Located on 166 BB Ganguly Street, near Sealdah, the massive building of Basumati Sahitya Mandir, with prominent Rajasthani architectural features from its portal onwards, has an intimate link with the educational and literary history of Bengal. Built in an unusual style, the building is adorned with an image of Goddess Saraswati playing her Veena, at the top of the pediment above the terrace and under it are written the words in stucco in Bengali: ‘Basumati Sahitya Mandir, Established by Upendranath Mukhopadhyay in 1287’.
The date or the purpose of construction of the huge building with massive area, situated right in the heart of the city and very near to an important railway station in the city, is not really known, but according to an article that appeared in the golden jubilee issue of the Dainik Basumati newspaper in 1964, the owners of this building were Dutch and one of the residents of the building was Olinto Ghilardi, who was Abanindrnath’s art teacher. In 1864, the Director of Public Instruction of Bengal government took over charge of the Society for the Promotion of Industrial Art and the institution was shifted to this building.
The building owned by three foreigners, housed the Bengal National College during the month of June 1907, when it shifted to this building from a rented house at 191/1, Bowbazar Street. In fact, the college shifted to this building before the completion of the first year of its inception, due to shortage of space resulted from the regular increasing number of students. The building was taken on a lease of five years by the college at a rent of Rupees four hundred and fifty per month. The Bengal National College has a special importance in the history of the educational system in the undivided Bengal, as it was founded as the outcome of the mass protest against the autocratic rule imposed by the British to control the prevailing education system of the country.
(To know more about the Bengal National College, interested persons are free to visit –
Bengal National College)
Subsequently, the building was purchased by Upendranath Mukhopadhyay, who in 1881 started the Basumati Sahitya Mandir, as a publishing house in Beadon Street, with the blessings of Sri Ramakrishna. Later he shifted his workplace to Grey Street and finally settled in this building on Bowbazar Street.
In1895, inspired by the renowned journalist and writer Vivekananda Mukhopadhyay, the publishing house started publishing ‘Weekly Basumati’, a digest of the news from all over the world and the 'Dainik Basumati' the Bengali daily newspaper started publications from 6th Aug way back in 1914. Along with the daily newspaper, Basumati Sahitya Mandir used to publish classics of Bengali and world literature and its monthly magazine, enriched with the contributions of the famous writers of Bengali literature, was a literary treasure trove.
In 1961, the Basumati Sahitya Mandir ran into internal problems and was acquired by Asoke Kumar Sen, the then Union Law Minister in 1962.Unfortunately, in 1970, the publication of Dainik Basumati was suspended and the Basumati Corporation Limited closed down. Though it reopened in 1971, the publishing house was acquired by the Government of West Bengal in 1974. The Basumati stopped its operations in Calcutta in September 1992 and moved to Siliguri, only to stop the publication in 2003.
Even today, the wooden staircase leads to the editorial offices and on the first floor facing the terrace is a huge stained-glass panel with rectangular sections, depicting Indian motifs like lotuses, the swastika, the globe, and a portrait of Upendranath, the founder of the Basumati Sahitya Mandir. Fortunately, the huge building, which is the witness of many historical incidents, is properly maintained by the local government, only the colour scheme is changed from saffron to light and deep blue.