Kolkata Bhatia Youth Forum

By the people, for the people.

HISTORY

There is no clear information as to when the Bhatia Community people first settled in Calcutta.But from the limited sources of information available, it seems that from Jam Khambalia in Saurashtra, Shri Damji Rajda along with hi associates came to Calcutta about 165 years ago. They settled in Calcutta and established their own cotton yarn business. The business flourished and as the reports of their prosperity spread, more and more Bhatia families started coming to Calcutta and gradually settled in their own businesses and vocations. The reputation of these families as one of great integrity and hard work spread to such an extent that in those days people of other communities of Gujarat were even referred to as “Bhatia Babus” by the local Bengali people in Bengal.

            In those days, Calcutta was the biggest trading center in India with tea, jute, coal, rice, etc. being the major businesses. The bulk of the Bhatia community in those days was associated with the jute industry in some form or the other mainly as merchant exporters, brokers, insurance agents, etc. There was almost none or very little presence of Bhatias in tea or coal though some families were also actively associated in the rice business both as mill owners and traders. Some families were also well placed in the cotton yarn and textile yard and a Bhatia family even owned a cotton mill in the industrial suburb of Calcutta.

            In the earlier years, there was no formal body of the Bhatia community in Calcutta. Nor is there any record of a formal Constitution or arrangement of such a body. However, about a hundred years ago, there were about 30 to 40 Bhatia families settled in Calcutta. In order to look after the affairs of the community, there was a panchayat known as “Panch” which consisted of Shri Gopaldas Virji Toprani, Shri Dhanji Haridas and Shri Bhimji Rajda. Shri Gopaldas Virji Toprani was recognized as the Head of the “Panch”.

It was the year 1902 that the Bhatia Mahajan in its current form came into being. A formal Constitution along with a set of rules and bye-lawswas drawn up. In those days the Committee consisted of Shri Padamshi Narayanji, Shri Laxmidas Premji, Shri Kalidas Meghji and Shri Narayandas Dayal as prominent members.

The annual social program of Shravani Bagicha was first organized about eighty years ago. It had a religious significance in the sense that male members used the occasion to change their sacred threads (Janoi). This was followed by a lunch prepared under the supervision of some volunteers from the community who used to go to the spot in the earlier evening and spent the night preparing for the program. The food was also served by the volunteers to all members. On that day, a collection drive was also carried out in which funds were raised to serve the needs of the community. A cry of “Nathni Seva” was an important part of the day. This program was for many years held at a garden house on the bank of the Hooghly in Belur. The Committee which first organized the function consisted of Shri Haridas Gokaldas Hunsraj as President, Shri Trikamdas Ravji, Shri Laxmidas Premji, Shri Padamshi Narayanji as Secretary, Shri Toolsidass Jewraj and Shri Anandji Vissanji as members.

As time passed, the number of Bhatia families and members gradually began to grow. In the earlier years there were a number of personalities who came forward to look after the affairs of the community. Among the known ones are Shri Vulubhdass Kalyanjee, Shri Trikamdas Ravji, Shri Padamshi Narayanji, Shri Laxmidas Dayal, Shri Mathuradas Mavji, Shri Kalyanjee Damodar, Shri Karsandas Jetha Bhimani, Shri Laxmidas Premji Anjaria and Shri Jivandas Khimji Tamaiya whose selfless services to the community can never be forgotten.

It was in the year 1941 that Shri Vulubhdass Kalyanjee made a substantial donation of a property to the Mahajan with the condition that proceeds from the sale of this property to the Mahajan with the condition that proceeds from the sale of this property along with funds raised from other members be used to acquire a suitable property would be used as a “Mahajan Wadi” for the social and cultural needs of Calcutta Bhatia members as well as putting up any Bhatias visiting from outstation. He also directed that a Trust be formed to carry out this task and also to  manage the “Wadi” for the future.

Accordingly, in May 1941, a Trust called Bhatia Mahajan Building Fund was formed and the first Trustees were Shri Toolsidass Jewraj, Shri Hirjee Thackersey, Shri Khimjee Jivandas Suraiya and Shri Laxmidas Dayal. The property donated by Shri Vulubhdass Kalyanjee was disposed off and with further contributions from other members, the property at 27, Debendra Mullick Street was purchased. However, nothing much could be done immediately thereafter owing to the threat of Japanese attack during the Second World War. This was almost immediately followed by the riots in Calcutta and problems created by the Partition of the country at the time of Independence.

It was therefore after several years that affairs of the Mahajan could be reorganized in a proper manner. The Ground floor of the property at 27, Debendra Mullick Street was taken possession of and the place used for various social and cultural occasions of the members of the Community. An additional floor was also constructed which was then rented out in order to raise funds for the Mahajan.

Over the years, the activities of the members increased dramatically. Regularly, in season, cricket was played on the Maidan, annual Bagicha program continued to take place and with the ground floor of the Mahajan Wadi in possession, indoor games as well as get-togethers resulted in large number of members becoming very active in different fields. At that time, it was decided to form a separate institution to organize these activities and not financially strain the Mahajan too much since the primary purpose of the Mahajan was to do charitable and social work for the Bhatias.Accordingly, a new body called the Shree Bhatia Mandal was formed with its own rules and regulations in 1961 and the members of the first Committee were:- Dr. Chandrasinh Mulji Bhatia as President, Shri Mulji Karsandas Shroff as Vice-President, Shri Liladhar Trikamdas Dutia and Shri Kanaksinh Premji Bhatia as Secreataries along with Shri Trikamdas Narayandas as Treasurer, Shri Madhavsinh Vithaldas Ashar, Shri Bhagwandas Laxmidas Dutia and Shri Arun Kumar Hirjee as members. Shri Paresh Rajda was inducted as a Special Invitee. The Mahajan appointed Dr. Anil Bhatia, Shri Madhavsinh Gordhandas Pamani and Shri Karsandas Dwarkadas Mooljee as its representatives.

Over the years, the Mandal virtually overshadowed the Mahajan as it began its activities in right earnest. Apart from cricket, indoor games, musical programs during special occasions like Diwasa, Navratri and Sharad  Purnima, the Mandal also took part in the one-act Drama Competitions organized by Friends Sporting Club. In fact, on the second year itself, it won the First Prize. There was so much enthusiasm that the Mandal members even organized a musical evening program at Rabindra Sarobar for the general public. Also today’s well known singer Alka Yagnik performed when she was very young and unknown at one of the Mandal programs. Even the famous music composer and director Ravindra Jain performed at a Mandal program.

In cricket, the Mandal organized a running Shield tournament in the memory of Shri Premji Rajda which was open to all Gujarati-speaking sport clubs playing on the Maidan. The program continued for several years and the tournament became very popular with a large number of clubs participating every year. It made the Bhatias and the Mandal a house-hold name aming all Gujaratis then living in Calcutta.

The Mandal also organized several programs for the members of the Bhatia community. For the ladies, a regular sewing class was started in the premises. Also a library which became very popular with the young members. A joint janoi ceremony in which 9 batuks took part was organized in 1963. A joint wedding ceremony was also organized in 1965. A major achievement was the compilation and publication of the first “Vasti Patrak” in 1963. This consisted of names, addresses, phone nos., education details, their original roots in Kutch or Saurashtra, business/employment details, etc. This became a benchmark and resulted in not only all Bhatias coming to know about each other but it helped immensely in match-making among the eligible boys and girls at that time. The Vasti Patrak became such a success that the Mandal decided to issue one every five years thus updating all the information. This has continued even after the Mandal was dissolved with the last issue being released in 2004. Demand for copies of our Vasti Patraks has come from Bhatia organizations all over India and even abroad. It is heartening that many organizations have taken our issues as benchmark for a similar venture in their areas.

As the years passed, the original “young” members themselves became adults, got married, had children and became involved in their own careers. They could spare very little time for Mandal activities. There were very few members next in line while the older members confined their activities to playing cards on week-ends at Mandal. The worsening situation in and around the Mahajan premises resulted in frequent encroachments on our premises by the local toughs. The inability to increase rent from the tenants and the rising maintenance cost resulted in the Mahajn losing heavily in keeping the premises. Since the number of events organized by the Mandal fell over the years, the premises remained unused for llarge periods of time. This emboldened the local toughs to occupy two rooms on a regular basis, raising fears that gradually the entire premises would be gone out of our hands. Some of the tenants also became difficult creating problems for the Mahajan. It was then decided that it would be better if the premises were sold off and the proceeds so received be invested in a fixed deposit with a bank. The interest amount so accrued would be utilized in helping the needs of many members of Bhatias in Calcutta.

 

KOLKATA BHATIA YOUTH FORUM :- As the enthusiasm among younger members has once again shown signs of picking up, it was decided to create a new body and the same known as Kolkata Bhatia Youth Forum was formed in 2002. The main objective of the Forum is to organize several sports, cultural and other activities on a financially self-sustaining basis so as not to affect the charitable works of the Mahajan. The forum is managed by a Committee elected annually by its members. It is indeed heartening that in a very short period, the Forum has displayed its ability to organize several wonderful programs thus becoming a vehicle for the young members of the community to showcase their talents and organizing abilities. It is also playing a great role in increasing fellowship among its members.

This, in brief, gives an account of the Bhatia community in Calcutta over the years gone by. There have been major changes in all societies in India as well as the world and the Bhatia community has also seen a lot of such changes. Today, many Bhatia boys and girls in Calcutta have married outside the community and the Mahajan accepts this fact by recognizing the husband and children of such Bhatia girls as members who are welcome to the programs of the Mahajan if they wish so.

We are attaching a list of the large number of our community members who have helped in the growth and upkeep of the various Bhatia organizations, achieved notable success in various fields such as sports, literature, etc. We are also attaching details of notable events in the Bhatia community of Calcutta during all these years. We hope you will find them interesting and informative.

Every effort has been made to recognize as many persons as we could. However, in case we have overlooked anyone, please accept our apologies and inform us so that we may make note of the same for future reference.

  We are focused on providing services with the highest levels of  satisfaction & we will do everything we can to meet your expectations. With a variety of offerings to choose from, we're sure you'll be happy working with us. Look around our website and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us. We hope to see you again! Check back later for new updates to our website. There's much more to come!