November 1 2010
An added bonus from my visit to Mumbai was meeting a good friend of ISKCON, Srimati Srilekha Bose. Mrs. Bose is the sister of Sri Tarun Kanti Ghosh, who was a big government minister in W. Bengal during the 1970s. He was a strong supporter of ISKCON, and the chief guest of our 1977 Gaura Purnima festival. He had several darshans of Srila Prabhupada as seen here on Gaura Purnima day 1977:
But the connection goes much further back to the late 1800’s. The grandfather of Tarun Kanti and Srilekha was a well known Vaisnava, Mahatma Shisir Kumar Ghose.
The Ghosh family owned several prominent newspapers — Amrit Bazaar Patrika, Jugantar, Jugantar Press and had tremendous influence not just in W. Bengal but in India.
Shisir Kumar Ghose was a prominent author as well as newspaper baron and he was a personal friend of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura.
It was he who named Bhaktivinoda Thakura the “Seventh Goswami”. This is mentioned in Rupa Vilasa dasa’s book of the same name:
Shisir Kumar Ghose also wrote the famous news article describing and supporting the Thakura’s attempts to collect funds for the building of a temple at the newly discovered birth site of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu:
“On December 6, 1894, an article appeared in the Amrta Bazar Patrika that describes how, just after the Thakura’s retirement from government service, he began going from door to door in Calcutta, begging donations for Lord Caitanya’s Temple in Mayapura in a spirit of perfect humility: “Babu Kedar Nath Dutt, the distinguished Deputy Magistrate, who has just retired from the service, is one of the most active members. Indeed, Babu Kedar Nath has been deputed by the committee to raise subscription in Calcutta and elsewhere and is determined to go from house to house, if necessary, and beg a rupee from each Hindu gentleman for the noble purpose. If Babu Kedar Nath Dutt, therefore, really sticks to his resolution of going round with a bag in hand, we hope, no Hindu gentleman, whose house may be honoured by the presence of such a devout bhakta as Babu Kedar Nath, will send him away without contributing his mite, however humble it may be, to the Gaur Vishnupriya Temple Fund.”
[SG 21: Retirement and Expansion of Preaching]
Srila Prabhupada referred to this connection between Shisir Kumar and Bhaktivinoda Thakura in a letter to Tarun Kanti Babu on March 11 1974:
“Since I attended the meeting last night I am feeling a new enthusiasm, over how potential the Krishna Consciousness movement is, based on the teaching of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Your good family has very great interest in Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and especially your grandfather Mahatma Sisir Kumar Ghose was a great friend of Bhaktivinode Thakura. So we are coming down in disciplic succession from Bhaktivinode Thakura and you are coming in family succession from Mahatma Sisir Kumar Ghose, so if we combine together in preaching the message of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, it will be a great benediction to human society for mitigation of all kinds of problems of material existence.”
With this background it was with great pleasure then that we met Mrs. Bose in Kolkata early this year. At the behest of her nephew Tamal Kanti Ghosh, the son of Tarun Kanti, she came to visit the BRC.
Srilekha Bose, niece Rita Datta, nephew Tamal Kanti Ghosh
She was very impressed with our efforts and promised to look for literatures to donate to the BRC from their extensive family library. Since the passing of her brother in 1996, the family estate has become scattered and the library has been broken up so she wasn’t sure what she could find.
True to her word though she rang me several months ago to say she had found several books written by her grandfather which were now rare and out of print. Since she lives in Mumbai she told me to visit whenever I was over that side and she would donate them to the library.
So on Saturday Oct. 31 I went to her home and today she visited Hare Krsna Land. She handed me copies of several titles by Shisir Kumar Ghose, including a third edition printed in 1923 of the two volume book mentioned above, Lord Gauranga or Salvation for All. It was their personal family copy but she is entrusting it to the BRC because of the high quality of our library. As it happened HH Bhakti Charu Swami, a major donor of the BRC, was on hand to meet Mrs. Bose along with BBT manager Bhima prabhu and Hare Krishna Land temple president Braj Hari prabhu:
HH Bhakti Charu Swami, BBT in chief Bhima prabhu, temple president Braj Hari prabhu and Smt. Srilekha Bose with a rare copy of Lord Gauranga or Salvation for All.
Mrs. Bose has promised to put us in touch with her niece Rita in Kolkata who knows the whereabouts of the rest of the family library. Our hope of course is to find some rare treasures for the BRC. Considering the decade long publishing collaboration between Mahatma Shisir Kumar Ghose and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura we may find more than just books to add to our archive.