Mar 2, 2016

Krishnabhabini Dasi Datta, the Wife of Jay Gopal Mallik - Calcutta (Kolkata) Late 19th Century

Krishnabhabini Dasi Datta, the Wife of Jay Gopal Mallik -  Calcutta (Kolkata) Late 19th Century

I received this photograph from Mr. Christopher Graffius ( christopher.graffius@yahoo.co.uk ) with the following note:

I believe the lady is Krishnabhabini Dasi Datta, the wife of Jay Gopal Mallik, my great, great grandfather. Jay Gopal died in 1859 and would have been born in the early 1830's. I don't have dates for Krishnabhabini.

The interesting thing about the picture is that it may be of a widow. I think it was highly unusual in the late 19th century for a wife from a good Hindu family to be photographed, let alone a widow - who by custom would have led a very withdrawn life. In the edition of "Bengal Past and Present" which deals with my Indian family (July-December 1979) it says that "The Dutts (another version of Datta - of Wellington Square, Calcutta) had a pioneering role in female education" and again "Jaygopal's second marriage to Krishnabhabini Dutt proved to be a turning point in the history of the Basu Malliks. She brought in the influence of new and dynamic ideas into a traditional setting. The Wellington Square Dutt family had become a name which was "a synonym for culture and hearty recognition of literary merit. Foreign scholars visiting Calcutta made their acquaintance and cultivated their company. Even women in the family wrote for pleasure and publication. Conserving the best in their own tradition they were at the same time receptive to Western ideas and education."

It was to Wellington Square, within walking distance of the Dutts, that the Mallik brothers - Probodh, Manmatha (my great grandfather) and Hem - moved when they left the paternal house in Pataldanga and established a more European style house in 1859. The Dutts and Malliks were deeply involved in the early years of the Indian independence movement.