Photo Story: History in Shambles – Prabartak Sangha, Chandannagar

by Shoubhik Bandyopadhyay


Shoubhik Bandyopadhyay is a tourism professional and a faculty member cum resource person in the Department of Tourism at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyamandira, Belur Math. He is an avid traveller and photographer and has recently come on board with Heritage Walk Calcutta as a consultant.


The Prabartak Sangha in Boraichanditala, Chandannagar, Hooghly. It is a Hindu religious institution known for its social work, founded by Motilal Roy (Born: 5th January 1883; Died: 10th April, 1959), an eminent freedom fighter and social reformer in 1920 who was greatly influenced by Rishi Aurobindo Ghosh, the famous Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet and nationalist.

(Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir – dilapidated rearview. This philanthropic organisation was initiated with the aim of nation-building which it sought to achieve through the social and economic upliftment of the masses. This organisation played a nationalistic role in British India through its social reforms. (Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir – interior view. The Prabartak Sangha ventured into business, ran educational institutions and established cultural centres to spread the message of its founder. (Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir – view of the shrine with an image of Rishi Aurobindo in the forefront. As the town of Chandannagar on the banks of the Hooghly River was under French governance at that time, the Prabartak Sangha acted as a popular shelter for freedom fighters who dedicated their life for the Independence of India from the hands of the British with active support of Sri Motilal Roy. Many eminent freedom fighters and dignitaries like Charu Chandra Roy, Srish Chandra Ghosh, Rashbehari Basu, Aurobindo Ghosh, Mahatma Gandhi, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Shyamaprasad Mukhopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam and others visited this place. (Photo: Author)



Photograph of Motilal Ray, Founder of Prabartak Ashrama, placed on tiger skin which was used by him. Motilal Roy primarily participated in the fight for Indian Independence with his involvement in the Anti-Partition Movement in Bengal (Bango Bhango Andolon) in 1905. He was also involved in transporting arms to jailed freedom fighter Kanailal Dutta for carrying out their fight for Independence. (Photo: Author)



The present state of this historic building in ruins. This temple was built 200 years ago much earlier than the Dakshineswar Temple and was completed in the year 1819 by Srimati Gourmoni Devi, after the death of her husband Biswanath Sarkar. Surrounding this temple, two other Pancharatna style temples along with ten Shiva temples were also built however six of such temples have been completely destroyed by now and cease to exist. (Photo: Author)



Dilapidated remains of the room on the first floor of Prabartak Ashrama Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir. Motilal Ray lived here and he was regularly visited by eminent revolutionaries of the Indian Freedom Movement. (Photo: Author)



Remains of Shiva temple at Prabartak Ashrama, Chandannagar.

(Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir – Nat Mandira used for daily worship by the boarders. A saint named Ram ji Abadhut, also known as Nrisingha Das Babaji later came to stay in this temple and worked on its restoration. After Sri Motilal Roy took control of this temple much later, he decided against worshipping of any deity inside it however accepting the advice of Sri Abanindranath Tagore, placed an Omkar on top of a silver Kalash on a raised platform. (Photo: Author)



Oil Painting Inside Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir, Prabartak Sangha, Chandannagar. This temple transpired into a universal place of worship of all faiths and came to be known as Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir. (Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha from inside the complex. The Prabartak Apanalay, a shelter for orphan children function today in the building adjacent to this temple at the Prabartak Sangha however is in serious want of funds for its unhindered functioning in the future. (Photo: Author)



Orphan children gather at the courtyard of Prabartak Sangha for daily activities. (Photo: Author)



Hostel for orphan boys at Prabartak Sangha, Chandannagar.

(Photo: Author)



Prabartak Sangha Complex inside view. What remains of this place of historical interest is also in a pitiable condition with an inevitable chance of being completely demolished soon unless an immediate effort to restore it to its past glory is undertaken. (Photo: Author)



Dining hall for the boarding school children at Prabartak Ashrama, Chandannagar. (Photo: Author)



A playful young boarder at Prabartak Ashrama Apanalaya (Home for Destitute Children). It has been noted recently that there has been some concern raised for upkeep and restoration of several buildings that speak of the colonial influences of the town of Chandannagar however the temple of Prabartak Sangha is mute testimony to the days of Indian freedom struggle against British colonisation, attention to which should be of primary importance to everyone. (Photo: Author)



The ancestral house of Motilal Ray, Chandannagar. (Photo: Author)



Rishi Aurobindo Ghosh lived in confinement for forty-two days in this room at the house of Motilal Roy before leaving for Pondicherry by boat sailing through the River Hooghly that flowed nearby.

(Photo: Author)



Archival image of the visit of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore at Prabartak Sangha, Chandannagar. An annual Fair adjacent to the premises of the Yoga & Brahma Vidya Mandir of Prabartak Sangha in Goswami Ghat Chandannagar during Akshaya Tritiya was organised every year and Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore visited the place in the year 1927 accepting the invitation of its founder. (from Prabartak Archives)



Prabartak Ashram, with its immensely rich history of associations with the Indian Freedom Movement, is screaming for attention. Without immediate conservation intervention, it might be too late to protect this at-risk heritage.

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