Ray, Saratkumar

Ray, Saratkumar (1876-1946) a co-founder of the varendra research society and varendra research museum, was born at dighapatiya in the district of Natore in 1876. Son of Pramathanath Ray, Zamindar of Dighapatiya, he was educated at Rajshahi Collegiate School, Ripon College, presidency college and Calcutta University. In Calcutta he came in contact with the vangiya sahitya parishad through his tutor, ramendrasundar trivedi and became acquainted with dwijendranath tagore, rabindranath tagore, Raja Binoy Krishnadev Bahadur and many other intellectuals of the time. He obtained a BA degree from Presidency Colloege and an MA in Physics from Calcutta University. He visited Pompey, Thibi and some other places of Europe on his way to England, in 1900.

Saratkumar Ray, together with akshay kumar maitreya, and ramaprasad chanda felt the necessity of forming a research society in order to explore the antiquities of the varendra region. A team, which included Aksay Kumar Maitreya, Ramaprasad Chanda, rakhaldas bandyopadhyay (from the Calcutta Museum) and Ramkamal Singh, under Saratkumar Ray's leadership, explored different archaeological sites located at Deopara, Mandoil, Kumarpur, Khetur, Vijaynagar etc and discovered a lot of invaluable artifacts. Saratkumar desired that the findings be preserved at Rajshahi for future research as these were explored from the adjoining sites and in this regard he got active support from Ramaprasad Chanda, Bhuban Mohan Maitrya, Shashadhar Ray and others.

While sitting in a tent the end of exploratory tour to Khanjanpur (Bogra district) in September 1910, Saratkumar, Aksay Kumar and Ramaprasad planned to form the 'Varendra Research Society' and set it up soon after their return. Kumar Saratkumar Ray, Aksay Kumar Maitreaya and Ramaprasad Chanda became the President, the Director and the Secretary respectively of the Society. Though the Society was registered under the Indian Society Act of 1860 in 1914, it formally started its activities from 27 September 1910. Saratkumar made a monthly grant of Tk 200/- in order to meet its recurring expenditure.

Soon the collection of antiquities grew very large and the necessity of a museum building was felt for their proper preservation and display. The museum building was built on land donated by Saratkumar Ray's brother and he himself bore the construction expenditure of Tk 63000/-. Lord Ronaldsay, the Governor of Bengal, inaugurated it in November 1919.

Saratkumar Ray took the initiative for the excavation at paharpur, and the Archaeology Department took up the work with his financial support. He himself inaugurated the excavation work on 1 March 1923. To facilitate research on the collected artifacts, Kumar established a library of the museum and donated to it all the books and manuscripts he had collected for his personal library. Saratkumar Ray also established a large library at Dayarampur within his own zamindari. He facilitated the early publications of the Varendra Research Society by creating a fund to commemorate his son Kumar Sabita Ray.

Saratkumar Ray discharged responsibilities in various oganisations like the rajshahi association, rajshahi public library, Royal Asiatic Society, Bangiya Sahitya Parisat, Bangiya Sahitya Sammilani and Indian Music Society. He was elected a member of the Legislative Council in 1930.

Saratkumar Ray had a great fascination for agriculture. He sent his son Bibudhnath Ray to study agriculture in America. He established an agricultural farm on about 300 bighas of land at Dayarampur and named it after his deceased mother, Rani Draba Mayi. He also established a dairy farm and a poultry farm. He made a garden where varieties of flowers and fruits from different parts of the world were cultured. He established a sugar mill, the first of its kind in North Bengal, and took steps to run it with the sugar cane grown in the Rani Draba Mayi Farm.

Basanta Kumar, an elder brother of Sarat Kumar, had plans for establishing an agricultural college at Rajshahi, and had donated Taka two lakh and fifty thousand to Rajshahi College in 1920. At the initiative of Saratkumar Ray the 'Basanta Kumar Agricultural Institute' was established in 1936 under the control of rajshahi college. The Institute survived up to 1952. Kumar Sarat Kumar Ray breathed his last on 12 April 1946. [Saifuddin Chowdhury and SM Abdul Latif]