Legendary personalities in Bengal
Gouri Sen, Hari Ghosh, Banamali Sarkar, Gobindram Mitter, Umichand, and Huzoorimal are some legendary personalities, who have survived in public memory in Bengal or what are now the Bengali speaking areas of India and Bangladesh through popular rhymes or sayings. Some of them were based in Kolkata and others were linked to the growing metropolis.
Gouri Sen (1580 - 1667) lived in the 17th century. He was born and hailed from Bally More (Near Bandel Church) of Hooghly Town of Hooghly District, West Bengal. He was the son of Nandaram Sen. The family belonged to the Subarna Banik caste, people who are engaged in business. Gouri Sen earned enormous amounts of money from the family export-import business and was well known in business circles. He donated freely to repay debts of other people or to help those who were in trouble over payments to be made to the royal exchequer. This was the source of the Bengali saying laage taka debe gouri sen – “If money is required Gouri Sen will give it”. Many people think that he constructed the Gourishankar Shiva temple at his birth place at (Boral Lane) Hooghly and many people used to visit this temple to offer puja.
Hari Ghosh (1720 – 1806) was dewan of Munger fort of British East India Company. He had command over Bengali, Persian and English languages. On retirement, he settled down in Kolkata. He donated freely for social requirements. Many poor students, who went to the city for studies availed of the free facilities of food and lodging in his house in north Kolkata. Many people gathered in his sitting room to participate in idle discussions and then had dinner in his house. Thus arose the saying Hari Ghosher goal – “Hari Ghosh’s cattle shed”.
There is a Bengali rhyming proverb:
- Banamali Sarakrer bari
- Gobindram Mitrar chhari
- Umichander dari
- Huzoorimaler kori
- Ke na jane?
- Banamali Sarkar’s house
- Gobindram Mitter’s stick
- Umichand’s beard
- Huzoorimal’s money
- Who does not know of these?
Banamali Sarkar was the first dewan to the resident at Patna and subsequently deputy trader to the British East India Company at Kolkata. His grand house was built in Kumartuli during the period 1740 to 1750.
Umichand (also known as Amin Chand or Amir Chand) was a Sikh businessman who had come to Kolkata from Amritsar when the British were just making forays into the country. He played a major role in establishing the British in India. He had earned fabulously in business with the British East India Company and donated all his wealth for religious purposes at the time of his death. He was known as 'the Rothschild of his day' - and lives in history by reason of his deception at the hands of Clive.
Huzoorimal was a Sikh friend of Umichand. He had earned fabulously and was famous for acts of public beneficence – a tank at Baitakkhana, a bathing ghat south of where Howrah Bridge now stands (later known as Armenian ghat), the steeple of Armenian church, and a ghat near the Kali temple at Kalighat.
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), (1976/1998), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), p148, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp613-614
- Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p298, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
- Cotton, H.E.A., p 298.
- Nair, P. Thankappan in The Growth and Development of Old Calcutta in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p16, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), (1976/1998), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), p144, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
- Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 70.
- Cotton, H.E.A., pp58-59.
- Cotton, H.E.A., p 222.
- Cotton, H.E.A., p298.