Joydip Sur
2023-03-16 07:58:30

S N Banerjee Road The Road To Political Empowerment

S N Banerjee Road The Road To Political Empowerment

Surendranath Banerjee Road (popularly known as S.N. Banerjee Road) stretches from AJC Bose Road in the east to Jawaharlal Nehru Road in the west. Long before it was rechristened in 1931 after Surendranath Banerjea it used to be known as Jaun Bazar Street. The stretch was also renamed as ‘Corporation Street’ in 1876, when the Central Municipal Offices were built on Jaun Bazar Street. 

Jaun Bazar Street did not enjoy much of a reputation in its early days. Montague Massey in his book ‘Recollection of Calcutta’ wrote, “Jaun Bazar Street was a place of ill repute and the resort of some of the worst criminals. It was dirty, filthy, narrow sort of lane, having no sidewalks and the houses being most irregularly built without any attempt of symmetry or alignment. In fact, it had altogether a most disreputable and evil appearance.”

But the area which fell in the “brown town” inhabited by Portuguese or Armenians, according to Massey, underwent a transformation, “more particularly in that section near the Chowringhee end and has now become an ornament and acquisition to the city.”

In 1914, high-powered Keith lamps, akin to 1,000 candles, were fixed on Corporation Street and Chowringhee Road while the rest of Calcutta’s streets were still being illuminated by oil and gas lamps. The entire cost was borne by the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation.

The Corporation resolved on September 29, 1926, that the entire stretch of Corporation Street should be renamed as Surendranath Banerjee Road after Sir Surendranath Banerjea, the author of the Municipal Act of 1924 which gave Calcutta a democratic constitution with an elected Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors. The Corporation at its meeting held on March 27, 1931 and against much opposition, sanctioned the new name.


Sir Surendranath Banerjea

Sir Surendranath Banerjea was a prominent figure in Indian nationalism. Born on November 10, 1848 he passed the ICS exams in 1869, but was dismissed because of a dispute over his exact age. He cleared the exams once again in 1871 and was appointed as the Assistant Magistrate in Sylhet but soon got dismissed due to racial discrimination.

During his stay in England from 1874 to 1875, Banerjea was influenced by the works of Edmund Burke and other liberal philosophers. Upon returning to India, Surendranath Banerjea started working as a professor of English at the Metropolitan Institution, the Free Church Institution and at the Ripon College. He had set up the Indian National Association in 1876 which was later merged with the Congress set up in 1885. He launched 'The Bengalee’ newspaper in 1879. He served as Congress President for two terms in 1895 and 1902.

But as a moderate, favouring dialogue with the British, he fell out of the extremists leaders while supporting the Morley Minto reforms. He alienated himself further by accepting office under Bengal government as a minister and was knighted for his political support to the empire in 1921. He published an important work, ‘A Nation in Making’. After being defeated in elections to the Bengal Legislative Assembly he died a lonely man on August 6, 1925. He is remembered as a pioneer leader of Indian politics, treading the path for Indian political empowerment.


Important Landmarks on S.N. Banerjee Road

Among the many prominent landmarks on S.N. Banerjee Road still standing tall, the trio of Metropolitan Building, Rani Rashmoni’s residence and Kolkata Municipal Corporation building are undoubtedly the most iconic.

Metropolitan Building stands tall at the Chowringhee Road and Surendranath Banerjea Road crossing. Built in 1905 by Mackintosh Burn Ltd, it was once home to Asia’s biggest departmental store - Whiteaway & Laidlaw where the British army officers stationed in Singapore on short furlough would shop for lifestyle products.

The house of Rani Rashmoni is also a heritage property. The Durga Puja which Rani Rashmoni began in 1790 is still celebrated here by her descendents with traditional pomp. In 1864, Sri Ramakrishna had visited this house during Pujas.

The Kolkata Municipal Corporation building exudes an old world charm and is the centre of feverish activity. The stretch also houses one of the oldest schools in the city, Calcutta Boy’s School.

Some of the luminaries who resided on this road are Surendranath Banerjea, Jnanendra Nath Mukherjee, Hiren Mukherjee, Rezaul Karim, Dr. Moni Biswas, Dr. Tamiz Khan, Narendranath Sen, Tripura Sankar Sensastry, Sudam Banerjee, Nilmoni Mukherjee, Bijoy Singh Nahar, Benjamin Gomes, Syed Badruddoja among others.

In recent times, this key thoroughfare along with Lenin Sarani (Dharmatolla Street) remains choked with traffic and is a favoured route for innumerable processions and political rallies that are held in the city round the year. The endless streams of traffic and encroachment on pavements has somewhat bedraggled its appearance.  


Forgot Password?? Reset here