Subscribe to our weekly newsletter


First book fair held in Bengal was not today’s Kolkata Book Fair

9 March, 2022 16:52:45
First book fair held in Bengal was not today’s Kolkata Book Fair

Kolkata and Bengal have always been the hotbed of book lovers, probably the only city that can boast of the oldest book fair, that too more than a century ago. This fair was organized in 1918 by the National Council of Education. Publishers like Basumati and Motilal Banarasidas Publishers and many old publishers, some of whom are no longer in business were part of the display. The National Council of Education was founded by Bengal’s nationalists in 1906 and the sole purpose was to spread scientific and technological education among the youth, as part of Swadeshi movement, to prove before the colonial regime that India itself is also capable of modern education. The council also promoted awareness among Indians about modern education and gave the public access to education.

The first book fair held more than a century ago was the brainchild of Gurudas Banerjee and the fair ground is where the Goenka College of Commerce stands today at Bow Bazar. This fair was not named as a Book Fair; rather it was called a Book Exhibition, creating a lot of enthusiasm and interest among locals specially students. This book fair continued for the next few years. However, by then Kolkata had turned into the epicentre of armed revolution against the British as well as a nationalist movement. To impart higher quality of education the National Council of Education established the Bengal Institute and Bengal National College that later on merged to form today’s Jadavpur University. These high educational institutions produced revolutionaries and hence the British government came down heavily on them, not even recognizing students who graduated from this institute. However, they were recognized by countries like France, Germany and USA. Thus, the first Book Fair of Kolkata also came under the ire of the British rule and had to be discontinued. No one remembered that such a book fair was popular even a century back in the heart of a city that is still proud of another book fair – the Kolkata International Book Fair

The first Book Fair however found many patrons like Rabindranath Tagore, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gurudas Banerjee, Bepinchandra Pal, Satish Mukherjee (founder of Dawn Society), Dr Nil Ratan Sarkar, Rashbehari Ghosh, Chittaranjan Das and Aurobindo Ghosh. The fair encouraged many notable people such as economist Benoy Kumar Sarkar to write books in 1940s like ‘Education for Industrialisation.’ Prof Sarkar was a student and later a teacher at Bengal National College. He chronicled the history of Bengal Technical Institute and how it became the College of Engineering and Technology at Jadavpur which gradually evolved into Jadavpur University in the 1950s. During Independence the college was headed by the legendary Dr Triguna Sen and during WW II American engineers and army officers took keen interest in the works of the alumni and paid visits to Jadavpur University. In 1945, Jawaharlal Nehru delivered the convocation address before a 5000-strong audience comprising American, British and French visitors, and Prof. Sarkar who was a member of think-tank bodies in England, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, Poland and China. He had also written about the first Book Fair of Kolkata.

Leave a Comments

Related Post