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Kolkata still misses Simla Street, Biley


CS BHATTACHARJEE | Kolkata, January 12, 2012 18:41
Tags : swami vivekananda | biley | naren | simla street | deretona village |

Much before Job Churnok's entry in India, the Simla Street of north Kolkata was known for its open field of Shimultala, surrounded by Shimul trees (organic name Salmalia malabarica), said historian Abul Kashem adding that it was previously a small village known as Shimulia.

The entire street is now known as Gaur Mohan Mukherjee Street. Now, one won’t find out the Simla Street, where Dutts used to reside and Naren alias ‘Biley’ was born 150 years ago. Naren is known to the world as Swami Vivekananda.

Duttas actually belong to Dariatona or Deretona village of Bainchigram in Hooghly, where small part of the Duttas still resides.

A High School has eaten up a part of the grand old-but-partially dilapidated building. A plaque at the school proudly announces the linkage with with that portion of the land and Vivekananda’s family. Ramsundar Dutta, the grandson of Ramjivan Dutta the founder of the Dutta clan of Garh Govindapur (Govindapur Fort), moved to Simla in Kolkata first to settle. Presumably, Ramsundar moved out from the then flourished Bainchigram to marshy lands of Kolkata, in search of his fate after severe food crisis and draught affected the district.

Though Vivekananda never visited, his father Biswanath Dutta's relatives and Deretona. Naren alias Biley born in the house built by his grand father Durga Prasad. He was sixth of his 10 siblings. His brother Bhupendra Nath is also a revered character in Bengal and India’s freedom struggle whose several disciples later joined Communist movement in India.

The dilapidated building at 3 GaurMohan Mukherjee is now a heritage building and museum under the supervision of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. It has got a new look with the mixed help of financial assistance of the State and Union government and Archeological Survey of India to restore its glory. Now it is not only a museum but also a cultural and research centre. This holy place is more of a notable place for the Ramakrishna-Vivekandaites in the city.

One would have to enter the building walking past the dingy Gour Mohan Mukherjee Lane and negotiate the staircases to reach the first floor to reach spot where Vivekannada was born. Between this small walk he/she would leave behind the photo exhibition which unfolds the glorious past of Bengal Renaissance which helped Naren to become Swami Vivekananda.

Naren’s devotion to Lord Shiva was also a natural gift. After his parents lost three of the first five children at infancy, Biswanath Dutta took help of a relative to bring a Bishweswara Shiva idol from Benaras. His wife Bhubaneshwari Devi gave birth to Naren after establishing the idol in their house. She named Naren as Bishweswara which colloquially became ‘Biley’. Naren was too naughty and for why, sometimes, he had to face confinement in a small room.It is known that his mother used to pour water on him and utter ‘Shiva Shiva’ just to cool him down. This story is also written on the wall of this house.

Naren used to play ‘Tapasya’ with his friends of the locality. It is stated once, while he was observing Tapasya, a snake entered and calmly walks past through his body. His friends, being afraid of the snake, ran away; but Naren had no knowledge of the whole episode. The Mission authority renovated the room and decorated the room with meditating Naren and a snake.

Vivekananda was not only a music lover but also devotee of music. He used to sign with Tanpura and used to play Tabla, Khol and Pakhwaj well. The musical instruments he used are exhibited in a room at ground floor. A mural would attract several eyes where a flying child is whispering something to a Sadhu in a meditation pose.

According to the narrators of the Math, the Devsishu (Angel) divulging the secret truth of Seven Births to the meditating Sadhu. It is known that Vivekananda and Tagore, despite living nearby and of same age, doesn’t share good relations. However, Shilpacharya Nandalal Bose, one of the most trusted man of Tagore and Head of Art department of Viswa Bharati University during Tagore, used to maintain close relations. This is evident from the larger than life facsimiles of Nandalal Bose’s letters, which also bears the artistic signature of Prof. Bose.

Swamy Vivekananda last visited this house in 1902, the year he took his last breath. Even he visited his ancestral house several times after leaving the home as a Sanyasi which is quite un-common for the saints. Usually Saints left everything behind. But he visited as he could not leave behind his attachment with the house. Even he admitted this in of his poems.

Vivekananda not only visited but stood on the podium of a Court Room to support his mother and brothers in a case related to that building. Later he even borrowed huge money to repurchase the house to give a secured shelter for his mother and siblings. Whatever the love and affection he has for the house that could not keep him there during the final journey.

Before his death, he was taken to Roy Villa at Lebong, Darjeeling, the house bought by Nivedita, but finally he returned at Belur Math, founded by him and breathed his last there. The Simla Street House finally gone to Ramkrishna Math and now open for the public.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017