Janaki Nath Bose is remembered, if at all, as the father of the great freedom-fighters Sarat Chandra and Subhas Chandra Bose, but the man himself is forgotten. Subhas Chandra himself wrote a brief biography of his father in Bengali which is worth reading. Janaki Nath was born in Kodalia on 28 May 1860 as the third son of Haranath Bose. The gate of the house still stands bearing this name.
Although the Bose family of Mahinagar can traces its lineage back to Gopinath Bose who was given the title Purandar Khan by Sultan Hussain Shah, by the time of his birth it had been reduced to modest means. Janaki Nath Bose is remembered, if at all, as the father of the great freedom-fighters Sarat Chandra and Subhas Chandra Bose, but the man himself is forgotten. Subhas Chandra himself wrote a brief biography of his father in Bengali which is worth reading.
Janaki Nath was born in Kodalia on 28 May 1860 as the third son of Haranath Bose. The gate of the house still stands bearing this name. Although the Bose family of Mahinagar can traces its lineage back to Gopinath Bose who was given the title Purandar Khan by Sultan Hussain Shah, by the time of his birth it had been reduced to modest means. Janaki Nath passed the Entrance examination in December 1877 from Albert School, Kolkata.
A schoolmate at this time was the legendary chemist-cum-industrialist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Ray, who as a Professor taught his sons at Presidency College. Janaki Nath attended St. Xavier’s College Calcutta for six months and then joined the General Assembly Institution, now the Scottish Church College. He then moved with his elder half-brother Debendra Nath to Cuttack and joined the Ravenshaw College in August 1879. Passing the FA examination in first division and he earned a scholarship of Rs 20 per month, a princely sum in those days.
He continued his studies there for the B A degree in 1882. He passed the B. L. degree from the Metropolitan Institution in early 1884. During this time he came into close contact with prominent personalities of the Brahmo Samaj such as Brahmanand Keshav Chandra Sen, his brother Krishna Bihari Sen and Umesh Chandra Dutt. In between he served as a lecturer at Albert College in 1883, of which Krishna Behari Sen was then Rector. For about nine months in 1884 he was headmaster at Joynagar Institution.
He then went to Cuttack for the Puja vacation, was enrolled as a Pleader and joined the Cuttack bar on 13 January 1885. Instrumental in his settling down as a lawyer in Cuttack was the presence of Rai Bahadur Hari Ballabh Bose, uncle of Prabhabati, who had established himself as a leading lawyer in Orissa. In 1891 Janaki Nath was appointed Public Prosecutor. His father Haranath Bose passed away in 1895. In 1901 he was elected the first unofficial chairman of Cuttack Municipality and, after the passing of Rai Bahadur Hari Ballabh Bose in 1905 he assumed the position of Government Pleader.
He became conversant with the Odia language, an expert in tenancy laws and in drafting legal documents. He is still remembered throughout Odisha by his generosity and uprightness and a lawyer. On 8 December 1880 he was married to Prabhabati Devi, eldest daughter of Ganga Narayan Dutt, of the wealthy aristocratic Dutt family of Baranagar. She was only 11. The first children, the two daughters Pramila and Sarala were, according to custom, born at the in-laws home at Baranagar in 1884 and 1885 respectively and brought back to Kodalia. Neighbours thought that two daughters in succession were a bad omen and Prabhabati had to endure some barbs.
In later life she would be known as ‘Ratna garbh’’- mother of jewels! Her first son Satish was followed by Sarat, Suresh, Sudhir and Sunil. After two daughters was born Subhas in 1897 as the sixth son. The youngest sons were Sailesh and Santosh. In all, Janaki Nath and Prabhabati had eight sons and six daughters.Janaki Nath was an ardent follower of the Indian National Congress even when he was Government Pleader and attended the Congress sessions when possible.
This aroused some adverse criticism from his contemporaries. He wore khadi being an ardent advocate of Swadeshi and active supporter of the first Odia school, the Satyabadi Vidyalaya established by Gopa Bandhu Das in Cuttack. Of a strong religious nature, he was President of the Theosophical Lodge in Cuttack. Subhas Chandra writes that belief in God and devotion to religion was the driving force of his life and led him to overcome adversities. A self-made man he was large-hearted and charitable work was his second nature.
He supported countless deserving students and provided pension and support for those who worked in his large household. He left the running of the large family to Prabhabati.As recognition of his exceptional qualities, in 1912 Janaki Nath was elected a member of the Bengal Legislative Council and received the title Rai Bahadur. Following differences with the District Magistrate in 1917 he resigned as Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor.
Later in 1930 he gave up the title of Rai Bahadur as a protest against the repressive policies of the Government. In Subhas’ brief biography of his father, he wrote that despite two of his sons Suresh and Subhas giving up coveted government posts, Suresh as District Magistrate and Subhas as ICS, Janaki Nath remain unperturbed and encouraged them to follow their conscience. The death of a daughter and son-in-law left him heart-broken. The long terms of imprisonment suffered by Sarat and Subhas also took their toll. His health started deteriorating after 1926 when he was persuaded by Sarat to move from Cuttack to Elgin Road. When Sarat was imprisoned, Janaki Nath, though unwell returned to practice in Cuttack to support the large family. He suffered a heart attack and was looked after by his doctor son Sunil.
It was while Subhas was exiled in Europe that Janaki Nath breathed his last on 3 December 1934. Subhas got the tragic news at Karachi airport. He had not seen his father since 1931. He was interned during his stay for the funeral. The shradh was performed by the seven brothers according to Hindu rites, after which Subhas returned to Europe in January 1935. Although his working life was spent in Odisha he did not forget his village Kodalia where he set up a dispensary named after his mother Kamini and a library named after his father Haranath Binapani Library in 1928 and 300 eminent persons from the villages of Harinavi, Malancha, Changripota and Kodalia gathered at the inauguration. The Durga Puja at Kodalia goes back at least till the 1850s and received a new lease of life through Prabhabati after her marriage.
It was celebrated in Kodalia every autumn with great fervour and due solemnity.Subhas Chandra in his autobiography The Indian Pilgrim recalls that in the early days the family often came up from Cuttack by boat as “it was safer to trust in God than in brother man”. Janaki Nath and Prabhabati spent a couple of months in the village each year and brought clothes for the villagers, besides arranging sumptuous meals on all the days of the Puja.Satish was born 1887 and Sarat born two years later, grew up together going to school and later Presidency College in 1905. While in Cuttack, Sarat developed a fascination for public speaking and used to practice in the solitary environment of Katjuri river.
Prabhabati conceived the idea of building a home in Kolkata and the land at 38/2 Elgin Road was purchased from Sir Provas Mitter, an uncle of Prabhabati, who had to sell her jewels in the process. The building, now Netaji Bhavan was completed by 1909. After obtaining their MA degrees, Sarat was the first to go to England and joined Lincoln’s Inn in 1911. Satish followed after the War in 1919 and on return practised in the Patna High Court. Sarat Bose became a luminary of the Calcutta High Court but did not think twice about sacrificing his career to defend freedom-fighters such as Anant Singh. The British accused him of using his pelf and prestige to help the revolutionaries and jailed him at will. As President of the Bengal National Congress and the founder of the Socialist Republican Party his political life has been well-documented.
The third brother Suresh joined judicial service in Orissa. When the Gandhian Gopa Bandhu Das was brought before him for trial, Suresh released him and posted his resignation at the same time. He then went to Germany, studied Glass Technology and was an innovative engineer who set up machine tool factories as well as a refrigeration unit at Chilka. Sudhir studied metallurgy at Sheffield University in England and worked at Jamadoba and then with Tata Steel in Jamshedpur as Head of the Coal Division. Subhas stayed with him when the Tata workers went on strike and again when he was recuperating in Jamadoba.
The fifth brother Sunil had an outstanding academic career standing first from the Orissa Division in the Entrance examination. He stood 7th in the F A from Presidency in 1911, his classmates being Satyendra Nath Bose, a lifelong friend, Jnan Ghosh and Jnan Mukherjee. He was the second MRCP (London) from Bengal after Dr B C Roy and the first Indian cardiologist having trained under Sir Thomas Lewis. He travelled to Mandalay twice to examine ailing Subhas and recommended transfer to Europe for treatment.
He also accompanied Subhas to both Haripura and Tripuri Congresses.As is well-known, Subhas stood second in the FA examination and was a brilliant student first at Presidency and then, after the Oaten incident, at Scottish Church College. He joined Fitzwilliam Hall Cambridge in 1919 obtaining the Tripos in Moral Sciences and standing 4th in the I C S examination. He resigned and returned in 1921 to join the freedom struggle. Sailesh, born 1904, joined the textile industry in Ahmedabad, setting up his own mills in Coimbatore and then near Cuttack. Thus all seven brothers had outstanding careers in their own fields and contributed to the freedom movement in their own ways. They thus stood up to the ideals and example set by Janaki Nath Bose. The writer is former professor and dean IIT Kharagpur and former professor IISc Bangalore