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Tribute: Ishan Chandra Chattopadhyay & Nimta Brahmo Samaj

(Taken from the booklet written by Pranab Roy and published by Nalin Kumar Chattopadhyay and Hiran Kumar Chattopadhyay on the occasion of the Memorial Service of Ishan Chandra) Ishan Chandra : Born Agrahayan, 1265 Bangabda, Died 9 Magh, 1370 Bangabda

Ishan Chandra Chattopadhyay, the youngest son of Mahendra Nath Chattopadhyay and Mokshada Devi of the village of Nimta in Belghoria, was born in the late Autumn of the year 1858CE (month of Agrahayan of the Bengali calendar in the year 1265 Bangabda). He spent his childhood in the village, completing his school education from Sagar Dutta School in Kamarhati. After passing his Entrance Test from this school Ishan Chandra was admitted to the City College and then decided to study medicine. He earned the G.T.H.L.M.S. degree and started his medical practice from a dispensary at Cornwallis Street, which has now been renamed as Bidhan Sarani. Ishan Chandra soon earned reputation for keen insight for diagnosis and treatment and became well known as a successful medical practitioner. Many renowned doctors of his time did not hesitate to consult him. He was not only a very good doctor; he was a very compassionate one too who treated the poor patients for free and gave them the necessary medicines as well.

In Ishan Chandra’s youth, his father Mahendra Nath came in contact with Keshab Chandra and became so inspired that he converted to Brahmoism and earned the wrath of his entire family. His grand-father Ram Kumar shut his doors upon his son Mahendra Nath. He was not even allowed to meet his own family, who would see him in secret. Ishan Chandra was influenced by his father and adopted the Brahmo way of life while his other brother refused to see their father. Mahendra Nath was very happy to embrace his son and help him get initiated into Bramhoism after taking ‘Diksha’ or vow. Nothing could dissuade Ishan Chandra from his resolve and for this his father renamed him Atal Bihari.

Mahendra Nath used to stay at 14 Vrindaban Mullick Lane. After both his son and grandson became Brahmos, Ram Kumar sent Mokshada Devi to them, perhaps to win them back to the old fold. But she too was influenced by Mahendra Nath’s faith and would attend prayers at the Brahmo Samaj church. Unfortunately, she passed away when Ishan Chandra was still in his early youth. After this sad event. Mahendra Nath arranged for the marriage of his beloved son Ishan to Prafulla Bala, the youngest daughter of Mahendra Nath’s friend Harakumar Roychoudhury. They were married according to the Brahmo rites for which no one from the family of Ishan Chandra, except his father Mahendra Nath, welcomed the bride. They used to live in isolation. However, Prafulla Bala’s mother Gokul Mohini Devi endeared the newly wedded couple and Ishan Chandra gained mother’s love. 

Ishan had two sons Nalin Kumar and Hiran Kumar and two daughters Meera and Sudhira. Meera died young, which was a great blow to her father. But Ishan Chandra bore this grief with patience and forbearance, just as he had borne his other losses with great self-control. 

Mahendra Nath founded the Nimta Brahmo Samaj amidst much resistance. When he died, the responsibility of the Brahmo Samaj passed on to Ishan Chandra. He decided to take a very noble revenge for all the trials his father had to endure in order to keep the church running. Ishan Chandra opened a school for girls in the samaj premises, which having started with only five girls grew to have more than two hundred and fifty in its rolls in the nineteen sixties. He opened free kitchen to provide food to the needy and free dispensary to treat the poor. He was not rich but he never hesitated to share whatever he had with those in want. 

During the communal riots of 1946, eighteen widows took shelter at the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj premises. Ishan Chandra started a widows’ home at Nimta to provide permanent shelter for them. With the help of the Red Cross Society he arranged for milk for the poor boys of his locality. In order to solve the acute water crisis at Nimta he appealed to Maharani Sucharu Devi of Mayurbhanj and sank a well in the name of her late son Dhrubendra Narayan. 

This Brahmo Mandir was the centre of all the noble activities of Ishan Chandra. He was actively involved with this Samaj for seventy six years. He used to visit the temple once every day and celebrate the Utsava on the first of January. This quest for the eternal being was the motive force behind Ishan Chandra from his early life. He had travelled far and wide in India as a pilgrim, meeting holy men. He was a volunteer of Keshab Chandra Sen’s Band of Hope. He had also joined Shri Ramskrishna to sing kirtan.

Ishan Chandra was an honest, sincere person of high moral calibre. He had lived for one hundred and five years, showering love and compassion to all whom he knew. He ended his eventful and meaningful journey on 23rd January 1963, (9th Magh, 1370).

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