Glimpse of the history of Rajshahi city

The memorable elements of ancient Varendra and its traditions, which have so far been discovered, are not quite exhausted. If the excavation following modern scientific methods is conducted at Naoda, Deopara, Mandail, Vijoyn-agar, Achinghat, Agradigun, Beharail, Amair, Aranagar, Ghatnagar, Dhanora and Bandhardhibi a lot of unexplored information may be unearthed.

Rampur-Boalia, which implies the city of Rajshahi, has obviously started lagging behind as a victim to the jaundiced eye of the rulers after seceding from India. Of course, it started regaining its lost glory when the kings, zamindars and landlords of this region began building educational and cultural institutions out of their graciousness. Needless to say, this trend of advancement is still going on.

There is a long background of building the city of Rajshahi. Rajshahi at the initial stage developed including two villages, Rampur and Boalia. We get some information about the antiquity of these villages in the prominent work, Seer Al Mutakh Kharin of Sayed Golam Hussain Khan Tabtayee.

He mentions the dwellers of Murshidabad become very afraid of Marhatta attack towards the middle of 18th century. To save their life they took shelter at Rampur-Boalia across the river Ganges (the Padma) and started settling there building their dwelling houses.

These villages, Rampur and Boalia became familiar as thana and then as district. Before it was the district town, the main administrative head quarter of this vicinity was at Natore, endowed with the glorious reminiscences of Rani Bhabani. We come to know from the report of W. W. Hunter, published in 1976; rivers and canals flowing through the vicinity of Natore became silted towards the beginning of the 19th century. Water-flow in the town was hindered. Marshes, as they were filled with stagnant water, became mosquito producing places and the attack of malaria increased at a alarming rate.

Though Natore was one of the attractive trade centers, tradesmen fron the outside could not come with a view to trading because the depth of the rivers and canals flowing through the vicinity decreased to a great extent. For the reason, the administrative head quarter was shifted from Natore to Rampur-Boalia (later on familiar as Rajshahi), which was a healthy place located on the bank of the river Padma in 1825.

With the change of geographical spot, Rajshahi started developing as a complete town in a hurry. The kingsm, zamindars, landlords, usurers, teachers and scholars of Natore, Dighapatia, Puthia, Dubalhati, Balihar and so on and so forth came forward to build dozens of educational, literary and cultural and social welfare institutions and centers at their at their own effort and gracious contributions. We get a lot of social, cultural and educational organizations, institutions and centers during the period. A charitable dispensary was setup for the public welfare.

Another dispensary rendering medical facility was established in 1863. Then a native doctor was paid 72 pounds (72 Tk) yearly against his salary. The patients could get medicine and equipments free of costs from the dinpensary. Others expenses were borne from the people’s welfare fund of Prasannanath Roy, king of Dighapatia. A lot of money was spent from this fund when fever and cholera attacked the inhabitants in an epidemic form in 1871.

The town became at the same time the temporary residence of the kings and the zamindars of the district. They felt an urge of establishing educational institutions. So many educational, technical and trade institutions were established that the town later on became familiar as the city of education.

One of the main objectives of the educational institution, built first in the city of Rajshahi, was to inspire the natives in learning English. This would help spreading learning English as well as various facilities would be possible to get in the field of administration. With this end in view, a couple of Europeans and some local persons interested in education established Boalia English School at their own effort and expenditure in 1828. After some years, the school fell in distress when those European employees were transferred elsewhere and at the same time the local people were not interested to learn English any more. Yet the school was running somehow. At some stage, it received a grant of Tk 300/- from the government.

BoaliaEnglishSchool was revived when William Lord Bentink, Governor General, reformed education policy. At the advice of Governor General, Sir William Adam paid a visit to Rajshahi. After visiting some Chatushpathi (Sanskrit school) in the town, he came to visit the school and became very shock to find it in utterly miserable condition. Adam mentioned in his report, lack of good administration was responsible for this distress. Sri Kalinath Chowdhury writes about this school in the Rajshahir Sankhipta Itihas (A Short History of Rajshahi). A Zilla School was established at Boalia at June 20, 1836 and Saradaprasad Bose was appointed Headmaster of it.

There was 171 students in total in this school towards the end of the year 1837. Of them, 164 were Hindu, 5 were Christian and 2 were Muslim students. From another report we come to know, the length of the roof of that school was 54 ft and width was 20 ft. There was a veranda all around it. There were eight classes in total in the school. Lower classes were divided into sections and were imparted education to them accordingly.

It was mentioned earlier that the spreading of learning English was the target of the contemporary government. It was express also in Adam’s report vividly. He mentioned, he found three teachers working in that school, one for English, one for Bengali and the rest one was an assistant teacher.  The English teacher was paid Tk 80/- a month as his salary, the Bengali teacher and the assistant teacher received Tk 8/- and Tk 20/- respectively.

It is known from the DPI report published in the 1858 that brick built buildings were made for both government and non-government fund was provided by Prasannanath Roy, zamindar of Dighapatia and Anandanath Roy, king of Natore. Unfortunately, the Padma devoured the schools within a decade. Under the leadership of the erstwhile Magistrate of Rajshahi, all the furniture of the school shifted elsewhere. The school was re-established in the town in 1862. Kings, zamindars and benevolent personalities contributed most of the fund that time also, though the government provided a share of the fund.

In the year 1873, the school was named in RajshahiCollegiateSchool including two sections as school section and college section. The school section provided education up to entrance examination and the college section provided education up to First Arts (FA). In the college section, the number of students started increasing more than expectation.

At the initial stage the college enjoyed the status of second class in 1873. But after only five years, the college raise its status in the first class in consideration of its results and number of students in 1878. Mr FT Dawdling was appointed first Principal of the college. Besides Arts and Science in the graduate level, the college got affiliation from Kolkata University to teach the students in the post graduate level. O’Malley provided a list of donors who donated a handsome amount of money for the constructions of the college, in his book, Descriptions of Rajshahi District: When it was raised to the status of a second grade college, this was due to the generosity of Raja Hara Nath Ray Bahadur of Dubalhati, who made over to Government an estate yeilding an income of Rs 5000/- a year. In 1878 it was made a first grade college, the additional expenditure of one and half lakhs, which Raja Promadanath Ray of Dighapatia gave through Rajshahi Association. Institution was given up to the standard of the M.A Examination of the Calcutta University.

Needless to say, the role played by Rajshahi Collegiate School and Rajshahi College in this region created wide response in the field of spreading education in Bengal at that time. Nripendranathchandra, former teacher of the college described especially about its glorious past in the modern reviews in details. Published in 1947.

There were two more government educational institutions besides RajshahiCollegiateSchool and RajshahiCollege. One of them was Rajshahi Madrasha and the other was the Sanskrit College. In the campus of Rajshahi College, Rajshahi Madrasha was established at the graceful charity from the Hazi Muhammad Mohsin Fund with a view to imparting religious education to Muslim students in 1878. The main object of Madrasha education was to make the students aware of the glorious past of the Muslims and how to regain it; at same time to make them unwilling to learn English and create movements against learning English. Later on the Madrasha was shifted to Kazihata, a little away from Rajshahi College.

SanskritCollege was established at the effort of Hemanta Kumari, Maharani (Great Queen) of Puthia, after 30 years of the establishment of Rajshahi Madrasha, in 1904.

At the initial stage, primary establishment work of this college was started also in the campus of RajshahiCollege. Later on the college was established at the place, where now DPPI Building standing, with the finacncial assistance of the Maharani. Within a very short time, this college turned into a glorious educational institution of the vicinity.

The students could get the opportunity to study Sanskrit as well as the Veda, Logic, Smriti, Purana, Philosophy, Grammer and poems in this college. The number of students started decreasing with division of the country in 1947. The college at last was defunct in 1963 when it got no students to study Sanskrit.

The school, which was founded by Loakanath Maitra, zamindar of Shitlai in Pabna, was most prominent among the schools which were established at the financial assistance of kings and zamindars. He founded a primary school in 1847 in order to facilitate poor students to read there. In 1921, the school was upgraded to secondary school and named after him.

In 1869, a TeachersTraining School and a Normal School for the girls were established in the town. Rajshahi Academy (later on Bholanath Biseswar Hindu Academy) was setup in 1898. PN Girls’ School was setup almost at the same time. Soon after Christian Missionary Community founded Bolonpur Mission Girls’ School’ at their joint effort towards the western part of the town.

Along with the trend of general education, some technical and trade based educational institutions were also established. Of them, Diamond Jubilee Institution and Basanta Kumar Agriluctural Institute were prominent. The first was established in 1889. With the approval from Rajshahi District Board, two-years course on land survey and other related subjects were taught in this institute and at the completion of the course Sub-Overseership certificate was awarded to the students. It may be noted that a branch of the institute was sericulture school. This small scale of institute taught the students how to cultivate moth, preserved little plants and larvae etc.

Kumar Saratkumar Roy, worthy descendant from the royal family of Dayarampur, benevolent personality and founder of the Varendra Research Society, founded Basantakumar Agricultural Institute after the name of his late elder brother. Possibly, the institute started its activities from Rajshahi College in 1936. Subsecuently, a separate building for the institute for the constructed at the northern part of the RajshahiCollege. It is known from a report about Rajshahi College published in 1932-33:

An institute known as Basanta Kumar Agricultural Institute was established at Rajshahi in 1936 through the munificence of the Late Kumar Basanta Roy of Dighapatia for the purpose of training of student in agriculture and its allied industries.

Kumar Saratkumar Roy, younger brother establishing the institute showed the passion of his elder brother for agricultural education. Basantakumar, in fact, had a dream to establish an agricultural college in Rajshahi. He donated Tk. 2,50,000/- to RajshahiCollege when he was alive with his end in view. This institution was able to run for 16 years.

Though the institution lasted only a few years after the division of India, it collapsed utterly in 1952. Bangladesh is an agricultural land. Yet the agricultural institute did not survive. It is a deplorable matter indeed. However, the next year it launched a glorious chapter in the history of education with establishment of Rajshahi University in 1953.

By the by, I cannot but mention here a little background of setting up the university.

The British Government took an initiative to strengthen the university activities attaching much importance to higher education and research. With tis end in view, it was decided on July 06, 1917 to detect the loop wholes of the education system prevailing in Kolkata University and to form a commission in order to reform them. And the commission was formed accordingly. Dr M E Sadler, Vice-Chancellor to Leads University, England, was appointed the Chairman of the commission.

At that time, the reputation of RajshahiCollege, as one of the best affiliated colleges, spread throughout the Bengal.

After collecting necessary information, Sadler recommended in his report to turn RajshahiCollege into a residential university. Unfortunately, the prevailing political condition of the country went against the interest of implementing the commission.

With the creation of Pakistan in 1947, all the colleges of erstwhile East Pakistan started to be affiliated to DhakaCollege. Just then the demand of setup a university at Rajshai was raised following the report of Sadler commission. At the joint effort of Moulovi Madhar Box, reputed scholar and social worker of Rajshahi and Dr Itrat Hussain Zuberi, Principal of Rajshahi College and erudite scholar in English and Urdu language and literature, Rajshahi University was established by the Rahshahhi University Act 1953.

Towards the beginning, the activities of the universities started in the RajshahiCollege. Dr. Zuberi was appointed first Vice Chancellor to Rajshahi University. Later on, with the approval of Colombo Plan, Lt. Col G Swayne Thomas MA (Cantab) formulated architectural plan of Rajshahi University, following which the second largest and highest seat of learning in the country was developed on the green field of Motihar.