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Editorial – December 2019

We are happy to bring out a combined issue of the Indian Messenger, an organ of the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj since 1883 for discussing social, religious, moral and ethical issues, after a long spell of hibernation.

Last year in December 2019 another year was about to complete its journey and we were to step into a new one with hope and expectation. We were preparing to celebrate Maghotsava in January 2020 with the usual enthusiasm. It was also an appropriate opportunity to reflect back on the time that had gone by. We remembered our friends and well wishers whom we had lost in the passage of time. However we were not prepared for the unprecedented situation that followed soon and brought life to a sudden halt. This affected the publication of the fortnightly journal Indian Messenger, the mouth piece of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Now that life is slowly getting back on track, we endeavour to honour our commitment of bringing out the issues once again.

We pay tribute to the outstanding personalities who were either born or breathed their last in December. They left a rich legacy for us to cherish and uphold.

We remember them with great reverence. Sebabrata Shasipada Bandyopadhyay, as a great philanthropist and a social worker who died in December 1924. Born in 1840 – Shasipada was among the earliest Indians to work for the rights of the working classes. He founded the Working Men’s Club way back In 1870 which was the first of its kind in India. It was meant for improving the lifestyle of the toiling masses, especially the workers in the Jute Mills. He established the Shramajivi Samiti and published the newspaper Bharat Sramajivi in 1874. It was the first Indian journal for the working classes and its circulation peaked to 15,000 copies, a remarkable number for its time. Pandit Saivnath Sastri’s famous poem Shramajivi was printed in its first issue. He introduced the Anna Bank, a savings bank, that encouraged the workers to save up by one contributing an ‘anna’ per person every day to build up the corpus of their welfare fund. According to Dipesh Chakrabarty Shasipada wanted to create an “ideal working class imbued with bhadralok (middle-class) values” and to create “not only orderly but also noiseless Bengalis for the jute mills”.

Upendra Kishore Ray Chowdhury too passed away on December 20, 1915. He was a multi-faceted personality, a musician, printing pioneer and entrepreneur. In 1914 he founded the finest printing press in South Asia, called U. Ray and Sons at 100 Garpar Road, Kolkata. He invented accurate and precise methods for printing both black and white as well as coloured photographs and several techniques related to halftone block making. He was a promoter of children’s literature in vernacular which was reflected in his numerous story books that he illustrated himself. He started a children’s magazine Sandesh that enthralled the young minds. He played the violin and composed devotional songs – no 11th Magh is complete without the song Jaago Purobashi – composed by him.

Dr.Sundari Mohan Das, the famous gynaecologist, was born in Sylhet on December 18, 1857. He came to Calcutta and around 1876 founded “Shrihatta Sammilani” with his friends Bipin Chandra Pal, Tarakishore Choudhury, Jaygovinda Shome and some others. The aim of this organisation was to further the social reform in Sylhet – particularly spreading female education. He wrote a book on midwifery and arranged for the training of midwifes so that every Local Board dispensary in the villages of Sylhet district could be provided with a trained person well versed with scientific methods to help at the time of delivery. Sundari Mohan took active part in organising ‘National Education” – particularly in professional courses of technology and medicine. He was the mainstay of National Council of Education and one of the founder members of Bengal Technical Institute (presently Jadavpur University). He established the National Infirmary which later became the National Medical College. Sundari Mohan was a deeply religious man and composed several devotional songs.

December marks the death anniversary of Hemchandra Sarkar. His literary works include such books as “The Religion of the Brahmo Samaj”, “Rammohun Roy – the father of Modern India”, “A Life of Ananda Mohan Bose”, “Life of Sivanath Sastri” etc.  But his most important work is the English version of the Brahmo Dharma. In the preface to the First edition Hemchandra wrote that the work had not been easy. The beauty and grace of the classical Bengali of Maharshi Devendranath was much lost due to the limitations of rendering it in English. The translator had to choose between the claim of the faithfulness to the original text and that of the requirements of the English idioms. Finally it was decided in favour of the former. The translations were not of the original Sanskrit texts but of the Bengali renderings of Maharshi Devendranath. At the dawn of the New Year let our prayer be – May we unite across our diverse nations, cultures, religions, and attitudes to save our planet as we know it. May we awaken to Gratitude and Thankfulness for our existence and our planet and foster a spirit of fraternity with people of different religions. Let Truth Prevail – Satyameva Jayate.

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