Plaque of the last legal Sati (Suttee) of Bengal, Scottish Church College
Plaque of the last legal Sati (Suttee) of Bengal
Assembly Hall, Scottish Church College, Kolkata
“In 1829 he lighted the one pyre of his dead father and living mother, the last legal suttee of Bengal.”
The plaque in memory of The Rev. Bipro Charan Chuckerbutty, who lighted the pyre of the last legal sati of Bengal, stands on the walls of the Assembly Hall of Scottish Church College, in North Kolkata.
Sati (or Suttee) is an ancient Indian funeral custom where a widow immolated herself on her husband’s pyre, or committed suicide in another fashion shortly after her husband’s death, but in most cases it was not a case of suicide, as the widow was force ably burnt to death. In December 1829 Sati was officially banned in Bengal by the British Government.
Bipro Charan Chuckerbutty was born in 1823 and was later baptized in 1843. He was connected with the Scottish Mission for over half a century and became the first native ordained minister of Church of Scotland in India. His plaque makes an interesting reading.
The assembly hall of the Scottish Church College also houses five more plaques dedicated to different men for their service to the college. The plaques are dedicated to:
- The Rev. Lal Behari Day, Direct student of Alexander Duff and later a missionary and minister of Free Church Institution
- James Ogilvie, Principle of General Assembly Institute (1845 – 71)
- James Wilson, English Professor at Duff College
- William Smith, Principle of General Assembly Institute (1884 – 89)
- William Spence Urquhart, the first Principle Scottish Church College (1928 -37)
Scottish Church College, one of the oldest in the city, also has an interesting history. Alexander Duff (1806 -78), the first first missionary of the Church of Scotland founded the General Assembly Institute in 1830. Later in 1844 he founded The Free Church Institution, which was later named Duff College.
The two institutes merged in 1908 to form the Scottish Churches College, which was again renamed as the Scottish Church College in 1929.
The present building of the college dates back to 1839 and the houses the Assembly Hall with the large sky lights.
The sky lights are large enough to lit up the huge hall with natural light.
The walls of the assembly hall houses wooden plaques, with the names of the medal winners. The Hawkins Gold Medal and Krishnalal De Gold Medal.
The Hawkins medal is awarded since 1910 to the arts student with the highest marks in university examination.
The Krishnalal De medal, is the science equivalent and is awarded since 1921.
A marble platform, with a marble bust of Alexander Duff, stands on the far end of the hall. The marble platform was presented to the college by history professor Adhar Chandra Mukherjee.
Duff’s bust is flanked on either side by two paintings by artist John Duncan. One on the left is titled “the blind receive their sight” and one on the right is titled “of such is the kingdom of god.” The two painting along with the wood paneling was given to the college in 1926 by John Sinclair, professor of English.
- A special thanks to John Abraham, Principle of Scottish Church College for granting me the necessary permission of shooting inside the college
- Thanks to fellow heritage enthusiast Sarbajit Mitra and Souvik Mukherjee for informing me about the existence of the plaque
- Friend and fellow photographer Debashis Ghosh, who teaches Sanskrit at Scottish Church College, deserves something more than thanks