House of Henry Louis Derozio - Captivating Calcutta
28-01-2019    83 times
House Henry Louis Derozio

It was near our residence and a few steps from Entally Market, towards Moulali. We used to call it Rajbari. However, it never occurred to us to ask anybody about the identity of the Raja or his kingdom. Actually, we were interested only about the backyard of the majestic red-brick building, decorated with beautiful marble statues. There was a little playground over there, and during summer days we used to play in a six-a-side football tournament on that ground. Much later, we came to know that, Henry Louis Derozio was born in that massive building on 18 April 1809 and the first seeds of Bengal Renaissance were sowed in the said house, located at 155A, AJC Bose Road.

Henry Louis Derozio was born on 18 April 1809 at Entally in Calcutta. His father Francis Derozio was a respected man in the Anglo-Indian community. However, their original family name was 'De Rozario'. The Derozios had their family residence on Lower Circular Road, which is now nestled between the Entally Market and a row of shops on AJC Bose Road, Calcutta.

house of henry derozio

From his early teens, Derozio started to write poems and by the age of 14, his first poem was published in the India Gazette. On May 1826, at the tender age of 17, he was appointed a teacher in English literature and history at the new Hindu College, where his brilliant way of teaching influenced his young students and won him their loyalty. He constantly encouraged them to think freely, to question everything and not to accept anything blindly without reasoning. His teachings helped to develop the spirit of liberty, equality and freedom among his students. In fact, his activities brought about an intellectual revolution in Bengal, which was known as the Young Bengal Movement and his students, came to be known as Derozians. This group of free thinkers was actually the precursors of the Bengal Renaissance. However, accused of irreverence by the orthodox Hindu parents of his students, Derozio was forced to resign by the directors of Hindu College in 1831.

Derozio died at an early age of 23 due to Cholera. In his short life he changed the vision of India, by seeding revolutionary ideas among the young generation.

house of henry derozio

Following Derozio’s death in 1831, his family ran into financial trouble and had to sell off the house to some A. Decruz, an Anglo Indian, who was close to the Derozio family. Subsequently, the property changed hands a number of times, before it was purchased in 1916 by Biharilal Mitra, an aristocratic businessman, who owned the Chandni Market in Calcutta. However, it is not known, whether his successors have the ownership of the house right now. The local government has not done anything to take over the house for turning it into a Museum or a Memorial. Today, the 200 year old majestic house has become a Nursing Home in the locality.

house of henry derozio
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    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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