(গুরুসদয় দত্ত), Barrister-at-Law
(10 May, 1882 – 25 June, 1941) was a civilian, politician, folklorist, writer.
Early Life and Education
He was the son of the zamindar
of Birasri village in Karimganj sub-division of Sylhet
district, in eastern Bengal (present day Bangladesh
). He was a nephew of Triguna Sen
, a former Union Minister
of Education. In 1906
, he was married to Saroj Nalini Dutt
, a daughter of Brajendranath De
, the 8th Indian and 6th Bengali member of the Indian Civil Service
. His only son, Captain Birendrasaday Dutt, was born in 1909
He was a brilliant student, having stood 2nd in the Entrance Examination (School Leaving) in 1898 and 1st in the F A Examination (prior to Graduate studies) from Presidency College, Calcutta in 1901. He was awarded the Scindia Gold Medal. He went on a Scholarship from the Sylhet Union to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, UK and then took the Indian Civil Service examination, in which he stood 7th in the First Part and 1st in the Second Part in 1905. He also passed the Bar examination with a First Class. Incidentally, he repaid the scholarship money to Sylhet Union after working for a few years, so that they could help another student. In 1905, he joined the Indian Civil Service.
He served with distinction in the Bengal cadre which in 1905 included the present the Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in India. He served in various capacities in the districts of Arrah
, before coming to Calcutta
. He was District Magistrate, Mymensingh, Secretary, Industries and Local Self Government and Public Health, and also the Government Chief Whip in the Bengal Legislative Council. From 1930
, he was a nominated Member of the Council of States and of the Central Legislative Assembly (the erstwhile Parliament of British India).
Contributions to Social Work
From his youth, he started to take active interest in social service and participated in helping in fire-fighting and assisting in relief work during floods and other natural disasters. He was one of the social reformers of the first half of the nineteenth century who thought independently about various avenues of service to the rural poor. He realized that in order to establish any progressive idea on firm foundation it was necessary to educate women and make them self-reliant. Saroj Nalini Dutt, who became an eminent Social Worker in her own right, was inspired by Gurusaday to start Mahila Samitis (Women’s Institutes) as early as 1913
, at Pabna district in British India, where he was then the District Magistrate.
In 1918, he started the first Rural Reconstruction Movement in India in Birbhum. He then extended the movement to several districts where he was subsequently posted, like Bankura, Howrah and Mymensingh. This movement was a bold and unique India that was under British Rule at the time. In fact, he was advised by his senior officer that he should spend time in the Club socializing with other officers rather than pursuing activities to promote rural development and social welfare.
He was the first amongst Civilian officers to set an example of the dignity of labour, by manually working with a group of followers to eradicate the water hyacinth, a plant that covers ponds and makes water unusable. He would also re-excavate silted irrigation canals with a band of workers. In those days, it was unthinkable for a Magistrate to work manually with common people.
In 1922, he started a Society for co-operative irrigation in Bankura, which he later extended to Mymensingh and Birbhum.
He headed the Indian delegation as a representative of the British Indian Government at a meeting of the Agricultural Institute at Rome in 1924.
In 1925, he lost his wife at a very early age. He established the Saroj Nalini Dutt Memorial Association, in February 1925, as a Central Training Institute for training crafts and basic education to provide livelihood to women who had been deprived from receiving formal education in early life and lived at the mercy of relatives. He thought of non-formal education many years before it was officially started. His pioneering work was started when most women in India were still behind the purdah (veil), and would not dare to come out in the world to create a future for themselves. This organization became the apex organization for Mahila Samitis (Women’s Institutes) in Eastern India, and was later affiliated to the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW) and the International Alliance of Women.
In October 1925, he started Bangalakshmi, a monthly magazine that is still published.
In 1929, he started a magazine called Gramer Daak that dealt with agrarian and rural matters of concern.
It was at Mymensingh that he started a Folk Dance Revival Society. He revived the Jaari dance, being inspired by the secular nature of the dance and its spirit of unifying both Hindus and Muslims, at a time when communal tensions were running high.
In 1930, he discovered the Raibeshe folk dance, a martial dance of un-divided Bengal, in Birbhum. He studied the origins of the dance and discovered its rich cultural past and its connection with the army of Raja Man Singh of Rajasthan. Subsequently, he also revived the Kaathi, Dhamail, Baul, Jhumur, Brata and Dhali dances from different parts of un-divided Bengal.
In 1931, he met Cecil Sharpe, who revived Morris dancing in England, when he visited London. He also attended All-England Folk Dance & Folk Song Festival. This inspired him to set up the Bangiya Palli Sampad Raksha Samiti (translated as Cultural Heritage Protection Society of Bengal) on his return.
In 1932, he started the Bratachari movement. In his words in The Bratachari Synthesis, first published in 1937,
the Movement is to bring back to humanity, in all countries, the ideal and practice of the wholeness of life which, alike in the individual, the national and the international sphere has been so grievously shattered in the modern world in every country by the fragmentary outlook on, and treatment of, life in education, science, work, play and social functioning.
In its aim to re-establish life on its fundamental unity, while preserving the inherent values of the individual and regional diversities, the Bratachari movement relies on a system of simultaneous physical, moral and spiritual culture with the three-fold objectives of
i) shaping of life in accordance with a fully balanced ideal comprising the five Bratas or ultimate ideals which are of universal application, and adopting a course for their pursuit for the integration of the culture of the body and the soul, and of the thought, speech, and behaviour;
ii) the pursuit of rhythmic discipline for bringing about unification, harmony and joy as well as inner transformation; and
iii) bringing men and women of every country in touch with the regional culture of their own soil and with the arts and crafts, dances and songs, and customs and manners of their own region, thus providing a natural cultural medium for their healthy all-round growth.
By this three-fold sadhana (devotion), the Bratachari system seeks to enable men and women in each land to become, simultaneously, truly national and truly international.
In 1934, the Bangiya Palli Sampad Raksha Samiti was renamed as The Bengal Bratachari Society.
In 1936, he started a magazine Banglar Shakti for The Bengal Bratachari Society.
Gurusaday Dutt did extensive research in the field of Folk art, crafts and folk dances of Bengal. He collected objects of folk art and crafts from the countryside. He had great compassion for the artists and craftsmen who created unique art objects without any training or technical knowledge. Folk art was neglected and not appreciated in those days. He wrote in different journals about the wealth and beauty of folk art and left his collection on his death to The Bengal Bratachari Society.
Contributions to Art and Culture
Gurusaday Dutt was mostly known for his interest and contribution to folk dance, folk music and other folk institutions. He started a number of organisations and societies aimed at preserving the elements of folk literature. He spent a lifetime collecting and studying art objects and handiwork from the remotest corners of undivided rural Bengal collecting items of folk art such as Kalighat paintings, patuas’
scrolls, embroidered kanthas
, terracotta panels, stone sculptures, wooden carvings, dolls and toys, moulds used for making patterns on sweets or mango-paste etc. Most of the several thousand specimens of folk art and craft he collected, along with other folk artefacts, are on display at the Gurusaday Museum in Thakurpur in the suburbs of Kolkata. Gurusaday Dutt also wrote extensively on folk culture. Rabindranath Tagore and C.F. Andrews wrote in the foreword of the biography of his wife, Saroj Nalini Dutt
, which he wrote. Gurusaday Dutt also wrote much about the Bratachari movement and village development. In 1936 he started publishing a monthly magazine named Banglar Shakti
(The Force of Bengal).
His fearless independence and indomitable spirit of nationalism brought him into conflict with the British Government on more than one occasion. In 1928
, at Howrah, in connection with the Bamangachi Firing case, he condemned the firing on a crowd of protesters by the police led by a British officer. The matter was raised in the British House of Lords
and Lord Birkenhead
, then Secretary of State for India
in the British Government, had to answer angry questions. British Parliamentarians wanted Dutt, referred to as this Indian officer, punished for having the audacity to question a British officer’s action. As a punitive measure he was transferred out of Howrah to Mymensingh.
His stay in Mymensingh was also cut short when he failed to give orders as required by him by the British Indian Government to deal with protesters against The Salt Act imposed by the Government. M.K.Gandhi had called for a satyagraha against this Act. He was transferred to Birbhum by telegram (then the fastest means of communication), which was an unprecedented way of dealing with an ICS officer in those days.
- Mymensingh Folk Dance and Folk Music Society (1929)
- Pallisampad Raksha Samiti (1931)
- Bratachari Lokanritya Samiti (1932)
- South India Bratachari Society (1932)
- Sarbabharatiya Bratachari Society etc.
- In 1941 he also set up the Bratachari village near Calcutta, along with a university called Bratachari Janashiksha Pratishthan. The Bratachari movement founded by Gurusaday Dutt (from vrata, vow) was a movement for spiritual and social improvement. The movement aimed at creating a sense of world citizenship as well as national awareness among people, irrespective of caste, religion, sex and age. The movement aimed to nurture the mind and the body and to encourage people to work for national and individual improvement through encouraging traditional and folk culture, especially folk dance and folk song. The bratacharis, or followers of the movement, pledged themselves to build their moral fibre and serve the country on the five principles of knowledge, labour, truth, unity and joy. They aimed at developing the mind and body through dance as well as by undertaking to perform good deeds. The Bratachari movement did not catch on all over India and slowly died away after the death of its founder.
- Gurusaday Museum.
- Bhajar Banshi (1922) (in Bengali) (A book of rhymes for children)
- Palli Sangskar (in Bengali) (1925)
- Village Reconstruction (1925)
- Agricultural Organisation and Rural Reconstruction in Bengal (1919)
- Ganer Saji (in Bengali) (1932)
- Indian Folk Dance and Folklore Movement (in Bengali) (1933)
- Bratachari Synthesis (in Bengali) (1937)
- Patuya Sangit (in Bengali) (1939)
- Bratacharir Marmakatha (in Bengali) (1940)
- A Woman of India (1941)
- Bratachari: Its Aim and Meaning (1942)
- The Folk Dances of Bengal (1954)
- Shrihatter Lokasangit (in Bengali) (1966)
- Folk Arts and Crafts of Bengal (1990)
- Art of Kantha (1995)
- Banglar Lokashilpa o Lokanritya (in Bengali) (2008) (published by Chhatim Books, distributed by the Library of Presidency College Kolkata)
- Goraey Golod (in Bengali)
- Gramer Kaajer ka kha Ga(in Bengali)
- Saroj Nalini
- Palli Sanskar O Sangathan(in Bengali)
- Paaglamir Puthi(in Bengali)
- Purir Mahathwa(in Bengali)
- Gaaner Saaji(in Bengali)
- Banglar Samrik Krira(in Bengali)
- Chaander Buri(in Bengali)
- Bratachari Shakhaa(in Bengali)
- Bratachari Marmakatha(in Bengali)
- Patua Sangeet(in Bengali)
- Bratachari Parichoy(in Bengali)
- Srihotter Lokageeti(in Bengali)
- Banglar Bir Jodha Raebeshe(in Bengali)
After he passed away the road he lived on in Calcutta - Store Road -was named after him. His portrait also adorns the walls of Mahajati Sadan, Calcutta where portraits of other patriots are kept.
Biographies have been written on his life and works by Shankar Prasad De, Amitabha Chowdhury, Shaikat Azgar (in Bangladesh), Naresh Banerjee and Habib Ahmed Dutta Chowdhury (in Bangladesh).
A Medal in his honour, to be known as “The Gurusaday Dutt Medal”, was endowed by his grandson, Devsaday Dutt, in the University of Calcutta, to be given to the student who stands First in the Post-Graduate Examination in Geography, from 2008 onwards. It will be accompanied with a Cash Prize.
Articles written by him that had appeared in Prabashi, Banglar Shakti, Bangalakshmi and Aloka in the 30’s, have now been published in the book "Banglar Lokashipla o Lokanritya" containing these articles hitherto unpublished in any book, in August 2008.
For more details, please contact
- Gurusaday Museum, Bratacharigram, Diamond Harbour Road, Joka, Kolkata or at the official website of Gurusaday Museum
- The Bengal Bratachari Society at 191/1 Bepin Behari Ganguly Street, Kolkata 700012
- Saroj Nalini Dutt Memorial Association at 23/1 Ballygunge Station Road, Kolkata 700019
- Devsaday Dutt at 5 Gurusaday Dutt Road, Kolkata 700019, India