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Deb Sahitya Kutir – The legendary Bengali publishers to get heritage status

As we turned the pages of the pink covered ‘Barnaparichay’ book during our quintessential Bengali alphabet learning sessions as children, did we know that many years later, one of the owners of the house which published the book will run from pillar to post in order to save the organization from the grasp of the land promoters?

Deb Sahitya Kutir was and still is synonymous with many bookish memories of childhood, – the Shuktara Magazine with the legendary comic strip heroes like Bantul The Great, Handa Bhonda, Nonte Fonte for children. Then there was the Nabakallol Magazine which catered to the adult readers exclusively while the cover stories popped up the curiosities of the teenagers. The smell of the annual pujabarshiki volumes still brings in the fragrance of Durga Puja in many Bengali homes and for the rest where Bengali has become a forbidden language, it is still fighting the lost battle with computer games, television sets and mobile phones.

There was a time in the past when Deb Sahitya Kutir published many books for all kinds of readers. The most famous among them, however, were A.T Deb’s dictionary and Vidyasagar’s Barnaparichay. A. T Deb or Ashutosh Deb was the third son of Barada Prasad Mazumdar who started the legendary publishing house.

According to various sources of History, Baradaprasad Majumdar, came to Kolkata in search of a new life and new identity. He took a new surname ‘Deb’ and started a book publishing house. Ashutosh Deb, with a vision to expand his father’s business, bought copyrights of many books written by Vidyasagar and started to reprint and publish them from Deb Sahitya Kutir. Gradually, the name of the organization gained popularity and became a household name with their popular magazines ‘Shuktara’ and ‘Nabakallol’.

The present years had been gloomy for this organization. With the aggressive use of digital media and a slow decline in the culture of reading Bengali books amongst children, the publishing house had been suffering losses. On the top of that, the land promoters started hovering around the Jhamapukur Office as well as the residential property for acquiring the land area for their selfish interests.

One of the Facebook groups which deal with Kolkata’s heritage restoration affairs, namely Purono Kolkatar Golpo, was contacted by one of the present owners, Rupa Mazumdar. She reported that the Jhamapukur’s office building comprising of ‘Chamatkar Bari’ and ‘Barada Kutir’ were being eyed by the land dealers for the hunger of a big profit haul. The group members condemned this activity and made a move to the West Bengal Heritage Commission for declaring this building as heritage because a heritage status added to the said property would save it from the land promoters. Previously, the commission did not declare the building as a heritage in spite of it being reaching close to 100 years of age.

However, as per the recent news, the WBHC have decided to honour the office building with a heritage status thereby saving many memories attached to it and to the cultural history of Kolkata as well. A time may come when all the events will be forgotten, all the past cultures will be gulped down by new innovations, but what will remain, is the heritage, the heritage which had and will continue to be the roots of the civilizations to come.

Information Source Courtesy:

  1. Posts of Purono Kolkatar Golpo, Facebook
  2. www.getbengal.in
  3. Dev Sahitya Kutir Heritage Foundation

Image Courtesy: Dev Sahitya Kutir Archive, Harano Somoyer Bigyapon’s archive, World Wide Web

Content curated by: Kolkata Fusion

P.S: Talking about the old classic books that make us nostalgic, we bet almost of you will mention Golpogucchho by Rabindranath Tagore. Here’s our review on ‘Streer Patra’, one of the stories of the Golpoguccho anthology.

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