NETAJI BHAWAN in Calcutta, the ancestral house of Subhas Chandra Bose, is for Indians of all regions and of all classes a place of national pilgrimage. On 23rd January 1947, Sarat Chandra Bose dedicated this historic house to the nation. The Netaji Museum, established here in 1961 by Netaji Research Bureau, is a full-fledged biographical museum organized on the basis of a vast amount of materials relating to Netaji, collected from all parts of the world. A storehouse of inspiration and enlightenment, it attracts thousands of visitors all the year round. During Netaji Birthday week in January ,the rush is particularly heavy. So, in order to have a really good look at the museum, it is perhaps better to choose some other time.
The external appearance of Netaji Bhawan with its traditional pillars and porticos is that of a typical early 20th century Bengali residential house. A marble plaque bearing the name of J.N.Bose,Netaji's father, decorates the front entrance. As we enter, a fine profile of Netaji's face in relief draws our attention. In the main portico stands a replica in red stone of the stately INA Memorial with the motto "Ittefaq","Itmad","Kurbani" inscribed on it.We climb up the wooden stairs to Netaji's bedroom on the first floor. Excepting a protective glass barrier, we find the room just as it had been in January 1941,when Netaji made his great escape from India.Janakinath's large bedstead ,as well as Netaji's own simple cot, clock, clothes, shoes, even his Ayurvedic medicines and Gita have been preserved. The adjoining room contains articles and furniture used by Sarat Chandra Bose.Netaji's office room during the period of his Congress Presidentship is still painted in the hues of the Indian tricolour.His working desk, revolving chair, book-almirahs, etc. can be seen.
The top floor of Netaji Bhawan contains a treasure of numerous photographs, documents and articles relating to Netaji's life and work arranged in systematic, chronological order. Special lighting and gallery techniques give it a very modern look. The starting-point of this fascinating exhibition is a page from Janakinath's diary recording Subhas's birth at midday on 23 January 1897. Through pictures and letters, we see Subhas gradually grow adolescent with a mystic air, student at cambridge, dedicated Swarajist, prisoner at Mandalay, G.O.C of the Volunteer Corps at Calcutta in 1928,his original passports and some curios brought by him from Burma are among the valuable exhibits.
The next panel tells the story of Subhas Bose's sojourn in Europe. He visits several European capitals, meets important pertionalities, and sets up Indian Associations. Newspaper features on the youthful ambassador form India make interesting reading. Warm clothing used by him in Europe are kept in show-case.
Back in India, we find Subhas Chandra presiding over the Haripura Congress and inaugurating the National Planning Committee. Then comes the critical time of his final parting of the ways with Gandhiji. We read tense passages from yhe correspondence between the two leaders. Poet Rabindranath Tagore coronets Subhas Chandra as "Deshnayak". Subhas Bose's career in India culminates with his dramatic escape from his Elgin Road House. The "Wanderer" in which he escaped is on view on the ground floor and the route followed by the car shown with the help of a map. The Congress President's tie, articles used by Subhas Chandra during his last prison term in 1940, pages from his ultimatum to the Government, garments worn by him during the journey across the northwestern frontier and passages from a thesis written during his stay in Kabul are on display.
The next European phase of Subhas Bose's activities is portrayed in another room. There are several pictures of the Indian Legion in traning and of Bose's meetings with European statesmen and diplomats. Postage stamps printed by Free India Centre. Azad Hind journals and Hindustani translations of German military texts are some of the interesting things to be seen. The perilous submarine journey from Kiel to Sabang is profusely illustrated through dramatic photographs.
We talk across the long corridor to the Asia Room. The drama of the Indian National Army and its historic assault on the north-western frontier of India unfolds before us. Netaji parleys with Japanese leaders, the proclamation of the Azad Hind Government, the Greater East Asia Conference, Netaji's visits to the Andaman islands and the Indo-Burma front, are shown in the photographs. The supreme commander's cap and top-boots, the desk used by him in Singapore and even the garland he received on 21 October 1943 have been obtained for the museum.
Scholars of modern Indian history find the Freedom Library an important center of learning. Sarat Chandra Bose's marvelous collection formed the nucleus of this library. Books, periodicals, and documents are being collected to cover the entire freedom movement of India since 1857 as well as national liberation and revolutionary movements in other parts of the world. The archives of the Bureau now consist of almost all works of and on Netaji in various languages, a large collection of his letters covering his entire life, an extensive compilation of his speeches and writing and journals, newapapers and other source material relating to Netaji. Since 1962, the Bureau has published over sixty major works in English, Bengali and Hindi. Netaji's Collected Works have been published in ten volumes. Films and voice and music tapes also constitute a major part of the archives. The Bureau has made documentary film on Netaji and assisted with advice and material the making of others.
Netaji Bhawan has modern auditorium called Sarat Bose hall with accommodation for a hundred and fifteen persons. Lectures seminars, symposia, etc. on Netaji, the Indian Independence movement as well as on current problems of national and international interest are frequently arranged. Netaji Research Bureau seeks also to foster exchange of culture on an international level. Prestigious musical soirees held from time to time in the Hall are a great attraction for the music-loving people of Calcutta. Film-shows, especially historical documentaries on Netaji and Indian struggle for freedom have become a regular feature. The beautiful air-conditioned conference room is used for small academic meetings, conferences with distinguished visitors from abroad, and for the conduct of official business by the Council of the Bureau.
Netaji Research Bureau, since its inception in 1957, has by devoted study, research and enquery, helped to reveal Netaji's life of profound experience and superhuman struggle and to revive and resurret his fundamental message and techings. In this effort, the Bureau has through the years planned and executed on scientific lines the all -round development of Netaji Bhawan. The rich museum, library and archives are recognized as the first and one of the best of their kind in the part of the world. Seminars', lectures and cultural programs of an international character are being organized. In short, Netaji Research Bureau has grown up to be an impressive Institute of History, Politics and International Relations.