Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan

Tripoto
6th Jul 2019
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Day 1

Netaji Bhawan (Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Memorial House), Lala Lajpath Rai Sarani (38/2 Elgin Road), Bhowanipore, Calcutta

16 December, 1941. On that fateful night, A 1937-German Wanderer Sedan with the registration no. BLA 7169 left the quiet house on the 38/2 Elgin Road, Kolkata. If anyone was to notice, or as a matter of fact noticed, this incredible feat being pulled off that night, they would be unfortunately unaware that they are witnessing one of the greatest episode in the history of India and her struggle for Independence. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, one of the greatest leaders of the freedom struggle just escaped from the clutches of the imperialistic British Empire, and went to organize what came to be the last war for Independence of India.

Years have passed by. India gained her independence in year 1947. Netaji wasn’t there at the time, no one ever came to knew what happened of the first soldier of the last war of Indian Independence struggle. But he left behind a rich plethora of legacy and heritage. Among one of those most significant remnants of Netaji’s memories, was the house painted in yellow, red and green, standing elegantly as ever, as boldly and vividly as the great leader himself. Also, the house contains the iconic Wanderer BLA-7169, which saw the great escape of Netaji on the night of 16 December, 1941. Let me take you, dear readers, by means of this article, on a journey through the various phases of Netaji’s life and struggle, which has been very beautifully and intricately exhibited inside the iconic house.

A Bronze bust of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, stands defiantly in front of his ancestral home

Photo of Elgin Road, Gaza Park, Sreepally, Bhowanipore, Calcutta, West Bengal, India by Adarshjit Das

The Entrance to the house of the Great Leader

Photo of Elgin Road, Gaza Park, Sreepally, Bhowanipore, Calcutta, West Bengal, India by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Elgin Road, Gaza Park, Sreepally, Bhowanipore, Calcutta, West Bengal, India by Adarshjit Das

38/2, Elgin Road, Kolkata - The Name board of the iconic house reads, Netaji Bhawan

Photo of Elgin Road, Gaza Park, Sreepally, Bhowanipore, Calcutta, West Bengal, India by Adarshjit Das

Formerly named as Elgin Road, the current road renamed as Lala Lajpath Sarani, has modernized very vividly. bustling urban scenes, with a touch of history which is felt all throught Kolkata. Netaji's House is situated almost in the center of the road, facing opposite to a popular hangout for locals, a shopping complex. Probably this particular area gives a very good contrast of history facing modernity. Netaji Bhawan is quite easily accessible in the every booming and bustling city of Kolkata, as it is quite near to the Rabindra Sadan Metro Station and hence has a good metro connectivity.

As I neared the gates of Netaji Bhawan, my eyes were graced by the beautiful bronze bust of Netaji Bose. The Gate bore a name plate in marble along one of the gate post which had a title written in Bengali, which translated to, "38/2 Netaji Bhawan". The external appearance of the house with its traditional pillars and porticos is of a typical 20th century Bengali house. A marble plaque bearing the name of J.N.Bose, Netaji's father, is present the front entrance. I felt my goosebumps and heart pounding with excitement as I entered through the gates in the very home of man, whom me and many numerous Indians have come to worship as the liberator of India. As we enter through the gate, there will be a room on the right side, which sells the tickets for the museum inside the house. This room houses a book shop too, which sells books relevant to Netaji's life and struggle. The ticket cost is very nominal, at the rate of ₹10 ($0.14, €0.13, £0.11). The person responsible for handling out the tickets and taking care of the book shop was really very much soft spoken and considerate. He spoke to for a few moments about the history and current scenario of the Netaji Bhawan and Museum complex. The Place is maintained by the Netaji Research Bureau(NRB), established in 1957 by Netaji's nephew, Dr. Sisir Kumar Bose, who accompanied Netaji during his daring escape till the Gomoh Phase of his escapade. The aims and objective of the NRB, obviously is to maintain the legacy and studies on Netaji's Life, struggles and teachings, and also cover the whole range of historical studies and research on the Indian independence movement, anti-colonial liberation struggles in Asia and related subjects. He also told me that the money collected from selling the books from the room, is completely contributed as funding for the NRB's works. I was really enthralled and grateful to Mr. Madan, for sharing this priceless information. I myself bought two books, "Brothers against the Raj" by author Leonard A. Gordon and "The Nation as a Mother", "His Majesty's Opponent" by author Sugata Bose, one of Netaji's own grand nephew, the Son of Sisir Kumar Bose. Thanking Mr. Madan for this beautiful conversation, I proceeded towards the inner areas of the house. Just a few steps from the ticket room-cum-book store, there was a very important exhibit at display inside a glass box, an exhibit which felt like a time machine. It was the very same sedan car which stole Netaji away from British clutches, The 1937 Model Wanderer BLA-7169. I was thrilled with the sight. I was froze to the ground admiring the car which had played such an important role in the story of Indian Independence. The car was renovated to working condition by the automobile giant, Audi and inaugurated by the then president of India, Pranab Mukherjee on January 18, 2017.

The Car which is a very significant part of the story of our Freedom Struggle

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

Turning away from the car, I entered the house through its main door. A flight of stairs led me to the upper floor. The interiors were maintained very intricately and passionately to provide the visitors a feel of the pre-independence period, with wooden staircases and floorings. The house had two accessible floors. As we climb up the wooden stairs, we come through to Netaji's bedroom on the first floor. A protective glass barrier secures the legendary room, The room is kept as just as it had been on the night of 16 January 1941,when Netaji made his great escape from India. Netaji's Father, Janakinath Bose's large bed, Netaji's own simple cot, clock, clothes, shoes, and also his Ayurvedic medicines and copy of Shree Madbhagwat Gita have been preserved with a very proffessional touch. The next room contains articles and furniture used by Netaji's elder brother (Mejdada), Sarat Chandra Bose. Also in this floor is, Netaji's office room which belongs and potrays the period of his term as Indian National Congress President. The room is still painted in the colors of the Indian tricolour. His working desk, revolving chair, book-shelves with the books, etc. is displayed.

The Wooden Flight of Stairs leading to the upper floors from the main door

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

Netaji's Room. The Large bead with red sheet belonged to JN Bose, while the smaller simpler cot with green sheets belonged to Netaji

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

The daily vessels and commodities used by Netaji

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

Netaji's Office during his INC Presidentship

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

Sarat Chandra Bose's Bedroom

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

The top floor contains a treasure of numerous photographs, documents and articles relating to Netaji's life and work arranged in systematic, chronological order. The Exhibits begin from the page from Janakinath's personal diary recording the great leader's birth at mid-day on the 23rd January, 1897. As we proceed, we see the transition of Subhas growing gradually adolescent with a mystic air, student at University of Cambridge, a patriot, prisoner at Mandalay jail, G.O.C of the Volunteer Corps at Calcutta in 1928. Also in display are his original passports and mementos. The next exhibit, takes us through the journey of Netaji, his transition to Netaji from Subhash. We see his visits to the several European cities, meets important personalities like Hitler and Mussolini, and his setting up of various Indian Associations. The clothing used by him in Europe are kept in the exhibits cases. There are several pictures of Bose's meetings with European Personalities. The Postage stamps printed by Free India Centre can be recognized. Azad Hind journals and Indian translations of German military papers are exhibited. The perilous submarine, first submarine to submarine transfer, the journey from Kiel to Sabang is boldly illustrated.

We then walk across the corridor to the Asia Room. The historic story of the Indian National Army and its brave assault on the north-western frontier of India, through the now northeastern states, unfolds before us. Netaji's diplomacy with Japanese leaders, the proclamation of the Azad Hind Government, the Greater East Asia Conference, Netaji's visits to the Andaman islands and its successful liberation and the Indo-Burma front, are told in pictures, through the immortal photographs. The supreme commander's cap and top-boots, the desk used by him in Singapore and even the garland he received on 21 October 1943 have been obtained for the museum.

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

It was little past 3:45 pm in the late afternoon, when I climbed down the stairs retracing my path back, outside the house. I came out again facing the wanderer car in its glass display arena. On my left hand side was the way to exit the house, surpassing the same ticket room, while on the other, right hand side was the other quarters of the Bose house. I casually walked towards the alley way, I found another important and interesting thing. It was the stairs on the rear-side of the house, the one which was used by Netaji to escape in utter secrecy and like a shadow. The marble plaque on the foundation pillars of the stairs bore the sentence, "Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose used this staircase for his secret departure from this house on the night of 16-17 January, 1941. The Car in which he was driven by Sisir Kumar Bose to Gomoh was parked close to the Landing". It was surreal as I imagined myself standing right there and witnessing the great feat unfold on that night.

Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das
Photo of Heritage Houses of Kolkata - 1 : Netaji Bhawan by Adarshjit Das

At about 4:00 pm in the evening, I finally decided it was time to trace back my steps towards the exit gate. As I exited, I had one last look at the house of one of the greatest leader of our country, as I waved down a kolkata's iconic yellow taxis.