Somendranath Bose was born on 15th March, 1927, in a middle class family of north Calcutta. His father was Dr. Birendranath Bose, and mother was Smt. Ushangini Devi. Somendranath was the youngest of nine children. He lost his mother before he was two years old, but received the care and attention of his father (as well as several elder sisters) throughout his childhood. He passed his Bachelor’s degree with honours in Bengali from Scottish Church College, and Master’s degree in Bengali from Calcutta University in 1950. In his professional life he taught at several schools and colleges including the MBBS College in Agartala and Vidyasagar college in Siuri. He joined Charu Chandra College in 1957, with which he was affiliated till his death in 1985.
In the late 1940s, Somendranath joined active politics as a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party of India (RCPI) led by Sri Saumyendranath Tagore. For several years he was a full time worker of this party. Family necessity forced him to take up teaching jobs, but his relation with active politics and RCPI Party still continued for some time. He was deeply involved in trade union movement during this time, and had also become the secretary of the Calcutta district committee of RCPI. He also took active part and was one of the main organizers of teacher’s movement in Kolkata. His skills as an orator and his magnetic personality charmed everybody he came into contact with from his student days. All his students have fond memories of him years after his demise.
In 1948 Saumyendranath Tagore had set up “Baitanik”, an organization for teaching Rabindra-Sangeet. Somendranath had become a member of Baitanik. Slowly he moved more and more into the area of Tagore studies. Tagore had always been the greatest inspiration. In 1954, when aged only 27, he had taken the responsibility of conducting the discussion on the 25th of Baisakh when Saumyendranath Tagore was touring abroad and was unavailable. He was also a worthy successor of Saumyendranath in carrying forward the model of Rabindra Sangeet presentations with suitable discussion and description of the underlying theme. He started a publication section in Baitanik, from where some valuable books have been published. In 1961, at the time of the Tagore Centenary, he started the publication of the Bengali quarterly “Rabindra Prasanga”, in the model of the journals that are being published in the West for a long time on literary greats such as Shakespeare and Goethe. This journal failed to maintain its standard after Somendranath’s association with it ended about eight years later. As Somendranath got more and more into Tagore studies, his association with active politics began to wane, and he started feeling that the realization of ideals through the opportunistic route of the politics of the present days is difficult.
The experience in Baitanik led Somendranath to the realization that those who come to learn Rabindra Sangeet should, at the same time, be educated in Tagore literature. It was with this realization he founded the Tagore Research Institute on 1st January, 1965. Tagore Research Institute and Baitanik were sister organizations, and both shared the same habitat, which was the outhouse of Saumyendranath Tagore’s residence at 4 Elgin Road, Calcutta. In the first meeting of the Institute on 1st January, 1965, Saumyendranath was abroad, but sent his blessings for the venture. The first meeting was attended by several eminent people like Bhupati Majumdar, Narendra Deb and Prabhat Sen. Somendranath wanted to build and organization and institute a program which would try to educate the public about all aspects of Tagore’s life and personality. Obviously there were many questions about the viability and sustainability of such a program. Somendranath underlined his plans in the meeting. As the organization started functioning, the first year of classes of Rabindra Sahitya Pathokram were initiated in July, 1965. More than half a century later, the Rabindra Sahitya Pathokram remains a unique curriculum of its kind in the entire nation; the Institute also remains a unique organization of its kind in India.
Within a short time of its foundation, people like Sri Pramatha Nath Bishi, Prof.Nirmal Chandra Bhattacharya and Sri Saibal Gupta became associated with the Institute. The magnetic personality of Somendranath also attracted a lot of young and energetic people to the Institute, and with their help and with the advice of the senior colleagues, the activities of the Institute flourished under the able leadership of Somendranath. Essentially, the history of the first twenty years of the Institute is the history of the dedication and perseverance of the Institute. Being inspired by him, many qualified teachers joined the teaching faculty of the Institute. Within a short time, the Tagore Research Institute and the Rabindra Sahitya Pathokram made a name for itself in the circles of Kolkata, and more generally in West Bengal. However, the Institute saw difficult times during this period as well. A difference of opinion with Saumyendrath Tagore led to the Institute being evicted from 4 Elgin Road. After spending time in several rented facilities, the Institute eventually moved to its own habitat at 97C S. P. Mukherjee Road, Kalight Park, Calcutta 700026, on 4th May, 1980. The building, Rabindra Charcha Bhavan, was constructed entirely with private funds raised through the donations of ordinary citizens.
In 1982 Somendranath accompanied Smt. Maitreyee Devi on a trip abroad covering different countries in Europe, as well as Canada and the United States. He used this opportunity to give lectures on Tagore at different gatherings, and establish contact with organizations related to Tagore all over the world. He did his best to use this contacts for the purpose of furthering Tagore studies all over the world. His lectures were extremely well received everywhere, and he returned to India full of hope and expectation for establishing an international network for furthering Tagore studies.
At his inspiration, several organizations in the country set up similar programs of Tagore studies. This included among other places, study centres in Behrampore, Jamshedpur and Kanthi. A similar curriculum was also set up and instituted at the Federation Hall (Milan Mandir) in north Calcutta. Somendranath was also in touch with other organizations in other parts of the country with this same aim. In 1985 he organized the first Rabindra Charcha Sammelan at the Tagore Research Institute. He also started the publication of “Tagore International”, an English periodical which aimed to make the efforts of the Institute more international. At his inspiration, the Institute designated 30th June as the international day for reading Tagore poetry, and this was enthusiastically observed by many different organizations in 1985 (as well as in subsequent years).
Somendranath passed away on July 18, 1985, after a short illness, at the relatively young age of 58, when he was at the peak of his creativity. It was an untimely demise for an outstanding orator, organizer and thinker. He will, however, always be remembered as a very important figure in the area of Tagore studies.
At a personal level, Somendranath received his PhD in 1974 through his research on the tragedies of Tagore. He delivered the Rammohan Lectures at the University of Calcutta in 1974, the Girish Ghosh Memorial Lectures at Calcutta University in 1982. The Rabindra Bharati Society conferred its “Rabindra Puraskar” on Somendranath in 1984.
Somendranath was married to Smt. Manjula Bose, who is also a founder member of the Tagore Research Institute. They have two sons, Ayanendranath and Abhra.