The vintage building of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad is a blink-and-miss structure on Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road. Receiving zero publicity, it is funded by the West Bengal Government Department of Higher Education, the Science and Technology Centre and the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi and is a storehouse of the exquisite sculpture and literary work of Bengal.
Established in 1893, when Bengal was still ruled by Rajas, the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, formerly known as the Bengal Academy of Literature, aimed at translating valuable works in other languages to Bengali and encouraging original works in Bengali.
Busts and Portraits
The lobby houses busts and portraits of iconic figures such as Nabin Chandra Sen, Debendra Nath Thakur, Hemendra Bandopadhyay and Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose. Stairways across the library lead to the first and second floors, where the museum is located.
Sahityik Smarok Kokkho
The gallery on the first floor is known as the Sahityik Smarok Kokkho. It has an expansive memorabilia collection of prominent personalities such as a charaka of Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, an award plate of Ramendra Sundar Tribedi, a portrait of Hara Prasad Shastri and apparel of Byomkesh Mustafi.
Ramesh Chandra Dutta was the first president of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad. The museum has preserved his scrapbook, photograph and apparel. Among the most significant collections are a chair and table belonging to Nabin Chandra Sen, Bipin Chandra Pal’s letters and photographs, and Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay’s letters to his readers. To suddenly come across Bankim Chandra’s carved chair is a thrilling moment. You can view the huge oval table used by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, and artefacts belonging to Raja Ram Mohan Roy and other stalwarts of the Bengal Renaissance.
On display are rare photographs and letters of Rabindranath Tagore as also a rich collection of manuscripts from various parts of Bengal such as Prembhaktichandrika, Sri Krishna Braja Bilas, Prasanna Raghab Natak, Teertha Mangala, Manasa Mangala, Mahabharata Adi Parba, Bhagabata, Karishma Mangala, Dharma Sankeertana, Mrigalubdha and Abalokiteswara Puja Paddhati.
This gallery houses stone sculptures from the 11th through 13th centuries. The select collection of granite sculptures of Surya, Vishnu and other deities transcends time.
Sri Pranab Mukherjee received medals, accolades and mementos from various countries as President of India which he donated to the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad. Equally jaw-dropping are the autobiography and introspection of the visionary Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, handwritten in pencil, and a certificate awarded to him by Nikhil Banga College and University.
Satabarshiki Pradarsho Kokkho (The Centenary Gallery)
The Centenary Gallery on the second floor is for the Ethnic Arts and dedicated to the memory of the two pioneers, Rakhaldas Banerji and Manmohan Ganguly. There are clay and terracotta dolls from far-flung places in Bengal such as Chaltaberia, Majilpur, Shantipur, Nabadwip, Tehatta, Haspur, Haringhata, Bantul, Tantiberia, Prashasta and Dewantala.
The Bishnu De-Raghunath Goswami Collections
There are attractively-coloured saras hand-painted in vegetable dyes collected from Taherpur, Duttapukur, Kumartuli and Toofanganj and also exquisite Benarasi, Murshidabadi, Baluchari and Kantha silk sarees. The unique Dasavatara and Naksha Tash (playing cards) and some of the Pat paintings were contributed by Raghunath Goswami.
The mesmerising Shola and Naturegram (wood work) idol of Durga is a contribution of Bishnu De. It was earlier worshipped at Selimpur Sarbojanin and then included in the museum’s collection. The Durga Chal, Durga Pat and Pathuriaghata Durga are some other assets of the museum.
The Sudhir Kumar Mitra Collection
This fascinating section has traditional temple terracotta relics, votive plaques of Bodh Gaya and enamel bricks of Gaur and Pandua. It also showcases wooden statues, dolls, toys and masks, as well as metal statues, relics and crowns. Preserved with pride is the local handicraft of Bengal such as the ‘dakershaj’ of Goddess Durga and contemporary figurines from Birbhum and Bankura.
The Third Gallery
An adjacent gallery displays kitchen and utility items of 19th century Bengal. It is enthralling to see the vintage musical instruments, puja articles, decorative pieces, toiletries, household adornments and weighing balance that were once used by our forefathers.
The Vidyasagar Collection
The Bangiya Sahitya Parishad has preserved all the books collected and read by Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, who will be completing 200 years in 2020. There are more than 3000 books, in 22 almirahs, including books on Homeopathy, child care and hygiene, democracy, folklore, phrenology, psychology and Hindu, Greek, French and English Philosophy, all published in English apart from a few hundred Bengali and Sanskrit books!
“The Bangiya Sahitya Parishad building is a museum in itself, housing Bengal’s rich heritage and preserving some of the choicest collections of Bengal’s literary and cultural work. We would like the government to make it a tourist spot,” says an enthusiastic Ratan Kumar Nandi, Secretary, Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Kolkata.
Bangiya Sahitya Parishad Museum
243/1, Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road, Sahitya Parishad, Maniktala, Kolkata- 700006
Entry Fee: Free
Timing: 12:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Parking: In vicinity