Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Warren Hastings and the man who saved his life -- British India

Memorial in Kolkata, Hastings in his toga,with Hindu and Muslim counselors.www.greatmirror.com
Warren Hastings.www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
Success in life can't be achieved by hard work alone. Hard work will definitely put one in a better position to achieve one's  goal. The most important thing to taste success is one should know how to take failures in the right spirit, but at the same time should make every attempt to make the best out of every opportunity available to him. Definitely one's hard work and commitment will bear fruits.

British India.hist106-2010.blogspot.com
 
The founder of the Cossimbazaar house in Bengal (now West Bengal) was one Kali Nath Nandy of Shijna  under Manteshwar police station area, in Burdwan district. His grandson, Radha Krishna Nandy, ran a shop where he sold silk, kites and betel-nuts. His eldest son, Krishna Kanta Nandy, better known as Kanta Babu, rose to power, eminence and wealth under the patronage of Warren Hastings, Governor of Bengal, who first came to Murshidabad in 1753 AD. He was a competent,, controversial and far-sighted administrator that improved the future Angelo Indian relationships. However in the matter of corruption, like Robert Clive the media was highly critical of him.

At that time Cossimbazaar was an important  commercial hub. From Shijna village  Kanta Babu's ancestor's came to Sripur, to try their fortune in trade with the Europeans. There are two views about who first settled at Sripur. Some beleive that it was Kali Nath Nandy, while others believe that it was Kali Nath Nandy's son Sitaram Nandy (father of Radha Krishna Nandy), was the first to settle at Sripur, Cossimbazaar. Let us set aside this debatable issue for a moment.

The Cossimbazaar family was long connected with the silk business, mainly provision of raw silk and silk goods to the English Company. Their silk business focused on foreigners, particularly the British. The first beneficial connection of the family with the new British administration began at the time of Kanta Babu, who was an expert in silk and his expertise in silk material and trade drew the attention of many Europeans. He was good at testing the quality of silk and many people sought his advice. His frequent business dealing with the British company provided an opportunity for him to have close contact with Warren Hasting. Kanta Babu not only won the admiration of Hastings but also earned his trust which led him to appoint Kanta Babu as  a writer as soon as Hastings became a Commercial Resident at Cossimbazaar. 

The intimacy grew so much closer,  that when the new farming system of Hastings (1771-1777 AD) was in force, this enabled Hastings to distribute favors among his favorites. This resulted in the partial suppression of many old zamindars (landlords) of Bengal. Kanta Babu managed to get some of the valuable estates, thanks to Hastings' largesse and munificence  including the rich Baharband  pargana of Rangpur, the first estate in Bengal to be 'permanently settled' with very low revenue demand. The pargana of Baharband was donated by Rani Satyabati  (who left for Benaras), to Rani Bhavani.

While Hastings was  the Commercial Resident of The East India Company at Cossimbazaar,  the relationship between the English company and Siraj-ud-Daulah, then Nawab Nazim of Bengal was at the lowest ebb.  There was rampant corruption among the EIC officials  and Hastings, being corrupt, never paid attention to this menace. Infuriated Siraj ordered the  arrest of Hastings for extortion and bribery as the nefarious activities went far beyond the limits of tolerance. . At that point of time after Clive, many British officers did not have clean hands and wanted to become rich overnight. On orders from Nawob Siraj, the settlement was seized and Hastings sent as prisoner to Murshidabad. However, Hastings on the way, managed to escape  while the Nawab was marching on to Calcutta. A re-capture was ordered and the Nawob's soldiers were on the look out for Hastings whose position became serious. Undaunted, Hastings took counsel with Kanta Babu, who was known to him in connection with his employment in the East India Company's affairs. Hastings was sheltered in Kanta Babu's house and then taken in a boat down to Calcutta. In this regard Kanta Babu took enormous risk. Had he been caught in sheltering the enemy of Nawob, he would have been hanged to death. In appreciation of this sincere and daring service rendered him at the right time, Hastings promised Kanta Babu to advance him in life when circumstances should be favorable.

After the battle of Plassey, Warren Hastings was appointed Agent of the East India Company in the court of Mir Jafar, the puppet Nawob of Bengal installed by the East India company. In 1761 AD he was promoted to the office of member of council in Calcutta and later he returned to England in 1764 AD. In 1769 AD, he returned to India as member of council at Madras,south India and subsequently in 1772 AD, he succeeded Mr. Cartier as  the Governor of Bengal. No sooner had he been appointed as the Governor of Bengal in 1772, than Warren Hastings sent for Kanta Babu, and employed him as his ''Banyan'' ( business agent ). About this time Kanta Babu was directly, or indirectly, the superintendent of several highly productive Zamindaries. But being not well versed in Zamindary he was associated with Dewan Ganga Gobinda Sinha, the founder of the Kandhi Raj Family. Ganga Gobind Sinha rendered most valuable assistance to his friend Kanta Babu. For the purpose of keeping always near him, he had built a house at Charakdanga near Pathuriaghata,later known as Lala Babu's house.

In 1775 AD (Bengali: 1181 ), the Zamindary of Baharband was forcibly acquired by Hastings and was given to Lokenath son of Kanta Babu on Lease. Later in 1179 AD (Bengali 3 bhadra 1183 ) the lease was settled on Rs 82,639. By the year 1773 AD, Kanta Babu possessed, or was concerned in the Zamindary of no less than 19 parganas or districts, in different parts of Bengal. The united rent-roll of which was:  in 1776 AD, it was 13,88,346.00, rupees; and in 1777 AD the last year of the existing or near settlement, it was 14,11,885.00 rupees. At the end of the second year, he was allowed to relinquish three of the farms, on which there was an increasing rent.

When on 14 August 1781 AD, Hastings marched against Raja Chait Singh  King of Kashi ( Benares), Kanta Babu accompanied him as his Dewan. Chait Singh was defeated; Kanta Babu influenced Hastings to Protect Panna, the Queen of Chait Singh and other women from oppression, and provided a safe passage for them. Queen Panna felt gratified and gifted Kanta Babu jewelries and offered a Lakshmi-Narayan Sila ( statue made of shaligrama), a Dakshinavarta Shankh  ("right-turned" conch shell or  valampuri sangu (which is a rare one) and a one faced Rudraksha worn my pious Hindus . On his return, Hastings bestowed upon Kanta Babu a jaghir, in Ghazipur, and obtained from the then Nawab Nazim the title of "Maharaja Bahadur", for his son Lokenath. Kanta Babu received as a present the Sang-i-dalan (Marble Hall) of Benares. This was removed and re-erected at the Cossimbazaar Palace. The Lakshmi-Narayan Sila (statue) was installed at his Palace. The Sila, Shankh and Rudraksha are preserved at the Garbhagriha ("womb chamber" or the innermost sanctum of a Hindu temple where resides the idol or icon of the primary deity of the temple) of the Cossimbazaar Palace Lakshmi-Narayan Temple.

Kanta Babu died in 1778 AD (Pous 1185 B.S.), leaving a vast property in several districts of Bengal, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Burdwan, Nadia, Birbhum, Pabna (in Bangladesh), Murshidabad, Faridpur (in Bangladesh), Rajshahi (in Bangladesh), Bogra (in Bangladesh), and the 24 Parganas, besides the jagir in Ghazipur. All these were bestowed on Kanta Bubu by a British  officer of great repute as a token of his gratitude to him who saved his life risking his own.