Bengal, British India
|Died||August 1, 1846
|Parents||Ramlochan Thakur (father) and Maneka Tagore (mother)|
Dwarkanath Tagore (Bengali: দ্বারকানাথ ঠাকুর, Darokanath Ţhakur) (1794–1846), one of the first Indian industrialists and entrepreneurs, was the founder of the Jorasanko branch of the Tagore family, and is notable for making substantial contributions to the Bengal Renaissance.
Dwarakanath Tagore was a descendant of Rarheya Brahmins of Vandyopadhyay(Sandilya gotra) division. He was the second son of Nilmoni Thakur (employed in the Calcutta Police) from his first wife Menaka. Menaka was the younger sister of Alakasundari, wife to Rammoni's elder brother Ramlochan, who was childless. Soon after his birth in 1794 Dwarkanath was informally adopted by Ramlochan and Alakasundari and formally adopted in 1799.
His early education and upbringing was within the family home (Thakur Bari), but at age 10 in 1804 he was admitted to Sherbourne's school on the Chitpur Road and become one of Mr. Sherbourne's favourite pupils.
On 12 December 1807, Ramlochan died leaving all his property to his adopted son Dwarkanath, who was then a minor. This property consisted of zamindari estates governed by the complicated Regulations of Permanent Settlement introduced by Lord Cornwallis in 1792. The Zamindars were the ruling authority of a certain sub-division or region under The British ruling authority in India and they (the Zaminders) had the authority to collect tax or to rule their fellow residents inside the territory of their Zamindaris on behalf of the British Government in India. Therefore, to participate in the Zamindari left by his adopted father Ramlochan Thakur as the forthcoming Zaminder, Dwarkanath left school in 1810 at the age of 16 and apprenticed himself under a renowned barrister at Calcutta Robert Cutlar Fergusson and shuttled between Calcutta and his estates at Behrampore and Cuttack.
On 7 February 1811 Dwarkanath was married to Digambaridevi (then 9 years old). Dwarkanath's family fortune took a decided turn for the better [according to whom?] once she entered his house, also bearing him one daughter and 5 sons before her death in January 1839.
Dwarkanath and Zamindari
"As a zamindar Dwarkanath was mercilessly efficient and businesslike, but not generous". Dwarkanath looked upon his investment in land as investment in any other business or enterprise and claimed what he deemed a fair return. In later years Dwarkanath would appoint European managers for his estates at Sahajadpur and Behrampore. In time Dwarkanath would convert his estates to integrated commercial-industrial complexes with indigo, silk and sugar factories. In the cut throat world of zamindari politics Dwarkanath took no nonsense and gave no quarter to either European or native. His knowledge of the tenancy laws stood him in good stead. Unlike his good friend Rammohan Roy, who pleaded for the rights of the poor ryots, Dwarkanath Tagore was the best corporate minded entrepreneur of his contemporary age. His innovative ideas, sharp intelligence, disciplined approaches and dedication established his greatness in the history of Indian social- entrepreneurs of all time.
Service with the company
In 1822 Dwarkanath, while carrying on his private ventures, took additional service in the British East India Company as Shestidar to Trevor Plowden, Collector for the 24 Parganas. Although the pay was meagre at under Rs.500 per year, the prestige and avenues for additional income were considerable and gave Dwarkanath an intimate insight into the functioning of the government. Trevor Plowden formed a lifelong friendship with Dwarkanath. In 1827 there arose a great scandal in the Salt Revenue department, centred on a dishonest Dewan. Because of Dwarkanath's own personal integrity and character, he was requested to take over as Dewan of the Board. He did not take long to rend asunder the network of corruption which resulted in a counter petition against him to the Board accusing him of defalcation. To clear his name an enquiry was ordered which at each stage of enquiry — by the Board, by the Governor General and finally by the India Office at London — cleared him unreservedly. By then Dwarkanath had had enough of Government service and resigned in June 1834 to launch into his spectacular career as a full-time entrepreneur.
Tagore was a western-educated Bengali Brahmin and an acknowledged civic leader of Kolkata who played a pioneering role in setting up a string of commercial ventures—banking, insurance and shipping companies— in partnership with British traders. In 1828, he became the first Indian bank director. In 1829, he founded Union Bank in Calcutta. He helped found the first Anglo-Indian Managing Agency (industrial organizations that ran jute mills, coal mines, tea plantations, etc.,) Carr, Tagore and Company. Even earlier, Rustomjee Cowasjee, a Parsi in Calcutta, had formed an inter-racial firm but in the early 19th century, Parsis were classified as a Near Eastern community as opposed to South Asian. Tagore's company managed huge zamindari estates spread across today's West Bengal and Odisha states in India, and in Bangladesh, besides holding large stakes in new enterprises that were tapping the rich coal seams of Bengal, running tug services between Calcutta and the mouth of the river Hooghly and transplanting Chinese tea crop to the plains of Upper Assam. Carr, Tagore and Company was one of those Indian private companies engaged in the opium trade with China. Production of opium was in India and it was sold in China. When the Chinese protested, the East India company transferred the opium trade to the proxy of certain selected Indian companies, of which this was one. In 1832 Tagore purchased the first Indian coal mine in Runigunj, which eventually became the Bengal Coal Company. Very large schooners were engaged in shipments. This made Dwarkanath extremely rich, and there are legends about the extent of his wealth.
A restless personality, with a firm conviction that his racial identity was not a barrier between him and other Britons as long as he remained loyal to the British Sovereign, Tagore was well received by Queen Victoria and many other British and European notables during his two trips to the West in the 1840s; he died in London on his last visit. Historiographers have often been flummoxed by his inability, despite a great desire, to be honoured by the Queen with a baronetcy (his grandson, Rabindranath Tagore, received the honour but returned it following British atrocities at the Jallianwala Bagh in the Punjab in 1919).
Dabbling in politics
Dwarkanath Tagore was of the firm conviction that at those times "the happiness of India is best secured by her connection with England". Dwarkanath was no doubt a loyalist, and a sincere one at that, but he was by no means a toady. Servility was as far from his character as was lack of generosity from his nature. He was also firm in defending the interest and sentiments of his people against European prejudices. With this in view he established on 21 March 1838 an Association for Landholders (later known as the Landholder's Society). The association was overtly a self-serving political association, founded on a large and liberal basis, to admit landholders of all descriptions, Englishmen, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians. What is interesting is that it cut across racial and religious divides being founded along with his old rival Raja Radhakanta Deb with whom he had earlier founded the Gaudiya Sabha. It was the first political association in India to ventilate in a constitutional manner the grievances of the people or a section of them that were outspoken. From this grew the British Indian Association, the precursor to the Indian National Congress.
After a brief illness, Dwarkanath Tagore died "at the peak of his fortune" on the evening of Saturday 1 August 1846 at the St. George's Hotel in London during a tremendous thunderstorm the likes of which had not been seen for many years past.
He was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery on 5 August 1846 in a private ceremony without any religious observances. His heart which had been previously extracted was sent to Calcutta to conduct the Brahmo rites amidst great controversy.
In his obituary, The London Mail of 7 August wrote:
- "Descended from the highest Brahmin caste of India his family can prove a long and undoubted pedigree. But it is not on account of this nobility that we now review his life but on far better grounds. However gifted, his claims rest on a higher pedestal — he was the benefactor of his country… [T]hey testified to his merits in the encouragement of every public and private undertaking likely to benefit India."
- Wolpert, Stanley (2009). A New History of India (8th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford UP. p. 221. ISBN 978-0-19-533756-3.
- "History of the Adi Brahmo Samaj (1906)"
- Kling, Blair B., Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the Age of Enterprise in Eastern India, p. 32. University of California Press, 1976; Calcutta, 1981. ISBN 0-520-02927-5
- Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. p. 265. ISBN 0-415-32920-5. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Kripalani, Krishna (1981). Dwarkanath Tagore, a Forgotten Pioneer: A Life. New Delhi, India: National Book Trust, India. pp. 246–7. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- Blair B Kling, Partner in Empire: Dwarkanath Tagore and the Age of Enterprise in Eastern India, University of California Press, 1976; Calcutta, 1981. ISBN 0-520-02927-5
- NK Sinha, The Economic History of Bengal 1793–1848, III, Calcutta, 1984.
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), 1976/1998, Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), p223. ISBN 81-85626-65-0
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