Tribute – Beni Madhab Das

Beni Madhab Das was born on 22th November, 1866, in Sarowatoli, Chittagong, in the then Bengal Province of British India to Shri Hrishna Chandra Das. He passed away on 2nd September 1952, at Calcutta.

Beni Madhab Das was a great erudite scholar, an inspiring teacher and above all a great patriot. Beni Madhab Das earned his post-graduate degree in Philosophy and joined the Chittagong College, which he converted into a model institution. He was initially a lecturer in the Government Colleges and later became the Head Master of Government Schools. During his career he served variously at

C h i t t a g o n g , D h a k a , C u t t a c k , Krishnanagar and Calcutta. Beni Madhab was influenced by Keshab Chandra Sen and joined the Brahmo Samaj in his youth. He was associated with the publications of the Brahmo Samajes, namely the Indian Messenger published by Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and the Nabavidhan published by the New Dispensation.

Beni Madhab Das was an ideal teacher and could teach Economics and History as well as his specialisation, Philosophy. He was a great inspiration and role model to his students, among whom was Subhash Chandra Bose. In his autobiography ‘ An Indian Pilgrimaje’ Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose has written ‘When the Head Master Beni Madhab spoke, his words seemed to pierce through my soul… Then I ceased to listen but continued t o g a z e a t h i s i m p a s s i o n e d countenance which spoke volumes to me. There was an impression, a glow which I had seen in the portraits of

Keshab Chandra Sen. And no wonder, since he was Keshab Chandra’s ardent disciple and devotee. One great thing I learnt from him – to love nature and be i n s p i r e d b y h e r , n o t m e r e l y aesthetically, but ethically as well. ‘Surrender yourself completely to nature’ he would write and ‘let nature speak to you through her Protean mask’. This sort of contemplation had given me peace of mind, joy and strength of will’

Shri Niranjan Neogi, a Brahmo and a teacher who was associated with him at both Cuttack and Krishnanagar praised his administrative capabilities which were efficient as well as benevolent. According to Neogi ‘There was no harshness in his administration, no pompous display surrounding it, his cool and charming behaviour used to have a remarkable influence on his students. Even those who were turbulent calmed down, became respectful towards him and were endeared to his affections.’

Beni Madhab was married to Smt. Sarala Devi, daughter of Madhusudan Sen, who served as the Secretary of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. He shifted his base later to Dhaka. Sarala Devi was involved in social work and her husband helped her in her efforts. He assisted her in running a home for destitute women that came to be known as Sarala Punyashram. His daughters Kalyani Das (Bhattacharya) and Bina Das (Bhowmik) took part in the freedom struggle. Kalyani Das organised the Chhatri sangha and Bina Das was exiled for her attempt to shoot at the Governor of Bengal Stanley Jackson.

Beni Madhab Das he was the President of the All-India Theistic Conference held in Kakinara in 1923. His speech was published as a booklet. We are publishing this speech in a serialised form from the present issue of the Indian Messenger. His book of essays ‘Pilgrimage Through Prayers’ received critical acclaim.

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