Mahendra Lal Bose

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Mahendra Lal Bose (Bengali: মহেন্দ্র লাল বোস ; October 1893 – 9 December 1978) was an educationalist and philanthropist during the Bengal Renaissance.[1]

Childhood and parents[edit]

Mahendra Lal Bose was born in the village Panjia of Keshabpur Upazila[2] in the Jessore district of Undivided Bengal. He was born on 22 October 1893. His father Sri Bijay Basanta Bose worked at Calcutta as the manager of a company called Adya & Company.

Education[edit]

Sri Mahendra Lal Bose went to Calcutta with his father and got admitted to St. Xavier's School at Park Street. He passed the Senior Cambridge Examination from that school and got admitted to St. Xavier's College with honors in English. In the meantime his father had acquired much knowledge about tea planting and he decided to resign from the job at the Adyas and try his luck in plantation in the district of Jalpaiguri. Through his relative and tea magnet Sri Nalini Ghosh he got acquainted with Sri Prasanna Dev Raikut, the Raja of the Baikunthapur Estate. In collaboration with the raja he established the Shikarpur Tea Estate, about three kilometers from Belakoba railway station. Sri Mahendra Lal Bose, however, could not accompany his father to North Bengal, as he had to continue his studies staying at a mess near Park Street. At college he got acquainted with a son of Mahatma Gandhi and got the rare opportunity of being acquainted with the great leader and sage like personality and this radically changed his character.[1]

A few years before the First World War his mother had died at their native village and this made Sri Bose morose and uninterested in careerism. He at first decided to relinquish material pursuits and become a sanyasi. One of his relatives at Calcutta persuaded him to give up the desire out of transitory upheaval that was not likely last long and took initiative to send him to his father in North Bengal.

His father also desired that Mahendra should stay with him and join the plantation business. He took initiative for his marriage and Mahendra was married to Saralabala, a fourteen-year-old girl from the famous Ghosh family of the Jessore town. He at first had joined his father's business and was staying at his father's house at Siliguri Town.[1]

Philanthropy[edit]

Soon Sri Mahendra Lal Bose fell into dispute with his father over exploitation of plantation laborers and relinquishing his father's money and property, he wanted to go his own way and stand on his own feet. His wife had deep respect for his high ideals and consented to bear all hardships that may come their way.

Sri Bijay Basanta Bose had already parted company with the Raikuts and joined another Tea Estate.

Mahendra rented a house at Belakoba and took up supplier's job at various tea gardens, ran a cloth shop and through unimaginable hardship bought some landed property.

The village Belakoba lies in-between Jalpaiguri and New Jalpaiguri railway stations. All the Assam and doors bound trains pass through this station, but none except the Teesta Torsa Express has a stoppage here and there are two local trains for Haldibari that stop here, one in the morning and the other in the evening. One may also travel by bus from Siliguri up to Fatapukur and then by auto to Belakoba.

The place is amidst small tea growing fields and all amenities are available in this semi-urban locality. There are, however, no hotels and but one may get accommodation at a Marwari dharmashala adjacent to a beautiful Radha-Krishna temple. The educational standards of the highly populated town are very high and there are several primary schools, two higher secondary schools, one co-ed and the other for the girls, and a basic training college. The network of communication towers has made the town well-connected with outside and transport facilities for Siliguri and Jalpaiguri are very good – buses, autos, mini-buses, taxis and hired cars are frequently available.

The place also has a rich cultural tradition, with drama clubs, musical training schools and a football ground where tournaments attract teams from all over West Bengal and also from other States.

At that time, however, this was a desolate place resided by only a few tea and timber merchants and intrepid Marwari businessmen. The most important personality that contributed to its development of this now prosperous and culturally rich place was Sri Mahendra Lal Bose.

Sri Bose bought about an acre of land near the Belakoba railway station, built a wooden two-storey house in the pattern of his father's bungalow at Siliguri. The house was accidentally burnt in 1947 by fire. Thereafter he built a pacca one-storey house.

He bought some fallow lands around the locality and with utmost efforts converted them into rich paddy and jute lands and started cultivation by Rajbonsi tenants. He fixed the rent in kind at one third of the produce (this was contrary to the common practice of 50:50-share between the landlord and the tenant). Many local landlords protested against his rent fixing but he ignored their protests.

Now he began to earn some money, but he still continued his simple life and desired to spend the extra money after meeting the bare necessities of himself and his family for the benefit of the locality and local people, especially the illiterate poor people.

During the early 1950s Vinoba Bhave visited Belakoba with his team in course of his Bhoodan Movement and Sri Bose was the first landowner to respond to Vinobaji's appeal by transferring all his landholdings except the homestead land and a few acres for meeting family expenses.

He was short in stature (about 5'4") but his sharp features, bespectacled bright eyes, curled hair (which was black even at his demise at the age of 85) and extremely fair complexion created an aura of personality and respectability. Beneath this outward grave appearance, he had a very soft and compassionate heart and all the poor people respected him like a deity and considered him as their last resort in case of financial and other problems. Anyone, irrespective of his caste, creed religion, social status or economic condition had free access to him.[1]

Educationist[edit]

Sri Mahendra Lal Bose was most perturbed by the illiteracy of the local Rajbonsi people. This was at the very root of harmful superstitions and lack of initiative to overcome the day to day problems and hazards of natural disasters. Illiteracy led them to tamasic activities and abject surrender to hundreds of deities to tide over their problems. This also made them prey to exploitation and cheating by the bhatia (those who immigrated from the lower reaches of the rivers in East Bengal districts) – the landlords, money-lenders, lawyers and fake religious men. Taking advantage of the simplicity and illiteracy of the Rajbonsis, they used to exploit them by all conceivable means. So Sri Bose first resolved to found schools and educational institutions at Belakoba and the remote villages around the place to eradicate the curse of illiteracy of the local people.

This lofty mission could not be carried out by individual efforts. So he sought help of the important personalities and government officials of the district and they responded enthusiastically. Sri Bose was already highly respected by them because of his strong character and personality, honesty, dedication, his command over literature and sophisticated culture and above all modesty.

With the assistance of Raja Prasanna Dev Raikut and other personalities, he went ahead with his mission. The sudden turmoil caused by the Second World War interrupted his efforts, but as soon as the war was over he went on rapidly to fulfill his mission. A co-ed high school and two primary schools were established at Belakoba by the end of 1940s and after independence the work went ahead with accelerated pace as the local people and rich persons, being inspired by his noble efforts, joined his mission. Primary schools were established in remote villages. Later on by his efforts a high school for the girls and a basic training college were established at Belakoba. Taking a cue from him, people in remote villages went ahead with establishing more and more schools. Soon light of education started spreading in the region and driving away the curse of illiteracy.

The second curse that attracted his attention was complete lack of proper medical facilities for the local people forcing them to rely on quack treatment and the ojhas. Sri Bose took initiative to establish a charitable dispensary at Belakoba with an LMF doctor for free treatment of the local people. Soon health centers and charitable dispensaries were established in distant villages and later on a government hospital was established by his efforts near Belakoba. And thus his dedication opened up the path to removal of the second curse too.

Literature, culture and communal harmony[edit]

He was also eager for cultural uplift of the place languishing in superstitions, caste-discrimination, religious parochialism and narrow rural politics. Through his initiative drama clubs, public libraries and musical training schools were established at Belakoba and adjacent places. He also encouraged sports and by his efforts, the football ground of the high school was renovated and football tournaments arranged. Thus Belakoba became a prosperous place with high level of literacy and culture.

He could not complete his studies of literature at college, but his lively interest in literature never waned. In his house he had a very good collection of novels and short stories of all mention worthy Bengali authors, British and American authors and English translations of major works of Russian, French, German, Spanish and Italian literature. His command over literature was astounding. He could discuss and quote from literary works for hours on end.

During the British regime high ranking British officials used to meet him to discuss literature and take lessons in Vedic philosophies. They however, avoided discussions of political issues, as they were fully aware of his hatred towards British rule in India.

After independence of India while the district of Jalpaiguri was included in the Indian Union, hooligans and some dishonest landlords started bullying the Muslims with a view to appropriating their properties by sending them to East Pakistan. Sri Bose promptly came forward as their savior by arranging a meeting of the influential people of the locality, the members of the Congress Party and the police officials to assure the Muslims, who were willing to stay on in India, of their security and none of the Muslims opted for migrating to East Pakistan.

The flower garden in front of his house was testimony to his aesthetic sense. It included rare flowers like Magnolia Grandiflora, Magnolia Futchkata, Camellia, rare orchids, and rare varieties of roses. The orchard at the back of his house contained various fruit plants – apples, pears, rose berries, Grecian figs, varieties of mangoes, and varieties of pineapples from Mauritius and Philippines.[3]

Religious beliefs[edit]

Sri Bose had command over the Vedas and the six Vedic Philosophies and he was an out and out Advaita Vedantic.[citation needed]

He himself had no faith in idolatry, polytheism and mythological avatar (incarnate) cult. He adhered to the Upanishadic view that God is invisible, one-and-only-one, ubiquitous and attribute less. God as the Supreme Being is everywhere in the universe and the visible universe is an integral part of the invisible God. As the light illuminates everything, itself remaining invisible, God assigns attribute to everything Himself remaining attribute-free. He had deep reverence for Buddha and Jesus. He used to explain that the Vedic philosophy was free from avatar cult, polytheism, idolatry and the theory of rebirth. All these were introduced in Hindu culture by the mythological texts called Puranas which borrowed from the aboriginal religions, Atharva Veda and Buddhism.

He, however, opined that idol worship may not be idolatry as such if the devotee can transcend beyond the humanoid idol and treat it only as a symbol of the invisible God. Goddess Kali worship in general is a form of idolatry but to Ramakrishna Paramahansa Dev, the idol of goddess Kali was the symbol of invisible Brahman. To Krishna devotees, Radha-Krishna image is the symbol of invisible God in accordance with Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

Sri Bose, however, never disrespected the other religious beliefs. His wife was a devotee of various deities like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga and Kali and used to worship their idols. Mr. Bose never objected to or disrespected her faith.

Sri Bose lost his eyesight because of glaucoma at the age of eighty three and demised on 12 December 1978 at a nursing home at Siliguri.[1]

Family tree of the Panjia-Boses[edit]

Dasharath Bose (the 10th generation of Kulins immigrated to Bengal from Kanauj)

Mukti Bose

Rajaram Bose

Anantaram Bose

Gangaram Bose – Ramsantosh Bose – Krishnachandra Bose – Dvipchandra Bose – Pitambar Bose

Abhayram Bose – Shrimanta Bose – Madanmohan Bose

Nilmadhab Bose – Bhagavatchandra Bose

Bidhubadan Bose – Chandrabadan Bose – Rajkrishna Bose – Shantikumar Bose

Bijaybasanta Bose

Mahendra Lal Bose, Saralabbala Bose, Nripendralal Bose-Pari Bose, Sourendralal Bose-Sutapa Bose, Birendralal Bose

Manabendra Lal Basu, Kalpana Basu - Mrigendra Lal Basu, Maya Basu - Manidra Lal Basu, Nilima Basu - Manik Lal Basu - Ratan Lal Basu, Swapan Basu-Ashoka Basu, Tapan Basu, Tapas Basu-Jayasree Basu

Satish Kumar Bose - Sunil Kumar Bose - Sirdharta Kumar Bose, Shiladittya Bose

Shiladittya Bose - Sarnab Bose

References[edit]