Most of the people of Calcutta are aware that today, Wellington Square is known as Raja Subodh Mullick Square. We also know that, there is a long stretch of road from Jadavpur Police Station to Garia, known as Raja S.C.Mullick Road. But who was this Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick?
Subodh Chandra Basu Mallik, commonly known as Raja Subodh Mallik, was born in Pataldanga, Calcutta on 9th February 1879. He studied in St. Xavier’s School and Presidency College. After his graduation in 1900, he was admitted to Trinity College, Cambridge. But due to some unavoidable family problems, he had to come back before completing his studies and became involved in the nationalist movement.
During that period his house at 12 Wellington Square, became a major centre of political activities. Shri Aurobinda used to live there in 1906. Subodh Mullick was one of the collaborators of Sri Aurobinda, in his secret action and afterwards he also became involved in Congress politics. In fact, he was in the extremist group in the Indian National Congress and was involved deeply in the anti-partition movement of Bengal in 1905.He took the responsibility to take all the delegates from Bengal to Surat at his own expenses for attending the session of the Indian National Congress in 1907. It is believed by many that, along with Sri Aurobindo and Charu Chandra Dutt, Subodh Chandra Mallik was one of the revolutionary ‘tribunal’ that took the decision to assassinate Douglas Kingsford, District Judge of Muzaffarpur, in which Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki were involved. However, he was arrested by the British rulers and jailed in Almora for fourteen months and was released in February 1910.
Subodh Mullick was a philanthropist and a nationalist. He earnestly wished to spread education in the country. In protest of the prevailing education system designed and imposed by the British, Mallik, along with a group of leading elite persons of Bengal, founded the National Council for Education to promote indigenous and nationalist education system. He donated Rs 100,000 to support the founding of the Bengal National College, which later turned to the Jadavpur University. Apart from that, he also founded the Life of Asia Insurance Company. He earned the title of ‘Raja’ from his grateful countrymen for his handsome donations for the cause of education.
After independence, Wellington Square, the site of his palatial residence, was renamed Raja Subodh Mallik Square. Subsequently, the long stretch of road, from Jadavpur Police Station to Garia was also named after him.
The palatial house of Raja Subodh Mallik located at 12, Wellington Square still stands as a dumb witness of its glorious past, in a sad and dilapidated condition. The huge U-shaped building was built between 1883 and 1884, when Subodh Mullick was about four years old. There was a day, when eminent persons like Rabindranath Tagore, Chittaranjan Das, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and other eminent persons had visited the house. It is a large, three-storey mansion of pinkish orange colour. The architectural style and the inside decorations were more European than Indian. The rooms had wall to wall carpets, book-lined shelves, and beautiful Chandeliers. The walls were adorned with European paintings, which included the world famous painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart. The exquisitely carved wooden balcony added grace and dignity of its regal beauty.
The ground floor with black marble flooring had a large dining room along with a billiards room, just below the Library on the first floor. The first wing had the kitchen and the middle wing, which had a wooden bridge to connect the front and the back wings, was built later, The back wing was dominated by the women of the family and the family deity was also housed there. There was a back door or ‘khirki dorja’ and according to a peculiar custom of the Mallik family, the newlywed brides used to enter the house first time through that back door.
The high wrought-iron gate of the building, which in the past was opened to let in the horse carriages, now remains closed and desolate. A century ago this grand house used to be gleaming with lighted chandeliers. Unfortunately, today it is covered with dirt and dust and has become a helpless victim of the aggressive wild plants. Part of the terrace has collapsed. The beautiful ‘nahabatkhana’ is in ruins, with only the staircase intact.
At present the University of Calcutta is supposed to be the owner of the property and they have plans to develop the house into an ideal conference venue. The building was declared as a heritage structure in 1998, but no restoration could be done, due to legal hassles. The palatial house of Raja Subodh Mullick, which is the witness of many historical meetings in the Swadeshi movement, is now crumbling down helplessly, mired in legal disputes and disrepair.
Just a few days ago, an old building next to this one had collapsed and unless the restoration process is taken up immediately, this historic mansion will have to face the same inevitable fate, on any day in the near future.