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Mosque in the Lake Indian Association Hall
University Institute Hall - Captivating Calcutta
1263    Dibyendu Banerjee    04/12/2019   

Constructed in the year 1891 and located on 7 Bankim Chatterjee Street, on the eastern side of College Square, the Calcutta University Institute, popularly known as the University Institute Hall, is an auditorium of the University of Calcutta. The decision of setting up a society for the moral development of the student community of Calcutta was taken at a meeting, held at Sanskrit college, Calcutta on 15 August 1891. A huge number of eminent members of the Bengali elite society, including among others, Sahitya Samrat Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Pandit Mahesh Chandra Nayaratna, Principal Sanskrit College, Sir Ashutosh Mukhopadhyay, Sir Gooroodas Banerjee, Mr H Lee, the Chairman Calcutta Corporation and some representatives of the student community, enthusiastically attended the meeting.

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Consequently, the proposed society, Society for Higher Training of Youngmen, was formally inaugurated at a subsequent meeting held on 31 August 1891, at the Calcutta Town Hall. It was decided that the principal object of the newly formed society would be to combine instructive amusement with relaxation from serious occupations. However, a few years after its formation, the society was renamed as the Calcutta University Institute, as proposed by Dr Rash Behari Ghosh, in an extraordinary General Meeting held on 15 August 1896, presided over by Raja Peary Mohan Mukherjee.

University Institute Hall
The renovated auditorium

From its inception, the University Institute Hall was aptly used for numbers of important seminars, debates, conferences, drama and musical programmes. In the past, many eminent persons from different fields of life delivered their lectures or were felicitated here. Apart the home productions of the Institute, the annual inter collegiate drama and music competitions were held in its auditorium. However, though it is primarily meant for the use of the students, the auditorium is available to any organization, on payment of rent for a few hours, for holding meetings, drama or musical performances.

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It is interesting to note that, the famous Bengali actor, director and playwright Utpal Dutta and his Little Theatre Group used to perform in this auditorium regularly during 1980s. It may be added here that, Utpal Dutta was detained by the then Congress government of West Bengal for several months, as they became apprehensive that his play Kallol, based on the Royal Indian Navy mutiny of 1946, might provoke anti-government protests.

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Unfortunately, the University Institute Hall was incinerated in a fire during 1970s. Once the Institute had a good library in the basement of the building, but what happened to it after the fire is unknown. However, it has since been properly renovated and equipped with ultra-modern sound and lighting equipments.

University Institute Hall
Mosque in the Lake Indian Association Hall
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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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