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Krishna Dhan Ghose

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(1844-11.12.1892). Krishna Dhan Ghose, Sri Aurobindo’s father, was born in Patna. His father, Kaliprasad (or Kalicharan) Ghose, lived in Konnogar, a small village in the district of Hoogly, eight miles from Calcutta, but he passed part of his career in Patna. His mother, Kailaskamini Devi, was a lady known for her remarkable beauty, her feeling for religion and her exceptional piety. Krishnadhan had a brother, Bama Charan Ghose, who later served at Bhagalpur as a head clerk. The two brothers did not agree with each other. He had also two sisters, Biraj Mohini and Tinkoti (married to Nabakumar Mirra, child Ashutish)

In 1856, Kali Prosad, father of Krishna Dhun (Sri Aurobindo’s grandfather) died. He left his widow and children no more than a month’s salary. During the boy’s youth the family was “very poor, living almost entirely by the charity of friends.” Kailaskamini went to Benares as a Hindu widow was supposed to. Krishna Dhun and his brother continued their studies in an English-medium school.

In 1858 Krishnadhan passed the Entrance Examination of the Calcutta University from the local school and then proceeded to the Calcutta Medical College. It was not quite easy desision, because dissecting a cadaver meant losing caste.

In 1864 Krishnadhan married Srimati Swarnalata Devi. The marriage was performed according to the rites of Adi Brahmo Samaj, towards which Dr. Ghose had leanings. The girl’s wedding was a memorable event in the annals of the Brahmo Samaj. All of the principal members of the society were there, notably its leader, Devendranath Tagore, and its rising star, Keshub Chunder Sen. The bride’s party was swelled by numerous members of the Bose clan. The groom’s party contained few, if any, of the young man’s relatives, for Krishna Dhun Ghose came from an orthodox Hindu family. He had not even told his mother that he was taking a Brahmo bride. “I went to the length of offending a dear mother by marrying as I did,” he later wrote, “to get such a father as Rajnarain Bose.”

K. D. Ghose and Swarnalata had six children, – five sons and a daughter: Benoybhushan, Manmohan, Aurobindo, a son who died in childhood, Sarojini and Barindra Kumar.

In June 1865 Krishna Dhun became a licentiate in medicine and surgery and began his internship in the Medical College Hospital.

In 1866 the young doctor Ghose was sent to Bhagalpur and given charge of the government dispensary. His salary, a hundred rupees a month, allowed him and his wife to live in reasonable comfort.

On 15 November 1869 Krishna Dhun took leave from his work for advanced cource of medical studies in England. In January 1870 Dr. Ghose and a group of young Brahmos, among them Keshub Chunder Sen, embarked from Calcutta for Great Britain. A man of great ability and strong personality, he had been among the first to go to England for his education. He had then two sons, Benoybhushan and Manmohan, whom he left with Swarnalata and a nurse, Miss Paget (or Piggot). In March 1870 Dr. Ghose reached London. In Englad Dr. Ghose and Annette had become close friends.

In 1871, Dr. Ghose received the degree of M.D. from Aberdeen University with honors and returned to India. He ended up becoming, as Sri Aurobindo later remarked, “a tremendous atheist.” The “real God” was the universe with its creatures, “and when I worship that by action I worship Him.” [K. D. Ghose to J. Bose, December 2, 1890, copy in SAAA.]

On his return, he encountered the opposition of his society, which threatened to outcast him unless he performed the prayaschitta or expiatory ceremony. He refused and, selling away his property at a nominal price, left his native village for good. He returned entirely anglicised in habits, ideas and ideals, – so strongly that his Aurobindo as a child spoke English and Hindustani only and learned his mother-tongue only after his return from England in 1893. When Dr. Ghose returned from Britain he joined the civil medical service, beginning work as a Sub-Assistant Surgeon in Calcutta.

In October 1871 Dr. Ghose was given a new post as assistant surgeon in charge of the civil station of Rangpur. He and his family arrived in the remote northern town around the end of the month.

In summer 1872 in Rangpur there was outbreak of malaria followed by a cholera epidemics, so Dr. Ghose decided to send his wife to the comparatively healthy environment of Calcutta to the house of his great friend Monmohun Ghose, where, in August 15, she bore Aurobindo. Shortly after Aurobindo was born, Swarnalotta and Aurobindo journeyed from Calcutta to Rangpur, to their family. Occasionally the family used to go to Deoghar to stay with Swarnalata’s father, Rajnarayan Bose.

In 22 December 1972 Dr. Ghose was appointed to a temporary post in place of Dr. H.C.Browser, as a Medical Officer at Rangpore in place of Dr. H.C. Browser.

In February 1873 Dr. Ghose was named the district’s (population was about 2,000,000) civil surgeon. In this year a drought led to a famine that, in the shorthand of official reports, left Rangpur “very distressed”. The district lost 4 percent of its population (80,000) between 1872 and 1892. Much of the decline was due to Rangpur’s endemic diseases, cholera and malaria. Dr. Ghose spent much of his professional life fighting against them. While working with patients in different parts of the district, he noted that “malaria, whatever it may be” — at the time, no one knew what caused it — was most prevalent in areas with “undrained, waterlogged soils.” Accordingly he recommended draining the swamps around Rangpur. But it is only after five years, in December 1877, Dr. Ghose had the pleasure of driving in the first stake in the town’s drainage works. The result, completed several years later, became known as Ghose’s canal.

In 1876 Dr, Ghose became a member of the Rangpur Municipality and in 1877 he was elected its vice-chairman. He was very close to Edward George Glazier who served in various grades of Magistrate, then Collector at Rangpur, broadly between September 1867 and March 1877. It is with friends of this magistrate — the Drewetts —that Ghose boys stayed in England. Edward George Glazier did nothing without consulting Dr. Ghose. Another close friends of Dr. Ghose were Henry Beveridge, the district judge, and his wife Annette (nee Akroyd), with whom Dr. Ghose was familiar from England. Henry Beveridge married Annette Akroyd in 1875. They transferred to Rangpur and often invited the Ghoses for dinner. Doctor’s wife won the epithet the Rose of Rangpur. But she suffered from an emotional disturbance and her mental condition was not well these years. Dr. Ghose, according to Manmohan, was “kind but stern.” He spent a good deal of his time touring the district and his sons “never saw much of him.”

Sri Aurobindo reminisced that in 1877 Edward Glazier “was transferred and a new magistrate came in his place. He found that he had no authority in the town, all power being in the hands of my father. He couldn’t tolerate it. He asked the Government to transfer my father and so he came to Khulna. But he was hurt by this treatment and lost his previous respect for the English people and turned into a nationalist.” But this conflict with the new magistrate lasted some years before Dr. Ghose was transferred from Rangpur.

At the same 1877 year Dr. Ghose determined that his children should receive an entirely European upbringing. Aurobindo and two his brothers were sent for the beginning of their education to Loreto House boarding school at Darjeeling that was run by Irish nuns, intended mainly for children of European officials in India.

In the end of 1878 the whole family sailed to England — Dr. Ghosh, Mrs. Ghosh, their three sons and daughter Sarojini. For Indian women it was almost unheard of to cross the ocean. Swarnalotta was pregnant. Concerned about her mental state and apprehensive about the effects of another confinement, Dr. Ghose decided to take her to England for examination and treatment. The family arrived at its destination in the early 1879 (perhaps, on 1 January).

He had brought his sons to England because he wanted them to “receive an entirely European upbringing.” He left his sons with an English clergyman and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Drewett in Manchester and then his wife — in the care of a London physician, Dr. Mathew.

In 1880 Dr. Ghose returned alone from England to rejoin his service. He left Swarnalata and the children in England. The same year Swarnalata returned to India with newborn Barin and Sarojini.

In the late June 1883 Dr. Ghose stopped working in Rangpur. In October 1883 he worked C. M. O. at Bankura District. In January 1884, Dr. Ghose was the Officiating C. M. O., Noakhali District. On 10 February he was posted at Khulna. Again from March 1884, and for one year, the Government of Bengal appointed him “Superintendent of Vaccinations, Metropolitan Circle,” meaning Calcutta. The Bengal Government made this appointment in spite of the many objections raised by the Government of India — which might have added to Dr. Ghose’s bitterness against the English. Then in July 1885 Dr. Ghose was reverted to Khulna. He was to remain there until his death in the end of 1892. At this period Dr. Ghose, less Anglophile than he once was, sent cuttings from a Calcutta newspaper “with passages marked relating cases of maltreatment of Indians by Englishmen.” In his infrequent letters to his sons — Aurobindo received only a dozen during his fourteen years in England — Dr. Ghose denounced the British Raj as a “heartless government.”

Meanwhile Dr. Ghose found it impossible to stay with his wife, as her mental condition had deteriorated. So she was given a cottage in Rohini, a village two miles from Deoghar, where she lived with Barin and Sarojini while Dr. Ghose stayed alone at Khulna. At last he managed to persuade his wife to give up Sarojini, but she kept possession of Barin until Dr. Ghose stole him away. He placed the two children in the care of a woman he had set up in a house in Calcutta. Every week or so, Dr. Ghose came into town to see his lady-friend and his children, but he remained a lonely, unhappy man, and tended to drink too much.

His son Barindrakumar who sometimes stayed with his father at Khulna wrote in his autobiography, “Olive complexioned, with large dreamy eyes and gentle dignified appearance, my father soon became the life and soul of Khulna. The police, the Magistrate, the civil servants, the school and municipal authorities all came to consult him. He made Khulna malaria free and introduced radical improvements in the hospital, the school, the jail and the municipality.”

Dr. Ghose sent regular remittances to his three sons during the first years of their life in England (£360 per year), but afterwards they became more and more irregular; and when the three brothers went to stay in London in 1884, they entirely ceased.

In 1887 Dr. Ghose got himself “in some financial straits,” with the result that his sons’ bank balance fell below ten pounds.

In the beginning of September of 1992, certain that Aurobindo would soon be coming to India, Dr. Ghose took leave from his work and in the words of his friend Brajendranath De, went to “meet him in Bombay and bring him back in triumph.” The doctor was away for more than a month, “but he could not get any definite news as to when [Aurobindo] was coming,” and toward the end of October, he “returned from Bombay in a very depressed frame of mind.” Sometime around the beginning of December 1892, Dr. Ghose received a telegram from his agents in Bombay (his bankers, Messrs. Grindlay & Co.) that contained bad news about his son. According to his friend Brajendranath De, it was something “to the effect that his son’s name did not appear on the list of the passengers by the steamer on which he had been expecting his son to come out to India.” Another version, communicated later to Aurobindo, was that the telegram announced that the steamer Roumania the doctor expected Aurobindo to be traveling by had sunk and Aurobindo had drowned. This story is at least possible. A steamer bound for Bombay went down off Portugal on October 28, with the loss of all but nine of her passengers and crew. Whatever the contents of the telegram, they were fatal to the doctor. An account by De: “It so happened that, that very night he and the Superintendent of Police were coming to dine at my house. The dinner was ready, the Superintendent came, but there was no sign of the doctor, although his bungalow was quite close to my house. After waiting for some time I sent an orderly to remind him of the fact that he had agreed to dine at my house that night. The man came back and informed us that the doctor was very ill. I at once went round, heard of the telegram and found the doctor very ill and quite unconscious. The other medical men in the station were assiduous in their attentions. I did all I could. But it was all of no avail. The poor man lingered on for a day or two and then passed away.... I had to take the body to the cremation grounds and to attend the cremation.


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