Millennium Post

200 Years of GLORY

This iconic college-turned-University was established about 200 years ago in 1817 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Radhakanta Deb, David Hare, Justice Sir Edward Hyde East, Baidyanath Mukhopadhyay and Rasamay Dutt.

The Bengal Renaissance was in full bloom but little did the founders know that this institution of higher learning would gift India some of her most meritorious sons and daughters who would shine in all walks of life even 200 years after its being born. 

Under West Bengal’s Marxist Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was a former student of the college, Presidency College was upgraded to the status of a full university by the Presidency University Act, 2010, passed by the West Bengal Legislative Assembly. 

Today, the varsity is spreading its wings to set up its second and third campus (in Dowhill, North Bengal) where the curriculum will be more inclusive than ever. “The most important thing is that we, at Presidency University, are planning at this stage, to extend our vistas. 

In our effort to be more inclusive, we will see new campuses, more subjects, smarter curricula and of course, a restored heritage campus on College Street. Luckily, the state Government is providing us with the required funds to move towards progress, ad infinitum”, Anuradha Lohia, Vice Chancellor of the University told Millennium Post.

Presidency University, all set to launch its bicentenary celebrations, will begin with a Global Education summit on January 6, 2017. A galaxy of scientists, academicians, economists, linguists, social scientists will debate and discuss the future of their respective fields of expertise. It is likely that the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, will attend one of the events on January 6. 
It is not that the varsity did not have its share of tough moments. During the Naxalite uprising that rocked Bengal in the late 60s and early 70s, the students of the college took years to graduate. Says Jawhar Sircar, retired IAS officer and an alumnus of the college, “We took a long five years to graduate. Classes in the college were sporadic but our teachers often called us home and held classes there. Thanks to the brand equity of Presidency and some genetic qualities, I sailed through the IAS examination in 1975 with flying colours.” 

Needless to say, the Alumni association is celebrating the college’s bicentenary with a slew of programmes beginning December 18, 2016. On that day, a documentary on the veteran actor of Bengali films, Bikash Ray, will be screened, introduced by the gifted actor, theatre director and poet Soumitra Chatterjee and the ex-CEO of Prasar Bharati, Jawhar Sircar. 

This will be followed by a colourful heritage walk on January 15, 2017. “The Sunday morning walk will see the who’s who of Kolkata - including present and past students, teachers, alumni, celebrities-footing it from Swami Vivekananda’s ancestral house to Presidency University on College Street. 

It will be accompanied by a tableau”, said Bibhas Chowdhury, secretary of the alumni association. The College’s Founder’s Day–January 20, looks all set to be a red letter day for the bicentenary celebrations, as the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, is scheduled to release  a commemorative stamp and hand over medals to the meritorious. In the evening, classical music maestro Rashid Khan will perform at a cultural event.

At what will surely be a riveting game, a cricket match will be played out between old and new students of Presidency at the Eden gardens on January 27 or 28 to celebrate the college’s sports legacy. A cultural evening on January 21 will see a play being staged on the life of Derozio penned by the venerable Utpal Dutt, titled ‘Jhor’.

Every generation of students of Presidency College have had their favourite anecdotes about their time, but some stories have turned legendary. The most popular one is probably about Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, who secured admission as a student of Philosophy in 1913.

 It is said that Bose was enraged by some racist comments made by one Professor Otten, and either assaulted Otten, or deliberately tripped him down the giant staircase in the main building of the college. Bose was expelled in 1916 but continued with his studies at Scottish Church College.

Legendary man of science–C V Raman, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930, performed many of his famous experiments in light at Presidency’s Baker Laboratory. The lab was established by another pioneer of Indian science, Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose, who later went on to prove that plants have ‘life’ and are sensitive in their own right. 

In fact, Naren Dutta studied at Presidency College in 1879, before the world recognised him as Swami Vivekananda. In 1893, his Chicago speech at the Parliament of World Religions left an indelible stamp on America and the rest of the western world. 

Interestingly, an alumnus from Bihar, Babu Rajendra Prasad, our first President, was motivated by nationalist ideas at Presidency.  But he wasn’t the only head of state to come out of Presidency. 

A few names deserve mention: Fazlul Haq, the longest serving Prime Minister of Bengal, and Bishnu Ram Medhi, Chief Minister of Assam, were both students of the college. Bengal’s longest serving Chief Minister and Marxist icon, Jyoti Basu, graduated from Presidency College in 1935. 

Ex-Chief Minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and ex-State Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta are college alumni.  Many former students of the college grew up to become some of India’s finest Parliamentarians-  Hiren Mukherjee, Mohit Sen and Somnath Chatterjee. 

It is pretty well-known that the iconic Indian scientist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose was a teacher of Physics at Presidency College. Two of his gifted (and favourite) students were Satyen Bose and Meghnad Saha. What is not so well-known is the fact that the master and his students rode their own bicycles daily on the campus as a symbol of self-reliance and empowerment. 

Another story goes that when Rabindranath Tagore died, eminent historian Susobhan Sircar requested the college principal B N Sen to declare a holiday on August 7, 1941, and the college was closed likewise. 
Interestingly, sports was as important to Presidency as academics. This is borne by the fact that stalwarts like Siddhartha Sankar Ray, ex-Chief Minister of Bengal, captained Team Presidency (cricket). 

Interestingly, the college also sported a gym in its vintage days-from 1905—1906 to the 1980s. 
After the economist Sukhamoy Chakravarty died early in 1990, his classmate, Amartya Sen wrote a moving article about his friend. Sen claimed that he was an indifferent pupil, attending lectures occasionally. All he had to do was ask Sukhamoy about any subject. Chakravarty would fill him in on subjects ranging from capital theory to existential philosophy.

Famous batchmates in those days were Satyajit Ray and Siddhartha Shankar Ray and Pratap Chandra Chunder, Shipra Sarkar and Rathin Sengupta, T N Sen and Gourinath Shastri, R P Goenka and Uma Mukhopadhyay. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, Ashok Kumar, Aparna Sen, Srijit Mukherji and Pritam Chakraborty, Ashin Dasgupta  studied at Presidency College once upon a time. 

The first female appointee of the college’s teaching staff was Prof Kajal Sengupta of the English department. In fact, it is known that Prof T N Sen used to escort Prof Sengupta to the class and back to the staffroom when the class got over. The PWD apparently built a separate ladies toilet for her use.  Another curious fact is that the college was not always co-educational. 

The long flight of stairs leading up to the first floor of the main building had a sign ‘Keep Left’ written on the walls which indicated that women should keep to the left of the staircase and men to the right. Also, women were barred from studying for a good two decades before Independence after which they came back.

Famous alumni:

  • Subhas Chandra Bose
  • Jagadish Chandra Bose
  • Satyendranath Bose
  • P C Mahalanobis
  • Meghnad Saha
  • Satyajit Ray
  • Amartya Sen
  • Babu Rajendra Prasad
  • Fazlul Huq
  • Ashok Sen
  • Aparna Sen
  • Sugata Bose
  • Buddhadeb 
  • Bhattacharjee
  • Siddhartha Shankar Ray
  • Nabaneeta Dev Sen
  • Somnath Chatterjee

Famous bureaucrats

  • <div style="display: inline !important;">Basudeb Banerjee,Chief secretary, Government of
<div style="display: inline !important;"><ul style="display: inline !important;"><li style="display: inline !important;"><div style="display: inline !important;">West bengal
  • <div style="display: inline !important;">  Alapan Bandopadhyay, 
  • <ul style="display: inline !important;"><li style="display: inline !important;"><div style="display: inline !important;">Principal Secretary, Transport
  • <div style="display: inline !important;">  Debashish Sen, Principal Secretary, Urban development and Country Planning
  • <div style="display: inline !important;">  Rathin Sengupta, former 
  • <ul style="display: inline !important;"><li style="display: inline !important;"><div style="display: inline !important;">Chief Secretary
  • <div style="display: inline !important;">  Tarun Chandra Dutt, former Chief Secretary
  • <div style="display: inline !important;">  Jawhar Sircar, ex-CEO, 
  • <ul style="display: inline !important;"><li style="display: inline !important;"><div style="display: inline !important; font-weight: normal;">Prasar Bharati
    <li style="display: inline !important;">

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