Some great personality visited Contai
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.
Mohondas Karamchand Gandhi.
Gandhiji, called ‘Mahatma’ ( The Great Soul’ ) and ‘Bapuji’ (The Father of the nation), an apostle of peace and non-violence, who showed the world a very effective means for an unarmed people to fight with a formidable foe, visited Kanthi twice. Kanthi can never fail to recall those occasions.
1st Visit Journey from Khargapur.
It was 1925, Gandhiji remained in Medinipur district from 4th July to 7th July. On the first day of his stay in Medinipur, after a meeting at Khargapur, Gandhiji was out in a car with Satish Chandra Dasgupta by his side, for Kanthi, in spite of an inclement weather. Seeing him tired and asleep, his companion took him direct to Kanthi National School where he was to put up, skipping the receptionists awating Gandhiji’s car at the gate to Kanthi.
National School at Kanthi.
On getting to the place, when Gandhiji was awakened and taken to the first floor of the building, the first thing he started doing was to take up the daily ritual, that is operating spinning wheel,that he had missed that day because of his busy schedule. While doing the job, he asked the workers present there about the handloom cloth used in the National School. The workers confessed that they had used ‘half-Khadi’ before but when the itinerary of bapuji was fixed they started using ‘full-Khadi’,i.e., both the lengthwise and the breadthwise threads were hand –spun. Gandhiji was pleased to learn that all the cloth used in pillows, quilts (padded bedding) or mosquito net for him was the handiwork of the women-workers.
Day-long activities on the 5th.
5th july was a busy day for the Mahatma. He wake up at 3.30 a.m., said his prayer, did the cleaning and washing and got ready for his schedule. At 6 a.m. a competition of operating spinning wheels was held and there was also an exhibition. At 7 a.m. Gandhiji attended a meeting for discussion about doing away with the curse of apartheid or untouchability. After that he had a meeting with the students of the national School who were given prizes for their achievement. After lunch-break, at 2.30 he had a discussion session with the Brahmin scholasson the solution to social problems. At 3 p.m. there was another spinning competion, but this time the competitors were all women.
Gandhiji’s advice to people and departure.
At 4.30 a public meeting was held in the Darua maidan attended by innumerable people. here Gandhiji spoke mainly of Desbandhu Chittaranjan Das who had died a few days ago, on 16th June Gandhiji called Desbandhi his right hand, and his genuine bereavement touched everybody. He gave people four pieces of advice :
i) The curse of untouchability to be got rid of ;
ii) All kinds of narcotic drug or alcoholic drink to be avoided ;
iii) Spinning wheel to be operated, ‘Khadi’ to be produced collectively and be used by all ;
iv) Communal harmony to be maintained’ .
Then as the news of flood in Kangsabati reached, Gandhiji left Kanthi rather hurriedly before the nightfall.
Background of the visit.
It was 1945. In the meantime the people of Kanthi and Tamluk had harrowing experiences in consequence of 1942 –cyclonic flood, 1943 – famine and British coercive measures and torture. However, people, without being cowered in the least, set an example by occupying Govt. institutions, mainly by non-violent means, and establishing independent rule, however short-lived it might be. Gandhiji came to perceive the suffering that people had undergone and that he had heard of from distance, and to do anything he could for them.
Bhagwanpur ; Kakra
Gandhiji first came to Mahisadal and visited different places of Tamluk. On 30.12.1945, from Mahisadal, he came to Kakra village in Bhagwanpur P.S. with Dr. Susila Nayar and some leaders of Medinipur, he reached the village at 11 a.m., was pleased to see many spinning wheels. In a meeting he addressed, the great leader spoke on political and social freedom, and progress. The meeting broke at 4 p.m. and then with his train of followers he left for Kanthi.
From Kankra Gandhiji came to Bhaintgarh by motor launch and from there he came to Kanthi by car. The elder brother of Birendranath Sasmal, Bipin Bihari, played host to him.
The next day,31st December, was for him the day of reticence, the ‘no-talk’ day. But there was no bar to listening or reading. So a report on the political and economic condition including the police –atrocity to crush 1942-movement and the detailedaccount of loss caused by the 16th October cyclonic flood of the same year was given to him. He was also apprised of the loss of life caused by the famine of the following year.
When the ‘No-Talk’- hour had been over at 4 p.m., a huge prayer-meeting, attended by about six thousand people, was held at the Khas-mahal Maidan, where now the Wrisi Aurobinda Stadium has been built. At the end of the prayer, Gandhiji extolled the patience and orderliness demonstrated by the people. He informed people that during his confinement he had learnt from newspapers about their woes caused by cyclone and flood, the full account of which he got on coming out of jail and on coming to Kankra and Kanthi, and indirectely supported the violence, without naming it, shown by people in August movement and put the blame, on this account, squarely on the British.
Next day, on 1st January, from 3 p.m. to 4.30 p.m., Gandhiji discussed different issues like education, politics, economics, irrigation, agriculture, cottage industry, co-education, politics of students and women’s participation in movements with congress-workers, men and women, students and the workers of Kanthi Sevashram Sangha. Some local problems were also discussed. At 4.30, a prayer-meeting was held. Attendance this time reached a Lakh. In honour of Gandhiji, men and women volunteers marched him past in military style.
On 2nd January, Wednesday, Medinipur District Congress conference was held in Subrata Vidyarthi Bhavan ( no more in existence ) at Kanthi. In this conference, the worshipper of truth made a significant remark on Netaji who had been reported to have been killed in a plane-crash at Taipeh on 18th August, 1945. he said that he believed ‘Bose’ had not died and would appear at an opportune time. He also said that though he did not like the path he took to freedom he admired Subhas’s courage, sprit and patriotism.
The man of the century, on his second visit, stayed at Kanthi for three days. On 3rd January, 1946, he left the town. Every year, a mammoth fair called ‘Gandhi Fair’ takes place at Darua Maidan in memory of this greatman.
On his way to Sodepur Ashram, Gandhiji visited some other places one of which was Irinchi-Krishnanagar. The decision to visit this place had a little history. At first, it found no room in the itinerary of Gandhiji. But Iswar Chandra Pramanik, a National Award-winner teacher, who worked near Kalinagar in Khejuri, was bent on letting the people of the area have a glimpse of the greatman. He made a very small spinning wheel, named it ‘Atom Spinning Wheel’ and with it met Gandhiji in his Sodepur Ashram. The leader was impressed to see the spinning wheel and the earnestness of the young man. Thus Krishnanagar sneaked into the itinerary of Gandhiji.
Mr. Pramanik gives a detailed account of the historic visit. It was Thurasday, 3rd January, 1945 ( 19th Pouse, 1352). A small launch from Bhaintgarh sailed along the Hijli tidal canal and set anchor at the make-shift jetty at Krishnnagar. Holding the illustrious visitor by the hand, Mr. Pramanik helped him to get down from the launch,set a pair of slippers to his feet, took him through a passage among thousands of people sitiing calmly to the chair on the stage waiting for him to sit on. With Bapuji there were Kanu Gandhi, Manilal, Pyarelal, Krishnadas, and Satish Dasgupta. With folded hands Gandhiji greeted people, looked at the people sitting around him, smiled his wonted smile and took his seat.
On three sides of Gandhiji, about three hundred spinners were spinning yarn. On amplifier Ramdhun was being sung. Minutes passed. Gandhiji was not well. He gave no speech. After 15 minutes, he left the place, got on board the launch that sailed northward towards Terpekhiya.
Babu Rajendra Prasad.
Rajendra Prasad : Dr. Rajendra Prasad, a leader from Bihar, who had a brillient academic career, practiced in the Calcuta
(1884-1963) High Court for some time, joined the freedom movement and courted arrast repeatedly, became the President of the Congress twice, and, to crown all, became the first President of the Indian Union, came to Kanthi in 1925. He was the traveling companion of Gandhiji during his first visit to the town. Gandhiji came on 4th July and Dr. prasad with some others reached by the morning of the 5th July. They took shelter in Kanthi National School housed in the building gifted by Birendranath Sasmal. They all left for Bankura in the evening.