Wednesday, July 28

Sanskrit University chests throw up slice of West Bengal’s history

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A treasure trove of historically significant documents and articles were recovered from two rust-covered chests — estimated to be nearly 200 years old — at Sanskrit University on Friday.

The documents recovered from the chests — that had to be prised open by a locksmith with a hammer and a chisel — include a pair of sandals, pen and a shawl used by Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar when he was the principal of the college, a register bearing the signature of Rabindranath Tagore, acknowledging the receipt of a certificate dated 1931, and an attendance register bearing the name of ‘Iswarachundro’ (Vidyasagar) on the rolls that dates back to 1830 when the reformer was a student at the erstwhile Sanskrit College. According to the university authorities, the safes may have been purchased between 1830 and 1851. One of the chests were wallmounted.

The chests had been lying unnoticed at a storeroom on the campus. Vice-chancellor Soma Bandyopadhyay chanced upon them a few weeks ago and decided to break them open. It turned out to be a storehouse of documents. “One of the chests was manufactured by the Chubb company in London and has a complex operating mechanism. The other one was made in India. Both held some important documents,” said Bandyopadhyay.

Among the items recovered include a register with Tagore’s signature that mentions that the poet was being awarded the title of “Kabisarbabhouma”.

A certificate awarded to revolutionary and author Manmath Gupta has also been found. Other than the certificates and the attendance register, several sealed envelopes containing lists of college assets till 1956 were also unearthed.

“We have found 85 passbooks and receipts of money deposited with post offices from which we will be able to know about the banking system and the functioning method of post offices in the British era,” pointed out the Sanskrit University VC.

Historically significant finds from the chests also include papers related to ‘widow funds’ created by the college. “Till now, we had no information about a ‘widow fund’ being set up and disbursed by Sanskrit College. We have now found papers that mention the ‘Muktakeshi Devi widow fund’, which awarded Rs 2 to eight widows across Bengal every month. The fund was probably started by Vidyasagar himself, said Bandyopadhyay.

Several endowment funds that had been set up can be now resurrected. We will find out the cash which may have been deposited in various accounts,” she added.

“Both the chests were used to store valuable documents and official papers between 1830 and 1956. In 1919, Sanskrit College had awarded a silver medal to Purnendu Bhattacharyya, which was discovered on Friday,” added Bandyopadhyay.

The university will now set up an archive and put the discovered items on display.

“When Sanskrit College was upgraded into a university, the committee that proposed this transition had also suggested an archive. Research scholars will find several resources regarding the history and transformation of society in Bengal from these documents,” explained Bandyopadhyay.

“We have informed the state government and education minister Partha Chatterjee about the hidden gems,” said Bandyopadhyay.


Source: Times of India

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