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Ray Bahadur, Raja Shyama Sankar


Ray Bahadur, Raja Shyama Sankar (1837-1893) an improving landlord of East Bengal, was born' in 1837. Shyama Sankar was the elder son of Tarini Sankar Chaudhuri of Teota Zamindar Family (western Manikganj). He was educated in Dacca. Raja Shyama Sankar was, in many ways, an exceptional landholder. He was responsible for numerous altruistic efforts at improvements and innovations in the system of agriculture, often accepting heavy monetary losses in the process; a meritorious student in his early days, he was a contributor to the journal of the Theosophical Society in later life; he was very closely associated with the Indian Association at its birth; and he was also among the earlier east Bengal zamindars to have been made a 'Raja Bahadur' by the colonial government.

Raja Shyama Sankar Ray Bahadur

His many attempts at introducing new crops, improving agricultural methods, and so on, stand out in sharp contrast to the general apathy among the large landholders of Bengal towards general welfare of the raiyats. He tried out quite a few experiments and innovations in the estates of the Teota Zamindar Family. Raja Shyama Sankar tried to grow ‘Rhea fibre’ at Joyganj (Khansama) in Dinajpur district, but for want of a proper decorticator, the experiment proved a failure, and incurred a loss of Rs 20,000 for the Estate. Among other things, iron ploughs of the European type were tried out in the ‘Teota circle’ in 1885, but they proved too heavy for the bullocks and too costly for the raiyats.

Attempts were also made to introduce potatoes and new varieties of sugarcane there, but ' in the opinion of the district magistrate and author of the Dacca gazetteer ' 'cultivators are still disposed to regard innovations with indifference'. Besides this, the Teota zamindars, especially Shyama Sanker and rai parbati sankar chaudhuri (who later gave it a more concrete form through the dharmagola), actively helped the tenantry in times of famine and scarcity.

'Raja Shyama Sankar Ray Bahadur' heads the list of names of members of the first executive committee of the Indian Association (as printed in the first annual report of the Association, 1876-77). He was also Vice President of the Theosophical Society. The honorific title of 'Raja' was received at the Delhi Durbar of 1st January 1877, during Lord Edward Bulwer Lytton 's (1876 to 1880) tenure as Viceroy. [R Roy]