Bose Institute: Striking a rare blend of Indian engineering & architecture

At a time when Bose Institute is celebrating its centenary, few people remember the architect who had designed the unique piece that combines elements of finest engineering and architecture.

Basu Vigyan Mandir or Bose Institute was inaugurated on November 30, on the 59th birth anniversary of Jagadish Chandra Bose. One of the earliest multi-disciplinary research institutes in the country, the temple of learning was a dream of J C Bose.

Unlike other important buildings in the city which were constructed a century ago, the design of the centre was not made by any renowned British architect or someone trained in England. No big construction company was also engaged to set up the structure.

J C Bose and his wife Abala loved to travel in India and the building is a perfect blend of the Indian architecture that are found in different parts of the country like in Gujarat, Delhi, Benaras and Mumbai. It is a combination of Hindu, Buddhist and Mughal architecture.

Bose engaged his cousin Abaninath Mitter (January 1888 to November 1964) to design and construct the building to carry out his vision. Mitter were assisted by renowned artists like Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Asit Halder, Suren Kar and Iswariprasad. The Bengalee, a well-known newspaper on December 1, 1917 wrote "The building which has been constructed by a young architect A N Mitter is a striking and dignified one." Mitter had gone to Japan to study engineering with the financial assistance from an organisation called Advancement of Scientific and Industrial education for Indians. Prior to that, Mitter studied at Santiniketan and came in close contact with Rabindranath Tagore. Tarun Rana, a research scholar on Kolkata's history, said after coming back to India Mitter set up a biscuit factory after his mother's name Rajlakshmi Biscuit, the first biscuit factory by an Indian. But the business did not last long and he took up the job at the factory of V S Brothers later known as Britannia Biscuits at a salary of Rs 100. During World War I, J C Bose asked Mitter who was then working in the biscuit factory to take up the job at a monthly salary of Rs 200. Though not a qualified engineer, he had sound knowledge of Indian art and architecture. Bose used to take photographs of the places he used to visit during his vacation.

The land for the building was made available by the money mainly provided by Ole Sara Bull, one of the American disciples of Swami Vivekananda. Bose wanted to make the building one of the finest structures in the city and the pink sandstone was brought from Chunar and the craftsmen who could work on stones from Benaras, wrote Abanindranath in his memoir.

Beside the main entrance, on the sideways, is a figure of a lady with the lamp, a work of low relief on marble made by Vinayak Karmakar, a noted sculptor from Mumbai after the drawing of Sister Nivedita by Nandalal Bose. Both Nivedita and Olle Bull, two main inspirations of Bose behind his scientific pursuit, had died before the institute was inaugurated.

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