Sabarna Roy Choudhury
The Sabarna Ray Chaudhury (Bengali: সাবর্ণ রায় চৌধুরী) family were the Zamindar (superior landlords) of the Kolkata (earlier known as Calcutta) area, prior to the arrival of the British. On 10 November 1698, they transferred, by lease, their rights over the three villages – Sutanuti, Kalikata and Gobindapur - to the East India Company.
The origin is traced back in the 10th Century CE, when Adisura brought five Brahmins to Bengal. Vedagarba was one of them and is regarded as the first in the genealogy of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury Family.
Panchanan Gangopadhyay (Panchu Saktikhan) of the family acquired the Khan title from the Mughal Emperor Humayun in the sixteenth century, for his bravery as a cavalry officer in charge of Pathan soldiers. Around the middle of that century he constructed a palace at a place which came to be known as Haveli Sahar or Halisahar. It was from Halisahar that the family spread far and wide, including, to Uttarpara, Birati, Barisha and Kheput.
Lakhsmikanta Gangopadhyay alias Laksmikanta Roy Choudhury (the son of Jia Gangopadhyay later known as Saint Kamadeva Brahmachari) was given jagirdari of a vast tract of land by Raja Man Singh, in 1608. Along with the Jaigir he was given the title of 'Ray' and 'Choudhury' which later became the surname of his descendants. It is said that he constructed many temples at Halisahar, and the original centres of habitation of the family at Goghat and Amatia. The construction of the pilgrim path from Halisahar to Barisha is also credited to him.
The three villages of Sutanuti, Govindapur and Kalikata were part of a khas mahal or imperial jagir or an estate belonging to the Mughal emperor himself, whose jagirdari rights were held by the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family. The British settlement was surrounded by thirty-eight villages held by others. Although in 1717, the British East India Company was permitted by the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar to rent or acquire zamindari rights in them, it was unable to procure the land from the zamindars or local landlords.
Even the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family was not keen to allow the British to settle or do trading on these villages, but the British had paid a bribe at the Mughal Durbar to ensure that the deal did not fail. Just prior to their move to Barisha, the Roy Choudhury family had to transfer their rights over Kalikata in 1698, to the East India Company much against their wishes and protests.
The British ultimately got The 'Right to Rent' or lease of three villages for an annual rent of Rs. 1,300. The deed was in Persian. A copy of the deed can be seen at the Sabarna Sangrahashala at Barisha
Sabarna Roy Choudhury family had a kutchery (court-house) and a temple of its family deity Shyam Rai, near Lal Dighi (or red tank), that still stands in the middle of B. B. D. Bagh in the heart of commercial district of Kolkata. It was so named possibly because of the red colour the water acquired during dol, the festival of colours. John Anthony, a person of mixed race used to work there. His grandson, Anthony Firingee, became a famous kabial, a sort of folk singer, in later day Kolkata.
The court-house was first taken on rent and later purchased by the British East India Company.
The family has been celebrating Durga Puja since 1610 in their ancestral home at Barisha. It is possibly the oldest organised festival in the Kolkata region. Today as many as eight Durga Pujas are held by different lineages of the family. Out of these, six are at Barisha, namely- Aatchala Bari, Baro Bari, Mejo Bari, Majher Bari, Benaki Bari and Kalikingkar Bari. The seventh is held at Birati Bari, while the eighth is held at Nimta Pathanpur Bari.
Sabarna Roy Choudhury Paribar Parishad
A family organisation named Sabarna Roy Choudhury Paribar Parishad today preserves the history, culture and traditions of this family. Sabarna Sangrahashala, the exclusive family museum at Barisha is a unique endeavor to preserve the family history and heritage and is engaged in research and publication. An International History and Heritage Exhibition is also held in the month of February every year.
Public Interest Litigation
The 'Sabarna Roy Choudhury Paribar Parishad', the supreme family organisation and nine other intellectuals of the city filed a public interest litigation before the Kolkata High Court in 2001 demanding a probe into the matter whether Job Charnock can be regarded as the founder of Kolkata. The nine eminent intellectuals included- Bratindranath Mukherjee, Radharamn Ray, Dr. Subir Dutta, Dipak Sen, Sudhin Banerjee, Chhanda Basak, Uma Devi, Sanchita Dutta and Sapna Ray.
The Court, upon an Expert Committee finding, declared on 16 May 2003, that Job Charnock cannot be regarded as the founder of the city and 24th August also cannot be considered as the city's birthday.
Sabarna Roy Choudhury clan of Uttarpara
Ratneshwar Roy Choudhury, the younger brother of Bidyadhar Roy Choudhury purchased a tract of land opposite Calcutta on the banks of the Hooghly river as desired by Kamdeva Brahmachari and established the town of Uttarpara in 1709. The world-famous Hungry generation (হাংরি আন্দোলন) movement in Bengali literature was started by the descendants of Ratneswar Roy Choudhury; Malay Roy Choudhury and Samir Roychoudhury.
- Bangiya Sabarna Katha Kalishetra Kalikatah by Bhabani Roy Choudhury, Manna Publication. ISBN 81-87648-36-8
- Patree, Purnendu, Purano Kolkatar Kathachitra, (Bengali), pp. 154-5, 3rd edition, 1995, Dey’s Publishing, ISBN 81-7079-751-9
- Roy, Samaren, Calcutta: Society and Change 1690-1990, p 8, 2005, iUniverse, ISBN 0-595-34230-2, from google books
- Bandopadhyay Debashis, Purano Kolkatar gharbari, (Bengali), pp. 1-2, second impression, 2002, Ananda Publishers Private Limited, ISBN 81-7756-158-8
- Nair, P.Thankappan, The Growth and Development of Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, p. 11, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1
- Sabarna Prithivi - website of the Sabarna Roy Choudhury family
- Gupta, Subhrangshu (2003-05-17). "Job Charnock not Kolkata founder: HC Says city has no foundation day". The Tribune online edition. Retrieved 2008-06-30.