Residence & Hub of Nationalism
Hub of Nationalism
Sri Aurobindo usually resided in this house as a guest of Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick on his visits to Calcutta. 12, Wellington Square thus became a hub of the Nationalist movement and a silent witness to various events, meetings and discussions that shaped it.
On his return to Calcutta in 1906 as Principal of Bengal National College, he continued residing in this house until he shifted to make himself more accessible to the 'common people'.
It is believed that the room at the north-west corner of the mansion, with one window opening to the main thoroughfare and the other facing a narrow lane, was generally occupied by Sri Aurobindo during his stay at 12, Wellington Square.
"..in those stirring times when the country, especially Bengal, was thrown into a whirlwind agitation over the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon..."
"At that time Sri Aurobindo took up the personal leadership of the Revolution which ushered in the nation's battle for freedom. Every day he would go from the Bengal National College to the evening gathering at the house of one of India's patriotic martyrs, Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick, in Wellington Square. The gathering, by its thought and inspiration, resembled that of the French Encyclopaedists, the intellectuals who paved the way of the French Revolution..."
Raja Subodh Chandra Mullick
..Subodh Mullick, one of Sri Aurobindo's collaborators in his secret action and afterwards also in Congress politics, in whose house he usually lived when he was in Calcutta, had given a lakh of rupees for this foundation [Bengal National College] and had stipulated that Sri Aurobindo should be given a post of professor in the college with a salary of Rs. 150...
S.C. Mullick was arrested and and jailed in Almora for fourteen months. After his release in February, 1910, Sri Aurobindo paid him a visit at 12, Wellington Sqaure. That was the last time he saw Sri Aurobindo.
Subodh Chandra Mallick's contribution to and suffering for the Nationalist cause was quiet. Yet it left an impression on the collective consciousness. A road, a park and even Wellington Square are named in his remembrance.
Conference of Revolutionaries
In December 1906, at Raja Subodh Mullick’s house, during the session of the Congress in Calcutta, there was a historic conference of the revolutionary leaders, presided over by P. Mitter and attended by Sri Aurobindo. In addition to Subodh Mullick, were present Abinash Chakrabarty, Bhupendra Nath Datta (Vivekananda’s brother), Indra Nandi, Annada Kaviraj; among the important leaders who represented the districts figured Jatindra Nath Mukherjee and his uncle Lalitkumar Chatterjee (Nadia), Jnan Basu (Midnapore), Bireshwar Mukherjee (Jessore), Paresh Lahiri (Mymensingh), Nikhil Ray Maulik and Pulin Das (Dacca). Sri Aurobindo "explained the necessity of money" and admitted that it "could, then, be secured through only dacoity". He said that money thus obtained "should be regarded as loan from the victims" of such a levy, "to be repaid after independence". The suggestion was accepted unanimously. A similar conference was held in 1907 in the same house."
Source: Note by Dr Prithwindra Mukherjee. First Spark of Revolution, by Arun Chandra Guha, pp116-117. Corroborated by Bhupendranath Datta in 'Dvitîya Swadhinata Samgram', Navabharat, Calcutta, 1983, pp.168-169.
Nolini Kanta Gupta's first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo at 12, Wellington Square
My first Darshan of Sri Aurobindo
"Maniktolla was in those days at the very far end of North Kolkata and Sri Aurobindo lived with Raja Subodh Mullick near Wellington Square to the South. I went by tram and it was about four in the afternoon when I reached... Sri Aurobindo came down, stood near me and gave me an enquiring look. I said, in Bengali, 'Barin has sent me. Would it be possible for you to come to the Gardens with me now?' He answered very slowly, pausing on each syllable separately.... 'Go and tell Barin, I have not yet had my lunch. It will not be possible to go today.' So that was that. I did not say a word, did my namaskara and came away. This was my first happy meeting with him, my first Darshan and interview."
Nolini Kanta Gupta
Rabindranath meets Sri Aurobindo
One afternoon at 12, Wellington Square, a couple of days after Sri Aurobindo's acquittal in the 'Bande Mataram Sedition Case', Sri Aurobindo, his brother, Manomohan, Subodh, Nirode and myself were chatting, when the door-keeper came in to announce the arrival of Rabi babu. We immediately came out to receive him in the front-hall. Rabindranath wrapped his two hands around Sri Aurobindo and held him in a warm embrace. The poet's eyes were moist. He said in half-jest: "Ki Mashai! Amai phanki dilen!" (What, Sir! How you have deceived me!). [He had written a poem: 'Namashkar' in anticipation of Sri Aurobindo's incarceration]. Sri Aurobindo laughed and replied in English: "Not for long". [Note: About seven months later, Sri Aurobindo was prosecuted in the 'Alipore Bomb Case' and did spend a year in Jail as an undertrial prisoner.] After this, the poet settled down and chatted with us for a long while.
I said: "Sir, it is we who did not let him go to Jail. We had burnt the little documentary evidence that did exist. But this is just the beginning. Your poem will come true, eventually.
Subsequent to Sri Aurobindo's arrest in Alipore Bomb Case on 2.May.1908, the Police conducted a house-search at 12, Wellington Square on 10.May.1908, whilst the Mullick family was away at Varanasi. The whole house was turned upside-down in a bid to obtain incriminating evidence.
Interview with Henry Nevinson
"When I reached the house in a large square ... I found it dark and apparently empty. A Hindu servant let me in, and after a time Mr. Arabindo Ghose himself appeared alone. He had not expected me, because the letter about my coming had been stopped, no doubt by the postal spies, as he said nearly all his letters were. He had no special reason to complain of that, nor did he complain.... He was a youngish man, I should think still under thirty. Intent dark eyes looked from his thin, clear-cut face with a gravity that seemed immovable, but the figure and bearing were those of an English graduate." During their talk Sri Aurobindo explained his purpose and the simple means he proposed to work on. "But behind these simple means a deeper spirit was at work." Nevinson found a fervour of nationality in the young man. "There is a religious tone, a spiritual elevation, in such words very characteristic of Arabindo Ghose himself, and of all Bengali Nationalists.... He was possessed by that concentrated vision.... But at the end of that road he saw a vision more inspiring and spiritual than any fanatic saw who rushed on death with Paradise in sight. Nationalism to him was far more than a political object or a means of material improvement.........Grave with intensity, careless of fate or opinion, and one of the most silent men I have known, he was of the stuff that dreamers are made of, but dreamers who will act their dream, indifferent to the means..
'The man who never laughed'
Purani: Nevinson, the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, said that you never laughed.
Sri Aurobindo: Yes. I met him twice, once in Bengal at Subodh Mullick's place. I was very serious at that time. The next occasion was when I was president of the National Conference at Surat. Then also I couldn't laugh, being the President. So he called me "the man who never laughed".
A Viva voce
Charu Chandra Dutta narrates an incident that occured in 1906-7 when Sri Aurobindo was the Principal of the just established National College at Calcutta. "One day on his return from College, Sri Aurobindo sat down, picked up a novel and began to read it, while we were noisily engaged in a game of poker or chess. After about half an hour he put down the book - of nearly a hundred pages - and took up a cup of tea. He often used to do this. But that day we were prepared. As soon as he put down the book, Subodh picked it up and asked him, 'Have you read it entirely?' - 'Yes.' - 'From end to end? And you have not skipped anything?' - 'No, no, I have read it all.' Subodh threw the book to me and said, 'Test him viva voce, brother.' I opened the book at random and read out a line from it. 'Now go on with the sequel, Sir Principal.' Sri Aurobindo thought for a moment, and then repeated the contents of the whole page unhaltingly."
Subodh Mullick’s palatial house at No.12, Wellington Square still stands today, but in a state that brings tears to the eyes. It is a large, three-storey mansion of pinkish orange colour. From the road one can see a high wrought-iron gate which in the past was opened to let in horse carriages. Everything about the house evokes an age of graceful luxury. It is said that the room at the corner, which has one window on the side of the main thoroughfare and the other facing a narrow lane, used to be occupied by Sri Aurobindo. A century ago this grand house was lit up with chandeliers, and the exquisitely carved wooden balcony must have had a regal beauty, while today it is covered in dust and wild plants. The architecture is more European than Indian and in its glorious days even the decoration inside was European; the rooms had carpets, book-lined shelves, and paintings.
This mansion is a historical monument where some of the high moments of the freedom struggle were lived out..
Raja Subhodh Chandra Mullick's House
12, Wellington Square
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