A church that was shut 140 years ago, was opened for a prayer service on Saturday to mark the beginning of the bicentenary celebrations of the Bishop’s College.
On Sunday, the church, which lies locked otherwise, was renamed Madhusudan Bhavan in the memory of Michael Madhusudan Dutta. He had prayed here during his student days on this original campus of Bishop’s College, now located inside Indian Institute of Engineering, Science and Technology (IIEST), Shibpur. The Bishop’s College was established in 1820.
The present campus of the college is located on AJC Bose Road near Beckbagan, where it was shifted in 1880. The space was then given to the then British government for setting up the Bengal Engineering College, now known as IIEST.
At least 100 trainee priests, accompanied by the faculty from the Bishop’s College, senior priests of city churches affiliated to the Church of North India (CNI), visited the old campus on Saturday for the special prayer service inside the dilapidated church, as a mark of respect. The church had been opened up and cleaned to make this possible, despite the fact that times have changed now and under the present circumstances, places of live worship are not allowed inside educational institutions. Authorities, however, treated this as a special event, related to the heritage of the city, and made elaborate arrangements.
The stained glass façade behind the altar still exists. One can still find the wooden pews that were used by faculty and students of Bishop’s College. The place was lit up so that the present principal of the college, Father Sunil Caleb, could conduct the prayers, that focussed on praising the Lord for choosing the place on the west bank of the Hooghly to set up this iconic college to train the clergy, a first of its kind effort in British India.
“This is a special occasion for us. Visiting the place where it all began. Reading and singing prayers where the first bishop of Calcutta, Thomas Middleton, read prayers once, give you a feeling that cannot be described in words,” Father Caleb said.
There are a large number of buildings from the time of the Bishop’s College, all bearing the imprint of colonial architecture, that still exist here. Some of these are in use as workshops of different departments, while others lie locked up and are not in use. One of these locked up buildings still has some printing machines that the Bishop’s College used to print religious texts. Another one has the remnants of a bakery, one of the first in the city.
“It was an amazing experience for us. We feel so enriched and humbled to be associated with such heritage,” said Father Caleb.
Assistant registrar of IIEST, Bibhor Das, who has been given the responsibility to co-ordinate the programme, said that director Partha Sarathi Chakraborty had been trying to get the heritage structures associated with Bishop’s College restored. However, bringing the church back to life for regular worship might not be possible.
Source: Times of India