Published:  12:00 AM, 24 November 2021

180 Years of Knowledge Based Honor and Glory of Dhaka College

180 Years of Knowledge Based Honor and Glory of Dhaka College
Dhaka College is one of the top educational institutions in the country with the oldest and most glorious heritage. 'Know Yourself' by Philosopher Socrates is holding the most great motto of this college and it has already passed more than one hundred and fifty years old and is well-known in the home and abroad as a factory of producing some brilliant luminaries by spreading the light of education over a long period of 180 years. Since its establishment on 20 November 1841, the College has become the focal point for the spread of education in East Bengal. Not only Dhaka city, but also the light of knowledge sharing in this subcontinent and the name of an old Bayan tree is considered as 'Dhaka College'. I feel really blessed and proud as an alumnus of this great Dhaka College.

Fort William College was first established in 1800 AD at the dawn of Bengali Renaissance in this subcontinent and at this time, Arabic, Hindustani, Persian, Sanskrit and Bengali were taught in this college and there was no English language teaching system. So David Hare and Raja Radhakanta Dev took the steps to start an institution of English education. To this end, a meeting was held at Baddinath's residence on 16 May 1816, and in 1817 Raja Rammohun Roy, with the previous entrepreneurs, established the Hindu College at Gorachand Basak's house in Garanhata, Calcutta. Some of the historical requirements behind the establishment of this college worked particularly well. The reason was that the Supreme Court was established in Calcutta in 1773 AD, when Calcutta was the capital of British India. The local Bengali Hindus started learning English language in order to get employment or legal benefits in this court and it was for this purpose that the college was officially inaugurated on January 20, 1817.

At first, only Hindus were allowed to study in this college. Considering that there should be a college for all religious communities, many intellectuals of the time felt the need to set up a new college. However, the then government did not agree to provide the money needed to set up a new college. As a result, an initiative was taken to turn the Hindu College into an all-community college as an alternative. At the behest of Lord Dalhousie, Governor of Bengal-Bihar-Orissa, the Hindu College was transformed into Presidency College on 15th June, 1855, and in 2010 it became Presidency University.

Although a Hindu College was established in Calcutta, no college was established for the Hindu Muslims of East Bengal. When the British won the battle of Palashi in 1757, they gained the civil rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa in 1765 AD, the East India Company and in fact they became the rulers of the region. Although the British did not recognize themselves as rulers at that time, in 1772 Governor Warren Hastings unveiled the mask and took over the rule of the country directly on behalf of the East India Company. For the next 62 years, the rulers of the East India Company did not formulate any education policy or adopt any formal or governmental education system for the inhabitants of their kingdom. For a long time, the education system of this region has been running traditionally. Finally, in the 1830's, the government adopted an education policy and the education policy that was introduced in that policy became known as Western or English education. Its main purpose was to create a professional to assist the English in their official work.

Although some educational institutions were established in Dhaka at that time for the introduction of this modern style of education, the propagation of religion became more important than the expansion of education. As a result, no educational institution was formed there. Subsequently, on April 20, 1835, the authority responsible for the education system of the country submitted a report to the General Committee of Public Instruction, Lord Bentick, stating: English literature and science in the main populous city of the Bengal Presidency under the supervision of the Government. Establish as many schools as possible for education. Later, a letter was sent to the Dhaka authorities to verify the validity of the report. Dr. James Tayler, the then Civil Surgeon of Dhaka, said that the establishment of a school here is not only a must, but has all the necessary financial and social resources. There was the Dhaka English Seminary, now known as Dhaka Collegiate School, was officially started on 15th July, 1835 through various processes started from then onwards.

In establishing this school, on the one hand, the overall picture of the society is changing and on the other hand, it exposes the western art, science and philosophy in the minds of the students. In the wake of this positive change in education and society, the then Governor General Lord Auckland and the General Committee of Public Instruction recommended the establishment of a number of central colleges. In view of this, the proposed expenditure was mentioned and subject to its proper approval by the authorities. The seminary school was named Dhaka Collegiate School. Needless to say, the image of education and culture in the whole of Dhaka changed immediately after the establishment of this college. Like the Hindu College in Calcutta, Dhaka College became the center of English education in the whole of East Bengal. At that time Cambridge University student and Hindu College teacher J. Ireland was appointed the first principal of Dhaka College. With his arrival, the foundation of institutional and educational management of Dhaka College began to change. In that sense, Ireland is the real important organizer of Dhaka College. He revolutionized the teaching management of the college.

The establishment of Calcutta University on 24th January, 1857 is an important event in the history of modern Bengal as well as an unforgettable event for Dhaka College. Because after the establishment of Calcutta University, Dhaka College was affiliated to it and from that time the students of Dhaka College participated in the conventional courses in Calcutta University. Although the university was affiliated, its structural or other changes were not seriously considered. One thing to note here is that the government of that time started a discriminatory treatment of Calcutta Presidency College. Not even a new professor has been appointed in this college. In 1856, Professor Brendan, a professor of mathematics, was appointed principal of Dhaka College, and as soon as he was appointed, he began to take various measures for the betterment of the college. Needless to say, after getting Brendan, Dhaka College was able to turn around from a crisis.

In 1875 AD, Dhaka College gained a great honor, from that year, science classes were opened in Dhaka College, i.e, it was decided to teach new science subjects. It was a revolutionary change because it made it possible for the youth of East Bengal to acquire knowledge about science, a tool of the modern age. After the opening of the science classes, the admission of students in Dhaka College fell short. At the same time the infrastructural changes of this college also took place. Despite all the setbacks, Dhaka College continued its advancement in the field of education, the golden crop of which was the creation of Dhaka University in 1921.

Initially, the college was built on the banks of the Buriganga in association with the former Dhaka Government Collegiate School, but soon a separate building was required. When the Partition of Bengal was canceled in 1911, Curzon Hall came to be used as Dhaka College building. After the establishment of Dhaka University in 1921, Dhaka College lost all its possessions and settled like a vagabond in the old building of the High Court (now Supreme Court). When World War II broke out in 1939, armed forces occupied the High Court building and used it as a tent. In 1943, Islamia Intermediate College (now the main building of Kabi Nazrul College) was operating temporarily for some time. Shortly afterwards, work began on the rusty old building of Khan Bahadur Abdul Hai at Siddique Bazar, adjacent to Fulbaria Station. In 1955, Dhaka College found its own home and permanent address is settled at Mirpur Road, Dhanmondi Dhaka-1205. At that time, the area of Dhaka College was 24 acres, however, during the dictatorial Ershad government, Dhaka College was forced to give up six acres of land. At present the total land area of Dhaka College is 18 acres.

The students of this college participated in various democratic movements including World War of 1939-45, Riot of 1941, Great Language Movement of 1952, United Front election of 1954, Education Movement against military rule of 1962, Mass uprising of 1969, Great Liberation War of 1971, Anti-dictatorship movement of 1990 and participation was at the forefront. After the commencement of the course in 1841, the number of students in the college was 52 in 1859-60. In 1917-18 it stood at 995 people but at present the number of students is about 20 thousand. There are 240 teachers and 190 staff. The library of Dhaka College was established in 1841 at the very beginning of the establishment of the college and at present there are 50,000 books in the library including the equipped reading room. The natural environment inside Dhaka College is quite magical and full of eye-catching love. The walled New Market on the south, Govt. Laboratory School, NAEM and Teachers Training College on the north and a big waterbody of Border Guard of Bangladesh (formerly BDR) on the west is a truly fascinating place. All in all, Dhaka College should be called to the heart of the capital with a kiss of love.

However, there was no dormitory in Dhaka College till 1880. During this long period of time, the students spend their lives in various hardships as a vagabonds. Although a dormitory was built in Dhaka in 1874, it did not last long. Subsequently, the first dormitory named Rajchandra Hindu Student Hostel was constructed at Shridas Lane, Banglabazar for Dhaka College in 1880 with a completely private grant subject to the permission of the government. After that the number of students in the hostel started increasing rapidly and in 1883-84 the number of boarders stood at 90. At a government meeting on 27 May 1904, it was decided to build a modern dormitory for Dhaka College. Later two new dormitories were established in the Secretariat building and many students benefited from it. The hostel was named Secretariat Muslim Hostel. Later, when Dhaka University was established, the Hindu Hostel of Dhaka College was converted into Dhaka Hall, which is now Shahidullah Hall and the Muslim Hostel in the Secretariat Building became Muslim Hall, which is now Salimullah Hall.

At present the number of dormitories of Dhaka College is 8. Room No. 206 of South Hostel stayed Humayun Ahmed, a well-known writer of the country, has crossed the boundaries of higher secondary from this room. Akhtaruzzaman Ilyas, another well-known writer of Bengali literature known as 'Chilekothar Sepai', was the Head of the Bangla Department of Dhaka College from 16 February 1992 to 4 January 1997. 'Akhtaruzzaman Elias Hostel' has been built in the memory of this author. 'West Hostel' was established in 1964 and this dormitory accommodates only students of Hindu and other religion. Next door is the 'International Hostel' and this hostel is famous for a special reason. Former Maldivian President Mamun Abdul Gayoom spent his education in room 209 on the second floor of the dormitory. Like them, many meritorious students of Dhaka College like luminaries are performing their duties in various fields including education, medicine, engineering, administration, political and cultural arena, university professors in home and abroad. In this sense, Dhaka College has become known as a place of pilgrimage and sanctuary for meritorious people and as a brand in the field of education.

Once the center of student politics, 'Dhaka College Student Parliament' was a brand gifted to many student leaders in national politics and it is also called Mini DUCSU. Dhaka College, established on 20 November 1841 as the first modern educational institution in Bangladesh and the Indian subcontinent, has a unique history and tradition. At present many brilliant leaders of the two main political parties of Bangladesh or many late national leaders started their golden political life from Dhaka College.

In the course of time, Dhaka College has passed almost 180 years. This light of education is a unique banyan tree and bright star in spreading the light of knowledge. The oldest educational institution in the subcontinent is spreading the light of education in its glory in the country and abroad. Dhaka College is still at the top of the list of meritorious favorites. Millions of students who have taken education from here are working for the welfare of the country. In the international arena, the students of this college are established in different parts of the world and are brilliant in their glory. We all hope that Dhaka College will spread the light of knowledge in the heart of Bangladesh with its pride and glory not only for 180 years but also for hundreds of years with the slogan 'Know Yourself'.

Md Zillur Rahaman is a Banker, Freelance Columnist and student of HSC 1995 batch of Dhaka College and ranks 12th in the combined merit list from the humanities group of Dhaka Board.

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