexander Duff 
to India. The Church of Scotland ^Chaplain in 
Calcutta wrote home : "Encouraged by the appro- 
bation of Ram Mohan I presented to the General 
Assembly of 1824 the petition and memorial which 
first directed the attention of the Church of Scotland 
to British India as a field for missionary exertions, 
on the plan that it is now so successfully following 
out, and to which this] eminently gifted scholar, 
himself a Brahmin of high] caste,"; had specially 
annexed his sanction." 

On his arrival Alexander Duff at once met with 
the ready assistance of Ram Mohan who secured 
for him his first school house and his first scholars. 
On the opening day he himself was present to smooth 
away any difficulties that might arise and to 
endeavour to give the enterprise a favourable 
start. When the orthodox objected to his connection 
with a Presbyterian school, where the scriptures 
were read, Ram Mohan replied "Christians have 



24 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

studied the Hindu Shastras and you know that they 
htave not become Hindus. I myself have read the 
Koran again and again : but has that made me a 
Musulman ? Nay, I have studied the whole Bible 
and you know I am not a Christian. Why then do 
you fear to read it ? Read it and judge for your- 
selves." This was the attitude of- impartiality that 
he always adopted. Let each man enquire and gain 
all the knowledge that he could, then judge for 
himself. 

Ram Mohan was as fearless in supporting 
Government against the prejudices of his fellow- 
countrymen as he was in pointing out to the 
authorities any injustice that they committed or 
failed to remedy. While he strongly opposed 
Government over the famous Jury Act of 1827 
which he considered introduced unjustifiable 
religious distinctions into the judicial system of the 
country, he was equally strong in his defence 
of the indigo planters of Bengal, whom, at the 
time of certain indigo labour difficulties, a section 
of the Indian community was vilifying. He 
at once instituted special and private inquiries 
on his own account into the circumstances, and 
having obtained a true version of the facts, he 
did not hesitate to proclaim them. He pointed 
out how widely indigo had benefited Bengal, 
and in how many places the plantations had 
brought a wide area of waste land under culti- 



RAM MOHAN ROY 25 

vation, adding that it was his mature opinion that 
"the indigo planters have done more essential good 
to the natives of Bengal than any other class of 
persons.' 'This is a fact which I will not hesitate 
to affirm' he wrote 'whenever I may be questioned 
on the subject either in India or in Europe. I, 
at the same time, must confess that there are indi- 
viduals of that class of society who either from 
hasty disposition or want of due discretion have proved 
obnoxious to those who expected milder treatment 
from them. But you are well aware that no general 
good can be effected without some partial evil, and 
in this instance I am happy to say that the former 
greatly preponderates over the latter. If any class 
of natives would gladly see them turned out of the 
country, it would be the Zemindars in general, ^ince 
in many instances the planters have successfully 
protected the ryots against the tyranny and oppression 
of their landlord.' 

Although for a time Ram Mohan joined the 
Unitarian Community, it was inevitable that he and 
his followers should form a separate community of 
their own. This came to pass on August the 28th, 
1828, when the first Theistic Church of modern India 
was founded. At the outset it was called simply 
Brahma Sabha, the Society of God. It was not 
until eighteen months later that the first building 
for the worship of the new society was dedicated in the 
presence of about five hundred Hindus of all classes. 



26 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

The building was situated in the Chitpore Road and 
the names of the five 'Settlers' were given as 'Dwarka 
Nath Tagore, Kaleenuth Roy, Prassunnakoomar 
Tagore, Ram Chunder Bidyabagish, and Ram Mohan 
Roy/ who transferred the Trust Property to three 
Trustees, Boykonto Nath Roy, Radha Persaud Roy 
and Rama Nauth Tagore. The trust deed dated 
January 8th, 1830, formed the declaration of faith of 
the new community. By its terms the Trustees 

' Shall at all times permit the said building, land, 
tenements, hereditaments and premises, with their 
appurtenances, to be used, occupied, enjoyed, 
applied and appropriated as and for a place of 
public meeting, of all sorts and descriptions of people, 
without distinction, as shall behave and conduct 
themselves in an orderly, sober, religious and devout 
manner. 

' For the worship and adoration of the Eternal 
Unsearchable and Immutable Being, who is the 
Author and Preserver of the universe, but not under 
or by any other name, designation or title, particu- 
larly used for an applied to, any particular Being or 
Beings, by any men or set of men whatsoever ; and 
that no graven image, statue or sculpture, carving, 
painting, picture, portrait or the likeness of any- 
thing, shall be admitted within the messuage, build- 
ing, land, tenements, hereditaments and premises : 
and tha no sacrifice, offering or oblation of any kind 
of thing shall ever be permitted therein : and that 



EAM MOHAN ROY. 27 

no animal or living creature shall within or on the 
said messuage, building, land, tenements, heredita- 
ments and premises, be deprived of life, either for 
religious purposes or for food. 

' And that no eating or drinking (except such as 
shall be necessary by any accident for the preserva- 
tion of life) feasting or rioting be permitted therein 
or thereon. 

' And that in conducting the said worship or 
adoration no object, animate or inanimate that has 
been, or is, or shall hereafter become, or be recog- 
nised, as an object of worship, by any man or set of 
men, shall be reviled or slightingly or contemptu- 
ously spoken of or alluded to, either in preaching, 
praying or in the hymns, or other mode of worship 
that may be delivered or used in the said messuage 
or building. 

'And that no sermon, preaching, discourse, prayer 
or hymn be delivered, made or used in such worship 
but such as have a tendency to the promotion of the 
contemplation of the Author and Preserver of the 
Universe, to the promotion of charity, morality, piety, 
benevolence, virtue and the strengthening the bonds 
of union between men of all religious persuasions 
and creeds. 

' And also that a person of good repute and well- 
known for his knowledge, piety and morality be 
employed by the said Trustees as a resident superin- 
tendent and for the purpose of superintending the 



^8 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

worship so to be performed as is hereinbefore stated 
and expressed : that such worship be performed 
-daily or at least as often as once in seven days.' 

Its breadth of sympathy, its earnest endeavour 
after a greater sincerity and simplicity of faith and 
its strong desire to avoid the condemnation of others 
make this trust deed a remarkable document in an 
age of intense bigotry and bitter personal anmo- 
;sities. 

The bitterness aroused against Ram Mohan in 
certain quarters was very great. Freedom of thought 
.and freedom of speech were then in their infancy, 
and Hinduism, which had so long exacted unques- 
tioning and blind obedience, mustered all the forces 
at its command against the reformer. Though still 
clinging to all that was best ' in Hinduism and 
observing all outward performances necessary to 
retain his caste, he had too effectively attacked the 
abuses that had become a part of it, to escape the 
hatred of the orthodox. The storm of opposition he 
aroused would have overwhelmed a weaker man. 
Though he had proved again and again how deep 
was his zeal for the public good, it was counted to 
him as nought compared with his break with the 
old shibboleths of his faith. So fierce was the feel- 
ing against him that latterly his life was in danger, 
and his friend Mr. Montgomery Martin relates how 
lie took up his residence with him in order that he 
might watch over and protect him. For many years he 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 29> 

had been intending to visit England and convinced of 
the sincerity and fidelity of his following after the 
founding of the Brahma Sabha in 1830 he felt that at 
last the time had come. He was anxious not only 
to meet with the greatest and most advanced thinkers - 
of the day, but above all to lay the case for progress 
on behalf of his fellow countrymen before the British 
people and the British Government. To break 
through centuries of tradition and brave the journey 
to England in those days needed no little courage. 
A letter of introduction given by a friend of his to- 
the celebrated Jeremy Bentham gives an illuminating: 
picture of the man and of the undertaking. 

" If I were beside you and could explain matters; 
fully," runs the letter, " you would comprehend 
the greatness of the undertaking his going 
on board ship to a foreign and distant land, a 
thing hitherto not to e named among Hindus 
and least of all among Brahmans. His grand 
object besides the natural one of satisfying his 
own laudable spirit of enquiry has been to set a 
laudable example to his countrymen : and every 
one of the slow and gradual moves that he has 
made preparatory to his actually quitting India has 
been marked by the same discretion of judgment. 
He waited patiently until he had by perseverance 
and exertion acquired a little but respectable 
party of disciples. He talked of going to England 
from year to year since 1823, to familiarize the- 



:30 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

minds of the orthodox by degrees to this step. 
and that his friends might in the meantime increase 
in numbers and confidence. He now judges that the 
-time is come and that the public mind is equal for the 
exploit. The good which this excellent and ex- 
traordinary man has already effected by his writings 
.and example cannot be told. But for his exertions 
sati would be in full vigour at the present day and 
'the influence of bigotry in all its current force. He is 
withal one of the most modest men I had ever met 
with. It is no small compliment to such a man that 
even a Governor General like the present, who, though 
a man of the most honest intentions, suspects every- 
body and trusts no body, and who knows that Ram 
Mohan Roy greatly disapproves of many of the acts 
of Government should have shown him so much res- 
pect as to furnish him with introductions to friends 
of rank and political influence in England.' 

He was careful, even when breaking so far with 
Brahmanical tradition as to cross the sea, to observe 
the laws of caste. He took with him on board the 
'' Albion ' by which he sailed in November the 19th, 
1830, two Hindu servants and two cows to supply 
him with milk, and throughout the voyage and 
during his stay in England he endeavoured to con- 
tinue the strict Brahmanical observances which he 
had always carefully maintained. 

Ram Mohan's three years in England were fraught 
-with far-reaching results. His journey to Europe 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 31 

marks an epoch in Indian development. Before him 
no member of the highest caste had dared to break 
the spell which the sea had laid on India. He was 
the first Brahman to cross tjie ocean and the first 
ever to be received by an English king. His name 
stands out as the pioneer of that long line of Indians 
who have since gone westwards to grasp in a day 
the knowledge that the west has taken such long 
years to come by. His bold example stirred his 
countrymen to follow in his wake, and served to bring 
them into closer touch with the great nation with 
-whose destinies theirs have become so closely linked. 
The presence of such a brilliant personality as that 
of Ram Mohan brought home to the British people 
in a personal, intimate way, as nothing else could 
well have done, the piety, learning and dignity of 
their Indian fellow subjects. He in his own person 
won a new respect for his race among Englishmen. 
His tall dignified figure, familiar at court and in the 
highest circles of society, welcomed alike by the 
English Church and non-conformists, and equally at 
home in every circle of society, became in the eyes 
of those, who for the most part had never before 
seen an Indian at all, the embodiment of the Indian 
Empire. His learning and culture evoked astonish- 
iment and admiration. He was the complete refuta- 
tion of what .the untra veiled western mind had popu- 
larly adopted as the Asiatic type. Ram Mohan Roy 
by his visit to England was not only enabled to inter- 



32 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL. 

pret England to India, he did the even greater 
service of interpreting India to the English. The 
west had long since gone to the East, eager to explore- 
its mysteries and develop its resources. With Ram 
Mohan Roy the ]ast for the first time broke through 
the bonds which had so long held it and began the 
journey to the west. He may well be called the first 
ambassador of India to the English people. 

The great reformer was destined never again to 
return to his native land. His health graduallv 
failed and though surrounded by all that modern 
science could provide, he slowly sank and died amid 
a faithful little company of friends at Bristol x)^tht 
27th September, 1833. Though his remains lie- 
far from the land he strove so hard to serve his 
memory will ever live in the hearts of his grateful 
fellowcountrymen. Above his grave a memorial 
stone pays this last tribute 

BENEATH THIS STONE REST THE REMAINS OF 
RAJA RAM MOHAN ROY BAHADOOR. 

A CONSCIENTIOUS AND STEADFAST BELIEVER INT 
THE UNITY OF THE GODHEAD, HE CONSECRATED- 
HIS LIFE WITH ENTIRE DEVOTION TO TH WORKINGS 

OF THE DIVINE SPIRIT ALONE. To GREAT NATURAL. 

TALENTS HE UNITED A THOROUGH MASTERY OF MANY 
LANGUAGES, AND EARLY DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF AS 
ONE OF THE GREATEST SCHOLARS OF HIS DAY. HlS 



RAM MOHAN ROY. 33 

UNWEARIED LABOUR TO PROMOTE THE SOCIAL, MORAL 
AND POLITICAL CONDITION OF THE PEQPfcE OF 
INDIA, HIS EARNEST ENDEAVOURS TO SUPPRESS 
IDOLATRY AND THE RITE OF SUTEE AND HIS CONSTANT 
ZEALOUS ADVOCACY OF WHATEVER TENDED TO AD- 
VANCE THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE WELFARE OF 
MEN, LIVE IN TH*E GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HIS 
COUNTRYMEN. 

THIS TABLET 

, \ 

RECORDS THE SORROW AND , PRIDE WITH WHICH 
HIS MEMORY IS CHERISHED BY HIS DESCENDANTS. 

HE WAS BORN IN RADHANAGAR IN BENGAL IN 
1774,* AND DIED AT BRISTOL, 27TH SEPTEMBER, 1833. 



* According to the most authoritative sources of information 
this should be 1772. 



A 




Hazi Mahomed Mohsin 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN. 
1730-1812. 

No Muhammadan in Bengal in the nineteenth cen- 
tury has left behind him a greater or more honoured 
name than Haji Mahomed Mohsin. By his learning, 
piety and philanthropy he set, while the century 
was yet young, a splendid example of all that a good 
citizen should be, not only to his own co-religionists 
but to all Bengal of whatever caste or creed. For 
over a hundred years the great Trust that he left 
behind him has kept his memory fresh, conferring 
immense benefits on succeeding generations and still 
continuing its educational and philanthropic work 
to-day. For all time it promises to remain a 
great and living memorial of his name. 

The life of Haji Mahomed Mohsin was full of 
romance. His grandfather on his father's side was 
Agha Fazlullah, a merchant prince of Persia, who 
following in the wake of many of his adventurous 
compatriots had come to seek his fortune in India 
in the eighteenth century. For a time he resided 
at Murshidabad where the Viceroy of Bengal held 
court and where the English factory was slowly 
but surely establishing its position and increasing 
its scope and influence. Here Agha Fazlullah 
carried on aa extensive mercantile business, but 



36 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

finding the rising port of Hooghly a more- 
convenient centre, he finally settled there with his 
son Haji Faizullah, who was already associated 
with him in his business undertakings. It was in 
Hooghly that the fortunes of his family were to 
reach their height, and with it that the name of his 
famous grandson was to be indissolubly associated 
for all time. 

Already settled in Hooghly was one Agha- 
Motaher, who. coming originally from Persia like 
Agha Fazullah, had won his way at the court of 
Aurungzeb. That monarch had conferred upon 
him extensive jagirs in Jessore and other places in 1 
Bengal, and Agha Motaher, eager to take possession- 
finally himself set out from Delhi for the eastern- 
province on the outskirts of the empire, where so- 
many of his countrymen had won fame and fortune 
before him. So well did he manage his newly 
acquired lands that he soon became one of the- 
wealthiest men in the province. He had made his 
headquarters at Hooghly and there, like a good 
Muhammadan, his desire in prosperity, was to build' 
a mosque that should be worthy of his fortunes. 
Already there was a fine Immabara there, built 
by Murshid Kuli Khan, Viceroy of Bengal, but 
it had fallen into disrepair. It occupied a splendid 
site on the river bank, close by the Fort and the- 
Portuguese Factory, and commanding wide reaches 
of the river to the north and south. Agha Motaher 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 37 

resolved to rebuild it and, obtaining permission, 
began the construction of the building which after 
many additions and improvements has survived 
as the great Imambara of to-day. 

In the prosperity of Agha Motaher there was 
one thing lacking. He had no son. For many 
years he was childless and it was only in old age 
that a daughter was born to him. Round this only 
child, named Manu Jan Khanum, all his affections 
centred, and dying when she was only seven years 
old he left her all his property. A curious story 
is told of the device he adopted to keep the 
contents of his will secret during his lifetime. 
Presenting a massive golden amulet to the child, 
he told her that it would prove of immense value 
to her after his death but that it was on no account 
to be opened while he lived. The child being of 
such tender years, others saw that the great man's 
instructions were implicitly obeyed, and when the 
amulet was opened after his death it was found 
to contain his will whereby he left her all that he 
possessed. No provision appears to have been 
made for his widow, probably because she already had 
property of her own. She seems at oncfe to have 
set up an independent household on her own account, 
and shortly afterwards married Haji Fazlullah, the 
son of Agha Fazlullah, her late husband's friend 
and compatriot. The only child of this marriage 
was the famous Haji Mahomed Moshin. 



38 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Born in 1730 A.D., Haji Mahomed Mohsin was 
eight years younger than his half-sister, Manu Jan* 
Khanum. From the first she loyally played the part 
of elder sister towards him watching over his earliest 
years with tenderest devotion. Brought up together 
in the household of Haji Faizullah, they were insepar- 
able companions, and the strong and deep affection 
that always existed between them was one of the 
first recollections of their childhood's days. The 
influence for good that Manu Jan Kanuin exercised 
over him left its mark in after life and Mahomed 
Mo shin never forgot the debt he owed to her. 

Following the usual Muhammadan custom of those 
days, Mahomed Mohsin early began to prosecute hi& 
studies in Arabic and Persian. Here again he had 
the advantage of his sister's guidance, for she had 
already acquired considerable proficiency in those 
studies while he was still an infant, and when he 
was old enough to be placed under the care of a tutor, 
she continued her studies as his fellow pupil. Their 
tutor was a Persian gentleman, Agha Shirazi by 
name, who combined with great learning much 
worldly wisdom and experience, having travelled in 
many countries after having left his home in Shiraz 
and before finally settling down in Hooghly. Often 
when lessons were done, he was wont to relate to hi 
pupils stories of his adventures and of the wonders of 
foreign lands and thus early Mahomed Mohsin 
became inspired with that desire for travel which in 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 39 

after years he was to find such opportunity to 
gratify. Finally, to complete his education Mahomed 
Moshin was sent to Murshidabad, there to learn all 
that one of the most famous Muktabs of the time 
could teach him of the Koran and the classics, in 
which he had been so well grounded by Agha Shirazi. 

After finishing his studies at Murshidabad, 
Mahomed Mohsin returned to his sister's house at 
Hooghly. The same friendship as in their younger 
days still existed between them and it was shortly 
after his return that Mahomed Mohsin's watchful 
care and devotion were the means of rendering her 
a great service. A woman of her position and wealth 
was not without enemies, and among a certain 
number of those who might hope to benefit by her 
death a plot was formed to poison her. This plot 
Mahomed Moshin had the good fortune to discover 
and was thus able to save his sister by warning her 
in time of the design against her life. So great, how- 
ever, was the animosity roused against Mahomed 
Moshin amongst the conspirators that he thought it 
advisable to leave Hooghly for a time. This he 
was able to do as his aister was about to marry and 
so would not be left without a protection in his 
absence. 

When Haji Mahomed Mohsin left Hooghly for 
the second time he was some thirty-two years old. 
Although he had always had a great desire to travel 
he had felt thatkhis first duty was to the sister to 



40 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

whom he owed so much. Now that he was free, how- 
ever, he lost no time in setting out to see the world. 
After the sheltered life that he had hitherto led 
in his carefully tended house on the banks of the 
Hooghly, the hardships of the road must have been 
a rough experience. In those days of slow and 
tedious travel a journey even to the imperial city of 
Delhi along the beaten track was no light under- 
taking. Mahomed Mohsin, however, hearing good 
accounts of Manu Jan Khanum's happiness and safety 
was eager to set out into the unknown in search 
of learning, and adventure. Blest with splendid 
physique, his simple living and hard training had 
endowed him with excellent health, while his skill as 
a swordsman and as a wrestler was to become 
famous during his travels throughout India. It was 
always said of him, however, that his great 
strength was never used for oppression or in an un- 
just cause, while it was ever ready to defend the 
weak or the helpless. For his penmanship he was 
already noted and much of his leisure time waa 
devoted to copying the Koran. So beautifully were 
these copies penned that some of them are said to 
have sold for 1000 Us. It is also said that he made 
no fewer than seventy-two copies, truly a Herculean 
task, all of them being given away when finished 
to the poor and suffering. 

After a brief halt at Murshidabad, he travelled 
up country visiting all the famous towns of 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 41 

northern India. It was a -critical moment in 
the history of the Moghul empire. Everywhere 
there was a spirit of unrest. The old empire that 
had so long maintained its nominal grasp over all 
northern India was rapidly falling to decay. Inter- 
nal dissensions had weakened its hold, while on the 
one hand the Mahrattas and on the other a crowd of 
western nations were knocking at its gates. It was 
a fascinating drama that was played before the eyes 
of Haji Mahomed Moshin as he travelled from city to 
city, showing him the beginning of that great transi- 
tion which was to change the face of Hindustan. 

Not content with his Indian experiences 
Mahomed Mohsin travelled far beyond the limits 
of the Moghul empire. Reaching Arabia, he made 
pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, 
thus gaining for himself the title of Haji which 
has ever since . been coupled with his name. 
Continuing his journey he made his way through 
Persia, Turkey and Egypt performing pilgrimages 
to many of the most sacred Moslem shrines, his 
visits to them strengthening the strain of piety 
and religious enthusiasm which had always been 
inherent in his nature. At Najaf, then a famous 
seat of oriental learning, he spent some time enjoying 
the society of the company of scholars, whom the 
fame of the place had attracted there. 

For twenty -seven years he continued his travels in 
Hindustan, Arabia, Persia, and Central Asia, meeting 



42 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

with many adventuies and enduring many hard- 
ships but never losing his passion for the road. 
Visiting all the famous places of the Moslem world 
he added greatly to his already large store of know- 
ledge, acquiring fresh wisdom and breadth of view 
from each new source. Travelling as he did over so 
extended an area and during so many years, his 
fame spread far and wide and, preceding him on his 
homeward way through India, prepared everywhere 
for him a great reception. 

It was not until he had reached his sixtieth year 
and age was beginning to tell even upon his iron 
constitution that he finally decided to terminate 
his travels and return home. Making his way 
slowly across northern India he came at last to Luck- 
now, which, since the best days of Delhi were already 
past, had become the chief centre of Moslem thought 
and learning. Here the fame of his wisdom and 
erudition had preceded him and he was welcomed 
by all the distinguished men of the day who were 
then gathered there. The Nawab Asaf-ud-dowlali 
was himself a patron of letters and in Haji Mahomed 
Mohsin he found a scholar worthy of respect, 
and one who would be an ornament of his court. 
But Mahomed Mohsin, though tempted by every 
inducement of wealth and honours to remain had no 
ambition to figure among the crowd of satillities at 
the Nawab's court and after a short stay in Lucknow 
he returned at last to Murshidabad whence he had 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 45 

set out so many years before. Here in this seat of 
learning, it seems, he determined to settle down to 
spend his declining years. But fate willed otherwise. 

During his long absence there had been great 
changes in his old home at Hooghly. His sister 
Manu Jan Khanum had married her cousin Mirza 
Salahuddin Mahomed Khan, nephew of Agha Mota- 
her, whom he had followed from Persia. The marriage 
was an extremely happy one, Mirza Salahuddin 
devoting himself to the management of his wife's 
large estates and entering with her into all her 
plans for their improvement and the welfare of all 
those connected with them. In Hooghly itself 
where Manu Jan Khanum had been known from 
childhood, they were universally respected and 
beloved. The Imambara that her father had com- 
menced, she and her husband made their special care, 
adding to and completing what he had begun, while 
close by, for the benefit of those who came to worship, 
Mirza Salahuddin established a hat which is still 
known by his name. 

Their short spell of married happiness, however r 
was brought to a sudden close by Mirza Salahuddin's 
untimely death, while still in the prime of life. His 
loss was a great blow to Manu Jan Khanum who had 
learned to rely upon him in conducting the business 
of her estates. Though there were not wanting 
many who aspired to fill his place, she remained 
faithful to his memory keeping the control of her 



44 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

affairs in her own hands and showing great tact and 
ability in the management of them. It was but 
natural that a widow of such wealth and position 
should be sought in marriage, and Manu Jan Khanum 
was not without suitors. Among them was Nawab 
Khan Jahan Khan of Hooghly but, suspecting his 
motives, she replied to the messengers whom he 
sent with the offer of his hand. "Affection is greater 
than wealth. You have not been able to offer me 
the greater, how therefore can I give you the less ?" 

With advancing years, however, the management 
of her vast estates became too heavy a burden for 
her. Her thoughts naturally turned to the step- 
brother, the companion of her youth, from whom she 
had been so long parted, and she resolved to summon 
him from Murshidabad and entrust the whole of her 
property to his management. It was only on her 
earnest solicitations that Mahomed Moshin was 
prevailed upon to leave his retreat at Murshidabad. 
Feeling, that it was his duty to come to her 
assistance, he gave up the life of study and seclusion 
that he had marked out for himself, and came to 
Hooghly to undertake the arduous duties of manager of 
his half-sister's great estates. The years that followed 
must have been busy ones for Mahomed Mohsin, 
very different from those that he had spent wandering 
from city to city with no worldly cares to harass him. 
The knowledge of the help he was enabled to render 
to his sister and the pleasure of her society were, 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSTN 45 

however, sufficient compensation. Manu Jan Khanum, 
relieved of all anxiety as to her worldly affairs, 
devoted her remaining years to charity and prayer r 
tenderly cared for by Mahomed Mohsin whose 
earliest years she herself had so carefully watched 
over. She died at the age of eighty-one in 1803 
A.D. leaving as the last and greatest proof of her 
affection for Mahomed Moshin a will bequeathing 
him the whole of her estate. 

It was thus not until Haji Mahomed Mohsin had 
reached the age of seventy -three that he became 
possessed of the great wealth which he was to put 
to so good a use. He had never married and the 
death of his half-sister left him without near 
relatives. There is something pathetic in the figure 
of this old man in its utter loneliness, which the great 
wealth that had suddenly come to him but served 
to accentuate. There lived with him, it is true, the 
two companions whom he had brought with him from 
Murshidabad, Rajib AH Khan and Shakir AH Khan r 
but how little they were truly his friends sub- 
sequent events were only too clearly to prove. But 
undismayed by the responsibilities before him, 
Mahomed Moshin set himself to administer the 
estate wisely and well. So far as he was personally 
concerned, this new access of wealth made but little 
change. He lived as he had lived before, the 
same simple frugal life of the traveller and the 
scholar that he had always known. But in so- 



46 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

far as it enabled him to widen the sphere of his 
charities and kindly deeds, his inheritance was wel- 
come to him. Almost the whole of his large income 
he spent in charity. Not content with relieving 
those cases of sickness or distress that came to his 
notice, he made it his personal concern to seek out 
those who needed help. It is said that he was even 
wont to disguise himself and wander through the 
poorest quarters of the town seeking out ' the 
famished beggar, the starving widow and the help- 
less orphan,' and relieving their distress. Though 
a strict and orthodox Muhammadan, he took no 
account of caste or creed when it was a case of 
helping suffering humanity. Helplessness and poverty 
alone were sufficient passwords to his large and gener- 
ous heart. Many stories are told of his magnanimity 
and generosity. Once, it is said, a thief broke into 
Tiis house and entered his sleeping apartment at 
dead of night. Mahomed Mohsin, waking opportune- 
ly, sprang up and seized the thief, quickly over- 
powering him. But recognising him as a resident 
of the place who had fallen on evil days, he released 
him and upbraided him for his unworthy conduct. 
Shamed and penitent, the thief implored his pardon. 
Mahomed Mohsin not only set him free but gave 
him money to tide over his immediate difficulties. 
So astonished was the thief and so grateful for the 
generosity shown him that even though it was to 
his own detriment he could not refrain from relating 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 47 

the incident in after days, always maintaining that 
it was Mahomed Moshin's magnanimous conduct 
that had saved him from sinking into still lower 
depths of crime. 

Mahomed Moshin, however, was not content with 
these small acts of charity. He was anxious that 
his great wealth should be put to good uses after 
his death, which he knew now could not be far off. 
With this object, on April the 26th, 1806. he signed 
a Deed of Trust, setting apart the whole of his in- 
come for charitable purposes in perpetuity. This 
deed is now preserved among the treasures of the 
Imambara at Hooghly, on one of the walls of which 
facing the river, a copy of it in English has been 
inscribed, so that all who pass may read of the charity 
of Mahomed Mohsin. The will runs 

'I, Hajee Mahummud Moshin, son of Hajee 
Fyzoollah, son of Agha Fuzloollah, inhabitant of 
Bundur Hugli, in the full possession of all my senses 
and faculties, with my own free will and accord, do 
make the following correct and legal declaration. 
That the Zumeendaree of Purgannah Qismut Sueed- 
pore, &c. appendant to Zillah Jusur. and Purgunnah 
Sobhnal also appendant to the Zillah aforesaid, and 
one house situated in Hooghly, (known and distin- 
guished as Imambara) and Imambazar, and Hat 
[Market] also situated in Hooghly, and all the 
goods and chattels appertaining to the Imambara 
agreeably to a separate list ; the whole of which 



48 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

have devolved on me by inheritance, and of which 
the proprietary possession I enjoy up to this 
present time ; as I have no children, nor grand- 
children, nor other relatives, who would be- 
come my legal heirs : and as I have full wish and 
desire to keep up and continue the usages and 
charitable expenditures [Murasumo Ukhrahat-i- 
husneh] of the Fateha &c., of the Huzrat [on whom 
be blessings and rewards] which have been the 
established practice of the family, I therefore hereby 
give purely for the sake of God the whole of the 
above property, with all its rights, immunities, and 
privileges, whole and entire, little or much, in it, 
with it, or from it. and whatever [by way of append- 
age] might arise from it, relate or belong to it as 
a permanent Appropriation for the following ex- 
penditures ; and have hereby appointed Rujub Uli 
Khan, son of Sheikh Mohummud Sadiq, and Shakir 
Uli Khan, son of Ahmud Khan, who have been 
tried and approved by me, as possessing understand- 
ing, knowledge, religion and probity Mutwallies 
(trustees or superintendents x of the said Wuqf or 
Appropriation, which I have given in trust to the 
above two individuals -that, aiding and assisting 
each other, they might consult, advise and agree 
together in the joint management of the business 
of the said Appropriation, in manner as follows : 
that the aforenamed Mutwallies, after paying the 
revenues of Government, shall divide the remaining 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 49 

produce of the Muhals aforenamed into nine shares 
of which three shares they shall disburse in the 
observance of the Fateha of Huzrut Syud-Kayunat 
(head of the creation) the last of the Prophets, and 
of the sinless Imams (on all of whom be the bless- 
ings and peace of God) and in the expenditures 
appertaining to the Ushra of Mohurrumool-huram 
(ten days of the sacred Mohurrum), and all other 
blessed days of feasts and festivals ; and in the repairs 
of the Imambara and Cemetery ; Two SHAKES the 
Mutwallis, in equal portion, shall appropriate to 
themselves for their own expenses, and FOUR 
SHARES shall be disbursed in the payment of the esta- 
blishment, and of those whose names are inserted 
in the separate list signed and sealed by me. In 
regard to the daily expenses, monthly stipends of 
the stipendiaries, respectable men, peadas and other 
persons, who at this present moment stand appointed,, 
the Mutwallis aforenamed after me, have full power 
to retain, abolish or discharge them as it may appear 
to them most fit and expedient. I have publicly 
committed the Appropriation to the charge of the 
two abovenamed individuals. In the event of a 
Mutwalli finding himself unable to conduct the busi- 
ness of the Appropriation, he may appoint any one 
whom he may think most fit and proper, as a Mutwalli 
to act in his behalf. For the above reasons this 
documents is given in writing this 19th day of Bysakh, 
in the year of Hijree 1221, corresponding with the 
4 



50 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Bengal year 1213, that whenever it be required it 
may prove a legal deed.' 

Haji Mahomed Mohsin lived for six years after 
making this truly noble disposition of his property. 
For his own personal use he had reserved only so 
much property as would bring him in about one 
hundred rupees a month. Upon this small sum he 
was content to live, busily employed in setting the 
great Trust in order so that it migkt be wisely and 
well administered after his death. It is difficult to 
imagine a more admirable close to the end of a long 
and well-spent life than this chosen by Mahomed 
Mohsin. Rich beyond the dreams of avarice, he 
voluntarily gave up every thing, anxious only to see 
before his death the great Charitable Trust that he 
had founded so well administered that it might 
never, for all time to come, fail in the great objects 
for which he had designed it. Revered and res- 
pected in life, he thus raised up to himself while he 
yet lived a monument more lasting than brick and 
stone, a monument that will last for all time and 
which already in the century that has passed has 
caused so many generations to bless his name. 

In 1812 Haji Mahomed Mohsin died at the ripe 
old age of eighty-two. He was buried with all the 
simplicity that he himself desired in the garden 
adjoining the Imambara which he had so splen- 
didly endowed. He lies close by his well-loved step- 
sister, Manu Jan Khanum to whcm he owed both 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 51 

!his early training and the great inheritance of his 
Jater years. Near them are two other graves, those 
of Manu's husband Mirza Salahuddin Mahomed Khan 
and of her father Agha Motaher. No fitting monu- 
ment or inscription marked their graves for nearly 
a hundred years. It was only on the centenary of 
the foundation of the great Trust that a handsome 
canopy was erected over them as a fitting outward 
symbol of the affection and gratitude, with which in 
spite of the lapse of time so many still regard their 
memory. 

It is sad to turn from the noble and pious life of 
Haji Mahomed Mohsin to the meanness and 
treachery of those whom he had trusted. To Rajib 
Ali Khan and Shakir AH Khan, he had given inumer- 
.able proofs of his friendship, lavishing his affection 
upon them in life and generously providing for them 
.after his death. By the terms of the will, the ad- 
ministration of the Trust Fund, according to the 
conditions laid down, was left entirely in their hands 
as Mutwallis. The income from the property was 
to be divided into nine shares. Three shares were 
to be devoted for ever to religious observances and 
the maintenance of the Imambara, four shares were 
to be devoted to non-religious charitable purposes 
-to be chosen by the Mutwallis for the time being, 
while the remaining two shares were to be their 
personal property. The two Mutwallis nominated 
Jby Mahomed Mohsin were to be allowed to appoint 



52 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

their own successors. Mahomed Mohsin had thus 
provided generously for his two friends, but so far 
short did they fall of his trust and confidence that 
they endeavoured to conceal the will and take posses- 
sion of the whole property. Sakir AH Khan dying 
soon after Mahomed Mohsin. appointed his son 
Baker Ali Khan his successor as Mutwalli, while 
Rajib Ali the other original Mutwalli not long after- 
wards also appointed his son Wasiq Ali Khan to 
succeed him. The two son? of the first two Mutwallis 
thus reigned in their stead. So scandalous was their 
management of the Trust that the Board of Revenue 
was soon forced to interfere under the Provisions of 
Regulation XIX of 1810. The finding of the court 
of Sudder Dewani Adaulat before which the case 
came, bears striking testimony to their mismanage- 
ment. 'The proper objects of the endowment were 
neglected,' it ran, 'and the Government revenue 
fell into arrears, while the income was spent on quarrels 
between the managers, bribes to the police and amins. 
and gifts to the manager's relatives. They, moreover, 
in order to increase their own profits at the expense 
of the Trust, forged a perpetual lease in their own 
favour and that of their relatives, purporting to 
have been executed by Haji Mahomed JMohsin be- 
fore the deed of foundation.' By an order of 
November the 16th. 1815, Syed Ali Akbar Khan was 
appointed manager by Government to act in conjunc- 
tion with the two Mutwallis and to set the affairs of 



HAJ1 MAHOMED MOHSIN 53 

"the Trust on a satisfactory footing. Anxious to 
interfere as little as possible with the intentions of 
the original founder, Government adopted this only 
as a temporary measure, and a few months later 
again restored full management to the two Mutwal- 
Jis, certain rules for their guidance being laid down. 
They were not long, however, in proving how little 
they deserved this clemency on the part of Govern- 
ment, continuing their course of peculation and 
embezzlement with renewed vigour. Finally in 
1818, the Collector of Jessore in whose district a 
large portion of the Trust property lay, ejected 
them from the management with the approval 
of the Board of Revenue. The Mutwallis made every 
effort to retain so profitable a stewardship, bringing 
their case repeatedly before the courts. On the deci- 
.sion of the Sessions Ju&ge of Hooghly being given 
against them, they appealed to Calcutta and finally 
to the Privy Council. The original judgment was, 
however, consistently upheld and its confirmation by 
the Privy Council in 1835 at length set the matter 
^,t rest. 

Since March, 1817 the control of the Mahomed 
Mohsin Trust estate has thus been in the hands 
-of Government. In order to fulfil the original 
intentions of the founder as far as possible, a 
-Mutwalli AVH.S appointed to have charge of all that 
concerned the Imambava and the religious side of the 
. Sved Ali Khan Bahadur beincj nominat- 



54 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

ed as the first Mutwalli under the new order.. Im 
1821 the property of the Trust was sold in putni 
tenures, the sum obtained amounting to upwards- 
of six lacs of rupees. As the appeal of the former 
Mutwallis was still before the courts it was made a 
condition of the sale that, in the event of the case- 
being lost, the purchase money should be restored 
with interest. The sum obtained was therefore- 
invested in government security so as to be available- 
in case of need. 

* The case having been finally decided in 1835* ini 
favour of the action taken by Government, new 
regulations were drawn up confirming the Trust and' 
creating the 'Mahomed Mohsin Education Endow- 
ment Fund.' The Government of India made known 
its decision in the following terms 

'The Governor-General in Council, deeming him- 
self to have succeeded to the full authority and 
power assigned by Haji Mahomed Mohsin to the 
Mutwalli considers it to be entirely in his power to 
determine upon the appropriation of the funds* 
subject of course to the condition of adhering as 
closely as possible to the wishes of the testator in- 
points on which they have been declared. 

'Now it appears that the growing income from 
the Jessore estate was the only fund in the 
testator's contemplation, and the expenses of the 
Imambara, the Mutwalli's allowances, with the- 
pensions and establishment, are charges specifically^ 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 55 

upon that income, which is estimated by the sub- 
committee at Hooghly to yield the sum of Rs. 45,000 
per annum. 

'The Governor-General adverting to the condi- 
tions of the will resolves that three-ninths of the 
income from the Zemindaries shall permanently 
be assigned for the current expenses of the Imam- 
bara. Of the two-ninths of the income assigned 
to the Mutwallis but which are now at the disposal 
of the Government, the Governor-General in Council 
assigns one-ninth to the agent or Mutwalli appointed 
by the Government, but he does not deem it necessary 
to appoint a second Mutwalli or to appropriate the 
second ninth share assigned by the testator to the 
co-trustee nominated in the original will. This 
ninth, therefore, will be available for general purposes 
of a benevolent nature along with the surplus fund 
to which I shall presently advert. 

'The four-ninths of the Zemindari income appro- 
priated by the testator to pensions and establish- 
ments must remain burthened with these charges, 
but as many of the pensions must have lapsed, the 
Governor-General in Council considers that the in- 
come arising from such lapses may be fairly added 
to the surplus fund appropriable to general purposes. 
The expenses of the hospital will, however, remain 
a permanent charge under this head, but there appears 
to be an expense incurred for education at present 
which will be of course merged in the original fund. 



56 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

'In pursuance of the principles above laid down 
there remain at the disposal of Government for 
general purposes of a beneficent nature, first, one- 
ninth of the annual income of the Zemindaries ; 
second, the lapsed pensions ; and third, the entire 
amount arising from the interest of the accumulated 
fund now invested in promissory notes of the Govern- 
ment. 

'The Governor-General in Council is of opinion 
that, after setting apart from the last-mentioned 
fund such amount as may be necessary to provide 
appropriate buildings, including the charge of re- 
building or repairing the Imambara and other re- 
ligious edifices, if it should be found necessary to 
renew these, the entire remainder should be con- 
sidered as a Trust Fund, the interest of which with 
other items specified, may be appropriated to pur- 
poses of education by the foundation of a collegiate 
institution imparting instructions of all kinds in the 
higher departments of education according to the 
principles heretofore explained. 

'In this manner the Governor-General in Council 
conceives that the pious and beneficent purposes of 
the founder of the Hocghly endowment will best be 
fulfilled and under the latitude given for the deter- 
minations of the specific uses to which any surplus 
funds of the estate are to be appointed, he cannot see 
that the assignment of the surplus which has arisen 
in this instance, partly from the delay in consequence 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 57 

of litigation, and partly from the fines realised from 
the mode of management, adapted to purposes of 
education in the manner stated, will be any deviation 
from the provision of the dead/ 

In the following year the ITooghly College was 
opened with the surplus funds at the disposal of 
'Government. The College was affiliated to the 
Calcutta University and was open to members of all 
religious communities, the building acquired for it 
being the fine house on the banks of the ITooghly 
originally built by the famous General Perron. So 
great was its success that, within three days of its 
opening, it? students numbered twelve hundred in 
the English and three hundred in the Oriental De- 
partment. For thirty-seven years, the College was 
maintained by the Mohsin Fund. The proportion 
of Muhammadan students, however, was eventually 
considered too small to justify the expenditure of so 
large a portion of the Trust Fund upon it, and the 
maintenance of the ITooghly College was otherwise 
provided for. The income from the Trust Fund thus 
released was set apart, partly for the support of 
Madi-iissas at Dacca, Chittagong, Rajshahi and 
Hooghly, and partly for the assistance of Muhaniina- 
ilan students, by granting them t.vo-thirds of their 
fees at any English school or college in Bengal. 
Whereas the income from the Trusl, Fund in 1835 only 
amounted to 45.000 Rs. it now amounts to over a lac 
and a half, and administered on these lines, the 



58 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

benefit which it has conferred upon the cause of 
education among the Muhammadan community in- 
Bengal is incalculable. 

In 1848 two lacs of rupees were syjent on enlarg- 
ing and improving the Imambara itself, when the 
building, after many alternations since the days of its 
first construction by Agha Motaher, finally assumed 
the form which it bears to-day. It is a magnificent 
structure on the banks of the Hooghly, command- 
ing splendid reaches of the river on either hand. 
Facing northward over the river the walls bear the 
fall text of Mahomed Mohsin's will inscribed upon, 
them, a striking inscription of a great gift. The inner 
courtyard, out of which opens the Imambara itself, has 
a charming air of grandeur and repose, while from the 
turrets that .tower above it a magnificent view of the 
Imambara and of the surrounding country is obtain- 
ed. Every where within the building itself texts 
from the Koran are engraved upon the walls, while 
many times a day the sound of prayer ascends. In 
one corner of the quadrangle is the Hospital support- 
ed by the funds, while in another are the rooms of 
the Mutwali, whose sole duty now lies within the 
Imambara in maintaining the religious observances 
enjoined by the trust. In 1867 a committee under 
Section 7 of Act XX of that year was appointed to 
supervise the management of the Funds allotted for 
this purpose, which amount to three-ninths of the 
income of the whole estate. The Mutwali appointed: 



HAJI MAHOMED MOHSIN 59' 

by Government continues to draw his one-ninth share,, 
while all the remainder of the estate is administered 
by the Collector of Khulna* for charitable and educa- 
tional purposes. 

Thus this magnificent charitable Trust Fund 
remains after more than one hundred years, fulfilling 
the intentions of its founder and conferring immense 
benefits on his co-religionists and fellow-countrymen. 
Rescued by Government from dissipation and em- 
bezzlement on the part of those who should have 
been its faithful guardians, it has been placed in safe 
keeping so that for all time it may serve the great 
purposes for which it was designed. No man could 
have raised a greater and more noble monument to 
himself than that which bears the name of Haji. 
Mahomed Mohsin. 



* The District of Khulna was formed out of portions of th& 
Districts of Jessore and the 24 Perganas 1882. 




Ramtanu Lahiri 



RAMTANU LAHIRI. 
18131898. 

. AMONG the many names associated with the great" 
Renaissance in Bengal during the nineteenth century 
that of Ramtanu Lahiri bears art honoured place. 
Foremost in every good work he set by his daily life- 
and conduct a shining example to all those who with 
him were treading the difficult paths of moral and 
social progress. His intense lovableness was the 
secret of the great influence he wielded, his saintly 
life and whole-hearted devotion to the interests of his 
fellow-countrymen never failing to leave a deep 
impression on all those who came in contract with 
him. Though he courageously broke away from the 
old beliefs and the old creeds, it was only in so far as 
he held that they failed in the light of modern know- 
ledge and investigation. All that was best in them 
he was eager to retain. His was no purely destruc- 
tive creed ruthlessly sweeping away all that had 
been held sacred for generations. This was f h> 
natural tendency of the sudden awakening that had 
come to Bengal in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, 'but from the first liamtanu threw the whole 
weight of his influence on the side of moderation. 
He was wise enough to see that no nation, enervated 
by long sleep, can spring to life, at once capable and 



02 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

equipped to guide its own destiny with sure and 
.steady hand. While none was more eager than he to 
step forward boldly on the road of progress, he realised 
to the full the supreme importance of taking no false 
.step. In quietness and in confidence, in slow, care- 
fully-considered advancement lay the strength of the 
new nation that was springing into birth. 

Ramtanu Lahiri came of a family of the highest 
caste, a Brahmin of the Brahmins, a Kulin of long 
.descent. For several generations his ancestors had 
been honourably connected with the important family 
of the Maharajas of Nadia near Krishnagar. His 
great-grandfather, his grandfather and his uncle were 
.all Dewans in their service, while his own father, a 
younger son, was the Dewan of two of the younger 
.scions of the same family. Such continuity of 
.service speaks much for the loyalty of Rarntanu's 
immediate ancestors, while the memories that still 
-survive of many of them show them to have been 
men of singular piety and unworldliness. It is told of 
Ramtanu's great-grandfather, Ramgovinda, that when 
"a division of the family property took place, every- 
thing that \vas of great value was placed in one share 
while in the other was placed only the family 
shalgram and some debbattar land. Ramgovinda, 
when asked to make his choice, unhesitatingly chose 
the latter, willing to face poverty rather than re- 
linquish his tutelary deity and all that it represent- 
<ed. His grandson Ramkrishna, the father of Ramtanu, 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 63 

inherited his pious nature. His last days he devoted 
almost entirely to religious exercises, strictly observ- 
ing every orthodox Brahminical rule of life. His 
simple, well-ordered household was one of Ramtanu's 
earliest recollections and it had an influence upon 
him that remained with him through life. 

Ramkrishna Lahiri had eight sons and two 

daughters of whom Ramtanu was the fifth son and 

seventh child. His mother was Jagaddhatri Davi, 

daughter of Dewan Radhakanta Rai of Krishnagar 

-whose position was second only to that of the Maha- 

Taja himself. Ramkrishna, however, who was only 

Dewan to the Tila Babus, a younger branch of the 

family, never commanded a large salary and the 

education of his numerous family left him in straitened 

circumstances. His edlest son Kesava Lahiri w r as 

-appointed to the sheristadarship of the Judge's court 

.at Jessore and with true filial devotion he made his 

first object the rendering of help to his father in 

bringing up his large family. To him Ramtanu 

owed much of his early education, and he 

always spoke of him with the greatest admiration 

and respect as a perfect type of devoted son 

and brother. Many little incidents are recorded 

of his life showing his unselfishness and willingness 

to help others. He it was who took Ramtanu 

to live him and personally superintended his 

-earliest studies in the intervals of his own heavy 

-official work. Thus the first years of Ramtanu's life 



64 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

were surrounded by good influences which were to- 
beat fruit in after years. 

Ramtanu was born in 1813 at village Baruihuda 
in Krishnagar in the house of his mother's family. 
At the age of five he began his education in one of 
the local patshalas, then generally located in the hous& 
of the most important man in the village. Thev 
were schools of the most primitive description, the 
guru like his pupils seated on the ground , and the latter- 
writing on plantain leaves for paper with pointed sticks 
for pens. The teaching was of the most elementary- 
character, and with no terror of an inspecting officer 
hanging over his head, the guru taught as much or 
as little as he pleased, the whole system being very 
different from that which came into force after the 
awakening of Bengal when the greatest minds of the 
day had devoted themselves to the cause of education . 
In 1826, Ramtanu's elder brother Ke?ava took him 
to reside with him at Chetla, a suburb of Calcutta, in 
order that he might secure a better education than 
Ms native village could provide. Kesava's resources,, 
however, were limited, his salary being only Rs. 30 
a month and it was therefore impossible for him to 
bear the expense of sending Ramtanu to an English 
school. At first he had to be content with giving him 
what instruction he could in his own spare time, 
teaching him Arabic, Persian and a little English. 
With only the early mornings and a little English 
his disposal, however, the whole of the day being 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 65 

occupied with his office work, it was not possible for 
him to devote the attention to Ramtanu's education 
that he wished, and from the first it had been his great 
desire to get him admitted as a free student into 
the institution which was then known as the 
Society's School, but which afterwards bore and still 
bears the name of the Hare School. 

David Hare, a Scotsman who had come out 
to Calcutta as a watchmaker in 1800 at the age 
of twenty-five, had become one of the pioneers of 
education in Bengal. A man of no great education 
himself, he had become firmly impressed with the 
belief that a sound English education was essential 

o 

to the real intellectual development of Bengal. 
Associated with some of the leading Bengali gentle- 
men of the day, among whom one of the foremost was 
Ram Mohan Ray, he succeeded in starting an English 
school for Indian students in the centre of Calcutta. 
The Hindu College was opened on the 20th of January, 
1817, and in the following year a society was formed 
for opening English and Vernacular schools in various 
parts of Calcutta. Selling out his business, he bought 
a piece of land sufficient for his support, and being 
thus free from worldly cares, he was able to devote 
his whole attention to his pet scheme of education. 
Under his energetic guidance other schools were soon 
founded in various parts of Calcutta and so great 
was Mr. Hare's interest in their welfare that it was 
his practice to go round to visit them in his palan- 
5 



66 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

quin every morning, ending with the Hindu College. 
He was looked upon with the greatest love and re- 
verence by the students, many of whom, too poor 
to pay for it, owed their education entirely to his 
generosity and that of his friends whose interest 
he had aroused. The story of Ramtanu's appoint- 
ment as a free scholar gives some insight into the 
difficulties with which Mr. Hare had to contend. 

As soon as it became known that he kept a number 
of free scholarships in his own gift, he became pestered 
with applications for them. Kesava had become 
acquainted with one Gour Mohan Vidyalankar, 
a pundit in one of the David Hare schools, and 
he enlisted his help in endeavouring to secure one 
of the free scholarships for Ramtanu. Gour 
Mohan took the latter to Mr. Hare's house, but 
this first visit did not prove a success. Beseiged by 
applications for the free scholarships, Mr. Hare had 
become suspicious of the good faith of many of the 
applicants, and he refused at first to entertain Gour 
Mohan's request. The latter, however, evidently 
knowing the kindness of Mr. Hare's nature, instructed 
Ramtanu to remain in waiting outside the great 
man's gate, and to repeat his request, running be- 
side his palanquin every time he entered or left 
his house. For two months Ramtanu remained 
.a supplicant, poor and in straitened circumstances, 
but hopeful and persistent. It was truly a triumph 
of importunity, for Mr. Hare at last convinced of 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 67 

'Raratanu's sincere desire for an English education 
appointed him to a free scholarship in, the Hare 
school. 

Raratanu at this time was thirteen years of age. 
His elder brother, having removed from Calcutta, a 
home was found for him in the house of Ram Kanta 
Khan, a cousin of his father's, at Shampukur. Here 
he met with much kindness, and enjoyed the compan- 
ionship of Digambar Mittra, the future Raja, who 
had been entered at the Hare school on the same 
day as himself. The moral atmosphere of Calcutta 
was unfortunately then at its lowest ebb. The young 
men of the city had begun to throw off the 
restraints which had so long held them in check 
under the strict Hindu code, and were indulging in 
every form of vice. Retaining the outward observan- 
ces of their religion, they were shamelessly abandon- 
ing its principles and living lives that outwardly 
conformed but inwardly violated every moral code. 
It was infinitely to Ramtanu's credit that he passed 
unscathed through these evil influences among which 
as a student he was necessarily thrown. 

After two years at the Hare School, Ramtanu 
had pursued his studies with such deligence that he 
won a scholarship at the Hindu College. This 
College had been established in 1817 as the out- 
come of the exertions of David Hare, Baidyanath 
Mukherjee, Ram Mohan Roy and others, supported 
:by the Chief Justice of Bengal, Sir Hyde East. It 



68 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

had originated in the desire to give the rising genera^- 
tion a thorough education on western lines. Govern- 
ment had at first intentionally avoided introducing 
anything of the kind in its sincere desire to avoid 
the appearance of forcing a new system of education 
against their will upon the Indian people. So far 
from desiring to urge anything that might be opposed 
to their wishes or antagonistic to their train of 
thought, Government had endeavoured to encourage 
education on eastern lines. Warren Hastings with 
this object had established the Calcutta Madrassa 
as early as 1781 for the study of Arabic and Persian, 
and more recent efforts had been made in the same 
direction. But already the spirit of change and 
unrest was abroad. A feeling of revolt against the 
old creeds had grown up, and freedom of thought 
was making itself as it had never hitherto done 
in the history of Hinduism. Though as yet confined 
to the few, this spirit of progress was animating 
some of the most brilliant and able men of the rising 
generation. To such as these, education on western 
lines appeared the first essential. While fully alive 
to the many merits of the old regime, they were 
convinced that western modes of thought, western 
knowledge of science and western insistence on moral 
excellence could alone breathe new life into the de- 
caying structure of modern Hindu society. 

For five years Ramtanu remained at the Hindu 
college under influences which left their mark upon 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 69 

'his character. Derozio was then at the full height 
of his brief and meteoric career, exercising a sway 
over the minds of the rising generation of Bengali 
students that it is difficult to exaggerate. Actually 
connected with the College for only three brief years, 
his influence was felt even more in the social gather- 
ings of students at his own house than in his ordinary 
class instructions. At these social gatherings, which 
met after, school hours, readings in poetry, literature 
and moral philosophy took place. Every subject 
under the sun was open for discussion. Yet while 
freedom of thought and freedom of speech were the 
watchwords of these meetings, Derozio enforced a 
strict moral code among his pupils, insisting upon 
the necessity of straightness in word and deed and 
above all of truth in all the dealings of daily life. 
Coming so suddenly after centuries of unquestioning 
acceptance of the old faith, it was only to be anticipat- 
ed that some members of the little group of reformers 
should be carried away by the breadth and depth 
of their new ideas. ' Down with idolatry,' ' down 
with superstition ' had become the cries of a section 
of the young Bengal party and though the old regime 
was strong enough to secure the dismissal of Derozio 
irom the Hindu College in 1831, and practically to 
excommunicate Ram Mohan Ray, who had founded 
the Brahmo Samaj in 1828, it was impossible for it 
to stem the rising tide of free thought and impatience 
of the old restraints* 



70 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Through all these momentous years Ramtanu: 
had remained at the Hindu College. In 1833 he 
became a teacher there on the modest salary of 
thirty rupees a month. Busy with his work all 
day and engrossed in the great questions which 
were agitating Hindu society, he was not forget- 
ful of family ties and duties. A touching^ story is 
told of his devotion to his younger brother, Kali 
Charan Lahiri, at this time. The latter was reading 
for his exmination for the medical degree, when, a- 
few months before the date of it, his eyesight failed 
and he was ordered for the time being to give up 
reading altogether. It was a terrible blow to all 
his hopes, and but for his brother's help there is no- 
doubt that he would have had to give up the career 
that he had planned. Ramtanu, however, was de- 
termined that if it was humanly possible, his brother 
should enter as arranged for the examination, and 
devoting every moment of his spare time to him, 
he read aloud the prescribed text books over and 
over again until Kali Charan practically knew them 
by heart. When the time came he passed the exami- 
nation with flying colours, a result due solely, as 
he always gratefully acknowledged to Ramtanu's- 
help. 

The year 1835 is a memorable one in the history 
of education in Bengal. The Governor-General, Lord 
William Bentick, had long been at variance with 
the Committee of Public Instruction, which had been; 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 71 

appointed in 1823, and which was still strongly in 
favour of an exclusively oriental curriculum. Lord 
Macaulay, who came to India as Legal Member of 
Council, soon proved himself a strong ally of the 
Governor-General and he decided that there was 
no condition laid down the grant made in 1813, 
for the renewal and improvement of literature, 
that made it inapplicable for the promotion of a 
modern English education. Accordingly in 1835 
Lord William Bentick ordered that the lac of rupees 
granted in 1813, should be expended in imparting 
instruction in European languages and sciences 
through the medium of English. This decisive 
action on the part of the Governor General, though 
opposed by the old school, was eagerly welcomed 
by the younger generation among whom Ramtanu 
held an honoured place. He and a number of others 
used to meet regularly in the house of a friend, Ram 
Gopal Ghose, and, among other schemes this enthu- 
siastic little group of reformers devised for the diffu- 
sion of knowledge beyond their own immediate 
circle, was the production of two journals, the Gyanu- 
neshun, the Search after Knowledge, and the Bengal 
Spectator which contained columns both in English 
and Bengali. Further they started a club known 
as ' The Society for the Acquisition of General Know- 
ledge,' where discussions on every subject were freely 
encouraged. Topics were by no means wanting, 
for these years were among the most memorable in 



72 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

modern Bengal. The Calcutta Medical College had 
been founded in June, 1835, and though the want 
of it had long been felt, there having previously 
been no adequate school for the training of Indian 
students in modern medical science, it met with 
opposition from a certain section of the community 
as likely to destroy the caste of students, who would 
be initiated into all the secrets of the dissecting room. 
In the same year also an Act conferring full liberty 
on the Press was passed. This was a great joy .to 
the group of young Bengal students, who, accustomed 
to express themselves freely in their own private 
meetings, were now enabled to write and disseminate 
their opinions with the same freedom in the Press. 
About the same time the Calcutta Public Library 
was founded and placed in the Metcalfe Hall on its 
completion in 1842. It proved a great boon to the 
rising generation. These events, which are but a 
few of the most prominent of these years, show how 
rapid was the progress that was being made, and how 
many must have been the subjects of absorbing in- 
terest available for discussion by Ramtanu and his 
friends. David Hare, who had proved so good a 
friend not only te Ramtanu but to the many other 
youths who had passed through his famous schools, 
died in 1842, and about the same time Ramtanu lost 
his elder brother Kesava to whom he owed so much. 
His mother, to whom he had been devotedly attached , 
died shortly afterwards. 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 73 

In 1846 began a fresh chapter in Ramtanu's life. 
In that year the Krishnagar College was opened, 
being one of the first large colleges outside Calcutta 
and one of the first-fruits of the revival of education 
wh'ch had taken such firm root in the Capital. It 
was under the patronage of the Maharaja Siris 
'Chandra of Krishnagar who entered his son's name 
as one of the first pupils and himself accepted the 
position of a member of the managing committee. 
Captain D. L. Richardson was appointed first Princi- 
pal, Ramtanu being given the post of secod master 
under him in the Collegiate School. Here Ramtanu 
found himself in congenial surroundings after his 
own heart. The same struggle that was going on 
between the old forces and the new in Calcutta was 
soon in actual progress in Krishnagar. The Maharaja 
favoured the party of progress and even went so far 
as to open a branch of the Brahmo Samaj in his 
own palace. A very large number of the students 
and teachers of the newly established college joined 
him, but Ramtanu from the first had not been wholly 
favourable towards its teachings. He had been 
entirely opposed to its first attacks on Christianity 
and had not sympathised with its attempts to attach 
to the Vedas the character of a divine revelation. 
Ramtanu's breadth of view and broadmindedness 
were remarkable in an age when bigotry was rife. 
.' Our desire should be to see truth triumph,' he 
"wrote at; this time. ' Let the votaries of all religions 



74 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

appeal to the reason of their fellow creatures and 
let him who has truth on his side prevail.' But 
although he did not join the Brahmo Sanaa j he was 
closely associated with many of its members, meeting 
them in daily intercourse, freely exchanging ideas 
with them and discussing with them every aspect 
of religious belief. His influence in Krishnagar was 
unbounded. Coming straight from the midst of the 
most advanced coterie in Calcutta he was welcomed 
by the little group of men who were struggling towards 
enlightenment in Krishnagar. He infused into them 
new life and new ideas. The influence that such 
men as David Hare, Derozio, and Ram Mohan Roy 
had exercised upon him, he imparted to others his 
love of truth, his respect for freedom of thought and 
speech, and his intense desire for knowledge, which 
alone could lead men to the Truth. Always he 
advocated free and unrestrained discussion, believing 
that it was only by going to the root of a question and 
judging for oneself on a full presentment of the facts 
that true knowledge could be acquired. He himself 
was always eager to gain fresh knowledge, even from 
the youngest and humblest, and it was this enthusiasm 
combined with innate modesty and simplicity of 
heart that helped to win him the popularity which 
he possessed in such full measure. 

One of the most controversial topics^ of the day 
was the question of the remarriage of Hindu widows. 
The earliest discussion with regard to it had appeared 



RAMTANU LAHIRI T5 

in the pages of the Bengal Spectator, edited by the 
pupils of Derozio. At Krishnagar, the Maharaja 
Siris Chandra interested himself in the matter and 
discussed it with the pundits of Nadia while the ardent 
young reformers in the college held a meeting to express 
their sympathy with it and their dissatisfaction with 
other customs of Hindu Society. But the band of 
reformers was a small one and the upholders of the 
old regime were not inactive. They began by 
spreading a rumour that the college students had 
committed the offence which is unpardonable in the 
eyes of every orthodox Hindu. They accused them 
of having killed a cow and eaten its flesh. The 
rumour quickly gained credence among those who 
were only too anxious to believe evil of the new 
party and many families withdrew their sons from 
the college, while even the Maharaja himself hung 
back, reluctant to break completely with the pundits 
and the influential supporters of the old regime. So 
great was the influence brought to bear against him, 
and so well did the opposite party recognise the 
leading part played by Ramtanu. that the latter was 
forced to recognise that it would be not only for 
his own benefit but for the good of the cause which 
he had at heart that he should for a time at least 
leave Krishnagar. Accordingly in April 1851 he 
obtained a transfer to Burdwan, being appointed 
Head Master of the school there on a salary of one 

hundred and fifty rupees a month. 
\ 



'76 - TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

The social atmosphere of Burdwan was very 
different from that of Krishnagar. The latter was 

o 

following closely in the steps of Calcutta, keeping 
: itself abreast of the latest movements. In Burdwan 
there was not the same class of students eager for 
enquiry and discussion. It was during this period, 
when Ramtanu doubtless had more time for reflec- 
tion, that he finally broke with the old Hinduism. 
In spite of his advanced views and the persecution 
he had suffered at the hands of his coreligionists he 
still wore the Brahminical thread. A story is told 
of an incident that helped to induce him finally to 
break the last slight link that bound him to a 
creed to which he no longer adhered in spirit. He 
was performing the shradh ceremony of his mother at 
Krishnagar in the manner of an orthodox Brahmin, 
when a youth pointing at him the finger of scorn 
.laughed at him, saying, ' You do not believe in 
Hinduism. Yet what is this ? Here you are per- 
forming your mother's shradh with your paita fully 
displayed. Truly a real Brahmin! If not, 
you are a hypocrite.' The taunt cut Ramtanu 
to the heart, the more so as on reflection he could 
only admit its justification. In October, 1851 he 
.finally broke the last link that bound him to the 
old belief by removing the sacred thread. 

It was only for a year that Ramtanu remained at 
Burdwan. In 1852 he went to Uttarpara as Head- 
.master of the English school there, a position he 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 77: 

continued to occupy for four years. Here immediately 
after his public renunciation of Hinduism lie was 
subjected to much persecution from orthodox Hindus. 
No servant would stay with him, and he and his wife 
were often compelled to do all the menial work of 
the house themselves. Some of his friends, seeing 
his distress, urged him to yield on small points, such 
as readopting the paita, which would have made him 
outwardly conform and would have enabled him 
to be received again among the orthodox. There 
can be no doubt that the smallest sign of yielding 
would have been welcomed by the opposite party 
which fully realised Ramtanu's influence and how 
great a danger he was to the faith to which they 
still clung. But Ramtanu steadfastly refused to 
yield. He would not purchase ease and immunity 
from persecution by nieans of a lie, by conforming 
outwardly while inwardly he did not believe. He 
was content to abide^by what he had done, consoled 
by the knowledge that he had done only what he- 
thought to be right. 

In 1854 came the inauguration of the new educa- 
tional policy of government. The Court of Directors 
sent out a despatch, said to have been drawn up by 
John Stuart Mill, which directed that the Governor- 
General should establish an Educational Department 
as a separate Department of the Government of 
India, that a University should be established in 
each of the Presidency cities, and that new schools 



78 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

should be founded and those already existing support- 
ed, while government aid should be given to those 
founded by private enterprise. It was a great step 
in advance, for without, this generous assistance 
on the part of the Government it would have been 
impossible for education to spread as rapidly as 
it has since done. The new Education Department 
Tvas at once established with a Director of Public 
Instruction at its head and a large number of 
Inspectors under him. Schools for the training of 
-teachers were established and with a rapidity that 
was astonishing. High English, Middle English 
and Vernacular schools sprang up all over the country 
in the years that followed. 

The work that Ramtanu did during his four 
years tenure of office at Uttarpara long survived 
liim. Many a young mind there came under his 
influence, receiving an impression that it wa? never 
afterwards to lose. Those who had benefited by his 
teaching and example, gratefully acknowledging their 
debt, erected after his death more than forty years 
later this tablet to his memory in the school where 
lie had taught 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 79 

THIS TABLET TO THE MEMORY OF 

BABU RAMTANU LAHIRI 

Is PUT UP BY HIS SURVIVING UTTARPARA PUPILS AS 
A TOKEN OF THE LOVE, GRATITUDE AND VENERATION 
THAT HE INSPIRED IN THEM WHILE HEADMASTER 
OF THE UTTARPARA SCHOOL FROM 1852 TO 1856 
BY HIS LOVING CARE, BY HIS SOUND METHOD 
OF INSTRUCTION, WHICH AIMED LESS AT THE MERE 
IMPARTING OF KNOWLEDGE THAN AT THAT SUPREME 
END OF ALL EDUCATION, THE HEALTHY STIMULATION 
OF THE INTELLECT, THE EMOTION, AND THE WILL 
OF THE PUPIL, AND ABOVE ALL BY THE EXAMPLE OF 
THE NOBLE LIFE HE LED. 

BORN DECEMBER 1813 : DIED AUGUST 1898. 

It would be difficult for pupils to inscribe to 
any teacher a noble tribute than this. 

During the few years that succeeded his leaving 
the Uttarpara school, Ramtanu held several different 
appointments. Transferred to the Baraset school in 
1857, he remained there about eighteen months, 
exercising the same personal influence over his pupils 
as elsewhere, and from its vicinity to Calcutta being 
able to keep in close touch with his friends there. In 
1858 he was transferred again to Krishnagar, but 
after only a few months there he was appointed to 
the English school at Rassapagla near Calcutta, 
established by Government especially for the edu- 
cation of Tippoo Sultan's descendants. Though 



80 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

reluctant to leave Krishnagar where he had only so 
recently returned, he welcomed the opportunity 
of again enjoying the society of his friends in 
Calcutta. 

Once more Ramtanu was in close touch with the 
great movements that were rapidly changing the 
condition of life and society in Bengal. These were 
eventful years. The mutiny of 1857, after a brief 
period of anxiety, had passed, leaving the British 
government stronger and more firmly rooted than 
before, while the transfer of the Company to the 
Crown had paved the way for the proclamation of 
the Indian Empire which was to come twenty years 
later. The indigo disturbances were rousing the 
keenest interest, the Hindu Patriot, that fore-runner 
of the power of the Press in Bengal, entering with 
zest into the controversy. Young Bengal was 
producing some of her first literary men. Ishvar 
Chandra Gupta, the poet, followed by Michael 
Madhu Sudhan Dutt, Haris Chandra Mukherjee, 
editor of the Hindu Patriot, Bankim Chandra 
Chatterjee, the novelist, Dinanbandhu Mitter, the 
dramatist, were proving themselves redoubtable 
champions of the new learning, while Keshub Chandra 
Sen was already beginning to make his mark as a 
reformer and as the refounder of the Brahnio Sarnaj. 

Ramtanu's stay at Rassapagla, however, was short 
and he was transferred to Barisal as Head Master of 
the Zilla school there. This appointment he held 



RAMTANU LAHIR1 81 

for only three months, being transferred for the third 
time to Krishnagar in April, 1861. For the succeeding 
five and a half years he worked on there, exercising 
all his old personal fascination upon those who 
came in contact with him, and then failing health 
compelled him to' retire. Mr. Alfred Smith, then 
Principal of the Krishnagar College, in sending up 
his application for pension to the Director of Public 
Instruction wrote : 

" In parting with Babu Ramtanu Lahiri, I may 
be allowed to say that Government will lose the ser- 
vices of an educational officer than whom no one has 
discharged his public duties with greater fidelity, 
zeal and devotion, or has laboured more assiduously 
and" successfully for the moral elevation of his 
pupils." 

Glowing as this tribute was, it was one that was 
well deserved and heartily endorsed by every member 
of the college, masters and students alike. He left 
Krishnagar amid universal regret. 

His health being seriously affected, Ramtanu 
went to live for a time after his retirement at 
Bhagalpur, hoping that the drier climate would 
prove beneficial. This not being the case, however, 
he returned to his old home at Krishnagar, and there 
and in Calcutta spent most of his remaining years. 
Although never again enjoying robust health, he 
lived for nearly thirty years after his retirement. 
They were busy years, spent in the management of his 
6 



82 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

family affairs and in close intercourse with all that 
was best and noblest in the society of the day. In 
and around his own home at Krishnagar he was 
universally respected and beloved. Not only those 
who came into close and immediate contact with him 
but the poor and unlettered peasant who dwelt with- 
out his gates learned to appreciate his worth. A 
story is told of the wonderful influence he exercised 
even over those who must have known him chiefly, 
if not entirely, only by repute. A friend of his was 
walking in the neighbourhood of his village and 
curious to find out if the reports of the widespread 
respect in which he was held locally were true, 
asked some labourers whom he met on the road if 
they knew Ramtanu Babu. They at once showed 
surprise, not unmixed with indignation, that they 
should be asked such a question. ' Who does not 
know him ?" they asked. When questioned further 
as to what kind of a man he was, one of them re- 
plied " Do you call him a man ? He is a god." 
" But how can you call him a god," the stranger ask- 
ed, " who has cast off the Brahminical thread and 
eats fowls ?" For a moment the men stared at their 
interrogator. Then one of them answered, " It 
is evident that you do not belong to this part of 
the country or you would not have spoken in this 
way. Casting off the thread and eating fowls may 
be faults in others, but not in him. Whatever he 
does is good." 



RAMTANU LAHIRI 83 

For a time during his retirement, Ramtanu acted 
as guardian of the minors of the Mukherjee family 
of Khetra Gobardanga, a responsible post for which 
he was recommended by Government. There, as 
elsewhere, his wonderful personality won its way. 
" Ramtanu's influence was felt by almost every 
villager " wrote one who knew him well. " He was 
a friend of both the orthodox Hindus and the 
members of the Brahmo Samaj. The long standing 
breach between them in the village was healed by him, 
who was a friend of both." Although Ramtanu had 
broken with Hinduism and had not joined the Brahmo 
Samaj, he was quick to acknowledge what was good in 
both. To him it mattered little what a man's outward 
creed might be. Goodness was the same whether 
it was the goodness of a Hindu, a Muhammadan, 
a Christian or a Brahmo. Everything that was good 
and noble he set before himself as tTbe end and aim 
of life. Every social movement, every reform calcu- 
lated to improve the position of his fellow countrymen, 
met with his ready sympathy. Often he approved a 
proposed reform, yet realised that the times were not 
yet ripe for bringing it about. Such an instance was 
iemale emancipation, which was then one of the many 
topics of the day. While he was a zealous advocate 
of it on principle, none recognised quicker than he 
what care was necessary in putting it into practice, and 
how jealously their women folk must be guarded from 
contact with society that might be hurtful to them. 



Si TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

In his later years Ramtanu suffered heavy 
domestic losses. First his son-in-law, a promising 
youth, then his daughter Indumati and finally his 
eldest son Nova Kumar were taken from him. For 
a man of his affectionate disposition in whom the 
home ties were so deeply rooted these losses were a 
heavy trial. Yet he bore them with splendid courage 
and resignation. Once when he had shown undue 
emotion at the loss of his daughter, he reproached 
himself and turning to his friends, said, " We say that 
God is good, but our conduct hardly tallies with what 
we say. I have now shown unbelief in shedding 
tears for Indu. Why should I weep for her when 
I remember that she is in His good keeping ?" 

Soon after the loss of his son and daughter,. 
Ramtanu came to live in Calcutta in 1879, con- 
tinuing to reside there with occasional visits to hi& 
home at Krishnagar for the remainder of his life. 
His circumstances were by no means prosperous and 
beyond his small pension of seventy five rupees a 
month he had little upon which to rely. The long 
illness of his children had been a heavy drain upon 
his resources and his open handed charity had taken 
little thought for the future. It was at this stage 
that his second son Sharat Kumar, now of an age to 
fend for himself, came with filial devotion to hi& 
assistance. Giving up his studies at the University 
he obtained the employment of Librarian at the 
Metropolitan Institution, a post he continued to hold 



85 



for five years. Ambitious, however, of contributing 
still further to his father's support than the small 
income so derived would allow, he set up on his own 
account in 1883 as a booksheller and publisher. The 
influence of his father's name and the support of his 
father's large circle of friends enabled him to meet 
with success from the outset. He thus had the great 
joy of placing his father beyond the need of financial 
worries and of very largely contributing to his happi- 
ness and comfort during the remaining years of his 
life. 

Ramtanu's last years were still further saddened 
by the death of his youngest son at the age of fifteen, 
of his wife, the faithful and devoted partner of all his 
joys and sorrows, and of his younger brother Dr. Kali 
Charan Lahiri, as well as of many of his most devoted 
friends. Yet keenly as he felt these bereavements, 
they failed to kill the hopefulness and buoyancy 
of his nature. To the end he maintained his un- 
wavering faith in the divine wisdom, accepting with 
resignation the trials that were sent to him. He 
died on the 18th of August, 1898 full of years and 
honour. 

Although it was not given to Ramtanu Lahiri 
to achieve fame, as the world counts it, in any parti- 
cular walk of life, his infl uence on his day and genera- 
tion was undoubted. Fame would have been the 
last thing that he himself would have desired. Am- 
bitious only of all that was good and honourable 



86 

and true, no man could have demanded less of life than 
he. For himself he asked nothing, for his fellow- 
men he asked everything. Upon all with whom he 
came in contact and they were all the leading men 
of his day, his intense earnestness, his love of truth, 
his uncompromising aversion to all that was unworthy 
or unjust, and his neverf ailing eagerness to help 
others, left a deep impression. His humility was- 
touching and profound. " When he saw others who- 
spent much time in prayer," wrote Professor Max 
Muller of him, " he considered them the most favoured 
of mortals, for pure and conscientious as he was, he 
felt himself so sinful that he could but seldom utter 
a word or two in the spirit of what he considered 
true prayer." It was this spirit of true modesty 
which prevented him from ever thrusting himself 
to the front and taking a leading part in the great 
controversies that were shaking society to its founda- 
tions. Yet quietly and persistently he did the work 
that it was given to him to do, exercising a very 
real influence on his day and generation, his sweet- 
ness and gentleness of disposition helping to heal 
the wounds of controversy and pleading for a wider 
sympathy and a broader toleration in matters of 
belief. 




Nawab Amir Ali Khan Bahadur 



89 



NAWAB AMIR ALI KHAN 
BAHADUR, C.I.E. 

18101879. 

" Next after Sir Salar Jung he was the best 
Muhammad an I have ever known." Such was the 
high praise bestowed upon Nawab Amir Ali Khan 
Bahadur by no less distinguished an administrator 
than Sir Richard Temple, praise which few of those 
who had the privilege of being acquainted with the 
subject of it will consider to have been exaggerated. 
Throughout the course of a long life he was uni- 
versally respected and esteemed, wielding great 
influence not only among his co-religionists but 
among Europeans and Hindus alike, as one of the 
leading Muhammadans of the day in Bengal. 

Amir Ali Khan came of an old Persian familj'' 
which had long been settled in India. He was 
ninth in descent from Kazi Syed Noah who after 
filling the office of Kazi at Baghdad left his native 
land to seek his fortunes in India. Settling at 
Delhi he met with much respect at the Imperial 
Court, his great learning winning for him an honour- 
ed place, with numerous grants of land and titles of 
distinction. It was his grandson, Mulla Shah Noor 
Muhammad who was the first to leave Delhi and 



90 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

wander further east. He finally settled in Behar r 
his great grandson again, Muhammad Rafi being the 
first to make his home at Barh in the Patna district. 
He married the daughter of Kazi Syed Muhammad; 
Mea and greatly distinguished himself in the service 
of the Naib Nazim of Bengal. He was much in 
favour with Ali Verdi Khan and it was through his 
recommendation that he received the title of Shaikul 
Mashaikh from the Imperial Court at Delhi. Hi& 
son Waris Ali took little part in politics, being con- 
tent to remain at home and manage his zemindari. 
For his own son, however, he expected greater 
things and he gave him the best education possible, 
sending him as far afield as Moradabad and Bareilly 
where he was present at several actions during 
Lord Lake's campaign against the Mahrattas. He 
returned to Barh on his father's death and there his 
son the future Nawab Bahadur was born on the 
1st of March, 1810. 

Amir Ali Khan early showed signs of the quali- 
ties which were to win him so prominent a place 
in later life. Until the age of nineteen he prosecut- 
ed his studies at home, becoming proficient in. 
Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. It is typical, however, 
of Muhaminadan conservatism and of the prejudices 
of the time that he was not taught English, and it is 
an astonishing fact that, in spite of his own broad and 
liberal views and of the place he eventually won for 
himself in the regard of all the European officials with 



NAWAB AMIR ALI 91 

whom he came in contact, he was never till the day of 
his death able to converse in the English language. 
His first appointment was that of pleader in the Civil 
Court at Patna in 1832. Two years later he went 
down to Calcutta where he was appointed one of the 
assistants to the Envoy despatched to the Court of 
Nazimddin Haider, King of Oudh. Here amid the- 
intrigues and petty jealousies of an Indian court he 
first showed that tact and discretion which was later 
to enable him to occupy so responsible and difficult 
position with dignity and credit. He remained at 
the Court of Oudh until the King's death in 1838, 
being then appointed a Deputy Assistant Superin- 
tendent in the Presidency Special Commissioner's- 
Court at Calcutta, where it was his duty to plead OIL 
behalf of government in all cases ojL claims to re- 
sumption of lands held rent free on defection of 
want of title. In 1854 he became government 
pleader in the same court, leaving it a few years 
later to practice in the old Sudder Dewani Adalat. 
So far his career, though of no special distinction 
had been marked by conspicuous ability, high legal 
attainments and genial and tactful manners. These 
first appointments however, were but the prelimin- 
ary training for the important work that still awaited 
him. 

Loyalty had always been the watch-word of the 
Barh family and it ever remained one of the most 
conspicuous traits in the character of Amir Ali Khan. 



92 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

In the dark year of 1857, when many another 
held back, he came boldly forward to put his loyal 
protestations into spirited and courageous action. 
Throwing the whole weight of the great influence 
that he possessed, not only among his co-religionists 
but among all creeds and classes, on the side of law 
and order, he was untiring in doing his utmost to 
ally the unfortunate suspicions that had been aroused 
and to bring about an understanding between all 
parties. Patna, where the largest body of Indian 
troops outside Calcutta was stationed, was regarded 
as the centre of disaffection, and when Mr. Samuells 
was appointed Commissioner to deal with the 
Mutiny, Amir All who was intimately acquainted 
with local conditions was chosen to be his special 
assistant and a Deputy Magistrate in all the districts 
of the Patna Division. His appointment like that 
of Mr. Samuells came in for a considerable amount 
of criticism, but it was ably defended by the acting 
Commissioner, Mr. Farquharson, in October, 1857. 

" I may perhaps be allowed to state " he wrote, 
" that Amir Ali's appointment was, in the opinion of 
those best able to judge and appreciate the tone of 
Patna native society, a healthy, politic, popular and 
useful measure. The better classes of natives in 
the city have throughout these, evil times displayed 
nothing but loyalty and good will to the British 
Government. The appointment of Arnir Ali, a 
native of the province and known to each and all, 



NAWAB AMIR ALI 93 

either as personal legal adviser or successful 
pleader in the highest court of judicature, to assist 
the Commissioner in his early communications with 
those classes, was precisely what was required to 
allay fears which were daily gaining ground and 
strength fears that the Government was bent on 
general and indiscriminate vengeance for the attroci- 
ties committed in other parts of India. There is 
no calculating what might have been the danger or 
mischief of a spread of the belief among a credulous 
and timid population. The fear was at once allayed 
by Amir Ali's advent and not only has the real 
justice of the Government been made apparent to 
the native mind but its vast power and resources, 
not half understood or believed by the people were 
made real and credible to all." The appointment 
was further approved by the Court of Directors in a 
Despatch of August 1858, wherein the opinion was 
expressed that " the Lieutenant Governor had 
shown good and sufficient reason for it and the 
excellent service rendered by Munshi Amir Ali is 
the best justification of the government in selecting 
him for the important office which he held in 
Patna." 

In recognition of the services he had rendered, 
Amir Ali was created a Khan Bahadur in 1864 and 
in the following year he was appointed a member 
of the Bengal Legislative Council. He was also an 
Honorary Magistrate at Alipore and a Justice of 



94 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the Peace of Calcutta, while the many societies to 
which he belonged kept him fully occupied. Among 
his many activities that which was destined to 
assume perhaps the greatest importance of all was 
the inauguration oi the National Muhammadan 
Association of Calcutta for which he was responsible. 
His object in founding it was to unite all classes of 
Muhammadans so that they might work together for 
the common good. He recognised that cohesion 
meant strength and that one of the main reasons 
for the backwardness into which the Muhammadan 
community had fallen was its lack of organisation 
and of any representative body to take action in its 
behalf. As President of the Association that he had 
founded Amir Ali did invaluable work on behalf of 
his co-religionists. He spared no effort to improve 
their condition and to bring home to them a sense 
of their responsibilities and of the necessity of 
bestirring themselves to keep abreast of modern 
conditions. Like Nawab Abdul Latif and a select 
little company of Muhammadan leaders, he was quick 
~to see that the old conservative feeling of exclusiveness 
in social relations and education could only be per- 
sisted in at the expense of the general prosperity 
and well being of the Muhammadan community. He 
was never tired of expounding the advantages of 
British rule in India, and with the object of bringing 
them home to the people he wrote in Persian a work 
known as the Amir Nawab on the history of the 



NAWAB AMIR ALI 95 

British administration in India, which met with 
considerable success. 

Government was not slow in. recognising the 
good work done by Amir Ali, and when an 
opportunity occurred showed itself anxious to 
make use of his services. In 1867 it became 
necessary to appoint a manager for the affairs of 
Wajid Ali Shah, the ex-king of Oudh, who was then 
residing in Calcutta. It was a most difficult post, 
one that few would envy and few were adequately 
fitted to occupy. The choice of government fell 
finally upon Amir Ali Khan. He had proved his 
capability and above all his unfailing tact as assistant 
to the Commissioner of Patna in the difficult days 
of 1857, while his genial manners and sympathetic 
disposition had already won him a host of friends in 
'Calcutta. As manager of the affairs of the ex-king 
of Oudh, however, he had the most difficult task of 
liis lifetime. Wajid Ali Shah, surrounded by a crowd 
of favourites and satellites who bitterly resented the 
intervention of a stranger, was himself by no means 
inclined to welcome with open arms the official 
appointed by the British government to regulate 
Ms private affairs. Resenting the position in which 
he had been placed, the ex-king endeavoured to 
withdraw himself altogether from social intercourse, 
particularly with Europeans, adopting towards the 
government a tone of marked hostility and distrust. 
By his constant tact and unwearied patience Amir 



96 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Ali succeeded in improving the relations between 
him and the British Government as well as in bring- 
ing a certain amount of order and honesty into the 
management of the ex-king's affairs. For eight 
years he remained in charge and it says much for 
his successful administration that at the end of that 
period he retired with the good will and regret of 
both the Government and the ex-king. So ably had 
he fulfilled his difficult task that Government after- 
wards entrusted him with another of a somewhat 
similar nature, to settle the debts of the last Naib 
Nazim of Bengal. 

In the last few years of his fresh honours came 
to him. In 1875 he was given the title of Nawab 
as a personal distinction, it being conferred upon 
him by Lord Northbrook at a Durbar held on the 
17th of September that year. Two years later he 
was invited to attend the Imperial Assembly at Delhi, 
receiving there a silver meclal from the Viceroy, 
Lord Lytton. Shortly before his death he received 
yet another distinction from the British government, 
being created a Companion of the newly created order 
of the Indian Empire. About the same time the 
Sultan of Turkey bestowed upon him the Companion- 
ship of the Turkish Order of the Osmanieh in re- 
cognition of his services to the Muhammadan com- 
munity. 

Nawab Amir Ali died on the 16th of November,. 
1879 and the following letters, one from the Private 



NAWAB AMIR ALI 97 

'Secretary to His Excellency the Viceroy and the 
other from the Lieutenant-Governor himself suffici- 
-ently testify to the esteem in which he was held* 

VICEROY'S CAMP, DELHI 
24th Nov. 1879. 

DEAR SIR, 

H. E. the Viceroy has received with deep regret the news 
contained in the letter of the 20th of the death of your father 
5the late Nawab Amir Ali. H. E. desires me to express to 
you his deep sympathy in the loss which not only you but 
the Muhammadan community of Calcutta and His Excellency 
himself have suffered by the death of so highly and deservedly 
esteemed a gentleman and so loyal a servant of the British 
.government. 

I remain, Dear Sir, 

Yours faithfully, 
V^G. T. COLLEY, COL. 
% P. S. to the Viceroy. 

SIMLA 

28th Nov. 1879. 
.MY DEAR SIR, 

I received with very deep regret your letter announcing 
the death of my good old friend Nawab Amir Ali. I heard 
from him not long ago and was not at all aware of his Hlness 
or I should have written to enquire after him. He will be a 
great loss to Muhammadan society and Government loses 
in him an old and valuable servant. Personally I shall miss 
very much his loyal and hearty co-operation in all matters 
effecting the welfare of the Muhammadan population. 

I am, 
Yours faithfully, 

A. EDEN. 
7 



98 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

At a time when Muhammadans of distinction were 
unfortunately only too few, the figure of Nawab 
Amir Ali Khan stood out as a shining example to 
his co-religionists. He was one of that little band of 
men to whom it was given by strenuous effort and 
unwearying vigilance to raise the Muhammadan 
community from the slough of despond into which it 
had fallen. All who came in contact with him felt 
the charm of his personality. A learned Persian 
scholar and fluent Urdu speaker, he was equally at 
home among all classes, officials and non-officials, 
Europeans and Indians alike. The services he ren- 
dered to government in the dark days of mutiny, as 
manager of the ex-king of Oude's affairs, and as a 
loyal and reliable adviser were gratefully acknow- 
ledged, while the immense services he was able to 
render to the Muhammadan community were inesti- 
mable. To quote again the words of Sir Richard 
Temple he was ' one of the old school, and afforded 
a complete example of its virtues and merits.' 




Maharajadhiraj Mahtab Chand Rai Bahadur of Burdwan 



MAHARAJADHIRAJ MAHTAB GRAND 
RAI BAHADUR OF BURDWAN. 

18201879 

\ 

Mahtab Ohand Rai, Maharajadhiraj of Burdwan, 
was one of the great figures of the nineteenth century. 
Inheriting a high position among the nobles of Bengal, 
he won further distinctions by his own loyalty, 
energy and ability. Not only did he succeed in ob- 
taining confirmation of all the distinctions conferred 
upon his predecessors by the Moghul government, 
but by the judicious management of his vast estates 
he enormously increased their value, handing on a 
yet more splendid inheritance to his successor even 
than that which he had himself received. .Of a re- 
tiring disposition, and quiet and dignified in manner, 
he never thrust himself into the political arena. 
He waa content to exercise wisely and with restraint 
the great influence that his position gave him, never 
forgetful of the heavy^responsibilities that that posi- 
tion entailed. 

Born on the 17th of November 1820, Mahtab 
Chand was the fourth son of Lala Paran Chand 
Kapur. The latter's sister Kamal Kumari had 
married the Maharaja Tej Chand Rai of Burdwan 
and on the death of their only son, the Maharaja 



102 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

.adopted his nephew Mahtab Chand as his heir. 
The Kapur family was one of considerable antiquity 
and great distinction. The founder of the Burdwan 
branch was Abu Rai of Kotli in Lahore, by caste a 
Kapur Kshatriya, who settled in Bengal in the 
middle of the 17th century, being appointed 
* Choudhuri and Kotowal of Rekabi Bazaar ' under the 
Fauzdar of Chakla Burdwan. To the estate that 
he founded his descendants gradually added further 
possessions, generation after generation plaVing its 
part in building up the immense property which 
Mahtab Rai was finally to complete and consolidate 
in the nineteenth century. Chitra Sen Rai, eighth 
in descent from Abu Rai was the first to obtain the 
title of Raja, a distinction he received from the 
Emperor Mahomed Shah in 1740. His successor 
Tilak Chand attained the higher rank of Maharaj- 
adhiraj Bahadur, a title which each successive head 
of the Burdwan family has since held. This son, 
Tez Chand succeeded at the age of six in 1771 and 
obtained from the Emperor Shah Alum a sanad 
dated the same year confirming him in the rank of 
Maharajadhiraj Bahadur and appointing him com- 
mander of 5,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry with 
various other military distinctions. For sixty-one 
years he lived to enjoy these honours, his long life 
extending from the momentous period of the dawn 
of British rule in Bengal down to the comparatively 
peaceful days of its firm establishment in the fourth 



MAHTAB GRAND 103 

decade of the nineteenth century. Among the many 
changes that he saw pass over the face of Bengal by 
no means the least important to him as a great 
landholder was the Permanent Settlement, which 
became law as Regulation I of 1793. 

Mahtab Chand succeeded his adopted father on 
the 16th of August 1823 and a year later, when only 
thirteen years of age, he received a farman from 
the Governor-General, Lord William Bentick, con- 
firming him in the title of Maharajadhiraj Bahadur. 
Brought thus into prominence at a very early age, 
the possessor of a vast estate and great wealth, and 
the holder of one of the highest titles in Bengal, 
Mahtab Rai fully realised alike the possibilities and 
the responsibilities of his high position. Although 
a young man exposed to all the temptations to 
which his great wealth and independence rendered 
him particularly liable, he set himself from the first to. 
administer it wisely and well. Naturally of a quite 
and retiring disposition, he made no bid for popular- 
ity or political eminence. Content with his position 
as one of the greatest landholders in Bengal and as 
the representative of one of its most important 
families, he concentrated all his energies on improv 
ing the condition of his tenants and estate, erecting 
his splendid palaces and laying out his gardens at 
Burdwan, and worthily maintaining the honourable 
traditions of his house. 

Loyalty, whole hearted and unswerving, was one 



104 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

of the strongest traits in the character of Mahtab 
Chand. Recognising on every side the benefits that- 
British rule had conferred on his distracted country, 
he gave to it his firm allegiance. His own estates 
from their geographical position had been especially 
liable to plunder and devastation during the un- 
settled years of the eighteenth century, and the 
remarkable prosperity they had attained in his own 
day under the peaceful reign of British law and 
order formed a striking contrast. Twice the 
Maharaja had the satisfaction of materially assisting 
Government in maintaining that same law and order. 
The Santal Rebellion of 1855 afforded him an 
opportunity of showing his loyalty in a practical 
way which he showed himself eager to adopt. His 
estates lay between Calcutta and the scene of the- 
disturbances and the railway running in those days 
no further than Ranigunj. the Maharaja was able to 
give Government valuable assistance in the matter 
of transport and in improving the means of com- 
munication. All the vast resources of his great 
estates were freely placed at the disposal of the 
authorities. His workmen rapidly opened up new 
roads, and his elephants and bullock carts speedily 
transported troops and baggage through the wild 
country in which the turbulent Santals had hitherto 
held their own unchallenged. Services of a similar 
nature the Maharaja rendered again a few years- 
later during the Sepoy Mutiny, again undertaking 



MAHTAB CHAND 105 

transport duties on an extensive scale and setting 
an example of loyalty to the other Zemindars of 
Bengal. The first recognition on the part of govern- 
ment for these and other services came in 1864 in 
his appointment as an additional member of the 
Legislative* Council of the Governor-General. He 

o 

was one of the first Indians to attain to the dignity 
of a seat in the Council, and his practical experience 
as a great landowner and his intimate knowledge 
of the conditions of life generally in Bengal proved 
of great service. He made no attempt at oratorical 
display but his speeches were invariably characterised 
by simplicity and strong common sense, and they 
were listened to with attention and respect as the- 
words of a man whose impartiality and honesty were 
unimpeachable and whose opportunities of acquiring 
information were unrivalled. In 1868 the further 
distinction was conferred upon him of a grant of 
armorial bearings with supporters, and nine years 
later at the Imperial assemblage at Delhi, he was 
granted as a personal distinction the right to a salute 
of thirteen guns. 

Apart from his position on the Legislative Council, 
Maharaja Mahtab Chand refrained on principle from 
taking any active part in the great political move- 
ments of the day. On almost every question he 
held decided views but he considered that it was 
more incumbent upon him to exercise his influence 
quietly through legitimate channels as the adviser 



106 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

of Government rather than openly to take part in 
political controversies. His opinion was constantly 
asked by the authorities and carried all the weight 
of his great name and position. Popularity he 
altogether disregarded. Having the full courage of 
his convictions, he cared nothing for the approval or 
disapproval of others, once he was convinced of the 
justice of the course he had advocated. 

In all matters that related to the spread of 
education the Maharaja was keenly interested. At 
Burdwan he established an Anglo -Vernacular School 
which he threw open to boys of all creeds and classes. 
This Institution which has since been raised to the 
status of a college provides a free education in 
English, Bengali, Sanskrit and Persian for poor and 
deserving students, and a separate department for 
girls has since been added. Himself of a studious 
disposition and well educated, he did much to en- 
courage literature and scholarships. He was parti- 
cularly desirous that the Mahabharat, the Ramayana, 
and the other religious books of his faith should be 
more widely disseminated and made accessible to 
all, not only in cheap Sanskrit editions but in Bengali 
translations, which alone could popularise them in 
modern Bengal. With this object he engaged the 
services of some of the most famous Pandits of the day. 
For over thirty years their labours continued, resulting 
in the republication of the original Sanskrit books 
with Bengali translations, which have done so much 



MAHTAB CHAND 107 

to make them better known among the people of 
Bengal. 

In the cause of medical and charitable relief the 
Maharaja was no less generous. He established 
charitable dispensaries at Burdwan and Kalna and 
gave temporary aid freely in all cases of need 
throught his estates. To his tenants and numer- 
ous dependents he was especially open-handed and 
in all cases of epidemics and famine he was ever 
ready to help, to the utmost of his power. In the, 
severe famines in Orissa and Behar he rendered 
Government invaluable aid, placing all the resources 
of his great wealth at its disposal. To the Madras 
Famine Fund he made the magnificent donation of 
Us. 1,50,000. The religious endowments made by 
his ancestors at Kalna and elsewhere he maintained 
in their entirety. 

Among his other varied interests, the Maharaja 
spent much time and money in establishing a 
Zoological garden at Burdwan, which is still main- 
tained by the present head of the family. He was 
also one of the earliest and most liberal supporters 
of the Zoological gardens at Calcutta, which are 
to-day so great a feature of the Capital. Again 
in the development of Darjeeling as a hill station he 
played a leading part. He was quick to see the 
great future that lay before it, once popular attention 
had been drawn to it and once the idea of a summer 
head-quarters for the Bengal Government among 



108 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the hills had been definitely adopted. He purchas- 
ed large tracts of land in the vicinity of Darjeeling 
and Kurseong and greatly assisted in the develop- 
ment of those stations. The establishment of Govern- 
ment for a certain period of the year in Darjeeling 
soon led to a great influx of visitors official and 
non-official and the Maharaja's wise foresight in 
purchasing land before the rush began proved a 
splendid investment. On the beautification of his- 
own house in Burdwan he lavished much care and 
thought, practically all the chief buildings there 
owing their origin to him. The beautiful Dilkhusha 
gardens were designed and laid out under his per- 
sonal supervision, and like the palace intself remain 
to-day as evidence of his excellent taste. In the 
management of his affairs he was assisted by a Council 
of responsible advisers appointed by him on the 
lines of the viceroy's executive councils, each member 
being placed in charge of a special department of 
the estate. The Maharaja proved himself an ex- 
cellent judge of character and the members of the 
Council were selected with great care, some of the 
ablest men in Bengal, who afterwards still further 
distinguished themselves, doing good services upon 
it. He himself took a personal interest in the smallest 
details of the management of his property and through- 
out his long career he administered it wisely and 
well. 

Maharaja Mahtab Chand died on the 26th 



MAHTAB CHAND 109 

October 1879 at Bhagalpur. For forty seven years 
he had been one of the most prominent figures in 
Bengal and though he had never courted publicity 
and had been fearless in the expression on several 
occasions of anti-popular opinions, when his 
advice had been asked, he had won universal respect 
among all classes. Straightforward and honest, 
with a detestation of hypocrisy and falsehood, he 
was trusted and consulted by rich and poor, by 
officials and non-officials alike. Quiet and retiring, 
yet with a true sense of his own dignity and of the 
responsibilities of his position, he worthily upheld 
the great traditions of his house and has left behind 
him a name that takes high place in the roll call of 
the nobles of Bengal in the nineteenth century. 



t^K. 




Nawab Abdul Latif Khan Bahadur 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF KHAN 
BAHADUR, C.LE. 

18281893 

t 

The name of Nawab Abdul Latif Klian will always 
have an honoured place in Muhammadan annals in 
the nineteenth century. Although for over thirty five 
years he occupied no higher permanent official post 
than that of Deputy Magistrate, his great ability and 
keen advocacy of the causes he had at heart won 
for him an unique position, not only among the- 
Indian community but also in European society. He 
was one of the first to recognise how great was the 
mistake that his co-religionists were making in 
holding themselves aloof from the wide-spread 
educational movement of the day, and in the great 
task of awakening them to a sense of their respon- 
sibilities he played a leading part. A large tolerance 
and a very earnest desire that Hindus and Muham- 
rnadans might draw more closely together won 
him well-nigh universal sympathy and esteem.. 
Occupied as he was with the heavy routine work of 
a government official he yet found time to throw 
himself heart and soul into every movement that 
promised the advancement of the Muhammadan 
community or the amelioration of the lot of his poorer 



112 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

.and more unfortunate fellow-countrymen. Besides 
Ms work as Deputy Magistrate in the Bengal Pro- 
vincial Service, he was also at various times a fellow 
-of the Calcutta University, a member of the Bengal 
Legislative Council, an Honorary Magistrate, a 
founder of the Presidency College, a Justice of the 
Peace, a member of the Special Committee appoint- 
ed to conduct the first regular census in Calcutta and 
.the Founder of the Calcutta Literary Society. Yet 
this list, long as it is, gives but a small conception 
of the energy and the wide spread sympathies of 
Nawab Abdul Latif . 

His long life covered the greater part of the 
nineteenth century. Born in 1828, it was given to 
him to see the great advance socially, morally and 
veconoinically which that century had brought to 
India and to Bengal in particular. In his youth, 
the railway and the telegraph, those two great fore- 
runners of progress and civilisation, were unknown 
even in the west. He lived to see them completely 
change the conditions of life in one of the most con- 
servative and slow-moving countries in the world. 
In 1828 the East India Company still held its Charter 
.and India for six years more was still a land of restric- 
tions. Lord William Bentick had but recently assumed 
the reins of office and the most famous act of .his 
administration, the abolition of Sati, was yet to 
come. 

Abdul Latif came of a family of distinction which 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 113 

had been settled for generations in Eastern Bengal. 
Tracing its descent from Khaled, one of the first 
great soldiers of the Crescent, known from his 
prowess in religious warfare as the ' Sword oi God,' 
it numbered men of learning, piety and enterprise 
among its members. The descendants of the 'Sword 
of God' lived in Mecca itself until one of them, 
inspired by that spirit of adventure which led so 
many of his countrymen eastwards, set out for India. 
Making his way to Delhi, Shah Azimuddin settled 
there under the special protection of the Emperor, 
acquiring much fame on account of his learning and 
piety. His son Abdur Rasul travelled yet further 
afield, obtaining the appointment of a Judgeship 
in Eastern Bengal and finally making his home at 
Eajapur in the Faridpur district. Those were 
troublous days and law and order were yet things of 
the future on the outskirts of the Empire. The great 
rivers were the main highways of Eastern Bengal 
and they were infested with dacoits who rendered 
unsafe for habitation the country far inland on either 
bank. Choosing a quiet and secure retreat, Abdur 
Easul made for himself a home which is still in the 
possession of his descendants to-day. He was 
succeeded in his judgeship by his son, who acquired 
more lands and added still further to the dignity of 
the family. But as often happened to Muhammadan 
families in past days, their increase inevitably meant 
.their decay, the property of the original founder 
l 8 



114 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

being divided and subdivided among his descendants- 
until the share of each became insufficient for his- 
maintenance. This occurring among the descendants 
of Abdur Rasul at Rajapur, various cadets of the 
family were forced to look beyond the local limits of 
their own home for the means of livelihood. Among 
them Kaji Fakir Muhamed, sixth in descent from 
Shah Azimuddin, set out from his old home to seek 
his fortune in Calcutta. There he joined the bar of the 
old Suddar Dewani Adaulut, in those days almost 
the only career open to a man of ambition outside 
the service of the Company. The freedom and 
independence enjoyed by a Pleader at the Sudder 
Court appealed to Fakir Muhamed and his own 
personal interests travelled far beyond the limits of 
the legal profession. The study of history exercised 
for him an absorbing fascination and the result of 
his researches was a Universal History written by 
him in Persian and entitled Jami-ul-Tawarik. It 
was published in 1836 and met with considerable 
success. Eight years later Kaji Fakir Muhamed 
died at his old home at Rajapur, from which success 
in another and wider sphere of life had never weaned 
his affections. 

His second son was the future Nawab, the sub- 
ject of this memoir. With his two brothers he was 
educated at the Calcutta Madrassa and early showed 
signs of the distinction he was destined to gain in later- 
years. The Madrassa owed its origin to that wisest of 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 115 

Indian administrators, Warren Hastings, who had 
planned it for the training of men for the Company's 
service and for the administration of the law as it 
then stood. It had thus become the very centre of 
Persian and Arabic study in the midst of the new 
Bengal that was gradually rising into existence, 
becoming as time went on, the great stronghold of 
conservatism and tradition as opposed to the spirit 
of progress and reform. But conditions were rapidly 
changing and with the strengthening of the British 
dominion in India came the necessity for widening 
and modernising the course of study and making 
the English language one of its principal features. 
It was thus while still at the Madrassa that 
Abdul Latif was first brought face to face with 
the problem which was to form the chief work of 
his life. The Muhamniadan community, clinging to 
the old traditional forms of study, turned a deaf ear 
to the rising tide of modernism. Intensely conserva- 
tive by nature, unaccustomed to competition and not 
understanding that the pre-eminence they had always 
held in legal and classical studies could ever be 
seriously threatened, they failed to realise what others 
were quick to grasp that conditions had changed 
irrevocably and that a knowledge of English had be- 
come a virtual necessity. It is extraordinary in the 
light of modern days to look back upon the rigid 
attitude adopted by the Muhammadan community in 
general and their long refusal to advance with the 



116 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

times. It was while Abdul Latif was at the 
Madrassa in the early forties that the study of English 
after much controversy was first introduced there. 
But so great was the opposition that the English 
classes were practically boycotted, the students 
refusing to be drawn from their Persian and Arabic 
studies and from the study of the Law which was 
fast ceasing to be the law of the land. In vain it 
was pointed out to them that under the new regime 
a knowledge of English was essential, and that the 
importance of Persian and Arabic and the study of 
Muhammadan Law was not what it had been. With 
a persistence that seems remarkable seventy years 
later they steadily refused to take the opportunities 
that were offered to them by a Government anxious 
only for their welfare. It was thus that the Hindu 
community, untrameUed by the same prejudices 
and quick to move with the times, seized the advantage 
which it has ever since held. It was only such 
Muhammadans as Abdul Latif and a little company 
of his fellow students who had a truer insight into 
the future. They threw themselves heartily into the 
study of English and the modem side, eager to equip 
themselves to meet the requirements of the day. Dis- 
tressed at the position into which the Muhammadan 
community was rapidly tailing, Abdul Latii set him- 
self from this time onwards to combat the prejudices 
that prevented them from moving with the times 
and adapting themselves to altered conditions. 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 117 

Abdul Latif's early proficiency in English dis- 
tinguishing him among his co-religionists, at once 
brought him into contact with many of the highest 
government officials of the day. The introduction of 
the study of English into the Madrassa course had 
been watched with great interest by Government, 
which had used every means in its power to bring 
the necessity of it plainly before the eyes of the 
Muhammadan community. The few students who 
were prompt to take advantage of the English classes 
were consequently marked out for encouragement 
and distinction, and Abdul Latif, who had won a 
Government scholarship, by his modesty, his charm 
of manner and his complete mastery of English 
soon won for himself an assured place in the best 
society of the day. In those days, however, there 
were far fewer posts open to Indian students than 
there are to-day, and some time elapsed before he 
gained a permanent appointment under Government. 
After leaving the Madrassa his first employment 
was as Private Secretary to the Arnir of Sind who 
was residing on a political pension at Dum Dum. 
A year later he was officiating as a master at the 
Dacca Collegiate School. After another temporary 
billet with a Commission of Enquiry under Mr. 
Samuells, I.C.S., he was back again in Calcutta as 
1 an Anglo-Arabic Professor at the Calcutta Madrassa. 
v His name, however, had now been sent up and 
^approved for the Subordinate Executive Service 



118 

and lie had not long to wait for an appointment. 
In 1849 at the age of twenty-one he was appointed 
a Deputy Magistrate by Sir Herbert Haddock, Deputy 
Governor of Bengal. Beginning in the then lowest 
grade of Deputy Magistrates on the pay of Us. 200 
a month, he was posted to the head-quarter station 
of the 24-Parganas. For over twenty-five years 
he remained in the subordinate Executive Service 
and it is one of the most striking features of Abdul 
Latif's career that though he held so comparatively 
humble an official position he exercised such wide- 
spread influence and was so universally acknowledged 
as one of the foremost leaders of Muhammadan 
society not only in Bengal but throughout India. 
It speaks much for the individuality and force of 
character of the man himself. 

For three years Abdul Latif remained at Alipore, 
learning the work of a Deputy Magistrate, and at the 
end of that period he was invested with first class 
powers and was also made a Justice of the Peace. In 
1853, he received promotion in the ordinary course of 
service and was chosen as the first subdivisional 
officer of the newly formed subdivision of Kalaroa, 
then a part of the 24-Parganas District. For a year 
he remained there, taking a keen interest in the un- 
fortunate differences which had arisen between 
planters and ryots in the indigo districts and which 
eventually led to the appointment of the famous 
Indigo Commission by the Lieutenant-Governor, 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 119 

Sir John Peter Grant in 1860. Even in these first 
few years of service Abdul Latif gained a repu- 
tation for energy and ability and above all for that 
broadmindedness and tact which so distinguished 
him in later life. It was for this reason that after 
a year at Kalaroa he was chosen for a post where 
ability and tact were especially needful. The sub- 
division of Jehanabad had long been a thorn in the 
side of the Bengal Government. It is constantly 
referred to as a ' litigious and turbulent place ' and a 
particularly bad outbreak of lawlessness called 
special attention to it in the year 1854. Govern- 
ment, anxious to select a man well qualified for the 
difficult post of subdivisional officer, chose Abdul 
Latif. It was a compliment to the young officer, 
and, realising this, Abdul Latif went to take up his 
new appointment fully determined to justify his 
choice. The lawlessness of which a district so near 
Calcutta was capable sixty years ago reads surpris- 
ingly to-day. Rioting, highway robberies and da- 
coities were of the commonest occurrence and life 
and property were nowhere safe outside the imme- 
diate circle of Jehanabad itself. This state of affairs 
the young subdivisional officer set himself with 
energy and determination to redress. Not only, 
however, was he burdened with this heavy task, he 
was subjected to annoyance and obstruction on the 
>y part of those who should have been his chief 
X supporters. " The life of the subdivisional officer " it 



120 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

was written of Abdul Latif s predecessor " was made 
miserable by the cheeky and fearless country attor- 
neys and landlord's agents and other habitual liti- 
gants, all in league with the ministerial staff who 
continually kept him in hot water with them, and 
imposed on him, by their complaints to higher 
authority, the necessity of constantly answering 
changes and explaining his conduct." The task that 
thus fell to the lot of Abdul Latif during the five 
years that he remained at Jehanabad was a heavy 
one and needed all the tact at his command. 
How successfully he carried out that task was 
acknowledged on all sides. The subdivision as he left 
it was a very different place from the subdivision as 
he found it. When the time came for him to relin- 
quish his post on transfer elsewhere Lord Ulick 
Browne, the Magistrate of Hooghly, wrote officially 
to thank him for his services, saying that he had 
'discharged very satisfactorily the duties of a most 
difficult subdivision such as Jehanabad, where his 
loss is to be deeply regretted.' 

Returning to Alipore in June 1857 Abdul Latif 
was able to resume his public and social activities 
which he had been forced very largely to abandon 
during his absence from Calcutta at Jehanabad. 
He was soon again busily engaged m promoting 
every scheme for the advancement of the Muhamma- 
dan community, welcomed everywhere as a capable 
and energetic ally. In 1860 he was made a member 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 121 

of the Board of Examination for the civil and military 
services, an office he retained until his retirement. 
In the following year, although he had not yet 
completed twelve years service, Sir John Peter Grant 
on the creation of the Bengal Legislative Council 
selected him as one of its original members and as 
the first Muhammadan to be appointed. This was a 
great honour for a man so young in the service and 
one holding an official position of no special distinc- 
tion. About the same time also he was appointed 
to the Board of Commissioners created to deal with 
the difficulties experienced over the introduction of 
the income tax, which had aroused such unexpected 
opposition. Retiring in due course from his office 
as member of the Bengal Legislative Council on the 
expiry of his two year's term, he w r as especially 
thanked for his services by Sir Cecil Beadon, theii- 
Lieutenant-Governor. For four years more he 
continued to work as a Deputy Magistrate at Alipore, 
being chosen in 1867 as the first Magistrate to 
preside over the new Suburban Police Court, a new 
court created to meet the needs of the growing city 
and the increasing importance of its southern suburbs. 
For ten years he performed the duties of this office, 
which entailed heavy work, and it says much for his 
energy and enthusiasm that after a hard day's work 
in the close, atmosphere of a police court he was 
ready and willing to throw himself heart and soul 
into other duties, scarcely less onerous, on behalf of 



122 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the cause which he had so nearly at heart. In 1870 
he was again appointed a member of the Bengal 
Legislative Council by Sir William Grey, and for the 
third time by Sir George Campbell who offered him 
the appointment in a letter, dated the 30th of 
December 1872, in which he wrote "I do not think 
the Muhammadan community could be better repre- 
sented in the Legislative Council than by yourself." 
For a few months in 1879 he acted as Stipendiary 
Presidency Magistrate, afterwards being appointed to 
preside over the Suburban Police Court at Sealdah. 
There he remained for over seven years finally retiring 
in December 1887 on a special pension sanctioned by 
Government. 

Such in brief outline is the official record of Abdul 
Latif's career. It is a record of quiet and consistent 
good service, marked by no great opportunities but 
fulfilling to the utmost its possibilities. It is not, 
however, in his official work that his chief claim to a 
place among the most distinguished men of Bengal 
in the nineteenth century lies. It is for his social 
and philanthropic work that his memory will ever be 
revered by the Muhammadan community for whose 
advancement he so earnestly strove. It is difficult 
in the present day when so many Muhammadans are 
to the fore in every walk of life to realise how unique 
was the position occupied by Abdul Latif and how 
large was the part he played in raising the community 
to the place it holds to-day. The pioneer of the 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 123 

great forward movement, which the latter half of the 
nineteenth century saw among his co-religionists, he 
often stood well nigh alone. On many occasions he 
was the only Muhammadan at public ceremonies and 
social gatherings. Realising that the old days of 
race exclusiveness were over, he was eager to go 
everywhere and to know everyone. There was no 
branch of social life in which he did not take part, 
and there was no scheme for the benefit not only of 
his co-religionists but of the community generally 
that had not his hearty support. His correspondence 
was enormous, all classses of people appealing to him 
for advice and help, and many societies claiming his 
interest or his presence at their meetings. 

The services of Abdul Latif to the cause of 
Muhammadan education it is difficult to exaggerate. 
In his earlier days, regarded from the modern stand 
point, it was practically non-existent. The Muham- 
madans were literally following the dictum of the 
Kaliph Omar that 'whatever books differ from the 
Koran are pernicious and those which agree with it 
are superfluous.' To Abdul Latif belongs the credit 
of being among the first to see that however well 
this non-progressive policy may have sufficed in the 
days when the sword was mightier than the pen, it 
meant ruin to the community that persisted in it 
under modern conditions of universal progress and 
advance. Early in his career he began in a small 
way to do what he could to combat that spirit of 



124 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

apathy and indifference which seemed to have 
fallen like a pall upon his co-religionists. Holding 
a series of conversaziones at his private house, he 
endeavoured to awaken in them an interest in 
modern topics. Papers were read on such subjects as 
the use of history, the rise and progress of naviga- 
tion and commerce, the discovery of America, the 
history of civilisation and the principles of Muham* 
madan law. To encourage thought and enquiry on 
the part of the students of the Calcutta Madrassa 
he offered a prize for the best essay in Persian on 
the question 'How far would the inculcation of 
European sciences through the medium of the 
English language benefit Muhammadan students in 
the present circumstances of India and what are the 
most practicable means of imparting such instruc- 
tion ?' The object of the prize which was advertised 
throughout India under the sanction of the Council 
of Education and published in the Calcutta Gazette 
was to draw the attention of the Muhammadan 
community to the question which was of such 
importance to its future welfare. Upon the frank 
acceptance of modern conditions and its adaptability 
to modern requirements depended its position in the 
new India that was rapidly coming into existence. 
The time allowed for sending in essays was five 
months and at the end of that time a very large 
number, coming from all parts of India, was found to 
have been sent in. Most of the essays, one reads 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 125 

with astonishment, strongly deprecated the adop- 
tion of English education, quoting the Koran 
in support of their arguments and some even de- 
nouncing the giver of the prize himself as a 
traitor to his faith. A committee of four was 
appointed with the approval of the Council of 
Education to examine the essays, Sir Frederick 
Halliday, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, 
consenting to be its President. The best essay was 
finally adjudged to be that of Syed Abdul Futteh, 
Arabic and Persian teacher at the. Parsi Benevolent 
1 Institution in Bombay. 

The founding of the Muhammadan Literary Society 
in April 1863 was another result of Abdul Latif's 
energy and enthusiasm, and one calculated to be of 
immense benefit to the Muhammadan community. 
Its object like that of the informal gatherings, 
which he had held for many years at his private 
residence, was to break down prejudice and exclusive- 
ness, and to interest its members in present day 
politics and modern thought and learning. For the 
first time under its auspices representative Muham- 
madans were brought together on common ground 
and given an opportunity of openly expressing their 
opinions and aspirations in sympathetic hearing. 
In spite of its size and political importance the 
Muhammadan community had hitherto been without 
Sk voice and had been in no position to be consulted 
by or to give advice to Government. The regular 



126 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

meeting together of the most educated members of 
the community was at once productive of good 
results, giving them greater unity and interest in 
public affairs and adding a new direction to Muham- 
madan thought and feeling. The annual conversa- 
zione, instituted by the Founder of the Society, was 
the first social gathering of its kind at that time 
and its effect in bringing all classes of Muhammadans 
together as widespread. On the occasion of the 
second annual conversazione at the Town Hall the 
Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Cecil Beadon, spoke in 
warm terms of Abdul Latif's work in connection 
with the Society. "By founding the Muhammadan 
Literary Society" he said turning to Abdul Latif 
at the conclusion of his speech "you have success- 
fully led the Muhammadans, not only of Bengal, but 
of India generally, to look beyond the narrow bounds 
of their own system, and to explore those accumulat- 
ed treasures of thought and feeling which are to 
be found embodied in the English language ; while 
by your active and reasonable representations on 
many occasions you have led them to form a just 
conception of the policy and intentions of the govern- 
ment, and to express their opinion freely. In this 
way you have naturally promoted a good under- 
standing between this class of the community and 
their rulers and fellow-subjects ; and so far as 
the present altered state of feeling is owing to your, 
active and liberal exertions, to the judicious exercise 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 12T 

of your influence, and to the force of your example, 
I consider you entitled to the gratitude of your 
countrymen and the cordial acknowledgment of this 
Government" 

Sir John Lawrence, the Viceroy, in addressing him 
on the same occasion said that it afforded him much 
pleasure to bestow upon him a suitable token of his 
approbation of his good services in this most 
excellent cause. The token took the form of a com- 
plete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica inscribed in 
the Viceroy's own hand 

'Presented to Moulvi Abdul Latif in recognition 
of his services in promoting native education, 
especially the education of those who, like himself,, 
belong to the Muhammadan religion.' 

CALCUTTA, JOHN LAWRENCE, 

25th March, 1867. Governor-General." 

In 1856 he had taken a leading part in promoting 
the Anglo-Persian establishment of the Calcutta 
Madrassa and later, finding this inadequate, he 
eagely assisted in founding the Presidency College.. 
Speaking on the occasion of the laying of the 
foundation stone of the college by Lord Northbrook 
on the 23rd of February 1873, Abdul Latif laid stress 
upon the fact that "before the Presidency College 
was created, the Hindu community had its own 
college for High English education : the Christian. 



128 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

community of Calcutta had also its colleges 
for high English education : but the Muhammadan 
community had none." With the object of 
supplying that want Government had founded the 
Presidency College, which should give the advantages 
of an English education to all creeds and classes 
alike. Another service that he rendered to the 
community was to call public attention to the 
administration of the Mohsin Fund. He pointed out 
that, from a Fund founded by a Muhammadan primari- 
ly for Muhammadons, his co-religionists were not 
deriving the advantages which were their due in 
-comparison with the Hindus who were benefiting from 
it to a far greater extent. Government, recognizing 
the justice of the claim, introduced changes into the 
administration of the Fund for the benefit of 
Muhammadans, setting aside a large sum to assist 
poor Muhammadan students throughout Bengal by 
paying two-thirds of their school fees, thus conferring 
an immense boon upon a poor community. 

The first Agricultural Show organised in India 
was held at Alipore in the cold weather of 1863. 
In these days when such shows are of frequent and 
common occurrence all over India and their utility 
is generally recognised, it is astonishing to read of 
the excitement which the first one aroused. No 
sooner had the intention of Government to hold such 
a show been announced than ^vague and absurd 
rumours became generally current among the 



I 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 129 

ignorant masses of the population. To allay these 
unfounded apprehensions Nawab Abdul Latif, who 
was a member of the Exhibition Committee, took 
immediate steps. He wrote and published a paper 
in Hindustani and Bengali, which was approved by 
the authorities, pointing out that so far from en- 
deavouring to spy out the resources of the land in 
order to impose fresh taxation, Government was only 
anxious to improve the condition of the people and 
to make known to them better and more modern 
methods. Widely circulated, Abdul Latif's sensible 
and convincing paper did much to inspire confidence 
in the people and to make the exhibition a success. 

Two years later the first census of 1865-6 aroused 
the same unreasoning suspicion and excitement 
among the lower classes. No fewer than one 
hundred and ninety eight families left home rather 
than be enumerated, regarding the census as an 
intrusion into the privacy of their family life 
and as a raid upon their houses with the object 
of imposing fresh taxes upon them. Abdul Latif 
was a member of the Special Committee of Justices 
charged with carrying out the census, and again a 
paper of his, read before the Muhammadan Literary 
Society, which was translated into the vernacular 
and widely circulated at his own expense, helped 
largely towards inducing a saner and more practical 
view of government's object in enforcing it. About 
the same time a Bill 'was introduced into the 
9 



130 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Legislative Council of the Government of India "to 
legalise under certain circumstances the remarriage 
of native converts to Christianity." Much dissatis- 
faction was expressed among the Muhammadan com- 
munity owing to the fact that certain provisions of 
the Bill were regarded as being in direct opposition 
to the principles of Muhammadan Law. The im- 
portance of the changes proposed was much exaggerat- 
ed among the ignorant classes who came to regard 
the Bill as a serious attack upon their religion and as 
an attack upon the sanctity of their women. To 
counteract this unwarrantable belief Moulvi Abdul 
Latif convened a meeting of the leaders of Muham- 
madan society at his own house and as a result a 
memorial was drawn up and submitted to the 
Legislative Council, pointing out in respectful terms 
the opposition that had been aroused, and the 
objection to the Bill from the Muhammadan point of 
view. The result was that the Muhammadan com- 
munity was exempted from the operation of the act,- 
which shortly afterwards became law. 

In 1870 the lower classes of the Muhammadan 
community were again thrown into a state of 
excitement by the conduct and preaching of the 
Wahabis who were rapidly becoming a serious thorn 
in the side of Government. Moulvi Abdul Latif,. 
quick to see the harm that they might do and the re- 
trograde nature of their teaching which was opposed to 
all his theories of progress and modern advancement, 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 131 

at once took steps to counteract this influence. 
He obtained from Moulvi Karamat Ali of Jaunpur, 
one of the most celebrated religious teachers of the 
day, an exposition of the law on the duty of 
Muhammadans in British India towards the ruling 
power. This he embodied in a paper which he read 
to the Muhammad an Literary Society on November 
23rd 1870, showing clearly from the classical works 
of Muhammadan Jurisprudence that British India 
was Dar-ul-Islam and that as such it would be 
unlawful and irreligious for Muhammadans to preach 
a Jahad against it as the ruling power. Not only 
was this address fully approved by all the leading 
Muhammadans of India, it received also the appro- 
bation of the Muftis of Mecca who were consulted 
on the subject. 

On the occasion of the Imperial Assembly at Delhi 
and the proclamation of the Queen-Empress came 
the first titular honour bestowed upon Abdul Latif 
by government, the sanad of the title of Khan 
Bahadur being personally presented to him at 
Belvedere by the Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Ashley 
Eden, in the following August. In making the 
presentation Sir Ashley acknowledged how much the 
recipient had done 'to promote the interests of his 
co-religionists' adding that to him it 'was mainly due 
that they were then adopting the study of western 
literature and fitting themselves to compete with 
the young men of other classes.' 



132 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

In the following year a committee of the English 
House of Commons was appointed to enquire 
into the economic and financial condition of 
India, the Viceroy being asked to nominate 
representative Indians to proceed to England to 
give evidence. Abdul Latif had the distinction of 
being chosen by Lord Northbrook to represent the 
Muhammadan community and, welcoming the 
opportunity of making the needs of his fellow- 
countrymen better known to the English people, he 
accepted the office and was prepared to start for 
England. The dissolution of Parliament, however, 
caused the abandonment of the plan. Seven 
years later, another opportunity for usefulness 
outside the narrow limits of his ordinary official 
studies was afforded him. Almost at a moment's 
notice in December 1886 he was asked officially 
to proceed to Bhopal to undertake the important 
duties of Prime Minister of that state. It was a 
special and temporary appointment deemed desirable 
under special circumstances by the Government of 
India and the following letter of June 5th 1886, 
written to him by Sir Lepel Griffin, Agent to the 
Governor-General for Central India, on his relinquish- 
ing the office, is the best evidence of the manner 
in which he performed his difficult duties. 

"It gives me the sincerest pleasure" wrote Sir 
Lepel "to communicate to you by direction of the / 
Government of India, the following remarks contained / 



i 



\ 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 133 

4 
in a letter from the Foreign Secretary of the 28th of 

May 

'I am to request you to inform Nawab Abdul 
Latif that the services which he has rendered to 
the Bhopal State, under trying and difficult circum- 
stances, are fully appreciated by the Government of 
India. His Excellency the Viceroy has consented to 
appoint an English Minister in his place ; but this 
appointment involves no disapproval of the Nawab's 
action which appears to His Excellency to have been 
marked by ability and uprightness. Nawab Abdul 
Latif will leave the Bhopal State with a reputation 
not only unimpaired but increased by the occurrences 
of the last few months/ 

"To these expressions of approval of His 
Excellency and the Government of India," continues 
Sir Lepel "I desire to add my personal testimony 
to the value of your services. 

"It w T as in December 1885 that, at my request 
and at a day's notice, you left Calcutta for Bhopal 
to take up the temporary charge of an exceedingly 
difficult appointment, until the return from England 
of an English Officer, whom Her Highness the 
Begum at the time desired to appoint as Minister. 
Your provisional appointment was fully approved 
by Her Highness. From that time to this you have 
conducted your duties at Bhopal to my entire 
Satisfaction, and with singular ability, discretion, 
}nd integrity. I should have been well content to 



134 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 


see you remain in office. I have always held that, 

in a Muhammadan State like Bhopal, a MuLammadan 
Minister is the most suitable ; and his Excellency 
the Viceroy and the Government of India have also 
strongly held this opinion. 

"The appointment of an English Minister of 
high character and great administrative experience 
will doubtless be, in many particulars, for the advan- 
tage of the Bhopal State ; but it is no more than 
justice to you to place on official record the fact that 
the Government are altogether satisfied with your 
services in Bhopal, and that an English Minister has 
been selected and nominated by His Excellency the 
Viceroy in accordance with the urgent and reiterated 
requests of Her Highness the Begum. It was in 
accordance with the principle which renders the 
English Government always disinclined to interfere, 
except in the last necessity, with the internal affairs 
of Native States ; and fully recognising his 
obligation to show the utmost deference and 
consideration for Her Highness' wishes, that His 
Excellency the Viceroy intimated his willingness to 

accede to her request and select a suitable English 

d 

Officer for the post of Minister. 

"The Government of India have assured you 
that your reputation will be not only unimpaired 
but increased by your conduct during the last few 
months. 

"To this assurance I can add nothing 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 135 

than my sincere wish for your future prosperity, 
and the expression of the feeling of warm friendship 
and esteem which you have inspired in myself, and 
in those Political Officers who have had the pleasure 
and advantage of your acquaintance in Central 
India." 

Abdul Latif, freed at last after so many years' 
service from all official duties, was able from this 
time onward to devote his whole time to the causes 
he had so much at heart. During thirty-six years' 
service he had only been absent from duty for four 
months on sick leave a splendid record that few 
servants of the Crown could equal. On his retire- 
ment from government service he was granted 
a special pension on the generous scale of 600 Us. 
a month. He had been decorated two years 
previously with the companionship of the Order of 
the Indian Empire and in 1887 the year of the 
Jubilee of the Queen-Empress the title of Nawab 
Bahadur was conferred upon him. This is the 
highest Indian title to which a Muhammadan can 
attain and its bestowal upon Abdul Latif was 
universally recognised as a fitting and crowning 
honour to the services he had rendered, not only to 
Government but to his own fellow countrymen of all 
castes and creeds. For six years longer he was 
enabled to continue his ceaseless activities, never 
flagging in his zeal for the welfare of his co-religion- 
ists and enjoying to the full the unmistakable signs 



136 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

of success of his life's labours. Beloved and respect- 
ed by all, his last years were full of happiness, his 
wonderful strength and vitality remaining with him 
almost till the end. He died on the 18th of July 
1893 in Calcutta at the age of sixty five. 

Many were the tributes paid to his memory 
immediately after his death. Every newspaper in 
India bore testimony to the great work that he had 
done, while many of the English papers were scarcely 
less appreciative. The Times of September the 4th 
1893 published a short memoir that shows how 
strongly the splendid achievements of Abdul Latif had 
impressed the British public. The tribute herein 
paid him may well be quoted as typical of the many 
that appeared. 

"The skill, the firmness of resolve, and the un- 
wearied tact and moderation with which he carried out 
his self-appointed task during 40 chequered years, ' r 
it ran, "would form a noble" theme for a biographer. 
Here we can only lament the loss which many who 
are trying to do good work for India have sustained 
by his death. It was, however, characteristic of the 
man to effect his purposes by means of gradual 
corporate effort, rather than by his individual will ; 
and he leaves behind him a body of followers both 
able and determined to carry on his labours. The 
association which he formed exactly 30 years ago, 
under the modest name of the Muhammadan Literary 
Society, has grown into a power in the land, and the 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 137 

mother of many affiliated societies throughout 
Northern India. Indeed, it is scarcely too much to 
say that almost the whole Muhammadan community 
in Bengal now accepts as a matter of course the views 
which its leaders refused even to discuss with the 
young reformer 40 years ago. This is his best public 
epitaph. In private life his gentleness of manner 
and his sincere, if rather oriental, courtesy, with the 
store of experience and anecdotes gathered during 65 
eventful years, endeared him to many friends. The 
British Government gave him what it had to give in 
the shape of titles and honours, but it is as a Muham- 
madan who led forth his countrymen into new fields 
of achievement and new realms of knowledge, witn- 
out losing his own orthodoxy, that Abdul Latif has 
won his place in Indian history." 

Well did Sir Richard Temple write of him as 
'the most progressive and enlightened among the 
Muhammadans of Bengal.' A self-made man, with few 
advantages of birth or position to help him at the 
start, he rose to be one of the most trusted advisers 

of Government and the friend of the greatest in the 
\ 

land. His charming manners and innate courtesy of 
disposition fitted him to adorn any society, while his 
knowledge of men and affairs and his gift of conversa- 
tion made him a delightful and interesting com- 
panion. Above all he possessed in full measure an 
overflowing sympathy with his fellowmen and an 
intense desire to help forward by every means in his 



138 

power their happiness and prosperity. Quick to 
judge in which direction the true interests of his 
Muhammadan countrymen lay, he lost no opportunity, 
in spite of strong opposition, of pointing it out to 
them by every means in his power. He served to 
combine in his character all the best traits of the 
East and the West. He had the energy of the 
Anglo-Saxon, tempered by the cautiousness and tact 
of the Oriental, and the directness and indomitabi- 
lity of the West combined with the patience and 
industry of the East. When once he had decided 
what course to follow he pursued it through good 
report and ill with quiet determination till success 
crowned his efforts. It was truly said of him that he 
was the life and centre of Indian society in Calcutta 
for he alone was the friend equally of European, 
Muhammadan and Hindu, who all perforce sank their 
differences and jealousies under the influence of his 
good nature and quick sympathy. 'This man ne'er 
lost a friend nor made a foe' might well be taken 
as his epitaph. The Muhammadan community owes 
a debt of gratitude to Nawab Abdul Latif Bahadur 
* which it behoves it never to forget. He found it 
backward and apathetic, sunk in ignorance and 
prejudice and content to see itself surpassed in every 
walk of life by the Hindu community, helplessly 
clinging to its old ideals and shibboleths and ob- , 
stinately Defusing to recognise the march of events / 
and the necessity of change. He left it awake and^ 



NAWAB ABDUL LATIF 139 

eager to regain the ground that had been lost, 
struggling manfully against great odds and as- 
siduously equipping itself with the weapons which 
it had so long despised. To Nawab Abdul Latif 
will always remain the honour of having been among 
the first to point out the road of progress along which 
the Muhammadan community has since made such 
great strides. 



' 




Keshub Chandra Sen 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 
18381884 

Xo name in the annals of Bengal in the 
nineteenth century is more widely known than that 
of Keshub Chandra Sen. Spoken of as 'Indian's 
greatest son' by so eminent an Orientalist as 
Professor Max Miiller, no Hindu before him ever 
achieved so widespread a reputation or drew 
so closely the attention of both East and West 
towards his life and teaching. His was one of the 
few names that was familiar during his lifetime 
not only among the vast millions who inhabit 
the Indian Empire but among European nations 
whose knowledge of India and all things Indian 
was then far slighter than it is to-day. Born at 
a time when Western education, half understood 
and imperfectly applied, had yet caught the ima- 
gination of -the East, Keshub Chandra Sen's Ife 
coincided with one of the most important and 
interesting intellectual revolutions that India has 
ever seen. After long centuries of isolation East 
and West had met, and fusion of thought and speech 
had begun. On the one hand stood western civiliza- 
tion, with its latest scientific inventions, its latest 
literary achievements and its latest artistic triumphs 



142 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

on the other stood eastern culture, effete and decay- 
ing, strangled in the grip of custom and tradition. 
The full force of modern thought had been let loose 
about the old ideals and the old beliefs, threatening 
to overwhelm them in its first impetuous rush. 
There was imminent danger that the new system 
of life and thought, while sweeping away the old 
beliefs, might raise no new ones to supply their 
place. The restraints that the old caste system 
had enforced upon life generally, socially, morally 
and mentally had been roughly cast aside, and the 
new civilisation had as yet failed to impose other 
restraints that had the same binding force. The 
work that Keshub Chandra Sen was called upon to 
do was to combine all that was best in the old with 
all that was best in the new and to prevent a break 
with the old before a new religion and a new 
philosophy of life were found to which men might 
adhere. It was the old problem which so many 
have sought to solve without success, the reconcilia- 
tion of the old and the new, of the East 
and the West. At a time when chaos threatened, 
Keshub Chandra Sen had the ability and the 
courage to formulate a new belief, purified and 
refined, out of the old, and at the same time the 
power to lead men after him along the lines 
which he laid down. The great and widespread 
influence that his life and conduct had even upon 
those who did not follow him in his new belief, set 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 143 

him apart as one of the moving spirits of the 
day. 

Claiming descent from the ancient Sen Kings 
of Bengal, the family from which Keshub sprang 
had been resident for some generations at Garifa, now 
known as Gouripur, some twenty-four miles above 
Calcutta. His great grandfather, Gokul Chandra 
Sen of the Vaidiya caste was a poor, honest, hard- 
working villager, respected by his fellows but of no 
particular distinction. It was his son Ram Kama! 
Sen, Keshub's grandfather, who first raised the 
family to a position of dignity and affluence. He 
was one of that first little company of Hindus in 
Bengal who were quick to take advantage of all 
that western civilisation offered by adapting them- 
selves to western culture and western modes of 
thought. Yet there was little in his earliest years 
to give promise of the brilliant career that was 
later to be his. With little education, learning 
English at a small Hindu school up the river where 
there were no dictionaries and no text books, he 
was forced from an early age to earn his own living. 
He began at the very lowest rung of the literary 
ladder, obtaining a post as assistant type-setter at 
the Asiatic Society's press on a monthly salary of 
only eight rupees. For eight years he plodded on 
in this humble post, throwing all his energies into 
the work and doing meanwhile all that lay in his 
power to improve his education and prepare himself 



144 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

for a more important post. His knowledge and 
industry attracting the attention of the officials of 
the Society, he was appointed a clerk in the office. 
Later he became native secretary, and continued to 
rise step by step, his capability and activity keeping 
pace with each new advance, until he eventually rose 
to be a member of the Council of the Asiatic Society 
whose service he had first entered as a type-setter on 
eight rupees a month. His abilities becoming 
widely recognised, he was offered the responsible and 
distinguished post of Treasurer of the Calcutta 
Mint. His success in this post led to the Dewanship 
of the Bank of Bengal with an income, of 2,000 Us. 
.a month and an assured and influential position in 
public life. Unspoilt by his marvellous success, 
his strenuous efforts for the welfare of his fellow- 
countrymen kept pace with his own advancement. 
In the establishment of the Hindu College in 1817, 
.and the Sanskrit College in 1824, he took a keen 
interest, while to promote the acquisition of English 
by his countrymen he entered upon and carried 
through the great labour of producing a dictionary 
in English and Bengali, which Dr. Marshman, the 
celebrated Serampore Missionary, spoke of as 'the 
fullest, most valuable work of its kind which we 
possess and which will be the most lasting monu- 
ment of Earn Kamal Sen's industry, zeal and erudi- 
tion.' His work on behalf of education was supple- 
mented by exertions in the cause of sanitation on 



KESHUB CHANDKA SEN 145 

which he held views far in advance of his day, and 
by generous gifts to Hospitals and to the District 
Charitable Society. 

Although Keshub was only five years old when 
Tris grandfather died, his early association with him 
and the deep veneration in which he was held by 
all in any way associated with him cannot fail to 
Tiave impressed him at the most impressionable period 
of his life. During those first five years the child 
and the old man had become firm friends, and so 
highly did his grandfather think of his early precocity 
that he is reported to have said, 'Keshub alone will 
be able to sustain the family reputation.' Keshub's 
father, Peary Mohan Sen was the second son of Ram 
Kamal whom he only survived four years, dying at 
the early age of thirty four. He was a young man of 
exemplary life and character and his early death was 
a great loss to Keshub. His mother, however, proved 
not only an adequate guardian but a source of inspi- 
ration to her son, who always gratefully acknowledged 
tow much he owed to her early training. His youth 
was spent amidst the pleasantest surroundings. His 
grandfather, proud of the position he had won by 
iis own exertions and ability took a delight in 
providing his family with every comfort and luxury. 
'I was reared' said Keshub at a later date 'by a 
wealthy father and grandfather. Opulence and luxury 
surrounded my childhood, but as I grew up my 
mind began to show the spirit of natural poverty.' 
10 



146 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

At the age of seven he was entered at the Hindu 
College, in the foundation of which his grand- 
father had taken so great an interest twenty eight 
years before. From the first he distinguished himself, 
carrying off prizes for English and Mathematics 
several years in succession. Among his school fellows 
he proved himself a born leader. In the playground 
he was continually inventing new games, which he 
taught the other boys who entered with enthusiasm 
into the parts that Keshub assigned to them. Magic 
and juggling were his especial boyish delights and 
he himself acquired considerable dexterity in the- 
juggler's art. Quiet and reserved, he hid even in 
his young days great force of character beneath a 
retiring manner, and amongst young companions, 
whose morals were far from beyond reproach, he 
kept himself pure and straight. For immorality 
and falsehood he always had the greatest aversion 
and contempt. A keen student, he devoted by far 
the greater portion of his time to his studies and 
to such effect did he apply himself that at the age 
of fourteen he was in the first senior class of the 
School Department of the Hindu College. Un- 
fortunately his studies were interrupted by his 
transference to the Metropolitan College on its 
inception in 1853, but though started under such 
promising auspices that college did not fulfil its 
expectations, and in the following year those boys 
who had left the Hindu College in order to join it 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 147 

found themselves seeking readmission into the 
institution they had deserted. During his last 
years at College Keshub devoted himself chiefly to 
the study of mental and moral philosophy, into the 
wide range of which he plunged with youthful ardour 
and enthusiasm. 

Leaving college Keshub found time to enter 
upon various projects which had long been forming 
in his mind. Education, he conceived, to be the 
first need of his fellow countrymen and so far as he 
was able, by his own individual efforts, he set himself 
to further the great cause. From the wider diffusion 
of knowledge and culture would, he hoped, spring in 
due course all the moral and social advancement that 
he so ardently desired, and his first attempts, though 
modestly begun, had this great end in view. Soon 
after leaving college he started a Literary Society, 
known as the British Indian Society, for the pro- 
motion of literature and science, and shortly after- 
wards he opened the Coltolla Evening School to 
which he gathered numbers of young men from the 
neighbourhood of his own house, he and his friends 
instructing them in English literature and philo- 
sophy. , Shakespeare, first prominently introduced 
to Indian students by Captain Richardson, was one 
of the favourite studies of the day and Keshub was 
an enthusiast. Hamlet was his favourite play and 
he himself took the main part in a performance 
given by members of his Evening school. His 



148 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

acquaintance not only with Shakespeare but with 
English literature generally was surprising, and he 
soon inspired the members of his Society and Even- 
ing school with his own love of it. 

Greater, however, than his desire for intellectual 
improvement was his desire for moral and religious 
advancement. Pre-eminently of a religious turn of 
mind, he had from the first attempted to combine 
secular education with the maintenance of religious 
beliefs. Of the defficulties that beset him he was 
fully aware. To reconcile the old traditions and 
superstitions with modern education was impossible. 
Education, as he himself admitted had unsettled his 
mind. He had given up the old faith but he had 
gained no positive system of b'elief to replace it. 
Towards that end, however, he devoted the most 
anxious and searching enquiries. By continual 
study and contemplation he sought to acquire the 
truth. Stern and austere at this time, he lived the 
life almost of an ascetic. Eating neither flesh nor 
fish, he gave up card playing and novel reading and 
all the theatrical and conjuring performances that 
he had previously se much loved. Beyond the 
friends associated with him in the Literary Society 
and the Evening school that he had founded, he 
saw scarcely any one, his chief friends being the 
Rev. James Long, Norendra Nath Sen and Devendra 
Nath Tagore. Buried in his books or sunk in 
thought he spent long hours alone, turning his back 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 149 

completely on the lighter side of life. Serious, 
earnest and as yet unsatisfied, he bent all his ener- 
gies on solving the great questions of life to which 
the old beliefs had given him so inadequate a 
reply. 

In 1857 Keshub Chandra Sen founded the 
'Goodwill Fraternity.' It was a purely religious 
and devotional association and here he was at his 
best, lecturing . and discussing the various questions 
which he had so closely studied in his long hours of 
solitude and meditation. Full and free discussion 
on every religious topic was desired. 'I established 
in my earlier days' wrote Keshub in later life 'a 
small fraternity in my own house to which I gave 
the somewhat singular but significant name of the 
'Goodwill Fraternity.' I did not allow myself to 
harbour sectarianism, but preached to my friends 
these two doctrines 'God our Father, Every Man 
our Brother.' It was in these gatherings that 
Keshub's oratorical powers, which were later to ex- 
ercise so great an influence, first began to develop 
and expand. Already his eloquence was remarkable, 
exercising a strong fascination over all who heard 
him. Upon the minds of the young men and boys 
whom he addressed in the 'Goodwill Fraternity' 
gatherings, it had a powerful effect and many of 
those who met him here for 'the first time became 
in after life his most devoted followers. His intense 
earnestness and glowing enthusiasm inspired others 



150 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

with the same spirit and the fame of the 'Goodwill 
Fraternity' gatherings rapidly grew. Among the 
many attracted by the reports of Keshub's eloquence 
and spirituality one of the most distinguished was 
Devendra Nath Tagore, and it was at one of the 
meetings of the 'Fraternity' that they first met. 
Between them was destined to grow up a firm and 
lasting friendship that not even religious difference 
in later days was able to destroy. Devendra Nath 
Tagore, belonging to one of the wealthiest and most 
prominent families in Calcutta, was then the leader 
of the Brahmo Samaj, founded by Ram Mohan Roy 
thirty years before, and it was doubtless very largely 
owing to his influence that Keshub definitely joined 
that body in 1857. This decided step at once in- 
volved him in difficulties with his family and re- 
latives, since he refused in consequence to undergo the 
ceremony of initiation at the hands of the family 
guru, which would at that time in the ordinary 
course have taken place. Every effort was made to 
induce him to give way but in the face of persuasion, 
threats, and entreaties he stood firm, believing that 
he had at last found in the new faith that he had 
adopted the way of life which he had so long sought. 
The starting of the Brahmo school in 1859 was 
one of Keshub's first activities in the Brahmo 
Samaj. It was a development of the 'Goodwill 
Fraternity' and the Coltolla Evening School, and 
was destined to play an important part in the 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN , 151 

history of the movement. It not only placed the 
hitherto vague conception of Brahmoism on a sound 
and rational basis of philosophy but it bound together 
a growing company of young men eager for the 
advancement of truth and learning. The Brahmo 
School at first held weekly meetings every Sunday 
at which Keshub and Devendra Nath Tagore were 
the leading spirits, the enthusiastic metaphysical 
discourses of the one contrasting with the closely 
reasoned and classical Bengali discourses on the faith 
of Brahmoism of the other. 

Not content with his earnest personal appeals 
in the cause of progress, Keshub was ambitious of a 
wider public and from this time onwards sought to 
spread his opinions through the press. His first 
tract was characteristically called 'Young Bengal, 
this is for you.' In it he drew attention to the fact 
that a period of scepticism and irreligion had 
succeeded the sudden intellectual revival in Bengal 
and urged that it was essential for true , progress 
that religious development should go hand in hand 
with intellectual advancement. Education, un- 
fortified by religious principles, he argued, leads 
neither to the social, moral nor political welfare 
of a nation. This first tract was followed by a 
dozen more, all deeply religious, forming the first 
beginnings of Brahmo literature and setting forth 
with power and authority the principles of the new 
faith. About this time also he founded the Sangat 



152 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Sava, another association for religious discussion, to 
which many of the foremost Brahmos of later days 
traced their first inspiration and enthusiasm. 

In the midst of these philanthropic activities, 
Keshub had endeavoured to follow the universal 
practice then in vogue m Bengal for a young man 
to adopt the family profession. In 1859 in accor- 
dance with family tradition he entered the Bank of 
Bengal, beginning as a clerk on the modest stipend 
of 25 Us. a month. Though the work was utterly 
uncongenial to him, so well did he perform his 
duties that before a year was passed his salary was 
doubled and apart from his family influence it was 
certain that speedy promotion awaited him. But 
the conviction soon took deep root in him that he 
was called upon to give up his life entirely to his 
educational and religious work and two years after 
entering the Bank he astonished his friends by 
resigning his position. He was the first young man 
of his rank and class to give up his worldly prospects 
in order to devote himself entirely to the advance- 
ment of his fellow-countrymen, and his disinterested- 
ness and unselfishness greatly enhanced his already 
growing reputation. In 1860 he visited Krishnagar, 
on one of his first famous missionary expeditions, 
and so far broke with family customs and tradition as 
to accompany Devendra Nath Tagore on a voyage to 
Ceylon by sea. Though the spell had been broken 
by the journey of Earn Mohan Roy to England thirty 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 153 

years before, it still needed considerable courage to 
break through the strong opposition of relatives and 
friends among whom the prejudice against crossing 
the sea was still deeply ingrained. But Keshub's 
voyage to Ceylon was only the prelude to the longer 
voyage to England which he was already contempla- 
ting and which was to take form ten years hence. 

Still further convinced that it was to the press 
that he must look even more than to his personal 
exertions and his personal eloquence, if he would 
successfully advance the cause of education and 
religion, Keshub determined to start a periodical of 
his own. In August 1861 with the help of hi& 
friends, among whom Man Mohun Ghose was one of 
the leading spirits, he brought out the first number 
of the Indian Mirror as a fortnightly journal. There 
was at that tune only one English newspaper in 
Calcutta conducted by an Indian Editor, and it is 
an interesting fact that both these papers, the Hindu 
Patriot and the Indian Mirror are still in existence 
to-day. Although the latter paper afterwards 
passed out of Keshub's control he owned various 
other newspapers at different times, many of which 
commanded a wide circulation. In all of them he 
attempted to make fair consideration and conciliation, 
the prevailing notes, and though they ardently 
supported the schemes which he had at heart he waa 
careful to avoid the adoption of a violently partisan 
attitude, opening his columns freely to all 



154 

shades of opinion and permitting full discussion in 
them. 

Formally appointed a minister of the Brahmo 
Samaj in 1862 by Devendra Nath Tagore, he was 
installed with much ceremony in the latter's house, 
the title of Brahmananda, the Rejoicer in God, 
being conferred upon him. The occasion of the 
installation marks another step in the advance to- 
wards the emancipation of the women of Bengal. 
Desirous that his wife, whom he had married accord- 
ing to Hindu rites many years before, should be 
present at the ceremony, he brought her to Calcutta 
from the family residence at Bally where she had 
been living with his relatives. The latter strongly 
opposed this further departure from orthodox Hindu 
custom, and his persistence meant for the time 
practical excommunication. But Keshub was con- 
vinced that the time had come when Indian women 
should play a more prominent part in life, being 
given a better education and a greater freedom of 
action, and he held on his way undismayed. A 
truce between him and his family, patched up in 
the following year, was again broken by dissensions 
over the Jat Karma, the thanksgiving for the 
birth of Keshub's third child, his mother alone 
remaining by him. Gradually, however, as the 
years advanced Keshub's strong personality and 
winning disposition not only overcame the opposition 
of his relatives but succeeded in carrying them with 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 155 

him as some of his most enthusiastic supporters in 
the cause of progress. 

In 1864 Keshub started on an extensive mission- 
ary tour with the object of awakening the whole of 
India to participate in the general progress which 
he had so strenuously advocated in Calcutta, Every- 
where he was received with popular acclamation, his 
eloquence and enthusiasm earning for him in Madras 
the name of 'The Thunderbolt of Bengal.' In al- 
most every place he visited he found the same spirit 
of enquiry and eagerness for knowledge, and he 
returned from the tour greatly encouraged and more 
firmly convinced than before of the great work that 
lay before him and his followers. 

Meanwhile unfortunate dissensions had been 
gradually arising in the Brahmo Samaj itself. 
Devoted to each other as Devendra Nath Tagore 
and Keshoib were, it had been for some time evident 
to both that, firm as their friendship might be. their 
opinions must eventually to a very great extent 
separate them. Devendra Nath Tagore represented 
the older generation of the Rennaissance, fully 
imbued with the necessity of advancing with the 
times yet cautious and conservative, anxious to 
break with the past as little as might be. Keshub 
on the other hand represented the second generation 
of the reform movement, less bound to the old 
traditions and the old beliefs, eager to throw off all 
that retarded progress and to hold fast only 



156 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

to the truth. Devendra Nath Tagore had indeed 
discarded the Brahmanical thread and had appointed 
Keshub, who was not a Brahmin, to the ministry but 
he was at heart strongly conservative and there 
were many innovations advocated by Keshub and 
the younger generation to which he could not sub- 
scribe. Keshub had, for instance, taken up the 
cause of widow re-marriage with enthusiasm, but 
here Devendra Nath Tagore could not follow him. 
The still more difficult question of intermarriage 
had also arisen. The members of the Brahmo Samaj 
were of all castes and having abandoned all caste- 
restrictions, the question of intermarriage among 
them was bound to arise. The first intermarriage 
according to the Brahmo ritual took place in August 
1862 but serious doubts were expressed as to its- 
legality, the essential Hindu rites having been 
omitted. It was a subject which Keshub was to take 
up later with good results but meanwhile it widened 
the breach that was gradually separating the old and 
the new element in the Brahmo Samaj . 

Finally breaking with the old Samaj under 
Devenjira Nath Tagore, Keshub Chandra Sen 
founded the new Brahmo Samaj of India on 
November the llth, 1860. The new Samaj was ta 
be on the broadest lines and open to any human 
being no matter what his creed or caste might be. 
One of its main objects was to include among its 
members men of all nationalities and races. It was 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 157 

to be a world-wide church, and its doctrines were 
to include all those that were highest and best in the 
Bible, the Koran, the Zendavesta and the Shastras, 
extracts from all of which met for the first time side 
by side as the creed of the new Brahmo Samaj. 
'The wide universe is the Temple of God' ran the 
motto of the new Faith 'Wisdom is the pure land 
of pilgrimage : Truth is the everlasting Scripture : 
Faith is the root of all religion ; Love is the true 
Scriptural Culture : the Destruction of Selfishness 
is the true asceticism.' It was to be a universal 
church founded on broad principles to which the 
whole world might subscribe if it would. Keshub 
and his little band of followers, having given up all 
their worldly prospects threw themselves with true 
missionary zeal into the work of spreading the 
tenets of their faith. To all parts of India Keshub 
carried his message of peace and good will, being 
everywhere welcomed by officials and non-officials 
alike and meeting much sympathy from Lord 
Lawrence, the Governor-General, whose guest he 
was on several occasions in Simla. On the 24th of 
January 1868, the thirty-eighth anniversary of the 
Brahmo Samaj as founded by Ram Mohan Roy, 
was laid the foundation stone of the Brahma Mandir, 
the new church of the new Faith. It was opened for 
service in August 1869. 

Keshub's visit to England in 1870, like that of 
Ram Mohan Roy just forty years before, aroused 



158 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

much criticism and opposition. Nothing daunted 
however, by fierce denunciation or evil prognostica- 
tions he set out in the spring of that year, reaching 
England in the month of March. Of his first 
European impressions he has left an amusing 
account. The luxury of hotel life astonished him 
while what surprised him still more at first sight was 
the hurry and bustle of the streets, which contrasted 
so strikingly with the slow movement and general 
leisureliness of the East. In England he met with 
a warm welcome. Lord Lawrence and many other 
retired officials who has known him proved them- 
selves good friends and introduced him to all that 
was best in English society. Among the many 
whom he met were Dean Stanley, Professor Max 
Miiller, Mr. Glodstone and John Stuart Mill. With 
the first two he formed a life long friendship. 
He was graciously received in private audience' 
by Queen Victoria, who presented him with 
a large engraving of herself and copies of her 
two books, inscribed in her own hand "To Keshub 
Chandra Sen from Victoria, R. Sept. 1870.' He 
visited no fewer than fourteen of the chief towns of 
England and Scotland, the National Indian Associa- 
tion which has survived till the present day being 
founded by Miss Mary Carpenter to promote the 
cause that Keshub had so closely at heart. After six 
months in England, he left for India strengthened 
and encouraged by contact with some of the greatest 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 159 

minds of the day and with his loyalty to the British 
Government greatly intensified. So deeply was 
he touched by the universal kindness he met with 
from all classes, from Her Majesty the Queen to 
the poorest peasant that, as he himself said, his 
loyalty to the great nation which had done so much 
for India became a part henceforward of his religion. 

One of the first acts of Keshub on his return to 
India was the establishment of the Indian Reform 
Association on the lines of the most modern associa- 
tions with which he had become acquainted in Eng- 
land. Its object was 'the social and moral reforma- 
tion of the natives of India/ and it was divided 
into five branches, each with its special work. One 
branch occupied itself with the supply of cheap 
and good literature which was to be made easily 
accessible to all : a second was entrusted with charit- 
able relief : a third with all matters concerning educa- 
tion : a fourth with the improvement of the position 
of Indian women, and a fifth with temperance work. 
Impressed with the immense power wielded by the 
press in England, especially by the daily papers 
headed by 'The Times,' Keshub endeavoured to 
improve upon the newspapers he had formerly 
published, bringing out a weekly pice paper, under 
the management of the new association, called the 
Sulav Samachar. Being the first paper of its kind 
published in India it achieved immediate popularity. 
Its influence in its first days of prosperity was 



160 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

far-reaching, and it did much not only to bring 
home to a very wide public the lessons which Keshub 
sought to teach but succeeded further in advancing 
the cause of cheap and popular journalism. 

Nothing had impressed Keshub as' more sharply 
in contrast with conditions in his own country than 
the high position occupied by women in English 
life. Coming from the midst of his own community, 
in whose public life women played no part, he was 
greatly struck by the fact that in England not only 
had women taken their place on an equality with men 
in social life but that they were everywhere actively 
participating in all public and philanthropic 
movements of the day. In spite of their unrestricted 
social intercourse, the deference and respect with 
which they met was particularly striking. His 
English experiences urged Keshub to take up again 
more enthusiastically than before the cause of the 
women of India and one of the most successful 
branches of the Indian Reform Association was the 
Normal School for Indian ladies. Soon after its 
commencement there were no fewer than fifty 
Hindu ladies of the highest castes regularly attend- 
ing the school, receiving instruction on modern lines 
such as had never before been obtainable by Indian 
women. So cordially did Government approve of 
the object and work of the Normal School that is 



offered a grant of Ks. 2,000 annually towards its 
maintenance. 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 161 

Of temperance work Keshub had seen much in 
England and this also he took up with renewed 
energy on his return. He had long been aware 
how firm a hold intemperance threatened to gain 
upon a certain section of his fellow-countrymen and 
he set himself to combat the evil by every means 
in his power. Here as elsewhere in the cause of 
progress he set his hopes chiefly upon the rising 
generation and realising that the young men of his 
day were growing up largely without the restraints, 
which the old caste system had exercised over its 
members, he endeavoured to instill into them a horror 
of intemperance and the degradation that it brought 
inevitably in its train. 

One of the greatest permanent measures that 
Keshub was able to accomplish was the passing of 
the Brahmo Marriage Act of 1872. The difficult 
question of intermarriage among members of the 
Brahmo community had for years awaited a definite 
solution. The Advocate-General when referred to 
had pronounced against the legality .of such 
marriages on the ground that they complied with no 
recognised form^ of marriage ceremony. It was 
apparent that only legislation could set such 
marriages on a safe and legal footing. But many 
difficulties had to be overcome before the Bill 
became law. The Adi-Brahmo Samaj, the old 
section of the Brahmo community under Devendra 
Nath Tagore, considered its own marriage ceremonies 
11 



162 

amply sufficient and it was difficult so to frame the 
bill as to prevent it doing injustice to those who 
declined to take advantage of its provisions. The 
original intention of the Act was to render legal all 
marriages not performed according to any recognised 
form of religion, but this practical institution of civil 
marriage met with a strong protest on the ground 
that it would totally destroy the ancient social 
organization of the country, allowing any man to 
marry whomsoever he pleased irrespective of caste. 
The Bill was therefore altered to apply only to 
members of the Brahmo Samaj and it was expressly 
stipulated that the contracting parties should state 
that they did not profess the Hindu, Muhammadan, 
Christian, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion. 
To avoid any possible hardships, the act expressly 
stated that 'nothing in this act contained shall 
affect the validity of any marriage not solemnised 
under its provisions ; nor shall this act be deemed 
directly or indirectly to affect the validity of any mode 
of contracting marriage ; but if the validity of any 
such mode shall hereafter come into question before 
any Court, such question shall be decided as if this 
act had not been passed.' The Act finally became law 
on the 19th March 1872 and Keshub rightly regarded 
it as one of his greatest triumphs. It was an official 
recognition of the Brahmo Samaj, providing for 
its convenience a special law. Henceforward the 
Brahmo Samaj had its own form of marriage 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 163 

service which was as legal as that of any other 
religion in India. 

It was inevitable that Keshub's many activities 
should stir up enmity in certain quarters and he had 
like all reformers to submit to a storm of abuse from 
those who were strongly opposed to his views. Though 
he numbered his friends among all ranks and all 
classes there were many who were not generous enough 
to agree to differ from him on certain points and 
to acknowledge the good work he was undoubtedly 
doing. From Government he met with great 
encouragement. Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy 
accompanied by his daughter paid him the almost 
unprecedented honour of a visit at his private house 
after having visited the Normal School in 1874. 
With many other officials from the highest to the 
lowest he was on cordial terms of friendship. All 
those who came in contact with him were impressed 
not only with his sincerity but with his moderation. 
He was anxious only to avoid on the one hand social 
and political stagnation, and on the other a too 
sweeping and radical programme of reform. He was 
convinced that progress must be worked out slowly 
and with infinite precaution and that the cause 
of true reform could never be advanced by sudden 
upheavals but only gradually evolved step by step, 
by retaining the good and sedulously eliminating 
the evil. 

In 1878 Keshub's daughter was married to the 



164 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Maharaja of Cooch Behar. Considerable opposition 
to the marriage was manifested by a certain section 
of his followers and difficulties arose over the 
marriage ceremonies, which the relatives of the 
Maharaja naturally wished to invest with Hindu 
rites. The controversy unfortunately led to a fur- 
ther split in the Brahmo Samaj, but opposition 
served only to stir Keshub to greater exertions and 
the wonderful revival of that year led to his pro- 
clamation of the New Dispensation. To him the 
harmony of religions was the first mission of the 
Brahmo Samaj. The best that was in Hinduism, 
Christianity, Muhammadanism and Buddhism 
should be welded together in the Church of the New 
Dispensation. To spread abroad his views, in addi- 
tion to his own personal eloquence, he turned again 
to the press and himself started The Sunday 
Mission and later, The Liberal and The Neiv Dis- 
pensation. All his publications were studiously 
moderate and though by no means lacking in 
courage and independence, were always courteous 
to the opinions and beliefs of others. He never 
denied access to his columns to fair and honest 
criticism of his work, and throughout lie was con- 
sistent in following the motto that he had adopted, 
'Try all things ; hold fast to that which is 
good.' His Catholicism was proved by the number 
of his friends who were drawn from all walks of life. 
He was respected and esteemed bv so orthodox a 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 165 

Hindu as Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohan Tagore, by 
so good a Muhammadan as Nawab Abdul Latif and 
by such men of western light and learning of another 
faith as Professor Max Miiller and Dean Stanley. 

Loyalty was one of the watch-words of the 
Brahmo Samaj. None realised more fully than 
Keshub Chandra Sen how essential it was to the 
peace and welfare of his country that the British 
Government should receive the loyal and hearty co- 
operation of his fellow countrymen. "You are 
bound to be loyal to your divinely-appointed 
sovereign" he wrote to his people. "Not to be loyal" 
he argues base ingratitude and absence of faith in 
Providence. You are bound to be loyal to the British 
Government, that came to your rescue as God's 
ambassador when your country was sunk in ignorance 
and superstition and hopeless jejuneness, and has 
since lifted you to your present high position. 
Honour your Sovereign and the entire ruling body 
with fervent loyalty. The more loyal we are, the 
more we shall advance with the aid of our rulers in 
the poth of moral, social and political reformation.' 

Worn by his ceaseless activities and worried by 
dissensions among his followers, Keshub's health now 
began to give serious cause for alarm. Visits to 
Darjeeling and Simla effected only temporary relief 
and he himself was the first to realise the fatal 
nature of the malady from which he was suffering. 
The knowledge that his end was near served to urge 



166 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

him to one final spell of activity. His last public 
lecture was perhaps his finest effort. 'Asia's message 
to Europe' was one of love, unity and concord. It 
was the offer of a purely unsectarian and 
universal religion that should embrace all creeds and 
all nations in one great brotherhood of perfect 
harmony. Such being the message that he had 
tried to preach, the dissensions among his own 
followers were a great grief to him. He was forced to 
recognise that men who had thrown off the time- 
honoured religious restraints under which they had 
been born were especially prone to dissensions among 
themselves. The old unquestioned authority having 
been set aside, it was difficult to find a common meeting 
ground where all might join. It seemed to him that 
what was needed was some broad rule of life by 
which, however much they might differ in details, 
they might strive to live. With this object he drew 
up the Nava Samhita, the New Way of Life which 
enunciated an ideal course of conduct, personal, 
social, domestic and moral to which every man 
should strive to attain. These are briefly the twelve 
rules of life whereby the ideal man should endeavour 
to live 

1. To look upon woman as the daughter of God 
and regard her with honour and affection and to 
cherish no impure thought or wish in regard to her. 

2. To forgive and love one's enemies and not to 
indulge in anger when provoked by them. 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 167 

3. To rejoice in other man's happiness and not 
to harbour envy or jealousy. 

4. To be humble in disposition and to harbour 
no pride of position, wealth, learning, power or 
religion. 

5. To live the life of an ascetic and to take no 
undue thought for the morrow. To seek not the 
riches of the world. 

6. To give religious instruction to one's 
household. 

7. To love justice, and give every man his due. 

8. To speak the truth and nothing but the truth, 
and to hate all manner of falsehood. 

9. To be charitable to the poor and to relieve 
all sickness and suffering. 

10. To love all men and endeavour to promote 
the welfare of one's fellowmen. 

11. To fix one's heart on divine and heavenly 
things and be not given to worldliness. 

12. To be active in maintaining unity and har- 
mony in the community. 

There could be no higher ideals than those set 
forth in the Nava Samhita. Throughout the 
lesson of it is that true labour in any field of life 
is the one and only true worship. Yet even in 
drawing up these broad rules of life and conduct 
Keshub was anxious that they themselves should 
not become a cause of contension, leading to fresh 
dissensions over their interpretation. 'Let not the 



168 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Samhita be a new fetish' lie wrote. 'It is no 
infallible Gospel. It is only the national law of the 
Aryans of the new Faith in its application to social 
life. It contains the essence of God's moral law 
adapted to the peculiar needs and character of 
reformed Hinduism and based upon their national 
instinct and traditions. We should not therefore 
bow to its letter but accept its spirit and its essence 
for our guidance.' 

Adjoining his house in Upper Circular Road 
he built the new Sanctuary, the Nava Devalaya, 
and the consecration ceremony on January the 1st 
1884 to which he was carried from his sickbed, 
was his final effort. He died seven days later in 
the midst of his sorrowing family and friends, 
sustained during the great physical agony of his 
last days by their love and veneration. The 
funeral procession that followed his body to the 
grave was one of the most imposing that Calcutta had 
ever seen, and it was especially remarkable for the 
presence of all classes and all creeds, Europeans, 
Hindus and Muhammadans mingling with his 
followers of the new faith. Condolences poured in 
from all quarters, from Her Majesty the Queen- 
Empress and a host of English friends down to the 
humblest who had known and appreciated the 
great man's worth. However much men might 
differ from him on many points, there were few 
who did not recognise his earnestness and sincerity. 



KESHUB CHANDRA SEN 169 

His all-absorbing desire to benefit his fellow-country- 
men, and his constant efforts to make his new faith 
unsectarian and such that it might include the 
whole brotherhood of man, won universal admira- 
tion and respect. In an age of self seeking, he set 
a striking example of unselfishness. He voluntarily 
gave up all to follow the way of life that seemed 
to him to lead to the highest and the best. Worldly 
rewards he never sought and worldlv honours he re- 

/ 

fused. His way of life, it is true, though an ideal to 
which every Faith might well strive to attain, was an 
ideal which men in the nineteenth century found 
it hard to follow. It needed the enthusiasm and 
devotion of the earlier ages when the world was 
young and life less complex. It was in direct 
contrast to the growing worldliness and the keen 
competitive spirit of the day against which it 
was a protest. The whole tendency of the time 
was in the opposite direction. The decay of the 
old faiths had coincided with the great renaissance 
of thought and education and but for the little 
company of enthusiasts whom that renaissance 
produced, it might have ended in a cataclysm of 
irreligion. How great was the influence of Keshub 
Chandra Sen and how effectual were his efforts 
towards checking the prevailing tendency towards un- 
belief and immortality must not be judged merely by 
the numerical strength of the Sanaa j that he founded. 
His influence went for deeper and his noble 



170 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

life and character left an abiding impression 
on the thought and spirit of the day. Among 
the many distinguished Indians of the century 
there was none whose name was more widely known 
in Europe and throughout the East, and none who 
exercised a greater influence in stemming the tide of 
irreligion and immorality, and awakening his fellow- 
countrymen to a sense of their moral, social, and 
intellectual responsibilities. 




Nawab Sir Khavvja Abdul Ghani Mia 



NAWAB SIR KHAWJA ABDUL 
GHANI MIA, K.C.S.I. 

18301896. 

THROUGHOUT the nineteenth century there was 
no name more revered in Eastern Bengal than that 
of Nawab Abdul Ghani. For over fifty years he 
was the leading Muhammadan in Dacca and the 
eastern provinces, occupying a unique position there 
among Europeans and his own fellow-countrymen 
alike. From a position of comparative insignificance 
he raised himself and his family to one of command- 
ing eminence, eliciting universal admiration and 
respect. Loyal, generous and public-spirited he 
won the affection of all who came in contact with 
him. 

The original founder of the family was one 
Moulvi Abdulla who in the time of the Emperor 
Muhammad Shah came to India from. Cashmir, seek- 
ing'Jiis fortunes like many another in his day at the 
Imperial Court of Delhi. On the fall of the Moghul 
Empire, when the Imperial court ceased to afford 
opportunities for fortune building, Moulvi Abdulla 
set out for the eastern provinces on the outskirts 
of the Empire, where all things were still possible to 
the adventurer. Finally reaching Sylhet he set 



174 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

up for himself as a merchant there, his wide know- 
ledge of the world and of men enabling him to meet 
with immediate success. Sending for his father 
and brother from Cashmir, he succeeded in estab- 
lishing a prosperous business, his house and godown 
occupying the site of the present Collectorate offices. 
After his death his son and successor moved to 
Dacca which offered a wider and more convenient 
field of operations, settling in the quarter known as 
Begum's Bazaar. It was a time of upheaval. The 
old order was changing and the old families who 
had long held the neighbouring Zeminadries were 
dying out or, encumbered with debt, were being 
forced to relinquish their possessions. For the new 
man with brains, energy and capital there was a 
chance such as seldom offered. Zemindary after 
Zemindary was bought up often at a nominal price 
and so successful did the enterprises of the descen- 
dants of Moulvi Abdulla prove that the trading from 
which their prosperity had originally taken its rise 
was gradually abandoned. A generation, before 
Abdul Ghani the family had won for itself an 
acknowledged place among the more important 
Zemindars of the Dacca district. 

It was not, however, until the time of Khawja 
Alimulla, father of Abdul Ghani, that the family 
became known outside merely local limits. He was 
one of the best types of the rising man of that 
generation. Endowed with great business capacity 



NAWAB SIR ABDUL GHANI 175 

and strong common sense he was quick to seize the 
golden opportunities that opened up before him. 
The time of change and unrest was drawing to its 
close. Already the old order had well-nigh passed 
away, the old authority and the old line of rulers 
gradually disappearing from sheer exhaustion and 
inanition. The last of the old Nawabs of Dacca, 
Ghaziuddin Mahomed, known as the Pagla Nawab 
on account of his eccentricity, was as typical of the 
passing order of things as Khawja Alimulla was of 
the rising generation. Well-nigh all the old families 
were sharing the fate of the Nawabs, coming to an 
end in weak, feeble specimens of humanity, sunk 
deep in debt and vice. Their degradation and 
helplessness were the opportunity of such men as 
Khawja Alimulla. Gradually as the embarrassed 
owners were forced to sell in order to pay their debts, 
he added to his already extensive estates, purchasing 
Zemindaries not only in the Dacca district but 
further afield in Chittagong, Bengal, Faridpur, 
Mymensingh and Tipperah. Everything that he 
touched prospered. Not the least striking instance 
of his business ability was his purchase of the famous 
diamond, the Dariya-i-Nur for only 60,000 Rs. It 
is now worth several lacs. 

From the first he had courted the society of 
Europeans, realising what few of his co-religionists 
had then done that if the Muhammadan community 
was to advance with the times and share in the general 



176 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

prosperity that was coming to Bengal it must cast 
aside the old exclusiveness and aloofness from 
affairs. While remaining strictly orthodox he 
mixed freely with the Europeans of the station, 
making many friends both among officials and non- 
officials. Few Muhammadands of the day knew 
English and though he himself never acquired a 
perfect grasp of the language he was careful to see 
that the son whom he destined to succeed him 
acquired a complete knowledge of it. From his 
earliest years Khawja Alimulla had seen in his 
favourite son Abdul Ghani all the traits of character 
that he held necessary in his successor. The vast 
properties that he had accumulated needed a good 
business head to manage them, a man of the world 
with experience of men and affairs. Very carefully 
Khawja Alimulla watched over the training of his 
son, and to his father Abdul Ghani often in after 
years acknowledged that he owed a very large share 
of his success in life. 

Born in 1830 Abdul Ghani Mia succeeded his 
father on the latter's death in 1848. It was a 
splendid inheritance that fell to him, and there 
belongs to him the credit of handing it on in his 
turn to his son, not diminished but enormously 
increased in value. Above all he administered his 
estates not solely with an eye to his own benefit 
but always with the very real and keen desire 
to contribute to the happiness and prosperity of all 



NAWAB SIR ABDUL _GHANI 177 

those in any way connected with them. Strictly 
following the admirable example set by his father 
and adhering loyally to the principles laid down 
by him for the conduct of business, he consolidated 
and greatly improved the property. A young man 
of charming address and manners he was as popular 
with Europeans as with his fellow-countrymen. A 
model husband and father, he was equally successful 
in preventing friction in the family circle. The 
head of a large family he was continually called 
upon to arbitrate in petty family disputes and these 
he never failed to settle with tact and patience, 
giving satisfaction to all parties who, even if the 
decision went against them, were convinced of his 
wisdom and impartiality. Blessed with robust 
health, he was fond of sport and of all manly games. 
As a shot he excelled, while at pigsticking to which 
he was devoted he was more than a match for many 
of his European friends. Keenly appreciating music 
and poetry, he was a liberal patron of the acts and 
everything that tended to the spread of modern 
education among the Muhammadan community 
received his warm support. 

The events of 1857 gave Abdul Ghani a striking 
opportunity of proving his loyalty to the British 
Government. When the first rumours of mutiny 
reached Dacca there were only two companies of 
the 73rd Native Infantry, numbering some ten 
hundred and sixty men, with artillery stationed in 
12 



178 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the city at the time. These were known to be dis- 
affected and excited by rumours that daily reached 
Dacca of the excesses committed by the sepoys 
elsewhere. Abdul Ghani threw the whole weight 
cf his influence 'on the side of law and order, and 
though threatened with robbery and personal 
violence for so doing by certain evil characters who 
were endeavouring to raise the sepoys to revolt, 
he remained firm. His friends urged him to 
leave the station, knowing that in consequence 
of his loyal conduct he would be the first to suffer in 
case the mutiny came to a head. So far however 
from running away Abdul Ghani actively associated 
himself with the officials, placing at their disposal 
all his vast resources and assisting in disarming the 
sepoys on November 22nd 1857. His splendid 
courage and example did much to allay the panic 
and keep loyal many who would otherwise have 
wavered. He further showed his confidence in the 
British Government by subscribing largely to the 
Government loan which was opened about this time. 
In his Zemindari work he was assisted by 
European and Eurasian as well as by Indian 
managers. From all alike he won willing and loyal 
service. It has been said that it is one of the greatest 
attributes of a great man that he- shoulc^ be 
able to surround himself with capable and devoted 
servants and this power Abdul Ghani certainly 
possessed in full measure. Though courteous and 



NAWAB SIR ABDUL GHANI 179 

considerate to all, there was never a moment's doubt 
that his was the directing and controlling mind. 
He had the whole of his vast business operations 

completely within his grasp, no matter being too 
small for his personal attention. It was only thus, 
as he himself was wont to say, that a great Zemindari 

'Could be worked with complete success. 

In spite of his great wealth Abdul Ghani 
conducted his life with great simplicity. He 
habitually rose early, either riding out, hunting or 
shooting, busying himself in his garden or taking 
long walks in the cool morning air. On his return 
it was his custom to repair to his Charkhana where 
between 7 and 8 A.M. he took tea holding a kind 
of informal reception that included not only the 
male members of his family and his friends, but all 
those who wished to see him as well as those who 
came to partake of his charity. Many old and 
invalid Muhammadans, who had seen better days, were 
.always to be found at this early morning levee which 
was a strangely assorted gathering where all were 
welcome whether in rags or gorgeously attired. It 
was a kind and considerate way of bestowing charity 
upon those who needed it, for the early morning cup 
of tea of the Nawab himself always meant in their 
case a substantial breakfast. Abdul Ghani moved 
freely among his guests listening to their grievances, 
tendering his advice and settling their disputes in 
-truly patriarchal manner. At nine o'clock he used 



180 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

to retire to his private apartments where he remained 
occupied with his own private affairs until breakfast,, 
which he took in company with all the chief 
members of his family, was served. From eleven till' 
two o'clock he devoted himself to his wife and 
children in the seclusion of the Zenana, attending to 
their needs, instructing them and conversing with 
them on family matters. At two o'clock he usually 
went to his office room in the Ahsan Manzil where 
the chief business of the day claimed his attention. 
Exercising so close a control over all the affairs of 
his vast Zemindari, the business that he had daily 
to transact was no light task. His work, moreover, 
was by no means confined to his own affairs. He 
was always accessible during these hours to any of his 
friends or tenants who wished to see him, and so 
great was his reputation as an arbitrator, owing to- 
his tact and knowledge of the world, that there were 
always many who preferred to bring their disputes 
to him for decision rather than to take them to the 
Law Courts. His business for the day over, he 
usually rode or drove late in the afternoon, returning 
in time for the evening meal. From eight till ten 
o'clock he sat with his friends and relatives, listen- 
ing to music or discoursing on current topics. Such 
was the daily routine of Abdul Ghani carried out 
with almost unvarying consistency for nearly forty 
years. Extremely conservative as to his personal habits 
and loyal to his old friends, he desired no change. 



NAWAB SIR ABDUL GHANI 181 

The charities of the Nawab, both public and 
private were on a most generous scale. He spent 
large sums on sacred shrines in and around Dacca, 
and although himself a staunch Sunni, he did not 
hesitate to maintain at great expense the largest 
Imambara in Dacca which is entirely a Shia institu- 
tion. This is but one instance of his wide sympa- 
thies and liberal-mindedness. So great was his 
influence with both Sunnis and Shias that when a 
serious difference occurred between them, threatening 
to lead to open mutiny, he was asked by the local 
authorities to arbitrate between them. This he did 
with such success that their differences were 
speedily healed. For those respectable Muhamma- 
dans who had fallen on evil days and of whom Dacca, 
an old city which had itself suffered decay, held 
a large number, he evinced a special sympathy. His 
private benefactions to such as these will never 
*be known. 

In Dacca and throughout his extensive estates 
he was universally beloved. No tale of distress or 
scarcity coming from any part of Eastern Bengal 
ever met with an unsympathetic reception from 
him. When famine or cyclone had done their worst 
he was always prompt to relieve distress by every 
generous means in his power. Of the wealth that 
had come to him in such abundance he gave with no 
.stinting hand. Dacca in particular owed much to 
.him. In addition to the fine gardens and houses 



182 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

which he freely opened to the public, the greatest 
service that he rendered to the town was the con- 
struction of water works at a cost of two and a half 
lacs. Intended as a thank offering for the recovery 
of the Prince of Wales from his severe illness in. 
1871, the foundation stone was laid by the Viceroy 
Lcrd Northbrook in 1874. They were finally opened 
for use by the Commissioner of the Division in 1878.. 
In planning such works of improvement as this and 
in the daily routine of his life in Dacca he was 
content : To live among his own people, doing his 
duty by all those whose fortunes were so largely 
committed to his charge, was all he desired. No 
man could have sought honours less than Nawab 
Abdul Ghani, yet honours necessarily came to him 
in full measure. Beginning early as an Honorary 
Magistrate he was appointed a member of the 
Bengal Legislative Council in 1866. In the follow- 
ing year he was made an additional member of the 
Viceroy's Legislative Council. From that time 
onward honours fell thick upon him. Created a- 
Companion of the Order of the Star of India in 1871, 
he was specially presented to the Prince of Wales 
by Lord Northbrook and awarded a medal in 1874. 
A year later he was given the title of Nawab as a 
personal distinction, an honour which was made 
hereditary two years later on the occasion of the Pro- 
clamation of the Queen-Empress. In 1886. he was made 
a Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India.. 



NAWAB SIR ABDUL GHANI 183 

For many years before his death he had given 
over the management of his estates to his eldest 
son, known later as the Nawab Sir Khawja Ahsanulla 
whom he had carefully trained as his successor and 
who so worthily followed in his father's footsteps. 
In 1896 Nawab Abdul Ghani died, full of years and 
honour, loved and respected by all who knew him. 
Throughout his long life he had been consistently 
loyal both to the British Government and to the 
interests of his own community. A keen business- 
man, he never aggrandised himself at the expense 
of others. His sympathies were wide and generous 
and no deserving case was ever brought to his notice 
in vain. He was one of the best types of Zemindars 
that Bengal had produced, content to live in the 
midst of his own people and with an ear always open, 
to their petitions and complaints. His will always 
remain one of the greatest and grandest figures in 
Eastern Bengal in the nineteenth century. 




Maharaja Durga Charan Law 



MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW 
C.I.E. 

18221902 

AMONG Indian merchant princes in Bengal the 
name of Maharaja Durga Charan Law takes high 
rank. The firm started by his father was one of 
the first Indian firms to conduct business on 
English lines, and its wonderful success from its 
first small beginnings is one of the most typical 
signs of the awakening of Bengal in the nineteenth 
century. 

The ancestors of the Law family lived, at the 
earliest period of which definite knowledge of them 
is obtainable, at Barsul, now a small village in the 
District of Burdwan. In those days it was a place 
of considerable importance, containing the residences 
of several wealthy families who only deserted it on 
account of the inroads of the Mahrattas during the 
early years of the eighteenth century. Rajib Lachan 
Law, the grandfather of the Maharaja, left the village 
for this reason, and came to reside at Chinsura 
which was then a Dutch settlement. How long the 
iamily continued to reside here and when the firm 
of Prawn Kissen Law was first established in 
Calcutta cannot now be definitely ascertained. It 
must, however, have been early in the nineteenth 
century, since the firm had already obtained pro- 



186 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

minence by the time that the future Maharaja first 
joined it as an assistant in 1839. Durga Charan 
was the eldest son of Prawn Kissen Law, the original 
founder of the firm which is still after nearly a 
century known by his name. Prawn Kissen was 
one of the pioneers of the Indian commercial world. 
Almost all the European Companies which had 
found their way to India had come in the first 
instance solely in pursuit of trade and during their 
first years of commercial activity no Indian firm had 
ventured to compete with them on their own lines. 
But as the English gradually emerged triumphantly 
from the long struggle of the eighteenth century 
and trade was ceasing to be the first object of the 
Company, more open conditions prevailed, and it 
became possible for Indian firms to enter into com- 
petition with the English merchants by adopting 
their methods and standards of business. The 
Indian community, however, was at first slow to 
take advantage o'f the opportunity and to Prawn 
Kissen Law belongs the credit of being among the- 
first to see the great possibilities that were opening, 
out before his fellow-countrymen in the way of 
trade and commerce under the new reign of peace, 
order and security. His firm, one of the first to 
compete seriously with European firms was also one 
of the most successful, placing him and his des- 
cendants among the front rank of Indian merchant 
princes. 



MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW 187 

Durga Charan Law was born on the 23rd of 
November 1822 at Chinsura. Receiving his early 
training at the Hindu College, which was started in 
1817, through the exertions of David Hare, Ram 
Mohan Roy and others, was then the principal college 
in Bengal. From the first he was destined by his 
father to succeed him as head of the firm which he 
had founded and which already gave promise of 
its ultimate remarkable success. Leaving college 
while still in his seventeenth year Durga Charan 
was at once inducted into his father's office to be- 
initiated into mercantile affairs. With true wis- 
dom, Prawn Kissen insisted that his son should 
begin at the lowest rung of the ladder as an assistant, 
learning every detail of the business and working 
his way up through the various offices until he was 
fitted by experience to take the lead. Durga Charan 
at once exhibited business capacities that delighted 
his father's heart and promised well for the future of" 
the firm which was yearly growing in importance. 
Rapidly mastering the routine of the office, he- 
showed the greatest application and an eager desire- 
to acquire a sound knowledge of business principles, 
and to such effect did he apply himself that on his 
father's death in 1853, he was fully competent to 
undertake the entire management of the firm. With 
him in the business were associated his two younger 
brothers Sham Charan Law and Joy Govind Law, 
and with their help during the years that followed. 



188 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

lie succeeded in greatly extending the operations of 
the firm. Its transactions were on an immense 
scale. In almost all kinds of imports it had dealings, 
huge quantities of piece goods, yarns, prints, um- 
brellas, woollen goods, iron, copper, corrugated iron 
sheets, paints, asphalts and cements passing through 
its hands every year. Among its exports were, 
wheat, cotton, tea, indigo, hides, musk, sugar, 
molasses, linseed and poppy seed, with occasional 
shipments of opium to Hongkong. The firm had 
.agents in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow 
while in Calcutta it acted as banian to no fewer 
than ten European firms. Such was the enormous, 
business over which Durga Charan Law exercised 
for nearly half a century personal and complete 
control. From the outset of his career Durga Charan 
had shown not only industry and business 
capacity but a high sense of commercial integrity 
and honour. It was this reputation which the firm 
early acquired that enabled it to win the respect and 
inspire the confidence of the Indian and European 
communities alike. As its head and as the moving 
spirit that directed its policy and its great 
undertakings, Durga Charan Law came rapidly 
into prominence in Calcutta life. He was consulted 
by all classes, not only on commercial matters, but, 
so great were his interests, on all the social and 
political questions of the day. Government was not 
slow to recognise his ability and his usefulness in 
the public service. He was the first Indian to be 



MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW 189- 

appointed a Port Commissioner .of Calcutta, and 
the many other honours and distinctions of all 
kinds that came to him in rapid succession showed 
the esteem in which he was held by all classes of the 
community. He was appointed a Justice of the 
Peace for the town of Calcutta and an Honorary 
Presidency Magistrate early in his career, while later 
came the honour of nomination to the Bengal 
Legislative Council. He was also elected a member 
of the Senate of the Calcutta University and held 
office as Sheriff of Calcutta, being appointed a 
member pi the Supreme Legislative Council in 1882. 
In the same year he sat on the Commission appoint- 
ed for the reduction t5f the Public Debt while two 
years later came the first titular honour, that of the 
Companionship of the Order of the Indian Empire, 
conferred upon him by Government in recognition 
of the services he had rendered. On the occasion 
of the Jubilee of the Queen-Empress the title of 
Raja was bestowed upon him. In the following 
year he was again appointed a member of the 
Supreme Legislative Council and in 1891 he 
was created a Maharaja. These high honours and 
offices show not only in what high esteem Durga 
Gharan Law was held but the varied interests and 
activities which he contrived to combine with the 
management of a large and successful business. 

His charities were unbounded. Possessed of 
immense wealth he was always ready to place it at 



190 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the disposal of -every good cause. In support of 
education and in the relief of suffering his purse was 
always open. To the Calcutta University he gave the 
handsome donation of fifty thousand rupees to form a 
fund for the creation of scholarships in various schools 
and colleges throughout Bengal. To the District 
-Charitable Association and the Suvarna Banik Charit- 
able Association of which he was President, his sub- 
scriptions at various times amounted to large sums. 
He was a Governor of the Mayo Hospital to which he 
:also largely contributed, one of the Wards being named 
after him in memory to his liberal endowments. His 
private charities were very numerous, a large number 
of schools and hospitals throughout his extensive 

estates being entirely maintained by him. In Calcutta 
he took a prominent part in all the great charitable 
and philanthropic movements of the day, no scheme 
of public utility failing to receive his hearty sympathy 
and financial support. 

The Maharaja was one of the largest landholders 
in Bengal. He possessed estates in several districts 
and in all of them he proved a model landlord, firm 
and businesslike and heartily solicitous of the wel- 
fare of his tenants. Many of his estates he personally 
acquired at auction and saved from ruin, placing 
them by capable management on a sound and stable 
basis. The history of some of these estates furnishes 

a romantic record of the advancement of civilisation 
an Bengal. Among those acquired by the Maharaja 



MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW 191 

none is of greater interest than the estate of Morrel- 
gunj in the Sundarbatid, that immense tract of 
river and forest at the head of the Bay of Bengal 
which so long defied all reclamation. Great efforts 
had at various times been made to bring it under 
cultivation. Not only had individuals set forth into 
the unknown wilds of these immense forest tracks in 
the hope of reclaiming them and deriving from them 
wealth and fortune, but Government had itself 
attempted the Herculean task. Hitherto, however, 
the difficulties had always proved insuperable. Labour 
had all to be imported and when at length the 
labourers had been safely conveyed there at much 
expense, it had been found difficult to prevail 
upon them to stay. The land being everywhere 
lowlying and malarious, fever was prevalent while 
the loneliness of the life, and the fear of wild animals 
which constantly carried off the ryots as they cut 
down the jungle, induced them to escape at the 
earliest possible moment. So far the Sundarbans had 
proved nothing but the graves of men and of all their 
hopes of fortune. None had succeeded in the fight 
with nature and tamed its rampant luxuriance to any 
great extent the dull routine of cultivation. But in one 
corner of the vast area it was reserved for an English 
family to do, what others had failed to do, and by sheer 
force of character and energy to clear the splendid 
estate which was eventually to pass into the hands of 
Maharaja Durga Gharan Law. 



192 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

The Sundarbans had been divided by Government 
into lots with a view to reclamation and Lords I, II, 
III and IV had been settled with one Babu Kalinath 
Koy of Taki for a period of 99 years, the only stipula- 
tion being that he should bring under cultivation a 
certain portion of the land within a fixed period. 
In spite of his efforts he had been unable to over- 
come the initial difficulties of cultivation in the- 
Sundarbans and only 800 bighas had been reclaimed 
on the expiry of the time allowed. Government 
therefore issued a fresh notice to resettle the 
remaining portion of the Lots. An English woman, 
a widow named Mrs. Morrel, came forward offering 
to take settlement in the name of her three sons, 
and in 1857 Government settled the Lots with them 
for a period of 99 years. The three brothers Robert,, 
who had been a Captain in a British Regiment, 
William and Henry at once set out from Calcutta 
to undertake personally the work of cultivation, old 
Mrs. Morrel in spite of her advanced age accompany- 
ing them. Arriving after a seven days' journey in 
country boats, they fixed upon the most suitable 
site for their head-quarters. There was then nothing 
but impenetrable forest, and the Morrels and the 
men they had brought with them, were forced to 
live in their boats until sufficient space had been 
cleared whereon to erect temporary shelters. It 
was a splendid position that they selected where 
Morelgunj now stands, the anchorage in the broad 



MAHARAJA DURGA CHARAN LAW 193 

river that washes its banksl[being so commodious 
that the place was later on declared a port in the 
hope that the largest steamers might visit it. For 
themselves the Morrels constructed a fine house 
with large gardens close by the river bank, while a 
splendid avenue was opened out parallel with the 
river, and leading to the bazaar which quickly 
sprang up with a thriving mart, as the limits of 
cultivation extended. Within ten years no less than 
four thousand bighas had been cleared and as 
Tumours of the extraordinary fertility of the newly 
cleared soil reached the neighbouring districts, 
hundreds of ryots hastened to the spot and eagerly 
took up land to clear and cultivate. It was not 
long before practically the whole of the four lots 
was reclaimed, a large portion of them by the 
Morrels themselves, the remainder by Talukdars to 
whom they had given leases. With the success of 
his enterprise apparently assured, Robert Morrel 
took settlement of other adjoining lands from 
government until his estate reached to the sea 

O 

extended over an immense area. Far away from 
the magisterial head-quarters at Khulna, which was 
then a subdivision of Jessore, and cut off from easy 
Access by a network of rivers and impenetrable 
jungle, the Morrels were wellnigh independent of 
outside interference in their control of the large 

O 

and flourishing tract which they had brought into 
-existence. 
13 



194 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

How largely the prosperity of Morelgunj was 
due to the tact and energy of Robert Morrel himself 
was seen as soon as his presence was withdrawn. 
His health had been seriously impaired by his great 
exertions in bringing the estate under cultivation 
and he finally decided to retire to England, leaving 
his brothers and an agent in charge of his affairs. 
Troubles which threatened to undo all the good 
work he had done speedily occurred after his depar- 
ture. A dispute arose between his agent and a 
neighbouring Zemindar which not only brought the 
former into trouble with the authorities but involved 
the estate in long and costly litigation in the 
Courts. More unfortunate still many of the tenants 
who had been attracted by the fertility of the soil 
were frightened away by these disputes, which had 
more than once led to bloodshed. Hearing of these 
unfortunate occurrences Robert Morrel, in spite of 
ill health, returned to Morelgunj. There he 
found that affairs had indeed been going badly in 
his absence. Many of the tenants had abandoned 
their holdings and much of the land which he had 
brought under cultivation was lying fallow, and 
in places rapidly falling back again into jungle. 
With characteristic energy he set to work to regain, 
lost ground and to put things once more upon a 
satisfactory footing, but in the midst of his labours 
he died at Barisal on the 13th of May 1869. An 
obelisk erected at Morrelgunj by his tenants 



MAHAKAJA DUKGA CHARAN LAW 195 

testifies how great was the affection and respect 
that he inspired. After his death the estate soon 
* became insolvent and his brother was forced to 
mortgage Lots I, II, III to Maharaja Durga Charan 
Law who quickly saw the great possibilities the 
estate offered if judiciously and econominally 
managed. Here was an immense tract of feritle 
land already under cultivation with all the initial 
difficulties of labour and ^reclamation overcome. 
The Morrels, carried away by the initial success of 
their enterprise, had launched out into many un- 
necessary entravagances and the Maharaja with his 
keen business instinct only awaited the opportunity 
of getting possession of the estate to reduce it to 
order and make of it a splendid property. Unable to 
satisfy his creditors, William, the last survivor of the 
three brothers, was finally forced to sell the whole 
estate in 1878 and in the following year Durga Charan 
Law purchased all four Lots. Under his management 
Morrelgunj soon entered upon another period of pros- 
perity. Under a capable manager he introduced order 
and control, greatly developing the properties, mak- 
ing roads, excavating tanks, cutting canals, establish- 
ing hats, building schools and establishing a charitable 
Dispensary. Practically everything in Morrelgunj is 
still done by the Maharaja's sons. The Dispensary 
and the schools are still maintained entirely at 
their expense, while their tenants look to them 
for almost all their needs. It possesses a thriving 



196 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

hat, and though cut off by land from other parts 
of the District by a network of rivers, it is on the 
main steamer route from Calcutta to Eastern Bengal 
and Assam. It was fortunate for Morrelgunj that it 
fell into the hands of so just and capable a Zemindar 
as Maharaja Durga Charan Law. 

For some years before his death, failing health 
prevented the Maharaja from taking his accustomed 
active part in public affairs. He never, however, 
lost his keen interest in all the current questions 
of the day and to the end he was consulted and 
his opinion sought on a variety of subjects by all 
classes of the community. A man of few words, 
he was never hasty in giving his opinion, but 
once given that opinion seldom proved wrong. His 
judgment consequently met with universal respect. 
He had a horror of falsehood or deceit in any shape 
or form, and in the mercantile world his name was 
always synonymous with honesty and straightforward 
dealing. Though the strictness of his principles 
gave him a somewhat severe mein, those who knew 
him were quick to realise that under a harsh exterior 
he had a heart of gold. The Maharaja died at the 
great age of eighty years in 1902, one of the wealthi- 
est and most respected merchant princes of Bengal. 



n 




Nawab Bahadur Syed Walayet All Khan 



NAWAB BAHADUR SYED WALAYET 
ALI KHAN, C.I.E. 

18181899 

LOYAL in the dark days of mutiny, a generous 
helper in times of famine and distress, and an eager 
promoter of learning, Syed Walayet Ali Khan has 
left a memory that is still alive for beyond the limits 
of his native city. Throughout his long life of over 
fourscore years he was universally beloved as one of 
the leaders j>f the Muhammadan community in Patna 
and Behar. The story of his life is one of consistent 
rectitude, steadfast loyalty and high endeavour. 

It was at Patna on the 23rd of September 1818 
that the future Nawab Bahadur first saw the light. 
He came of a Sayed family of considerable local im- 
portance, claiming descent from Imam Ali Reza, 
the 8th Imam. His father Syed Mehdi Ali Khan 
was himself the son of Syed Abdulla Sahib, who was 
a rich banker of Patna and who like many another 
had found his way from the north-west towards the 
close of the Moghul Empire, seeking fresh fields for 
enterprise in Bengal. His original home had been 
at Karamanikpur in Oudh and his ancestors had 
held honourable posts at the Moghal Court. Coming 
to Patna with a considerable sum of money, he 



200 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

settled there, acquiring large landed properties and 
carrying on a banking business with eminent success. 
It was on the maternal side, however, that the 
Nawab could claim his most distinguished descent. 
His father had married the Nawaba Hafizun-nissa 
Begum who herself was the great grand -daughter 
of Nawab Basher-ul-Mulk Asad Jung, for many 
years Deputy Governor of Behar in the time of the 
Emperor Shah Alum. The latter had four sons 
of whom the most distinguished was Nawab Syed 
Gholam Hosein Khan, the well known author of 
the famous history of the Moghul Court, the "Seir- 
ul-Mutakerin" which throws so strong a light on 
the causes of the decay of the Moghul En%pire during 
the reigns of the last seven monarchs. The second 
son of Nawab Basher-ul-Mulk was Syed-ud-dowlah 
Syed Ali Khan Shumser Jung, the grandfather of 
Hafizun-nissa Begum. The third son was Fakir- 
ud-dowlah Syed Najim Ali Khan Zafar Jung on 
whom the Pergana Japla in the district of Palamau 
was conferred as a revenue free gift in recognition 
of his services to the Moghul Empire, a grant which 
was confirmed by the East India Company on the 
5th August, 1815, three years before the birth of 
the subject of this memoir. Having no son, Fakir- 
ud-dowlah had adopted his brother's grand-daughter, 
Hafizun-nissa Begum who thus acquired by adoption 
a share in the property. Nawab Syed Walayet Ali 
Khan thus came of stock which had done good 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 201 

service to the state and which in so doing had acquired 
considerable wealth and position. 

Of the early years of the Nawab but little is 
recorded. He was brought up under the immediate 
supervision of his grandfather Syed Abdullah, and 
so well did he profit by the old man's teaching that 
at the early age of eighteen he was placed in charge 
of the family property in Tirhoot. Thrown largely 
upon his own resources there, he quickly proved 
himself worthy of the trust that had been placed in 
him. Turning a deaf ear to all the temptations of 
youth he set himself diligently to master business 
methods and all the w T ork of an extensive Zeminadri 
with such success that he had the satisfaction of 
seeing the property enormously increase in value 
under his personal supervision and management. 
From the first he was distinguished by his remark- 
able tact and winning manners, and it was not long 
before he began to take an active interest in public 
affairs beyond the limits of his own Zemindaru 
Although unable to speak English, he early in life 
won the esteem of European officials, who recognised 
in him one of the best types of the Muhammadan 
gentleman of- the old school. While remaining 
strictly orthodox he was eager to accept western 
ideas where they tended to the greater well-being 
and prosperity of his countrymen. Of western 
methods in medical science and hygiene he was 
quick to see the advantage. The old saying that 



202 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

cleanliness is next to godliness had in him a firm 
believer and in season and out of season he preached 
greater cleanliness and better sanitation as one of 
the chief needs of the day. 

It was in the dark days of the mutiny that Syed 
Walayet AH Khan first came prominently forward 
and won golden opinions from government for his 
loyalty and practical assistance. Patna, the second 
city in Bengal, was looked upon at that time as 
the centre of disloyalty. A large number of 
Muhammadans there hankered after the old regime, 
refusing that strong support and loyalty to the 
British Government which they have since accorded. 
Syed Walayet Ali Khan's loyalty thus stands out all 
the more conspicuously, as being one of the first to 
see in what direction the true interests of his co- 
religionists and fellow-countrymen lay. From the 
first he followed his own convictions without thought 
of fear or favour. "With regard to Walayet Ali 
Khan," wrote the Commissioner of Patna at the 
time of the Mutiny, "the following extracts from 
one of my official reports will show the opinions I 
held regarding his loyalty and the valuable assistance 
I had received from him during tha most critical 
period of danger." 

"It is also gratifying to me to be able at this 
time to record the assistance I have received from 
several of the respectable native residents of Patna, 
more especially from .among others, Walayet Ali 



203 



Khan has been conspicuous from the very commence- 
ment of the disturbance ; and the bravery and frank- 
ness with which he has, at a very great risk to himself, 
cast his lot on the side of the authorities, is deserving 
of special recognition at the present time, and has 
been in itself of great use." 

"A few days after the news of the Mutiny reach- 
ed us, he presented to me a petition, stating that 
he was ready to devote life and property to the 
service of the state, and from that day he has inces- 
santly exerted himself in the cause of Government, 
seeking for information, ferreting^out bad characters, 
watching the city and obtaining good information 
through emissaries employed at^his expense from the 
neighbouring villages. Walayet All Khan has 
accordingly taken possession of an English house at 
the west end of the city near my compound and 
began living there day and night at a considerable 
scale of sacrifice to his life." 

It was not only in time of emergency, however, 
that he showed his loyalty to the crown and his 
earnest desire to serve his country. At a time when 
Muhammadan influence and education were at their 
lowest ebb, he came to the front as a leader in 
every movement of social progress in Behar. There 
was no public spirited enterprise of any kind from 
this time forward with which his name was not 
associated. Of the Patna College, which now 
occupies so prominent a place among educational 



204 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

institutions in Behar he was one of the chief 
promoters. The Temple Medical School, named 
after the Lieutenant-Governor of the day and the 
Behar School of Engineering also met with his 
generous support. These, however, are but a few 
and the best known instances of his generosity and 
the encouragement he gave to all works of public 
utility. There are innumerable unrecorded gifts to 
schools and colleges, hospitals and dispensaries, 
clubs, societies, mosques and public buildings, to all 
of which he liberally subscribed. Those donations 
that have been recorded form a long list and it was 
typical of the large-heartedness and public spirited- 
ness of the man that his charities were not confined 
to his own country and his own co-religionists. He 
was ready to subscribe as generously to relieve distress 
abroad as in Behar. 

During the famine of 1874, he took a prominent 
part in relieving the distress, contributing no less 
than a lac of rupees to the relief funds and himself 
taking an active part in their distribution. In 
1874, Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy of India, paid 
a visit to Behar and, granting Syed Walayet All 
Khan a private audience, he consulted him in a long 
conversation concerning the condition of Behar. 
In the cold weather of 1875-6 His Royal Highness 
the Prince of Wales paid his memorable visit to 
India, and among those invited to Calcutta to meet 
him was Syed Walayet AH Khan, who took part in 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 205 

all the festivities of welcome as one of the leading 
men of Behar. Immediately afterwards he returned 
to Patna to receive His Royal Highness there also, 
being one of the few privately presented to the 
Prince during his visit. His Royal Highness re- 
ceived him most graciously, eulogising him for his 
past services and especially for his courage and loyalty 
during the Mutiny. A year later a certificate of 
honour was presented to him on the auspicious 
occasion of the assumption by the Queen of the title 
of Empress of India. 

On the 1st of January 1878 came further recogni- 
tion. The Companionship of the most Eminent Order 
of the Indian Empire was conferred upon him on 
account of his prominent and devoted services rendered 
during the Mutiny and of his munificent liberality. 
His investiture took place at a Durbar held by the 
Commissioner of the Division at Sonepur on the 
13th of March, 1878. In presenting to him the 
insignia of the order, the Commissioner paid this 
glowing tribute to his services 

'Syed Walayet Ali Khan, you have always been 
a most devoted and loyal subject of Government. 
During the Mutiny you have eminently distinguish- 
ed yourself by displaying remarkable and inflexible 
loyalty. Your services during that crisis were 

invaluable Professions of loyalty are valuable in 

proportion as they are voluntary and timely and 
their sincerity is tested by acts. "The proffer of 



206 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Walayet Ali Khan's services was made in our darkest 
and most dangerous crisis and the proffer throughout 
was supported by deeds. 

"This character has ever since been laudably 
maintained by you. 

"You have also been conspicuous in your libera- 
lity and public spiritedness, having hitherto con- 
tributed no less than Rs. 70,000 towards Charitable 
and Public Institutions. During the late famine 
you exhibited marked generosity, having unostenta- 
tiously spent about 40,000 Rs. or 50,000 Rs. in 
relieving the distressed people. Your services have 
now received the recognition of Her Majesty the 
Queen -Empress of India and it gives me great pleasure 
to be the medium of conveying to you the, token of 
royal favour and I sincerely hope that you may 
long enjoy the honour thus graciously conferred 
on you." 

Only four years later he received the title of 
Nawab as a personal distinction. A special Durbar 
was held at Bankipur on the llth of November 
1882 by the Lieutenant-Governor Sir Rivers Thomp- 
son in order to invest him with the insignia of the 
new title. His Honour in handing him the Sanad 
spoke as follows 

"Syed Walayet Ali Khan It is at the instance 
of His Excellency the Viceroy that I am present 
here to-day to confer upon you in this public Durbar 
the title and dignity of Nawab. In any career of 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 207 

life, apart from the testimony of a good conscience, 
that a man has striven honourably to do his duty, 
the highest reward which one can secure is the 
esteem and approbation of one's fellow-countrymen. 
I believe that element of contemporary approval 
is not wanting in your own position : but it is quite 
fitting that where an eminent citizen has used un- 
ostentatiously and disinterestedly the wealth his 
hands have gained him, to advance the public good, 
government should not be backward in recognising 
such efforts. This is not the first occasion upon 
which it has fallen to your lot to receive at the 
hands of official authority the approval which 
government desires to express to a loyal and liberal 
subject. I note that, on the auspicious occasion 
of Her Majesty's assumption of the title of Empress 
of India, among the natives who were selected for 
marks of distinction, you were one of those who 
received a Certificate of Honour. I note that at a 
more recent period you were enrolled as a companion 
of the Order of the Indian Empire, and now it 
devolves upon me, both as a pleasure and privilege 
to confer upon you to-day the rank and title of 
Nawab. We may be sure that they could be no 
light services for which such accumulated honours 
were reserved, and speaking in the presence of those 
who know you best, I indulge in neither extravagance 
nor flattery when I say that in view of the prominent 
and devoted services rendered by you during the 



208 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Mutiny and your munificent liberalities for the good 
of your people and district, the bestowal of such 
titular distinctions as these brings honour alike to 
the government and to yourself. You stand forward 
in this city as an example of loyal patriotism, you 
have shown in cases of danger and difficulty the 
reality and sincerity of that patriotism, and in 
times of peace and order you have proved that the 
responsibilities of wealth and lofty position have 
been rightly appreciated by you in the co-operation 
you have given to the advancement of every useful 
and good w y ork. I congratulate you therefore in 
the presence of this large and distinguished audience 
upon your accession to a dignity so well merited : 
and I wish you sincerely many years of health and 
future usefulness in the enjoyment of the honour 
which the Viceroy of India has confered upon you." 

On the occasion of his receiving the title of Nawab, 
his fellow-countrymen of Patna both Hindu and 
Muhammadan presented him with an address on 
the 17th of April 1883 which forms a splendid tribute 
from those amongst whom he had lived and worked. 
It ran 

"We, the undersigned residents of Patna, in 
presenting this address to you only give expression 
to the sincere feeling of pleasure and satisfaction 
which we experience in seeing you deservedly honour- 
ed. The benevolence which has distinguished your 
career has elicited from Government its due 



SYED WALAYET ALT KHAN 209 

recognition in the shape of honours conferred, and 
this, while it serves to perpetuate the memory of that 
benevolence, furnishes a strong and lasting incentive 
to others to follow your philanthropic example. 

"Believe us, you are as thoroughly esteemed as 
you are widely known, both for your moral worth and 
your kindly disposition, and your name is known to 
fame even in the more distant parts of the world. 

"In the dreadful Mutiny of 1857 you consistently 
and firmly displayed to a just and watchful Govern- 
ment the pleasing spectacle of a subject unhesitat- 
ingly honest when his conscientious dissent was 
based upon personal experiences and peculiar means 
of knowledge, and throughout all, disinterestedly 
loyal, regardless of the extreme personal risk involv- 
ed ; and it was for this right loyal service at a most 
critical time, that His Royal Highness the Prince of 
Wales perosnally thanked you, for it was admittedly 
owing in a great measure to your cool vigilance, wise 
moderation and unswerving loyalty that Patna owed 
its escape from overwhelming disaster. Nor have 
matters of great individual, and social, if of less 
general political importance, escaped your notice ; 
and notably in the cause of education has your 
liberal hand been at work, so long back as the year 
1856 when you made over to the Government a large 
estate for the establishment and support of an Indus- 
trial and Agricultural School, a scheme which we regret 
has not yet been carried into completion, and again 
14 



210 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

in 1862 you were first to give a large donation for 
the purpose of assisting the establishment of the 
Patna College, an institution that has steadily pro- 
gressed, .and whose sphere of useful influence it is 
hard to overestimate, and which can be compared 
only as to the good it has done with the Temple 
Medical School, with which also you are identified by 
the large donation given by you at its institution in 
1874. These contributions, the spirit that promoted 
them, and the universal good that has resulted from 
them, are the results on which is based the gratitude 
of the people of Patna of whatever creed, sects, caste 
or class. Again in connection with the late famines 
in India and in Ireland (your contribution aggregat- 
ing the sum of Rs. 1,20,000) your subscription to 
the fund for the relief and support of the wives and 
children of the soldiers who fell in the Afghan 
Campaign, your gifts to the Zoological Garden at 
Calcutta and the Mangles Tolah in this city, all 
witness how wide and how generous were your 
sympathies, how liberal and how universal your 
philanthropy. 

"In the discharge of your duties as a Municipal 
Commissioner and as a member of different other 
societies connected with the social and moral im- 
provement of the people of this city, you have shown 
us how private and selfish individual prejudices must 
be made to yield to a sense of what is most conducive 
to the public good. 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 211 

".In presenting this address, allow us to express 
the hope that you will continue to take the keen 
interest you have hitherto done in the welfare of this 
city and its inhabitants, and we sincerely trust that 
the Almighty may prolong a life conspicuous for its 
energy in the cause of good and its activity in the 
cause of liberality and philanthroppy." 

The Nawab replied as follows : 

"GENTLEMEN, To-day my dearly beloved Hindu 
and Muhammadan fellow- citizens (whom I affection- 
ately greet) have made me feel both very happy and 
very proud ; happy that you approve of what I 
have done, in the belief that I was doing right, and 
proud in that I have gained your esteem and your 
regard. Believe me, I am keenly and deeply 
sensible of the honour you have now conferred on 
me by the address you have just presented to me, 
and that the pleasing memory of it will remain 
in my recollection as long as it shall seem fit to 
the Almighty to spare me. You estimate too 
highly the poor services that I have been able to 
render, and I attribute the high praise that you 
.are pleased to accord to them rather to the liberality 
of the Government in marking their sense of them 
and to the kindly sentiments you entertain towards 
me, than to the inherent value of the services 
themselves. With particular reference to what I 
have been enabled to do on the occasions of public 
calamity and disturbance, and in the cause of 



212 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

forwarding our social and moral progress, I 
regard it in the one case as my duty, and in the 
other as the expenditure of a little Capital to secure- 
a great amount of good (as we say in the vernacular 
'a little word in a big mouth'). Gentlemen, do not 
be offended if I say that the money which has 
been spent in connection with the presentation of 
this address might have been productive of some 
infinite good if wisely employed in some public 
works. But I will not deny that you have this day 
made me very happy, while you have nevertheless 
accorded to my services a higher merit than 
they deserve. May you all be spared to enjoy every 
honour, reward and prosperity that I sincerely 
wish you, and may I be spared to witness such a 
consummation of a life acceptable to man and pleasing 
in the sight of God. Again, gentlemen, I heartily 
thank you." 

The very great popularity of the Nawab among 
officials and non-officials, among Hindus and Muham- 
madans alike was evidenced by the number of con- 
gratulatory letters that poured in upon him on the 
occasion of each new honour. Officials without 
exception placed entire confidence in him and freely 
consulted him upon all matters relating to Behar 
and the Muhammadan community. Sir Ashley Eden, 
as Lieutenant-Governor, honoured him on several 
occasions by asking his opinion and on his visit to 
Patna in 1880 finding that he was too ill to pay his 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 213 

respects to him, lie paid him the compliment of call- 
ing upon him to enquire after his health. On two 
other occasions he had the rare honour of receiving a 
visit from a Lieutenant-Governor at his own house. 
In 1889 he received a visit from Sir Stuart Bayley, 
and in 1896, when again seriously ill, he was visited 
by Sir Alexander Mackenzie. From the highest to 
the lowest in the land the straightforwardness of his 
character, his personal disinterestedness and public 
spirit won universal confidence and esteem. 

At a time of life when he might justly have con- 
templated withdrawal from public duties to enjoy a 
well-earned leisure, the Nawab was ever ready to 
incur fresh responsibilities in a good cause. The 
number of public offices that he held makes a long 
list. He was for many years an Honorary Magistrate, 
-a Municipal Commissioner, and a member of the 
District Board as well as of many other local 
societies connected with the social and moral 
improvement of the people. He was an active 
member of the British Indian Association, of the 
Central Committee of the Imperial Institute in 
India, a Vice-Patron of the Lady DufEerin Fund, 
and a life member of the Zoological Gardens and of 
the Agricultural-Horticultural Society of India at 
Calcutta. He was also at one time President of 
the Behar Text-Book Committee. All these offices 
were to him no mere sinecures. In each he put 

9 

forward his best efforts, playing a leading part 



214 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

and endeavouring to make a success of whatever he 
undertook. 

On January, 1st 1896 came the final honour to 
crown his well spent life. He was now seventy- 
eight years old and the bestowal of the title of 
Nawab Bahadur came as a fitting close to the long 
list of honours and distinctions that had been con- 
ferred upon him. Once more the heartiest congratu- 
lations came from all sides and the Hindu and 
Muhammadan residents of Patna again presented 
him with an address expressive of the affection and 
esteem in which he was universally held. 

The Nawab Bahadur lived only three years to 
enjoy his latest honour. He had lived a long and 
strenuous life, using his energies both physical and 
mental to the full in the casue of progress, never 
sparing himself in his devotion to his Queen and 
country. The death in January 1899 of his only 
son Syed Tajamul Hussain Khan, who promised 
worthily to follow in his father's footsteps was a 
severe blow from which he never fully recovered. 
He gradually sank and died five months later on 
June 3rd 1899. 

Perhaps no funeral has ever so stirred Patna or 
given occasion for such an outburst of popular feeling 
as that of the Nawab Bahadur. Had there been 
any room for doubt as to the esteem and affection 
in which he was held, the crowds who flocked to do 
him this last honour would have been sufficient 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 215 

proof. Among t those who followed his remains to 
the grave were the Commissioner of the Patna 
Division and the Collector of Patna, both of whom 
wrote letters of condolence to his grandson in 
terms that showed the high respect in which they 
held him. "I have heard with the most profound 
regret," wrote the Commissioner, "the sad news of 
the death of your illustrious grandfather, my 
esteemed friend, this morning , and beg you to 
accept my most sincere sympathy in this sad event. 
Your grandfather had been the trusted friend of all 
the officials for nearly half a century and his death 
will be a serious loss to Government as well as to 
the many friends he numbered among the Europeans 
in this country. The public has lost a trusted and 
recognised leader. His memory will long survive 
and it will be difficult for many years to fill his place." 
The Collector wrote in no less appreciative lan- 
guage. "I have just received with great grief 
the news of the death of my honoured friend the 
Nawab Bahadur, your illustrious grandfather. 
For upwards of seven years that I have known Patna 
I have been indebted to him for advice and assist- 
ance and for a kind and continued friendship, which 
has been one of the things I have been most proud 
of in my service. He has gone full of years, wisdom 
and honour, not long surviving the son to whom he 
was so deeply attached. It will be many years 
before his place will be filled and we see the like of 



216 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

him again. The Muhammadan nobles of Patna have 
lost a recognised leader and the^ .Government and 
the cause of law and order a prominent supporter. 
I beg you to accept the assurance^of my deepest 
sympathy and condolence in your sorrow. The 
Commissioner and myself will come and join the 
funeral. We accept this opportunity of showing 
this last mark of respect to our departed friend. 
The offices of the Commissioner and my own have 
been closed as a mark of respect." 

To devise means to commemorate his memory a 
public meeting was held in Patna on the 2nd July, 
1899. It was presided over by the Commissioner 
and all the leading men of the neighbourhood were 
present. It was resolved to raise funds to add a 
wing to the Muhammadan Anglo-Arabic school to 
bear his name, and subscriptions were invited for the 
purpose. They flowed in from all sources, from 
Europeans and Indians alike, and the building that 
resulted was a fitting memorial, a tablet perpetuat- 
ing the memory of Mm in whose honour it was 
raised. 

It- is not, however, in memorials of brick and 
stone that the memory of the Nawab Bahadur will 
chiefly live. The influence for good that, through- 
out his long life which covered nearly the whole of 
the century, he exercised over the fortunes of his 
fellow-countrymen is a more enduring monument. 
In strengthening the loyalty of his co-religionists, 



SYED WALAYET ALI KHAN 217 

in setting them an example of straightforwardness 
and rectitude, in promoting every social and educa- 
tional movement of the day that tended towards 
the general advancement and prosperity of the 
people, his chief work lay, and in them lie his 
claims to be regarded as one of the greatest 
figures among the Muhammadan community in 
Bengal in the nineteenth century. At a time when 
-all was change and uncertainty, when the people of 
Bengal after long years of oppression and unrest 
had at length time and opportunity for social, 
moral and educational advancement, the strong and 
courageous figure of the Nawab Bahadur was a 
tower of strength to his co-religionists. The Muham- 
madans of Behar, not yet in the earlier days of 
the nineteenth century fully reconciled to British 
supremacy and not yet recovered from the period of 
decadence into which they had fallen in the last days 
of the Moghul Empire, were neither in the mood 
nor had the equipment wherewith to play a leading 
part in public life. It is to the lasting credit of 
the Nawab Bahadur that, beginning in their darkest 
days, he consistently showed them the better way 
of loyalty and high endeavour. His own success 
in public life and the honoured position he rose to 
occupy in the opinion of all who knew him were them- 
selves sufficient proof of the wisdom of his teaching, 
and might well serve as an example to inspire each 
-one of his co-religionists to follow in his steps. 




Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohan Tag-ore 



MAHARAJA SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN 
TAGORE, K.C.S.I 

18311908. 

THERE was no prominent or honoured figure 
in Indian society in Bengal during the latter half of* 
the nineteenth century than that of Maharaja Sir 
Jotindra Mohan Tagore. An acknowledged leader 
of the Hindu community, he played a foremost part 
in all the great movements of the day. For over 
fifty years, at wellnigh every public gathe^ng in 
Calcutta his tall upright figure and dignified bearing 
won universal admiration and respect. There was 
no scheme tending to the improvement of the con- 
ditions of his fellow-countrymen physically, mentally 
or morally that did not meet with his ready sympathy 
and support. "He combined the polished politeness 
of the old school with the educational accomplish- 
ments of the new," wrote Sir Richard Temple, while 
Lord Roberts, speaking in the House of Lords, gave 
it as his firm conviction that "there is no more 
loyal or enlightened subject in Her Majesty's 
dominions.' 

Sir Jotindra came of a family remarkable alike 
for its long descent and for the high distinctions 
won by so many of its members. Few other families 



220 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

in Bengal can show so long and distinguished a 
record of public usefulness and benevolence. Tracing 
back its origin to the legendary days of King Adisur, 
it claims descent from one of the five Brahmin priests 
whom that king sent for from Kanouj to restore 
Brahminism in Bengal. From the earliest days of 
recorded history, the family has held a prominent 
position, famed for its learning, its wealth and its 
integrity. Settled for many generations in Jessore, 
the first to take up his permanent residence on the 
banks of the Hooghly was Panchanana, who was 
also the first of his family to receive the title of 
Thakur, which his descendants in its corrupted 
form of Tagore have ever since continued to bear. 
It was in Govindpur, one of the villages destined 
later to develop into the great city of Calcutta, that 
Panchanana settled, a choice of domicile that was to 
prove fortunate for his family in the next generation. 
Here he first came into close contact with the 
English and, eager to obtain the advantages that 
close association with them promised, he secured the 
appointment of amin of the 24-Perganas for his son 
JToyram Tagore. It was a responsible and important 
post in those days, involving the conduction of all 
the settlement operations in the district as well as 
the collection of the revenue. The capture of 
Calcutta by Seraj-ud-dowlah threatened to over- 
whelm the rising family fortunes, all their posses- 
sions being lost during the Mussulman occupation 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 221 

of the city. With the restoration of the English,, 
however, better days soon dawned again. The site 
selected by the Company for the new Fort included 
part of the land which Panchanana had purchased at 
Gobindpur on his first arrival and whereon he had 
erected his family house and temple. The Company 
now purchased the land at a considerably enhanced 
price from his son Joyram who reaped further profit 
from his association with the building of the Fort. 
The new dwelling-house and bathing ghat which 
he built for himself at Pathuria Ghatta still remains- 
in the possessions of his descendants to-day. 

Joyram Tagore who may thus be looked upon 
as the modern founder of the family died in 1762, 
and since that date his descendants have without a 
break continued to hold a prominent position in 
Bengal. His sons Darpa Narain and Nilmoni 
Tagore early acquired wealth and distinction, the 
former through successful mercantile enterprises, 
the latter as sheristadar of the Magistrate's Court 
at Alipore. Nilmoni Tagore was the grandfather of 
Dwarkanath Tagore who was so closely associated with 
Ram Mohan Roy in that great reformer's schemes 
for the regeneration of Bengal. Dwarkanath's 
career is one of the romances of the Rennaissance 
of Bengal. Starting life as a law agent, he carried 
on' at the same time an extensive commercial agency, 
finally relinquishing both to enter government 
service and acting for six years as sheristadar to- 



222 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the Collector of the 24-Parganas. Promoted to be 
Dewan to the Board of Revenue, he held that post 
with honour and distinction for many years, retiring 
from Government service in 1834. Once more 
drawn towards commercial enterprises, he entered 
into partnership with Mr. William Carr and Mr. 
William Prinsep, establishing the firm of Carr 
Tagore & Co., being one of the first Indian gentlemen 
to enter into mercantile business in Calcutta on the 
European model. Associated with others in the 
establishment of the Union Bank, a leading 
Zemindar in half a dozen districts, the friend 
of Ram Mohan Ray and a keen supporter of every 
scheme of advancement and every institution 
destined to promote the welfare of the Hindu Com- 
munity, he was for long one of the most prominent 
and respected men in Bengal, bringing fresh honour 
to the name he bore. His grandson Satyendranath 
Tagore had the distinction of being tlje first Indian 
to pass the competitive examination for the Indian 
Civil Service. Maharaja Ramnath Tagore C.S.I, 
was the loyal associate of his brother Dwarkanath 
Tagore in all his enterprises, being connected with 
almost every public society in Calcutta, literary, 
scientific and charitable. His whole career was one 
of public usefulness and benevolence. 

From Darpa Narayan, the elder son of Joyram 
Tagore, from whom Sir Jotindra himself was descen- 
ded, have sprung others of the name no less worthy 



of their great traditions. One of Darpa Narayan 
Tagore's most successful ventures had been the 
purchase at auction of part of the immense estates of 
the Raja of Rajshahi, extending in area to some 249 
square miles. His son Gopi Mohan inherited his 
father's business instincts and added to the splendid 
estate he inherited by yet further purchases in 
Rajshahi, Dinajpur and Jessore. His wealth increased 
so rapidly under his able management that he was 
regarded as one of the richest men in Bengal, and it 
was said of him that he never sat down without a 
lac of rupees beside him, his jewelled paridan and 
hookah alone being worth that sum. He worthily 
maintained the public-spirited traditions of his 
family, being a liberal patron of the arts and of all 
branches of learning. Like so many members of his 
family he was a learned Sanskrit scholar and devoted 
to music. One of his six sons was the famous Pra- 
sanna Kumar Tagore. Educated at Mr. Sherbourne's 
well-known school in Calcutta and later at the Hindu 
College, losses in business induced him to get himself 
enrolled as a Pleader. To a profound knowledge of 
Law, he united strong common sense and a keen 
sagacity that quickly secured him the first position at 
the Bar. By his dignity, ability and character he did 
much to raise the legal profession in public estimation 
and so great was his practice that he is said to have 
made an income of over twenty thousand pounds a 
year. He played a leading part in founding the 



224 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

Bengal Landowner's Society in 1838 and was elected 
President of the British Indian Association on its 
inauguration in 1857. On the formation of the 
Legislative Council of the Governor-General in 1854 
he was appointed clerk assistant and later a member 
of the Legislative Council itself. He bequeathed 
the half of his immense wealth to his brother Huro 
Kumar Tagore, the father of Sir Jotindra. 

Huro Kumar Tagore, unlike his more famous 
brother, figured but little in public life. Devoted 
to music, he was not only its liberal patron but was- 
himself no mean performer. As a Sanskrit scholar 
he excelled, even in a family noted for its scholarship. 
He was not only able to write with ease and literary 
grace, he was able to converse in it fluently. There 
is a story told of him that when he and his brother 
wished to raise a tablet to his father's memory they 
offered a prize among all the most learned Pandits 
of the day for the best commemorative verses sent 
in. Huro Kumar annonymously sent in some verses 
that he had himself composed and these were at once 
adjudged the best although many of the greatest 
Sanskrit scholars of the day had competed. He died 
in 1858 and so well had he managed the family 
property that he was able to hand on a splendid 
inheritance to his sons Jotindra Mohan and Sourindra 
Mohan, who were themselves worthily to uphold the 
great traditions of their house. 

Jotindra Mohan was born in Calcutta in 1831. 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 225 

He was entered as a student at the Hindu College 
at the early age of eight and for nine years he con- 
tinued his studies there, distinguished among his 
fellow-students for his application and ability. 
Leaving the college when seventeen years old he 
finished his English education under the tuition of 
Captain D. L. Richardson, the distinguished scholar 
and writer. Brought up under strictly orthodox 
influences, Jotindra Mohan always retained his ortho- 
dox beliefs, furnishing by his piety, his charity and the 
sincerity of his life one of the most striking exam- 
ples of all that is best in Hinduism, at the same time 
that his broadmindedness, his wide sympathy and 
his intense humanity was typical of the awakening 
that had come to Bengal. 

From the first he was keenly interested in all 
that concerned education. The great cause which 
so many members of his house had ardently cham- 
'pioned found in him a no less keen supporter. 
Following the family tradition, he had early acquired 
proficiency in Sanskrit, a language he always 
venerated as the guardian of the written tenets 
of his faith. His modern studies, however, 
kept place with his classical learning and from the 
first he had a perfect command of English. 
In his younger days, before the management of a 
great estate and many public duties occupied all 
his time, he gave evidence of considerable literary 
ability, and many contributions to various papers 
15 



226 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

and journals, not only in prose but in verse, 
survive to attest his ability and grace of diction. 
To the Provakar and the Literary Gazette he was a 
frequent contributor on a variety of subjects, social, 
literary and political. His best-remembered literary 
productions however, are his dramas and farces 
in Bengali which attained considerable popularity. 
The dramatic art like almost every other 
branch of art in the first half of the 19th century 
had fallen on' ''evil days, and it was Sir Jotindra's 
endeavour to raise the stage to a higher level of 
excellence and to improve the character of 
the dramas acted. One of his most famous plays 
was the Bidya Sundara Natak, which did 
much to set a better standard among Bengali 
compositions. At his house at Belgachhia the 
Maharaja organised theatrical entertainments on a 
elaborate scale, and by providing refined and clever 
plays and competent actors he succeeded in infusing 
a healthier moral and artistic tone into modern 
Bengali dramatic art. At the same time he turned 
his attention to stage music. Here he had the 
assistance of his younger brother Raja Sourindra 
Nath Tagore whose investigation into the theory of 
Hindu music have won him such a world-wide 
reputation and such unprecedented honours from 
well-nigh every country in the world. Hindu music, 
like dramatic art, had suffered eclipse during the 
troublous years of the eighteenth century and a 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 227 

wide field was open to enthusiastic musical revival- 
ists. By developing a new system of concerted 
music, by examining the different theories of music 
and by comparing English and Indian methods, he 
set Hindu music on a sounder and higher basis. 

Succeeding his father in 158, he found himself 
at the age of twenty-seven in possession of one of 
the most splendid inheritances to which any 
young man in Bengal has succeeded in modern 
times. Eight years later the death of his uncle 
Prasanna Kumar Tagore, who had bequeathed 
the bulk of his vast property to his brother, 
who predeceased him, still further added to his 
great wealth. A splendid career lay before 
him. Devoted to literature and art, rich beyond 
the dreams of avarice, the bearer of an honoured 
name and the head of a distinguished house, 
immense possibilities opened out before him. 
From the first he thrust resolutely aside the 
innumerable temptations that his great possessions 
inevitably brought with them. Inducements to 
ease and indolence, to self-indulgence and personal 
enjoyment, must assuredly have come to the man 
to whom it might well have seemed that there was 
nothing else left to strive for. But voluntarily and 
whole-heartedly Jotindra Mohan set himself worthily 
to carry on the great traditions of his house and to 
fulfil the great responsibilities that his exceptional 
position entailed. 



228 TWELVE MEN OF" BENGAL 

The largest land-owner in the province, owning 
property in no less than eighteen districts and 
numbering some six hundred thousand souls among 
his tenants, Jotindra Mohan first came prominently 
into public notice during the famine of 1866. In 
Orissa and Midnapore, where he held extensive 
Zemindaries, the distress proved more severe than 
any with which the British Government had 
yet had to deal. It was one of the greatest 
catastrophes of the century in Bengal. With no 
previous experience of famine on so extensive a scale 
and unware that the drought of the previous year- 
would have so disastrous an effect upon the grain 
supply, Government was utterly unprepared to 
meet the calamity that faced it during the hot 
weather months of 1866. With no organised 
measures of famine relief and hampered by lack of 
the means of speedy communication and transit, 
starvation had overtaken thousands of the unfortunate ' 
people before relief could come. The area affected 
w T as some twelve thousand square miles with a 
population of four million souls, and it is estimated 
that something like a quarter of this number 
perished. How loyally the local officers worked to 
relieve this terrible distress the reports of the 
Commissioners appointed later to enquire into the 
cause of the famine prove, while so eager was 
Government to come to the assistance of the people, 
once the true facts of the case were known, is shown 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 229 

by its importation of no less than forty thousand 
tons of rice, of which even the most generous 
distribution was unable to dispose of scarcely half. 
It was the first great natural calamity on such a 
scale with which the British Government had had to 
deal and bitter as the experience was it led to the 
organised measures of famine relief which have 
coped so effectively with similar calamities in more 
recent times. Throughout all the anxious days of 
1866 Jotindra Mohan loyally supported every scheme 
of Government relief and himself took energetic 
personal measures to lessen the distress among his 
-own tenants. 

From this time onwards Jotindra Mohan Tagore 
figured largely in the public eye. In 1870 he was 
appointed a member of the Bengal Legislative 
Council by Sir William Grey who in the following 
,year recommended him to the Government of India 
as deserving some mark of distinction for his 
valuable services. "Babu Jotindra Mohan is a man 
of great enlightenment," he wrote in making the 
recommendation, "and has had a thoroughly good 
English education. He is one of the leading 
members of the native community, is of unexcep- 
tional private character and is held by his fellow- 
countrymen in the highest respect. He is a useful 
member of the Council of the Lieutenant-Governor 
.and takes a deep and thoughtful interest in the 
progress of the country. He has always been 



230 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

found ready to contribute liberally to schools, roads 
and other objects of public interest, both in 
Calcutta and in the districts in which his estates are 
situated, and has helped to promote science and 
literature amongst his countrymen by large 
contributions to that end. He regularly maintains 
' eighteen poor students in Calcutta, and he fully 
accepted the obligations of his position in the famine 
of 1866, remitting the rents of his ryots and feeding 
250 paupers daily in Calcutta for a period of three 
months." 

In consequence of this recommendation the 
title of Raja Bahadur was conferred upon him in 
March 1871. Sir George Campbell, who had 
succeeded Sir William Grey as Lieutenant-Governor 
in conferring the honour upon him in a Durbar 
held at Belvedere spoke of him in equally apprecia- 
tive terms. "I have the honour to convey to you," 
he said turning to the newly -made Raja Bahadur, 
"the high honour which His Excellency the Viceroy, 
as the representative of Queen Victoria, has been 
pleased to confer upon you. I feel a peculiar pleasure 
in being thus the channel of conveying the honour 
to you. 

"You come from a family great in the annals 
of Calcutta, I may say great in the annals of the 
British dominions in India, conspicuous for loyalty 
to the British Government and for acts of public 
beneficence. 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 231 

'But it is not from considerations of your family 
alone that the Viceroy has been pleased to confer 
the high honour upon you. You have proved your-, 
self worthy of it by your own merits. Your great 
intelligence and ability, distinguished public spirit, 
high character and the services you have rendered 
to the state deserve a fitting recognition. 

'I have had the pleasure of receiving your assis- 
tance as a member of the Bengal -Council, and can 
assure you that I highly appreciate the ability and 
information which you bring to bear upon ita 
deliberations. Indeed nothing can be more accept- 
able to me than advice from one like yourself. It 
is true we have had occasion to differ, and honest 
differences of opinion will always prevail between 
man and man : but at the same time I can honestly 
tell you that when we have been on the same side, 
I have felt your support to be of the utmost value, 
and when you have chanced to be in opposition, 
yours has been an intelligent, loyal and courteous 
opposition.' 

Later in the same year, Sir George Campbell 
wrote asking him to allow himself to be nominated 
for a further term of office as member of the 
Legislative Council. "Your high character and 
fair mode of dealing with all questions render your 
assistance especially valuable," he wrote, "and I 
have much confidence that you are a man not bound 
to class interests but prepared to look to the good of 



232 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the whole community, high and low alike." About 
the same time the Raja Bahadur was exempted 
from appearance in the Civil Courts and in 1877 
on the assumption of the Imperial title by Her 
Majesty Queen Victoria the higher dignity of 
Maharaja was conferred upon him. In the same 
year he was appointed a member of the Legislative 
Council of the Governor-General, and office to which 
he was reappointed again in 1879 and in 1881. In 
the discussions of many of the most important 
measures of the day he took a prominent part. The 
Civil Procedure Code was then under the considera- 
tion of the Legislative Council and the criticisms of 
one who knew Indian conditions and Indian needs 
so thoroughly as Maharaja Jotindra Mohan Tagore 
were listened to with consideration and respect. 
His opinion often decided the fate of a proposed 
clause in the Bill and Sir A. Hobhouse, the Legal 
Member of Council, generously acknowledged the 
help he had received from his criticisms and advice. 
"Whatever can be said on that subject will be 
said by my friend Maharaja Jotindra Mohan Tagore," 
he said when speaking in the Council, "for in com- 
mittee he has supported the views of the objectors 
with great ability and acuteness, and I must add 
with equal good feeling and moderation." Later, in 
speaking of a much discussed clause he added, "If 
the clause stood as in Bill No. IV, I confess I should 
not be able to maintain my ground against such an 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 233 

argument as we have heard from your honourable 
friend, Maharaja Jotintra Mohan Tagore. I have 
shown that conviction in the most practical way by 
succumbing to his arguments in committee and 
voting with him on his proposal to alter Bill No. IV." 
Again as the largest landowner in Bengal, he was 
especially interested in the long discussions that 
finally led to the passing of the Bengal Tenancy Act 
in 1885. It had long been obvious that the law 
regulating the relations between landlord and tenant 
called for thorough revision and amendment. These 
relations had been gradually growing more and more 
strained, both parties complaining of injustice and 
hardships. The zemindars complained of the failure 
of the tenants to pay their rents and of the difficul- 
ties they experienced in enforcing payment, while 
the ryots on their part complained of oppression, 
the exaction of illegal cesses and illegal ejectment 
from occupancy rights. There can be no doubt that 
there was a considerable amount of truth on both 
sides but constant friction had so embittered 
relations between them that matters were fast 
coming to a deadlock. This was particularly the 
case in Behar and in the Indigo districts. In 1893 
serious agricultural disturbances occurred at Pabna, 
while the Behar famine of the following year reduced 
the ryots to a hopeless condition of poverty. The 
Famine Commission urged the necessity of the 
immediate introduction of measures to fix definitely 



234 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

the relations between landlord and tenant. The 
Agrarian Disputes Act of 1876 was passed as a 
temporary measure to meet urgent cases, and a 
Bill to provide at the same time immunity of the 
ryot from oppression and greater facilities for the 
speedy realisation of arrears of rent was taken in 
hand. The Select Committee on the Bill, however, 
urged that a more comprehensive measure revising 
the whole rent law of Bengal was urgently needed. 
Consequently in 1879 the Government of India 
appointed a special commission to enquire thoroughly 
into the matter. So great was the subject with 
which the Bill dealt and so keen the controversy 
it aroused that it was not until 1885 that the Bill 
finally emerged as the Bengal Tenancy Act (VIII of 
1885). There were at one time during its progress 
no less than two hundred amendments to the Bill 
down for discussion and no bill that preceded it had 
ever come in for so large a share of criticism and 
discussion. It has been called with much reason 
the most important measure of the nineteenth 
century, and there can be no doubt that, though no 
measure can be regarded as perfect, the Bengal 
Tenancy Act has been productive of an immense 
amount of good to both landlords and tenants. The 
Maharaja in all the discussions in which he took 
part was fully alive to the necessity of strengthen- 
ing the position not only of the landlord but also 
of the ryot. He was anxious above all that the 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 235 

relations of both should be definitely put on a 
definite basis. He agreed with Sir Courtney Ilbert, 
a member of the Select Committee, who during the 
course of the debate on the Bill aptly summed up 
the position. 'What the Council have to consider 
as practical men is, not whether this is an ideally 
perfect measure, not whether it is a final settlement 
of questions between landlord and tenant in Bengal, 
not whether it is likely to usher in a millenium 
either for the Zemindars or for the ryot, but 
whether it represents a step in advance, whether 
it does something substantial towards removing 
admitted defects in the existing law, whether it does 
not give some substantial form of security to the 
tenant, some reasonable facilities to the landlord. 
It is because I believe that the measure, however it 
may fall short of ideal perfection, does embody 
substantial improvements to the existing law that I 
considered it to be favourable consideration of the 
Council.' 

The main object of the Bill as finally passed was 
to give the ryot full security in his holding at the 
same time that it gave the landlord facilities for the 
collection of rent actually due and a fair share in 
the increased value of the soil. While it threw on 
the landlord the onus of disproving the tenant's 
claim to occupancy, it relieved it, by means of a 
system of price lists, of the difficulty of proving the 
increased value of the land. Above all it attempted 



236 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

to lay down rules which might once and for all put 
an end to disputes between landlord and tenant, 
reducing such disputes to single issues and laying 
down equitable principles for their decision. To 
maintain the general principles of the act, an appli- 
cation was allowed in any case of dispute between 
landlord and tenant to determine incidents of a 
tenancy, while the clauses which relate to records of 
right and settlements have had wide-spread effect in 
determining the position of both parties. 

Honours came fast to Jotindra Mohan during 
these busy years. In 1879 he was created a Com- 
panion of the Order of the Star of India, being 
raised to the dignity of a Knight Commander of 
the same Order three years later. In 1890 the title 
of Maharaja Bahadur was conferred upon him as a 
personal distinction, and in the following year the 
title was declared hereditary. Having no son 
of his own he adopted the son of his brother, Raja 
Surendra Mohan Tagore, who has now succeeded to 
his hereditary honours and, known as the Maharaja 
Sir Prodyot Kumar Tagore Bahadur, is so worthily 
following in his adopted father's footsteps. In 1890 
Sir Jotindra was chosen President of the Reception 
Committee formed on the occasion of the visit of the 
Prince of Wales, a grand fete on the maiden 
and illuminations being arranged in his honour. 
The Maharaja was also a Fellow of the Calcutta 
University, one of the governors of the Mayo Hospital, 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 237 

and a Trustee of the Central Dufferin Fund, a member 
of the Asiatic Society, a Justice of the Peace and an 
Honorary Magistrate for the town of Calcutta. These,, 
however, are but a few among his many activities. 
His charities were unbounded. The possessor of 
great wealth, he showed himself determined from 
the first to use it for the public good and there was 
no charitable scheme in Calcutta for half a century 
which had not his sympathy and generous support. 
Though an orthodox Hindu himself, his charities- 
were without distinction of caste or creed. Wherever 
suffering humanity called for help his response was- 
prompt and unfailing. The relief of physical suffering 
by organised Hospital work particularly appealed 
to him. He gave large donations to the District 
Charitable Society and made a free gift to the trustees 
of the land on which the Mayo Hospital is built. In 
the Dufferin Fund from its inception he took a keen 
and personal interest, being a member of the com- 
mittee and one of the trustees of the Central Fund. 
A firm believer in the value of open spaces in the- 
great city he gave, with his brother Raja Surendra 
Mohan, a piece of land in the heart of Calcutta for a 
public square to be named after his father. In 
memory of his mother he founded an endowment, 
by a gift of one lac of rupees, for the benefit of Hindu 
widows, to be known as the 'Maharajmata Sivasundari 
Devi Hindu Widow Fund.' For the permanent 
maintenance of the Moolajori Temple he made a 



238 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

settlement of an estate worth eighty thousand rupees. 
His subscriptions to local schools all over his vast 
estates amounted to a large sum. He annually 
gave a gold medal for proficiency in Sanskrit literature 
and a gold medal in connection with the Tagore Law 
Lectures. Another gold medal was for proficiency 
in physical science, while other scholarships were 
founded by him for Law and Sanskrit. He himself 
was vice-president of the Faculty of Arts in 1881 
and President in the following year. In the same 
year he was appointed by the Government of India 
a member of the Education Commission to investigate 
the working of the system founded in 1854 and to 
ascertain the actual position of education at the time. 
Presided over by Sir William Hunter, the Commission 
went thoroughly into the needs of Indian education 
and, while finding that in Bengal the system already 
inaugurated was doing well, made a number of 
recommendations which have gone far to perfect it 
still further in recent years. 

Sir Jotindra's social entertainments were famous 
in Calcutta. His hospitability was on a princely 
scale and there were few European or Indian visitors 
or residents of distinction in the capital who did not 
partake of it. At Tagore Castle and at his country 
seat Emerald Bower outside Calcutta he surrounded 
himself with a valuable collection of pictures, books 
and objects of art, his library being one of the most 
complete private collections in India. Here, engaged 



SIR JOTINDRA MOHAN TAGORE 239 

in his favourite literary pursuits and enjoying the music 
discoursed by his own company of trained musicians, 
he spent his last years, failing health preventing him 
from taking his former active part in public affairs, 
yet never ceasing to prevent him until the last from 
taking a keen interest in all the great public questions 
of the day. He died on the 10th of January, 1908, 
and with him passed away one of the few remaining 
figures of the old school and one of the finest characters 
in Bengal in the nineteenth century. 



NAWAB SIR SYED HASSAN ALI MIRZA KHAN 

BAHADUR, RAIS-U-DOWLAH, AMIR-UL 

OMRAH, MAHABUT JUNG, G.C.I.E. 

18461906 

THE holder of these proud titles was the direct 
representative of the old Nawab Nazims of Bengal, 
round whom for generations the whole history of the 
Province had centred. From the time when the 
Musulman Emperors at Delhi first sent a repre- 
sentative to preside over the destinies of the far 
-off eastern .Province until the establishment of 
British supremacy, the Nawab Nazims had been 
the real rulers of Bengal. With the fall of Siraj-ud- 
Dowlah, however, their long period of absolute power 
came to an end. Mir Jaffer, placed on the Musnud 
by Lord Clive after the battle of Plassey, was the 
first of the new line of Nawabs under British 
suzerainty. The father of the Nawab Bahadur, the 
subject of this sketch, was the last to hold the title 
of Nawab Nazim, a title which he resigned to the 
British Government on the first of November, 1860. 
His son Sir Syed Hassan Ali was the first of a new 
line of hereditary Nawab Bahadurs, the acknowledged 
Premier nobles of Bengal. 

Sir Syed Hassan Ali was born on the 25th of 
August 1846. He was the eldest son of a family 
consisting of nineteen sons and twenty-one daughters. 
As the eldest son and heir of the Nawab Nazim 
his birth was the occasion of great rejoicings, which 
were made especially memorable by a fire that 
16 



242 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

accidently occurred during a display of fireworks- 
and resulted in the entire destruction of the 
Imambara. This was the famous Imambara built 
by Siraj-ud-Dowlah at enormous cost in the heyday 
of his power, and though it had Been shorn of much 
of its glory in the hundred years that had elapsed, 
it was still a magnificent building. The present 
Imambara which was built to replace it cost sixty lacs 
and exceeds in size even the splendid Imambara at 
Hooghly, remaining the last architectural triumph 
of the Nawab Nazims of Bengal. 

The future Nawab Bahadur spent his early days 
entirely at Murshidabad. From the first, however, 
his education was entrusted to English tutors and he- 
was carefully trained for the important position in 
life that he was destined to occupy. He early showed 
a fondness for sport and all manly games, but these he- 
never allowed to interfere with his studies which he- 
pursued with great zest and application. Con- 
scientious and painstaking he won the approbation 
of all his instructors. As he grew towards manhood 
the question of sending him to England to complete- 
Ms education was long and seriously discussed. The- 
voyage to Europe was not then the common 
occurrence among Indian Princes that it has since 
become, and the Nawab Nazim exhibited a natural 
reluctance to part for so long a period from his eldest 
son. Realising, however, what great advantages 
were likely to accrue to him from a European tour 
he at length consented. Not only would be he 
brought into touch with the Home Government and. 



SIR SYED HASSAN ALI 243 

the leaders of English life and thought but by 
visiting the famous centres of industry he would be 
enabled to realise the great resources of modern 
times and to gain a wide and comprehensive view 
of modern conditions. It was in the spring of 1865 
that arrangements were finally completed and the 
Nawabzada at the impressionable age of nineteen, 
accompanied by two of his younger brothers, set 
out under the guidance of Colonel Herbert who had 
been especially selected to escort him. The party 
left Calcutta by the Peninsular and Oriental Steamer 
'Candia' on the 9th of March, and after visiting 
Cairo and other parts of Egypt en route finally reached 
Southampton on April the 19th. 

On arrival in London the Nawabzada and his 
brother at once began a round of sight-seeing that 
must have been a continual source of delight to the 
young men whose previous knowledge of the world 
had been limited to Murshidabad. Practically every- 
thing of interest in London was shown to them. 
At the British Museum, the Tower and various 
other places of interest they spent many fascinating 
hours. The Crystal Palace was a never-failing 
source of delight, while the opera and the theatres 
were a revelation to them in their utter dissimilarity 
from eastern plays and music. Innumerable parties 
were given in their honour and there were few of 
the most interesting people of the day whom they 
did not meet. No efforts were spared to make 
their stay in London enjoyable and instructive. At 
the Levee held by His Royal Highness the Prince 



244 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

of Wales on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen on 
May the 20th, they were accorded ^the special 
privilege of the private entree. The Nawabzada- 
had also the honour of being privately presented to 
Queen Victoria by^ the Secretary of State for 
India. 

After the conclusion of their visit to London, 
the princes stayed for a time at Sandgate on the 
south coast, making many interesting excursions 
in the neighbourhood including one to Portsmouth 
where the great naval dockyard was insepcted. 
From Sandgate they went to Birmingham, where 
the wonders of modern industry were displayed 
before them in amazing variety. Perhaps no part 
of their whole tour interested them more than this. 
Here in the great workshops they saw actually in 
the making before their eyes those things "Made 
in Birmingham with which they had been so long 
familiar in the finished product. The small arms 
factory, excited the keenest interest, and they watched 
for several hours a large order given by the Sultan of 
Turkey actually in course of execution. At Coventry 
they had the pleasure of seeing silk stuffs woven from 
silk which had come from their own estates in Mur- 
shidabad ; at Kidderminster they saw carpets de- 
tined for their own home in course of manufacture ; 
while Worcester furnished them with the sight of its- 
famous glove factories and its still more famous royal 
porcelain works. At Chester they saw one of the finest 
English Cathedrals, and at Eaton Hall close by, 
the residence of the Duke of Westminster, they 



SIR SYED HASSAN ALI 245 

saw one of the finest country seats in England. 
At Manchester they were once more in the midst 
of the noise and stir of modern industry, all that 
related to the cotton trade being of absorbing 
interest to them. Returning to London they spent 
a few more busy days sight-seeing and bidding 
farewell to the many friends they had made during 
their stay, leaving early in December for a short tour 
on the Continent preparatory to their return home. 
They visited among other places Paris, Bologne, 
Genoa and Florence, embarking at Leghorn for Civita 
Vecchia in order to see Rome, Pompeii and Naples. 
They finally bade farewell to Europe on January 
the 19th, 1866, reaching Calcutta on March the 2nd. 
Though at the outset it had only been contemplated 
that the tour should last six months, it had extended 
almost to double that length of time. Colonel 
Herbert had remained in charge of the party 
throughout, and though so much of the young men's 
time had been taken up with travelling and sight-see- 
ing, their regular education had not been interrupted, 
a tutor having been especially appointed while in 
England to continue their ordinary course of study. 

The affairs of his father, the Nawab Nazim, had 
not meanwhile been proceeding satisfactorily, and in 
1869 he resolved to go to England to lay his 
case in person before the Secretary of State. He 
took with him his eldest son and continued to reside 
there for twelve years only returning to India in 
1881. he young Nawabzada by his two visits to 
England fclrtfc enjoyed a far more liberal education 



246 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

than that which fell to the lot of most young Indian 
noblemen of his day. He was reported most favour- 
ably upon by Colonel Herbert, who, during his long 
association with him, had every opportunity of fully 
guaging his character. He showed himself to be 
amiable, steady and extremely anxious to learn. 
He displayed under unusual circumstances that 
might have turned the head of any less well balanced 
youth, much strength of character, a high moral 
tone and great honesty of purpose. 

In the long and unfortunate disputes in which his 
father was involved he was keenly interested, and it 
was a great relief to him when they were finally 
settled. On November the 1st, 1880, the Nawab 
Nazim, by an Indenture signed by himself and the 
Secretary of State, voluntarily resigned his styles 
and titles in favour of the Crown, his eldest son 
being subsequently granted the hereditary rank 
of Nawab Bahadur. Four years later the last 
Nawab Nazim died, and Syed Hassan Ali succeeded 
as the head of the family. In 1887, the year of the 
Queen's Jubilee, he was created a Knight Commander 
of the Indian Empire, the assumption of the titles 
of Intisham-ul-Mulk, Rais-ud-Dowlah, Amir-ul-Omra 
and Mahabat Jung being at the same time officially 
recognised. A year later the higher dignity of a 
Grand Commander of the Indian Empire was 
conferred upon him. In 1891 a further agreement 
was entered upon between the Nawab Bahadur and 
the Secretary of State whereby the former confirmed 
the agreement entered upon by his-^ther in 



SIR SYED HASSAN ALI 247 

November 1880, while Government finally settled 
the Nawab's position, granting him a settled income 
and landed estates in several districts, at the same 
time recognising him as the Premier noble of Bengal 
with the hereditary title of Nawab Bahadur and 
Amir-ul-Omra. 

As the head of the Muhammadan community in 
Bengal the Nawab Bahadur held a position of great 
respect and his influence was widespread. Apart, 
however, from his social position he was universally 
respected for his own personal qualities, for his 
liberality, his ready sympathy and his unswerving 
loyalty. In the management of his estates he took 
a keen personal interest and in times of suffering 
and distress he was always anxious to go personally 
to enquire and to render help. When heavy floods 
ruined the crops and swept away the unfortunate- 
cultivator's cattle and homesteads, it was to the , 
Nawab Bahadur that they looked for loans and gifts 
to help them to tide over the evil times. During 
the severe earthquake of June the 12th, 1897, he 
himself only barely escaped with his life. He was 
sitting at the time in one of the ground-floor rooms 
of the palace facing the river, and being in feeble 
health he had to be carried outside by his attendants. 
They were only just in time, for, as they reached 
the open space on the river bank the whole of the 
second floor of the palace fell in, completely burying 
beneath the debris the room in which the Nawab 
BahacWr had been sitting. The damage done to the 
Jlfu Ulher buildings amounted to three lacs 



248 TWELVE MEN OF BENGAL 

-of rupees. The havoc wrought by the earthquake 
in the district was very great, but the Nawab, al- 
though heavily handicapped by the expenditure 
entailed in restoring his own home, came forward 
generously to relieve the distress. 

Thus, busy with the management of his estate 
and the control of his family affairs, the Nawab 
Bahadur lived his quiet uneventful life at Murshida- 
bad until his death in 1906. The relatives of the 
Nawab were numerous and it required much tact 
to decide petty disputes and generally prevent friction 
among them. So numerous were they that the 
Nizamat College was built exclusively for their 
education at a cost of Rs. 1,20,000. The Palace in 
which the Nawab Bahadur resided is a splendid 
building, and one of the largest in Bengal being 
425 ft. long, 200 ft. wide and 804 ft. high. It con- 
tains a fine Banqueting Hall 290 ft. long with sliding 
doors encased in mirrors, and a magnificent chandelier 
with one hundred and fifty branches presented to the 
Nawab by Queen Victoria. The Palace contains 
some fine pictures, notably one of King William 
the Fourth presented to the grandfather of the Nawab 
by the King himself. The hospitability of the Nawab 
Bahadur was proverbial, and every visitor of what- 
ever rank or -class was always sure of a welcome at 
the Palace. Thus worthily maintaining the best 
traditions of his house, the Premier noble of Bengal 
and a loyal subject of the Empire, he passed his 
closing days amid universal respect and este5a. 

THE END n 



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