Freedom Movements at Contai
[Continued from page 2]
Kanthi, Hallowed by the Sacred Visits of Great men.
From time to time men of stature and distinction have set their foot in different parts of the Sub-division making the area hallowed and blessed with the sacred touch of their feet. Some of such visits an information of which could be traced are referred to here.
Guru Nanak :
It was around the beginning of the sixteenth century, Guru nanak, who in his early life worked as a store-keeper, left the job, left his family and went on traveling for twelve years after having a spritual experience. During this phase of life, Nanak came to Ganga-Sagar, a place of pilgrimage where the devoted hindus think it holy to take a dip on the last day of the month of Pous of the Bengali calender. Kanthi lay on the way to Ganga-Sagar, and pilgrims often took the Rasulpur-river-route, and crossing a part of the sea by boat would get to their goal. This is the way that Navakumar and his companions in the novel of Bankim Chandra, Kapal-kundala, went to Gangasagar from Medinipur.
Nanak at Baro-bazar.
In those days hijli was a sea-port and in its hinterland Kanthi or Kendua was an ancillary trade-centre which would supply much of the exporting goods like rice, sugar, pepper-corn, cloth made of a mixture of fine jute fibre and silk, butter etc.However the present Kanthi town was then almost uninhabited and the trade-centre, with all its usual features including temporary lodging for foreign merchants and sailors, wine shops etc., was located in Kumarpur Mouza, not far off from the Sub-divisional Hospital of today, and was called Baro-bazar. Here the Sikh prophet took shelter. At the time here there was a mud-built shed for saying prayer and later a Guru-dwara was built.
Sri. Chaitanya :
It was 16th century, to be exact,1539. Sri-Chaitanya left for Puri. Near Hajipur, now called Diamond Harbour, he crossed the hoogly river and landed at Kunkrahati. From there, through Tamluk, he came to the Keleyghai valley, on his way to Narayangarh and ultimately, through Gopiballavpur, to Puri. A large section of the class-ridden bigot society in a wide area through which Sri-Chaitanya passed was deeply influenced by the simple Love-cult of the great man and was converted to Baisnabism. It is said that in a place called Patharghata, in Patashpur P.S., on the bank of the Keleyghai, Sri-Chaitanya took some rest in the shade of a Nim tree. Many place-names and the popularity of Baisnab culture still bear witness to the incident.
Maharaj Nanadakumar :
Maharaj Nandakumar [ Nandakumar Roy], born in the first decade of 18th century at Bhadra-pur of Birbhum district, served in different exalted position under the Nawabs of Bengal and the English and, falling victim to a political conspiracy, was sentenced to death by hanging on 16th June, 1775. During the reign of Alibardy, he was appointed the Surveyor and collector of land-revenue of Hijli and Mahisadal Parganas and later became the Dewan of the Fouzdar of hoogly. The semi-town, Nandakumar, at the bifurcation of the road from Kolkata – one going to Haldia and another coming to Digha through Kanthi, still bears evidence of his good service to the queen of Tamluk. In Kanthi too, in order to solve the drinking-water problem of the local people, he got a tank dug up at Baro-bazar. The tank called Nandakumar-tank still exists.
Raja Rammohan Roy.
In those days, big ships could not enter the Hoogly river owing to the lack of navigability at the mouth. Voyagers used to come to Khejuri by boat or sloop and from here they would embark for any foreign port. Therefore, Raja Rammohan Roy, the precursor of modern Bengal, while going to England in 1831 as an ambassador of the Emperor of Delhi, had to set foot at Khejuri. This starting of Rammohan’s voyage from Khejuri appears to be significant when one remembers that from here he bade good bye to Bengal and India for once and all, for, after performing his mission successfully, he died at Bristal in England on 27th September, 1833. Thus Khejuri, a notable place in Kanthi Sub-division, is fortunate enough to be a witness of the last journey of the great man.
Jadav Chandra Chattopadhyay.
From 1838 to 1849, Jadav Chandra Chattopadhyay, father of bankim Chandra, occupied the position of the Deputy Collector of Medinipur. For the purpose of surveying land, determining and collecting land-revenue, he had to visit kanthi and hijli many a time. He rendered good service to many people of Majnamutha, Naruamutha and Seepur Parganas of the area in settling the ownership of their land. On his request, the Dewan of the Nimak-mahal, Krishnakanta, got a tank dug up at Kanthi. The tank, called by local people ‘Krisnakanter Pukur’, meant to solve the problem of the scarcity of drinking water in the area of salty water. In comparison with the fabulously generous landlord of Majnamutha, Jadvram, jadav Chandra was fondly called by people ‘Jadavram Deputy’.
Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay.
Bankim Chandra Chattapadhyay, the harbinger of Bengali novel, stayed at or around Kanthi for less than a year, from 9th February of 1860 to 7th November of the same year, but left an indelible stamp on the memory of Kanthi people. Having been transferred from jessore, at the age of only 22, he came to negua, till then the headquarters of Kanthi Sub-division, as the Sub-divisional Magistrate. As he describes in his second novel, Kapal-kundala, Doulatpur and Dariapur were then two small villages, about five or six miles to the east of Kanthi, in the midst of woodland, near the estuary of the Rasulpur river. In this Doulatpur village, there was a Govt. bungalow, where he spent nights on a few occasions and where he met with a Kapalik, a worshipper of the goddess Kali. Evidently the young novelist was deeply impressed by the fascinating view of the green woodland extended to the horizon and the unclad sprawling sand-dunes, glistening in the sun, along the margin of the sea. The beautiful land and and the sea-scape and the Kapalik provided him with the raw materials and plot for his novel Kapal-kundala which on being brought out captured the mind of Bengali readers instantly. Thus in his novel he preserves a word-picture of the area that has undergone a sea-change in meantime.
Gift to Kanthi high School.
To tell of another contribution of Bankim Chandra to the cause of Kanthi, it was through his benevolent gesture that a plot of vested land, now measuring 3.80 acres was gifted to Kanthi High School, established in 1857, ranking first in the town and third in the district according to seniority.
Bankim’s memory preserved.
Kanthi people cherish Bankim’s memory with respect. In the Bengali year 1326, the local people led by Bishnupada Chattapadhyay, the Secretary of the Saraswat Sammilani at the time, set up a movement of Bankim Chandra at Dariapur, the site that fired the creative imagination of the novelist. The centenary year of the author was observed through a week-long Bankim-Fair at Kanthi. The street running from School Bazar to the Junput Road by ‘Krisnakanter Pukur’ is named ‘Bankim Sarani’ in respectful memory of Bankim Chandra. A park called ‘Bandematram Park’ is made on 1.30 acres of land donated by Dr. Parimal Kumar Roy and his brothers, beside ‘Bankim Sarani’ near ‘Krishnakanter Pukur’.
Dwijendralal Roy :
Dwijendralal Roy, the poet and the playwright, of patriotic plays like ‘Chandragupta’, Sah-Jahan’, ‘Mewar-patan’and ‘Pratap-singha’, spent three years of his life, from 1890 to 1893, along with his wife, at Kajlagarh in Bhagwanpur Police Station. He was the Settlement Officer of Sujamutha Pargana. But being a man of indipendent sprit and keen conscience, he could not toe the line of his predecessors who had enhanced revenue without proper survey of the land, and thereby incurred displeasure of the authority. In consequence, the yearly increment of his salary was stopped, but he was satisfied that he could lodge a protest against a chronic injustice being done to ‘ryots’ and the protest stood them in good stead.
The beautiful garden of bakul trees, on the bank of the big tank called ‘Kajal-dighi’, its waves dancing sprightfully in the breeze, the quiet beauty of nature all around the place where he stayed cast a charm on the poet. Sitting in this solitude he wrote many poems some which found place in school text books or in his dramas. In 1935, a temple-shaped monument was built on the northern bank of ‘Kajal-dighi’ with a few lines of his own composition engraved on its wall as the epitaph.
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy :
Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, who had the study and culture of chemistry for a wife, his students for children and friends, and the distressed people for family-mambers, twice came to Kanthi Sub-division. During floods, the misfortune that often befell Medinipur and Kanthi, Prafulla Chandra, with his frail physique, could not come to stand by the affected people, but his mind would hover over the area, he would send teams of workers to carry on relief-work, money collected from different sources and from his own pocket, and inspiring letters to the workers. In 1925, on 5th January, the Acharya visited the Kalagetchia National School in Khejuri Police Station. During his visit, he pointedout three salient features of the students of the National School- that they serve men as gods. Lastly he came to kanthi in 1940-41, when he was about 80 years old, only three or four years before his death. It was the occasion of expansion of the salt factory of Bengal Salt Company at Dadanpatrabard on the coast in Kanthi P.S.. On the part of Kanthi people, Pramathanath Bandapadhyay, Nepal Chandra Roy ( Principal of Contai P.K.College) and Nirmal Chandra Sengupta ( A Journalist) were there to receive him. And as the atmosphere seemed to be congenial, the Acharya stayed at Kanthi for a week.
Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh :
( 24.12.1891 – 18.12.1983)
In order to participate in ‘Salt Satyagraha’ and ‘Civil Disobedience’ movements many men of dedication, merit and sprit came to Kanthi adding to the glory of the small town and Sub-division. Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh was one of them. To take a glimpse at his achievements, he stood first class first in M.Sc. Examination of Calcutta University, got doctorate in science in 1920, built the ‘Abhoy Ashram’ for the propagation of Gandhiji’s ideals, became the first Chief Minister of West Bengal after Independence. In spite of the question mark, put by some, against his political wisdom, there is no question about his devotion to the cause of the country and the nobility of his soul. To take part in the Salt Law Violation movement, he came to Kanthi in 1930. He was nominated Treasurer to the Civil Disobedience Committee of Kanthi. He presided over the meeting of the workers held the campus of the national School at Kanthi.
Dr. Suresh Chandra bandopadhyay :
( 19.11.1887 –12.10.1961)
During the 1st World War, he joined the army as a doctor but gave up his job in response to Gandhiji’s call and devoted himself to social movement. He took part in “Satyagraha’ movement in different districts and naturally courted arrest many times. He held the portfolio of Labour Minister of the first Ministry of West Bengal after indepedence, was elected to the Assembly in 1957, and died in harness in 1961. In 1930, as a ‘Salt Satyagrahi’, he led a group of volunteers at Pitchhaboni near Kanthi.
Subhas Chandra Bose :
Adding a feather to Kanthi’s cap of glory, Subhas Chandra, the “Netaji’ of India, came to Kanthi on 12th April, 1938, and spent a Whole day here. At Haripura Congress in 1938, Subhas was unanimously selected President, and then on a visit he came to Medinipur. On his way to Kanthi, he attended meetings, first at Tamluk, and then at Bhupatinagar in Bhagwanpur police station and Jararnagar in Khejuri P.S. Whereever he went, he was given a red-carpet welcome. It was people, people all the way with flowers and garlands, blowing conch-shells and shouting slogans in his name.
Subhas Chandra visited the Mugberia Gangadharpur High School, met the relatives of those who had been killed in police-firing at Masuria in 1932. From there he went to Khejuri.
It was a red –letter day in the calender of Jararnagar, in the whole Sub-division. The National Award-winner teacher Iswar Chandra Pramanik kept a detailed record of the momentous hour when Netaji visited Jararnagar in Khejuri P.S. According to this record, it was 12th April, 1938 ( 29th Chaitra, 1344), Tuesday, the 13th day of the bright moon. The day was sunny and hot. At 10 a.m., the President’s car with the tri-colour national flag fluttering on the bonnet, entered the gate constructed for his reception. In the meeting attended by about seven thousand people, Subhas Chandra hoisted the flag and this flag blessed with his sacred touch has been preserved by Subhas-Memory Preservation Committee. Significantly, Jararnagar is no more, in its place Subhas-Pally is standing bearing the name of the great leader.
Kanthi & Egra.
The President’s car reached Kanthi at noon. At the northern gate of the town which was named Sasmal gate, Subhas Chandra was greeted with twelve firing sound. He had lunch in the house of Biswambhar Dinda, the founder of Kanthi P.K.College, and in the afternoon addressed a meeting in Kanthi National School premises. In the evening, Netaji attended a meeting at Balighai in Egra P.S. There Subhas Chandra analysed the significance of the international political situation, stressed the necessity of building up strong mass-struggle, spoke of the importance of involving people of all classes, and appealed to the youth to take the van-guard role in the movement. After the meeting, Subhas Chandra left for Kolkata.