Malay RoyChoudhury's Ancestory:
Malay Roychoudhury (1939), and his elder brother Samir (1933), of the Hungry Generation (Hungryalism) literature Movement (1961-1965) fame, belong to the Uttarpara (District Hooghly, West Bengal, India) clan of the Sabarna Choudhuries. Having been born in to this clan has given them a sense of being rooted to the pre-colonial history of West Bengal, as well as an organic geographical sense of belonging to the soil, which most of the contemporary Bengali writers are deprived of. It was natural that these two brothers alongwith Shakti Chattopadhyay, resident of Joynagar-Majilpur, formed the core of the Movement.
The Sabarna Choudhury clan of Uttarpara, like the clans at Halishahar, Birati and Kheput, is a branch of the Behala-Barisha (Kolkata) Sabarna Choudhuries. However, the clan did not suddenly emanate at Behala-Barisha. Like all rarhishreni Brahmins, this family also traces its origin in pre-Islamic
Atul Krishna Ray in his book ‘Lakshmikanta: A Chapter in the Social History of Bengal’ (1928) has mapped the course of the descendants of one of such 10th Century Brahmins in this order: Vedagarbha (980AD), Shobhana, Shauri, Pitambara, Damodara, Kulapati (1182), Shishoo, Gadadhara, Halayudha (1282), Ayurama, Binayak, Jiyo, Paramshwar and Panchanan.
The historical mist gets clearer from the time of a person in flesh and blood at Amati
The wealth he had amassed as a commandant allowed him to shift his base to a place which later came to be known as Halishahar. He had built a haveli or a palace, and the town was called Haveli-Shahar at that time. He invited vaidyas of Bikrampur, kayasthas of Konnogar, yajurvedi Brahmins from Orissa and Tamilnadu for settling at Havelishahar. Since vocations were caste-based at that time, he had arranged for the settlement of artisans, craftsmen and traders from various areas. Panchu Shakti Khan’s son Shambhupati (1500) reverted to Gangopadhyay title, and engaged himself in developing the area as a business centre; the centre was connected by river route with Bhushana (now in
Shambhupati’s son Jia (1535-1620) broke the newly-built family tradition and reverted to religious inclinations. He moved from one temple to another with his wife Padmavati, probably because she was unable to bear a child. The couple visited the then Kalikshetra Kalipeeth, now known as Kalighat, the abode of goddess Kali. The legend, narrated in Kalikshetra Deepika by Suryakumar Chattopadhyay and Kalighat Itibritta by Upendranath Mukhopadhyay is that Padmavati in her trance saw a halo of light descend on the adjacent pond; she wanted to take a dip in that halo of light, which she did, and became pregnant. Hence the custom of childless couples taking a bath in the adjacent water-body. Presently it is waiting to be cleaned of filth. Next day Padmavati saw a hand right in the middle of the pond, signaling her to find out what is concealed at the bottom. On excavation, a piece of goddess Sati’s feet was discovered, reported to be locked in the temple-chest forever.
Padmavati gave birth to a son, and as the story goes, died after three days. Jia renounced samsara, and became an ascetic and moved to
Jia’s son was reared, educated and trained by Atmaram Brahmachari and his assistant Ananda Giri. The boy was named Lakshmikanta (1570-1649). The Sabarna Choudhury clan starts from him. Lakshmikanta was trained in the traits of Panchu Shakti Khan; the boy was a mathematical wonder. His mathematical prowess, command over several languages and wrestling skills drew the attention of feudal lord Srihari Guha of Gaud, who was a minister at Afgan Sultan Daud Khan’s court. Lakshmikanta got a job at Saptagram revenue department, and rose to become an advisor to Srihari Guha’s son Pratapaditya.
In Bangadhip Parajay written by Pratapchandra Ghosh, and Jashohar Khulnar Itihas written by Satishchandra Mitra, when Daud Khan was defeated by the Moguls in 1576, Srihari Guha divided his fiefdom, gave 70% to Pratapaditya and 30% to his brother Basanta Ray. Pratapaditya started encroaching upon the fiefdoms of other feudal lords and increased his domain spreading over
The title of Maharaja changed Pratapaditya to a different man. He broke the conditions of the pact, and along with eleven other feudal lords, refused to pay requisite quantam of silver to the coffers of the Emperor. He also conspired to kill his uncle Basanta Ray and his son. Lakshmikanta refused to be a part of the conspiracy, and fled to Halishahar. Akbar had sent a couple of military expeditions to defeat Pratapaditya but did not succeed; later, Emperor Jahangir sent a huge army contingent under Man Singh. On his way to Bengal, Man Singh had sought the blessings of Mahatma Kamdev Brahmachari at
Roy Lakshmikanta Majmuadar Choudhury, the name did not go well with the brahmin caste to which he belonged. Since Gangopadhyay brahmins are sabarna gotra, his priests and the advisors decided to call the family Sabarna Choudhury. His kingfdom being spread over Behala to Dakshineshwar, Pargana Magura, Khaspur, Kolkata, Poikan, Anwarpur, Amirabad, Havelishahar, Hatigarh and a large area of Sundarbans, Laksmikanta established revenue collection centres at various places, important ones being Behala and Dihi Kolkata. The East India Company arrived and these two centres became quite busy. Malay and Samir have the organizational skills of Lakshmikanta, otherwise Hungryalist Movement would not have been possible.
According to Atul Krishna Ray, Lakshmikanta had seven sons: Ram (1590-1650), Gauri (1600-69), Gopal, Bireswar,
Vidyadhar established himself at Behala-Barisha, and the Sabarna Choudhuries of this area are his decendants. It was Ramchand (1658-1732), son of Vidyadhar, who with his cousins, Manohar (1730), Pran (1653-1700) and Rambhadra (1700), signed the deed of transfer of rent collection of three villages i.e. Dihi Kolkatah, Sutanuti and Govindapur to East India Company. These three villages came to be known as
The story of the Uttarpara clan of Sabarna Choudhuries starts from Ratneshwar. Mahatma Kamdev Brahmachari had advised the family to spread out west of Ganges (Hoogly river in West Bengal),
In his book Atul Krishna Ray has dealt with the genealogy of Behala-Barisha and Halishahar clans. For Uttarpara clan the book by Amarnath Bandyopadhyay is authentic, as it enlists all the families of Uttarpara in 1911. Malay Roychoudhury himself though did not get a copy of this book when he wrote Chhotoloker Chhotobela (2004) and Autobiography in Volume 14 & 215 of Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. We may chart out the genealogy in this manner as given by Bandyopadhyay:
Ratneshwar->Ramjivan->Madhusudan->Gangaram->Ram Narayan. Ram Narayan had four sons: Chandicharan, Bhavanishankar, Bharatcharan and Gourmohan. Since we are interested in Malay and Samir’s ancestors, we proceed from Chandicharan (1691), whose son Jay Gopal (1718) had four sons: Jadunath, Trailokyanath, Kalachand and Kedarnath. Jadunath had three sons: Baikunthanath, Harinarayan and Lakshminarayan (1799).
Lakshminarayan’s sons are: Pramod, Sushil, Ranjit, Anil, Sunil and Bishwanath. Malay and Samir are Ranjit’s sons. Lakshminarayan left Uttarpara and reached
Ranjit was married to Amita (Bandyopadhyay) of Panihati, a vaishnava centre across the river. Amita’s ancestry is traceable from Durgadas Bandyopadhyay, who was incarcerated by the British in 1857 for inciting soldiers in the guise of religious preaching. His son Nanilal was a part of the 19th Century renaissance, and got his three sons Lalmohan, Haridas and Kishorimohan educated in science, law and English language. Amita is Kishorimohan’s daughter.
Kishorimohan wrote articles in English and Bengali, and subscribed to various radical magazines of his time. He was made a member of the Royal Malaria Commission
(1899) and assisted Ronald Ross as a field investigator. Ronald Ross was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902 for discovering the reasons and cure for Malaria. The responsibility of anti-Malaria campaigns rested on Kishorimohan. He traveled most of the affected areas in
Neither Malay nor Samir reside in any of their clan sites. They live in Kolkata and try to keep in touch with the Sabarna network, which by now has 20000 members spread all over the world. Malay’s son Jitendra (1975) and daughter Anushree (1969) also do not reside in any of the clan sites. Malay’s uncle Sunil’s children and grandchildren, however, live in the housing colony built on the land where once Ratneshwar’s palace stood in architectural glory.