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Nawab Bahadur Institution: Preserving a 200-year-old legacy of imparting education

5 April, 2023 09:26:39
Nawab Bahadur Institution: Preserving a 200-year-old legacy of imparting education

Nawab Bahadur Institution, Murshidabad, is one of the oldest educational establishments of India, and the very architecture is steeped in history. The majestic Nizamat Hostel, Darbar Hall, and the dome adorning the school building, all enliven memories of the distinguished Nizam era. Nawab Bahadur Institution of Murshidabad was initially established as a college and ‘Madrasa’ during the reign of the nawabs. Nawab Nazim Syed Mohammad Ali Khan alias Wala Jah Nawab wanted to impart western education to the sons and heirs of Nizam’s family and decided to set up a college next to Hazarduari in Murshidabad for this purpose. However, he could not complete his mission and died in 1824. After his demise, his worthy successor, Sayyid Mubarak Ali Khan II, popularly known as Humayun Jah, decided to fulfill the task and sent a proposal for establishing an institution to Lord Amherst, who was then serving as Governor General of British India. Lord Amherst complied and the college was formally set up on May 27, 1825, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Initially, the college started functioning from 'Mubarak Mahal', an exquisite monument and a fine specimen of Islamic architecture. However, within a short time, architect Colonel Duncan MacLeod was assigned to design the college building. MacLeod was a renowned architect of the time who also designed the famous Hazarduari Palace of Murshidabad. MacLeod designed the college on the lines of Greek or Doric and Italian architecture and the construction cost a princely amount of Rs76,500/- which was spent from the Nizamat Deposit Fund (the Nawab's Fund).

To promote and impart English education, Reverend Mr. Parton from the London Missionary Society was invited as a professor of English in the college. In 1909, Nawab Bahadur Wasif Ali Mirza decided to merge the college and the local school to facilitate the study of English, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Urdu, and mathematics as well as other subjects. The school was formally christened by Nawab Bahadur Institution. This school is by far the oldest educational institution in the Murshidabad district and is very important from a historical perspective as well. In fact, local people and the alumni of the school have demanded a heritage status for this august institution. The teachers of this school are proud of the rich legacy of Nawab Bahadur Institution and insist the school has a ‘Nawabi’ (regal) history that cannot be dismissed. Through the establishment of this school, the Nawab introduced Western education in the country.

After the institution was formally opened on May 27, 1825, it functioned as Nizamat College or Madrasa. The school was modernized to impart western education to the heirs and male members of the Nawabs’ families, who were referred to as 'Nizam'. What used to be the ‘Mubarak Mahal ‘aka ‘Darbar’ (court) of Sayyid Mubarak Ali Khan, also known as Mubarak ud-Daulah, son of Mir Jafar, has now been converted to StaffTeachers’ Room. The nizam's palace next to the dome above the Darbar Hall was used as the living quarters of the pupils who hailed from the royal families.

The Nizamat Hostel still functions as the residential quarters for students. During the reign of the Nawabs, the hostellers (all hailing from royal families) who lived in the Nizamat Hostel, were provided with all the expenses including their education, lodging, food, medicines, haircut, etc. The tradition continues to this day, except for medicines, which are no longer provided to students free of cost.

Right from the beginning, Nizamat Hostel operated exclusively for the progenies of the Nawab families. The tradition continues and at present, 27 students, all hailing from the Nawabs’ families, live in the hostel. However, in the past, the students lived as hostelers for the entire term but at present, 27 students, all successors of the Nawab families, stay in this Nizamat Hostel during day time and leave at sunset.

At present 940 students study at Nawab Bahadur Institution. The school offers three mediums of study including Bengali, Urdu, and English. Of the 940 students, 27 are studying in Urdu medium, 240 in English medium, and the rest in Bengali medium. MasudAlam, the present Head Master, joined the institution in 2017. Explaining the reason why the hostelers do not stay at night in the NizamatHostel now, MasudAlam says, "In the past, there was an 'Ataliq’s' (tutors who instruct on religion) post in the Nizamat Hostel. It is a rule in this institution that the person who is appointed as Ataliq has to belong to the Shia community since Nizam’s family were Shiyas. The Ataliq taught the sons of Nizam's house in all spheres of education and religion as well as patriotism. As long as we had an Ataliq, the progenies of the Nawabs’ families stayed in the hostel 24X7, for the entire academic session but after his superannuation in 2000, the system had to be discontinued. The last Ataliq was Sayed Apak Ali Mirza, who was a wise, vastly knowledgeable nobleman, and a brilliant teacher who taught with love, passion, and patience. He breathed his last in 2021 and since then, no new Ataliq has been inducted. That is why, all the hostelers have to vacate the hostel after sunset. During day time, however, they are given all the facilities they are entitled to.”

Masud Alam sounded very happy as he enthusiastically spoke about the standard of education in the school. “In 2022, two students from Nawab Bahadur Institution secured 688 marks in secondary and 479 marks in higher secondary examinations. Rupayan Mandal and Tuhin Shuvro secured 7th position and 35th position in the Jagadish Bose National Science Talent Search (JBNSTS) this year. The students of our school have been sports champions in the state for the last three years. Our students participated in a three-day sports event held between February 10 and 12 on the Sports Authority of India (SAI) ground and became state champions.”

In 2024, the school will complete two centuries and everyone in the school is very excited. A song has been written and composed by the students of the school and will be performed by Suraj Nag, a participant in the television music reality show, SaReGaMaPa. 

The song was officially ‘released’ and performed by students during the annual sports day which was attended by senior government dignitaries including, Rajarshi Mitra, the current District Magistrate of Murshidabad, and Surinder Singh, the current Superintendent of Police.

Nawab Bahadur Institution is located next to Hazarduari Palace and hordes of tourists troop in to get a glimpse of the majestic school building and the high dome of the school, Nizamat Hostel. Masud Alam claims the dome is the tallest in the entire Murshidabad.

Following tradition, the hostellers of Nizamat Hostel are served sumptuous meals on Saturdays. All-day scholars are served mid-day meals as per government rule. Although the state government has allotted Rs 20/- per head for the midday meal, the DM has granted Rs 10/- extra for each student studying in Murshidabad district, taking up the allocation to Rs 30/- per head.

Masud Alam concludes the session with an invitation. He says, “The erstwhile Nawabi tradition is still followed and all the boarders of Nizamat Hostel are served mutton biryani and shahi pieces every Saturday afternoon. Do drop in if you can on any Saturday at your convenience. You will not regret your visit, I can vouchsafe that.” Yes indeed, my visit to the institution was worthwhile and as I moved on, I knew I was carrying with me a slice of history that I was not aware of earlier.

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