Tarun Goswami
2023-03-13 07:51:05



The coming year is undoubtedly a special one for Bengali children literature. It is not only the 160th birth anniversary of the noted children litterateur, Upendra Kishore Raychaudhuri but his immortal creation, Sandesh will also complete 110 years since its inception in 1913.

In a pleasant coincidence for Bengali literature, next year would also mark 110th anniversary of Tagore’s Nobel Prize win. This holds significance because it was Tagore who had inspired Raychaudhuri, his close friend to venture into the imaginative and vibrant world of children.

In the later part of the 19th Century, Bengali literature blossomed as various genres such as satire, poetry, drama, travelogue and even detective stories were being experimented with even in the cheap productions of Burtola publications. However, it dealt with adult sensibilities and hardly any books meant for children were in existence except a few translated ones by Vidyasagar. The print, illustration and cover could hardly kindle the imagination of the children.

Upendra Kishore was the inventor of modern half tone printing in the country.  He had written 14 articles on this new art between 1904 and 1914 that were published in international scientific journal. The first copy of Sandesh was published on April 14, 1913 (Poila Boishak, 1310). Upendra Kishore had designed the cover which unfortunately, cannot be traced after a century. He was a brilliant painter and the magazine was indeed a smart production. There were articles on science, poems, short stories along with cartoons and illustrations. The magazine became immensely popular.  Later, after Updendra Kishore’s death Sukumar Ray took up the responsibility of designing covers for the popular magazine.

Sandesh is perhaps in the only children magazine in the world that has involved four generations - Upendra Kishore, Sukumar, Satyajit and Sandip.  Upendra Kishore’s children - Sukholata, Sukumar, Punyolata and Subinay were intimately involved with the magazine, contributing regularly. As a matter of fact his daughters who later emerged as children litterateur began their career in Sandesh. The entire Raychaudhuri family was involved in the production of the magazine which was published from their own press, U Roy and Sons at 100, Garpar Road.

Sukumar Roy in the early 1920s made a cover design where a boy is shown reading the magazine while being surrounded by a tiger and other animals who listen to the tales, mesmerised. Satyajit Roy had paid tribute to his illustrious grandfather Upendra Kishore in a cover design where he is shown holding a copy of Sandesh and reading out the stories to the children. Sandip Roy who had designed some covers too, sketched the king and queen of playing cards in bright colours.

During its century long journey Sandesh saw quite a few ups and downs. Under Upendra Kishore and Sukumar’s able guidance Sandesh had a smooth start but was overtaken by a series of problems once Upendra Kishore died and Sukumar became seriously ill. After Sukumar’s untimely death, Karunabindu Biswas bought the good will of U Roy and Sons through auction. Karunabindu was the brother of Sudhabindu, owner of The Sun Optical Company with its office at 21/1, Cornwallis Street.

Karunabindu along with Subinoy Roy gave a new lease of life to Sandesh which was jointly edited by Subinoy Roy and Sudhabindu Biswas (1931-33) and later by Sudhabindu alone between 1934 and 35.  During this period the cover of Sandesh was designed by famous designers like Jatin Saha and Samar Gupta.

The magazine went out of circulation till May, 1961 when Sandesh came to be edited jointly by Satyajit Ray and poet Subhas Mukhopadhyay. The third phase saw an uninterrupted publication of the magazine. Noted children litterateur, Lila Mazumdar, Satyajit’s aunt and cousin, Nalini Das became associated with the magazine. From Lila Mazumdar’s memoirs we come to know that Satyajit Roy had not only made the cover designs but contacted the authors and requested them to contribute their articles for the magazine despite his busy schedule and ill health. Ray himself a brilliant illustrator had used bright colours. The cover of Sandesh was the smartest among all the children’s magazines. Subhas Mukhopadhyay wrote poems and all noted litterateurs writing for children used to contribute for the magazine. Ray despite his busy schedule read the proof, making necessary changes. Deep Mukhopadhyay, a well known children litterateur said “The magazine showed the same meticulous eye for details which Ray’s films and there was hardly any spelling mistake. The standard was very high yet the children loved to read it.” It is also interesting to note that many children who regularly subscribed the magazine later became regular contributors.

After Ray’s death Sandip Ray took the initiative to publish the magazine. He reprinted a cover by his father just as Satyajit had paid his tribute to his father, Sukumar by reprinting a cover designed by him. Unfortunately, the two storeyed building that had housed the office of Sandesh on Rashbehari Avenue has been pulled down to make room for an apartment.


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