GUWAHATI, Oct 4 - The migration of Bengalee Hindu people to Assam started during the reign of the Ahom Swargadeos. Those who came to Assam then, have now totally assimilated with the State’s indigenous society. However, those who had come to Assam after the 1826 Yandaboo Treaty as officers, clerks, lawyers, physicians, school teachers, professors etc., maintained their Bengalee identity, said noted writer Kumudeswar Hazarika.
Still, he maintained that those late comers also played a major role in the development of the State’s society in the socio-cultural, socio-religious, socio-economic and other spheres. In due course of time, many of those families left the State for other parts of the country and abroad.
While talking about the old Bengalee families of Gauhati (now Guwahati), one must start with Joy Shankar Guha (a witness to the Yandaboo Treaty), Radha Krishna Saraswati (the first exporter of Assam’s eri, muga and paat clothes), Gopal Krishna Dey, Rai Bahadur Kali Charan Sen, Rai Bahadur Mahendra Mohan Lahiri, Lalit Mohan Lahiri, Suresh Das Gupta, Upen Sen, Kunja Behari Banerjee, Pabitra Gupta and Durga Mohan Lahiri, who were the leading lights of the Gauhati Bengalees.
Following the establishment of Cotton College in 1901, Babu Chunilal Dey, Lakshminarayan Chatterjee, Bhuban Mohan Sengupta, PC Roy among others, who were academicians of high calibre, came to Gauhati and they were the galaxies of the entire Gauhati town, apart from being gems among the Gauhati Bengalees.
The old Bengalee families of Gauhati used to live in and around Panbazar. Except Prof PC Roy, other Bengalee professors stayed in Gauhati permanently after their retirement. The Durga Puja held at the residence of Prof Chunilal Dey, on the western side of the Panbazar Nagpota (Nagkota) Pukhuri, was a famous one.
Rai Bahadur Kalicharan Sen was regarded to be the banker of the Assamese people of Gauhati, because of his trustworthiness. Kunja Behari Banerjee’s Phansi (Fancy) Bazar shop was very popular and known as Kunja Thakuror Dokan (Kunja Thakur’s Shop), which sold all grocery items and items required for Hindu religious rituals.
Kunja Behari Banerjee, Kalicharan Sen and two prominent Assamese, Rai Bhuban Ram Das Bahadur and Rajani Choudhury were the founders of the Panbazar Hari Sabha.
Rai Bahadur Mahendra Mohan Lahiri was the third Indian chairman of the Gauhati Municipal Board. Late Kiranmoy Lahiri, son of Gauhati’s prominent pleader Hemanta Lahiri, rose to the post of Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court. Prabodh Lahiri, brother of Hemanta Lahiri, was also a prominent lawyer. He was one of the founders of the Gauhati (now Guwahati) Town Club.
The residence of Dhiren Deb was located to the west of Hemanta Lahiri’s. He was a nationalist businessman and founder of Gauhati Dairy and Deb Brothers, two famous business establishments of old Gauhati.
Dhiren Deb was also the linkman between Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the Assam Congress leaders during the former’s visit to Gauhati in 1937. He organised Netaji’s meetings with the Assam Congress leaders.
Dwijendra Mohan Lahiri was the founder of the Durga Mohan Homeo Hall at Sukreswar. His son Late Pulak Lahiri was a reputed sports organiser and sports journalist.
Radha Kishore Saraswati’s family member Ramesh Saraswati was a good actor and sports organiser of Gauhati and for several years he was a member of the Gauhati Municipal Board.
There was a famous pleader named Yasawanta Dey, after whom the Panbazar Yasawanta Road was named. Kali Prasanna Bhattacharjee, a pleader living in the Yasawanta Road locality, created a record in pleading for the longest period in the Gauhati courts. His son, renowned theatre and cine personality Kulada Bhattacharjee, is now a resident of Rehabari Milanpur. Hemanta Guha and Prafulla Guha of Panbazar were not only renowned footballers, but also prominent citizens of Gauhati. Prafulla Guha was one of the founders of the Indian Club (now India Club) of Gauhati.
Joychandra Guha’s descendents Girija Shankar, Abhay Shankar and Bhaba Shankar were leading citizens of Gauhati. Panchugopal Mukherjee, who resided in his Mukherjee Lodge on the eastern side of the Sadar Thana (now Panbazar Police Station), was the first Indian district magistrate of undivided Assam.