Dutt, Gurusaday

Dutt, Gurusaday (1882-1941) leader of the bratachari movement, writer, folklorist, was born at Birshri village under Karimganj sub-division in the district of sylhet on 10 May 1882. He showed signs of talent from an early age and stood second in the Entrance examination (1899) from Sylhet and first in the First Arts Examination (1901) from Presidency College. In 1903 he left for England to take up higher studies. A year later he appeared successfully at the Indian Civil Service (ICS) Examination. He taught briefly at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, before returning home in 1905 as an ICS officer.

Though Gurusaday was an ICS officer, he had a strong sense of nationalism and patriotism. During his magistracy at Howrah, he severely criticised the European SP and military officers for their actions in a shooting incident at Bamungachi. On another occasion in 1930, he disobeyed the authorities who ordered that an unruly crowd protesting the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi for violating the Salt Act be fired upon. Angered at his obduracy, the authorities transferred him to Birbhum.

Gurusaday was involved in a number of social welfare activities and encouraged others to do the same. While working as magistrate and collector in mymensingh towards the close of 1929, he started a village development movement. In 1931, he started the Rural Preservation Society of Bengal, part of the activities of which were to make people aware of cleanliness, dignity of labour etc. He set up two social welfare societies, Sarojnalini shiksha Samiti and Sarojnalini Narimangal Samiti, in the name of his deceased wife.

Gurusaday was interested in folk dance, folk music and other folk institutions. He started a number of organisations and societies to preserve the elements of folk literature, among them, the Mymensingh Folk Dance and Folk Music Society (1929), Pallisampad Raksha Samiti (1931), Bratachari Lokanritya Samiti (1932), South India Bratachari Society (1932), Sarbabharatiya Bratachari Society etc. In 1941 he set up a Bratachari village near Kolkata, along with a university called Bratachari Janashiksha Pratishthan. He participated in an international folk dance festival in London as a member of the calcutta university delegation and set up a Bratachari Samiti in London.

In course of his series of postings, he collected several specimens of folk art and craft. He was among the first writers on the nakshi kantha, publishing one of the first serious articles on this folk art in JISOA in 1929. Some of the kanthas he collected, along with other folk artefacts, are on display at the Gurusaday Museum in Thakurpur in the suburbs of Calcutta.

Apart from writing on folk culture, Gurusaday also wrote about the bratachari movement and village development. Among his books are Palli Sangskar (1925), Village Reconstruction (1925), Ganer Saji (1932), Indian Folk Dance and Folklore Movement (1933), Bratachari Synthesis (1937), Patuya Sabgit (1939), A Woman of India (1941), Bratacharir Marmakatha (1940). He also wrote a book of rhymes for children: Bhajar Banshi (1922). Some of his writings were published posthumously in The Folk Dance of Bengal (1954), Shrihatter Lokasangit (1966), and Folk Arts and Crafts of Bengal (1990). In 1936 he started publishing a monthly magazine named Banglar shakti (The Force of Bengal). He died in kolkata on 25 May 1941. [Barun Kumar Chakravarti]