Commemorating Dwarkanath Tagore in London

With Britain officially scheduled to leave the European Union next year, it has been regularly mentioned that the Commonwealth and India is key for post EU Britain to partner with. In this backdrop, it is fitting and timely that the Bengal Heritage Foundation is commemorating Dwarkanath Tagore – the first Indian merchant entrepreneur to set up an Indo-British business. A close friend of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King Louis Phillipe of France, Tagore is buried at the Kensal Green Cemetery in London.

The commemoration (an initiative led by Professor Pradip Chopra of iLEAD College, Kolkata) is planned for Saturday, 11th August at 1215 pm in the Kensal Green Cemetery, London, where Tagore is buried. It will include hymns, songs and encomiums to honour the entrepreneur, philanthropist and internationalist. A bust of Dwarkanath Tagore and plaque noting his contributions will unveil on the day.

The commemoration is being organised together with British Council, iLEAD College (Kolkata), Friends of Kensal Green (London) and London Sharad Utsav (London).

Sourav Niyogi of Bengal Heritage Foundation noted that “Very few Indians are aware of Prince Dwarkanath Tagore’s tomb in London. From coal to banking to trading, he successfully set the foundation of an industrial Bengal and internationalisation of India. Our effort is a humble tribute to this great son of Bengal and to keep his heritage alive for the future generations. As a first step the monument has been cleaned after 28 years using Thermatech technology using conservation principles”

Professor Pradip Chopra, iLEAD College, added that “We are focussing on the conservation of the monument of Dwarkanath Tagore at Kensal Green Cemetery. We will unveil a bust and plaque to memorialise the contributions of Tagore on the day. We are proud of him and his story is still untold which deserves to be narrated to one and all”.

A. The journey for the Conservation and Commemoration project

In Jan 2018 this year, Kolkata based businessman and Professor, iLEAD College, Pradip Chopra spoke to Anirban Mukhopadhyay about Dwarkanath Tagore’s monument at Kensal Green Cemetery. On a cold rainy day in January they went to the cemetery to see the monument. Little did they realise that Kensal Green Cemetery is 72 acres and there are 65,000+ graves. And that is when they came across Henry Vivian-Neal from the Friends of Kensal Green. Henry was curious to see their interest in Dwarkanath Tagore. Not only did he show them the monument but also talked about the fact that hardly anybody turns up to the monument and he would place a wreath once every year. Hearing Henry, they felt guilty that the pioneering entrepreneur of Bengal has been left ignored by so many for so long. They placed flowers at the monument before we left.

What followed was not only a lot of discussion to understand more about Dwarkanath but also a very clear resolution that they will work towards conserving the monument. In the last eight months they have worked with a Conservationist, the General Manager of the cemetery company, the Tagore family and Henry from Friends of Kensal Green to ensure the process gets kick-started. Taylor Pearce helped in cleaning the monument with the right technology used for conservation.

With a very important prod from Pradip Chopra, the team’s enthusiasm began a journey. However, this not about them – this is about conserving the memory of Dwarkanath. As they say in Bengali – Jatra Shuru – the journey begins.

B. Brief biography of Dwarkanath Tagore | Bath Spa University 

Dwarkanath Tagore (1794-1846) was the first Bengali merchant-entrepreneur to set up an Indo-British business partnership (Carr, Tagore and Co.) that traded in salt, sugar, tea, coal, indigo and steam navigation. Tagore was a visionary who believed in multi-racial collaboration with the British. A pioneer of Press freedom in India, a philanthropist to many causes including the foundation of the Calcutta Medical College, Tagore was a signatory to the anti-Sati petition and a friend of the 19th century social reformer Rammohun Roy, who died in Bristol in 1833 and lies buried there. Tagore visited Britain twice in 1842 and 1845 and was a personal friend of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King Louis Phillipe of France. Feted by literary giants Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and many others, Tagore was granted the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in a public ceremony in August 1842 for his ‘anxious desire to promote the happiness and prosperity of his fellow countrymen’. He died at Brown’s Hotel in London on 1st August 1846 and was buried without ceremony three days later. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert sent four carriages for the funeral.