KD Ghose, the father of Sri Aurobindo Ghose was a benevolent doctor who helped the needy at the cost of the future prospects of his own family and children. Therefore, he was often blamed by the rich and loved by the poor for his utmost benevolence. Abhishek Ghosh profiles this forgotten golden-hearted civil surgeon.
Krishna Dhan (KD) or Dr. Krishna Dhan Ghose, MD, MRCS (Eng.), LMS (Calcutta), was born on November 21, 1844 in Patna, India. Unfortunately, at present times, he only holds a position in the list of forgotten citizens of India. Most available resources identify KD as an anglicized and atheist father of Sri Aurobindo Ghose. The reality is much diverse than what we actually think.
Early Life and Swarnalata
KD’s ancestral home was at Konnagar, in the Hoogly District of Bengal. He belonged to the twenty fourth generation of the Ghoses of Konnagar who were the descendants of Makaranda Ghose, of “Soukalin” Gotra. KD’s father Kaliprasad Ghose was a civil servant in the East India Company. When K. D. was only twelve, his father passed away. His orthodox mother, Kailasbasini went to Benares with her widowed daughter, Biraj Mohini. KD used to visit them every six months. Despite childhood difficulties, KD passed the Entrance Examination in 1858 with second division from Konnagar High School at the age of fifteen. Later, he joined the Medical College of Calcutta and became heavily attracted to Brahmo Samaj. At that time, Rajnarayan Bose was one of the pioneers of Brahmo Samaj. His eldest daughter, Swarnalata, was young and beautiful (affectionately called the Rose of Rangpur). The young KD fell in love with her, and their marriage was solemnized in 1864. Swarnalata was twelve and KD was nineteen. Their marriage ceremony was a luxurious affair according to the Brahmo rituals welcoming guests like Debendranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen.
Medical Studies and Visit to England
In 1864, KD completed his studies from Calcutta Medical College and became a Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (L. M. S. 2nd Division). In 1865, he became the Sub-Assistant Surgeon (third grade) of the Medical College Hospital, eventually taking up the charge of the Dispensary at Bhagalpur (then in Bengal). Dr. Ghose also joined the Bhagalpur Brahmo Samaj and strongly advocated measures towards women empowerment.
In 1870, KD undertook his first voyage to England for higher studies in medicine. He was a father of two sons: Benoybhusan and Manmohan (NOTE: Aurobindo was only born later on August 15, 1872 in Calcutta.) He put his wife and two sons in the care of his friend Miss Pigott. Dr. Ghose was among the first few Bengalis to visit England after the opening of the Suez Canal. He received his degree in Doctor of Medicine (MD) with honors from Aberdeen University, Scotland and returned to India around 1871. Shortly after his return, he got promoted becoming the District’s Chief Medical Officer of Rangpur (now in Bangladesh) and stayed there for about twelve years.
Dr. Ghosh underwent a complete metamorphosis in England and became a “pucca sahib”. He got completely anglicized and had become an atheist. Upon his return to India, people threatened to outcaste him for his iconoclastic perceptions. His only remorse was to perform expiatory ceremony for having gone overseas. The ban on crossing the oceans was absolutely unacceptable to KD being opposed to blind orthodoxy. He knew very well that in the ancient times, many Bengali merchant ships has sailed to Java, Sumatra and even to Sinhal (Sri Lanka) for trade and commerce. For example, the Bengali Prince, Bijoy Singha, had conquered Lanka and given the island its identity. Thus, KD refused to perform any rituals and left Konnagar, severing off his ties with the city.
The Demi-God of Rangpur
Despite being anglicised, KD harbored a Hindu heart. He never quite neglected his social obligations. He helped the needy at the cost of the future prospects of his own family and children. Therefore, he was often blamed by the rich and loved by the poor for his utmost benevolence. He cared about the health and sanitary conditions of the people of Rangpur – essentially, swampy and malaria-ridden. He exercised his influence and got a canal constructed in 1877 called the KD Canal. Being a proponent of education, once he helped a Sanskrit scholar, Jadabeshwar Tarkaratna to set up a “Chatuspathi” at Rangpur, a school which specifically encourages Sanskrit grammar, poetry and philosophy. Being an admirer of arts and theatre, KD would often invite artists/actors from Calcutta (Star Theatre) to come to Rangpur for performances. Altogether, KD’s social outlook and pragmatism earned him a lot of respect from the locals.
Transfer to Khulna
KD developed great friendship with Magistrate Mr. Edward Glazier, who did nothing without consulting him. Unfortunately, Glazier was transferred from Rangpur. The succeeding new Magistrate soon realised that he is practically powerless in the soil of Rangpur. Unable to tolerate this, he insisted the Government to transfer KD to Khulna. This somehow shocked KD and gradually, he started losing respect for the English people and nationalistic feelings started in. He underwent many transfers hopping between Khulna, Bankura region and Calcutta. In 1884, the Government of Bengal appointed him as the “Superintendent of Vaccinations, Metropolitan Circle” in Calcutta. But finally, in 1885 he was posted in Khulna where he remained till the end of his life. Of note, KD undertook his second voyage to England in 1879 to educate his sons. His friendship with Mr. Glazier led him to Rev. Drewett, Minister of Manchester (and Glazier’s cousin), who further took charge of his sons – namely Benoybhushan, Manmohan and Aurobindo.
KD encountered an unfortunate and untimely death. He was waiting for years for his son (Aurobindo) to return to India from England. He sent a cable to his bankers Bombay’s Grindlays & Co. enquiring about the ship’s arrival. The reply came with a misinformation that the ship had sunk. Dr. Ghose could not bear this shock and died in 1892, lamenting his son’s name on his lips, “Auro”. Indeed, the vessel Roumania was shipwrecked on October 27, 1892 due to bad weather near river Arelho, north of Lisbon. But interestingly, Sri Aurobindo boarded a different ship and duly arrived in Bombay on February 06, 1893 by SS Carthage.
Sadly, the father wasn’t destined to meet his son on the Indian soil.
(The views expressed are personal)
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