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Beef and Bread-eating youths of Cornwallis Street

4 March, 2021 16:28:49
Beef and Bread-eating youths of Cornwallis Street

Religion has not just divided India from time to time, it has formed rift among quite a few father and son duos of Bengal. If poet Madhusudhan Dutta was a rebel in accepting Christianity, so was Reverend Krishna Mohan Bandopadhyay (1813-1885) who resided in House No. 11 of Cornwallis Street.

Krishna Mohan’s maternal grandfather Ramjoy Vidhyabhushan was a revered Pundit in the court of Shantiram Singha. He lived on Bechuram Chatterjee Street. Krishna Mohan’s father, Jeeban Krishna Bandopadhyay married Vidhyabhushan’s daughter Srimati Devi and stayed with his in-laws in their house. He had three sons: Bhuvan Mohan, Krishna Mohan and Kali Mohan and a daughter. As his family grew, it became impossible to stay with his in-laws. So, he left his in-laws’ house and built this house on Guruprasad Chowdhury Lane and moved in with his family. So Krishna Mohan inherited this house from his father. Krishna Mohan’s eldest brother, Bhuvan Mohan did not convert to Christianity. On October 17, 1832, Reverend Duff converted Krishna Mohan to Christianity. Within a short time, he left the Church of Scotland and joined the Church of England. He remained with the Church of England till the very end and converted his younger sibling, Kali Mohan to Christianity too. 

Incidentally, Krishna Mohan was compelled to convert to Christianity following an incident. He would not have changed his religion if that incident did not occur. In the words of Shibnath Sastri who related the incident, the story goes thus: “The followers of Derozio often frequented Krishna Mohan’s house for chit-chat sessions. On August 21, 1831, they congregated at his residence as usual, but Krishna Mohan was not at home at that time. The youngsters were full of vile against the rigid norms of the Hindu society prevailing at that time. The only way they could think of to protest and display defiance against the society was by openly eating beef and bread prepared by Muslims. On that particular day, the boys created a ruckus in Krishna Mohan’s house during his absence.  

After they had their staple meal of beef curry and bread, one over-enthusiastic boy dropped the left-over carcass on a neighbour’s compound and then shouted, Go-haar, go-haar (beef carcass). As soon as the neighbours heard this, they all came out in hordes to teach the infidels a lesson. The scared boys ran helter-skelter to save their skin. But the residents of the locality were furious and they went together to Krishna Mohan’s maternal grandfather, Ramjoy Vidyabhushan and sought his intervention. They threatened to boycott him and his family socially if he did not disown his grandson at that very moment. Vidyabhushan was beside himself with rage when he heard the incident. Poor Krishna Mohan was not even aware of this incident or the repercussion it would have on him. When he returned home in the evening, he was turned out for good. 

The incident took place in this very house. After he graduated from Hindu College, David Hare appointed Krishna Mohan as second teacher in his school. When the ruckus was going on in his house, Krishna Mohan was taking a class in the school. The truant youth had dropped the beef carcass on a Brahmin’s courtyard. So Krishna Mohan was banished from his home permanently and he was compelled to seek refuge among his European well-wishers and Christian friends. After this, it was imperative for him to convert. If the Hindu society had not been so hasty to punish him mercilessly for no fault of his own and had not banished him, he would have probably remained within the Hindu fold. 

(to be continued)

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