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First Indian Vice Chancellor of CU was a Bengali

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Oriental Seminary School is very near to Jorasanko. This is the place where Tagore received his primary education and Gurudas Bandopaddhay began his educational career. He passed the entrance exam from Kolutola Branch School in 1859 and was a very good student. Belonging to an elite family, Gurudas Bandopaddhay had inculcated and learnt etiquettes very well. Teachers loved him for his humility, sincerity and diligence towards academics.

Calcutta University began its journey on January 24, 1857 just two years before Gurudas Bandopaddhay passed his entrance exam. Therefore, Gurudas did not have to think about going abroad to pursue his higher studies. He took admission in Presidency College and topped the university in every subject. Be it master’s degree in 1865 or BL examination in 1866, Gurudas Bandopaddhay’s record as a first boy remained unbroken. Presidency College recruited this highly meritorious student as a professor later. That marked the beginning of his spectacular career as a professor. Then his journey led him to Scottish Church and Baharampore College. He later joined as the legal advisor in the court of Nawab of Murshidabad.

Gurudas Bandopaddhay’s life revolved around his mother. He could do anything to keep her happy. He returned to Kolkata leaving his job at the Nawab’s court just to pay respect to his mother’s wish. He started practicing law in Calcutta High Court. He completed his degree of law honours in 1876 and earned the title of DL in 1877. Eleven years later, he became Justice Gurudas Bandopaddhay when he became a judge at Calcutta High Court.

Meanwhile, he had played a very responsible role in the world of academics a professor of law.  From 1879, Gurudas Bandopaddhay served as a law examiner and a member of syndicate for the next three years. In those times, syllabus committee did not exist. He had the responsibility of selecting the text books and spent a lot of his time reading. Gurudas Bandopaddhay became the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University in 1890. He was the first Indian and Bengali Vice Chancellor among Indian universities.

He emphasized on making Bengali a compulsory language and imparting education in Bengali. He was also extremely enthusiastic about bringing in a change in the system of education. He also criticized the interference of the British government in the administration of the university and wanted to work for the education of women. But surprisingly, he had a dual personality. On one hand, a highly educated man, he was a conservative and religious man. According to Gurudas, “A Kayastha can never be a sage. He went to the foreign land and mingled with the outcasts.” This he spoke about none other than Swami Vivekananda and has been mentioned in Rantideb Sengupta’s book ‘Joliteche dhrubotara.’ But this man of contrasts will forever be remembered by Calcutta University for being the first Indian Vice Chancellor. To honour him, there still stands a chair in the English Department with his name engraved on it.