Colesworthy Grant's Memorial, Calcutta - first Colonial animal activist and crusader

Memorial, Calcutta. Colesworthy Grant

Memorial, Calcutta. Colesworthy Grant /

Located  close to the  Writer's Building in Kolkata, West Bengal towards St. Andrews church, in the busy part of the administrative district, there is a small colonial monument  dedicated to a man  called Colesworthy Grant who was instrumental in establishing the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  Indeed, he did a pioneering work in the area of animal rights and their welfare way back in the early period under the English company.  Presently, the society being the largest of its kind in the world is functioning across the globe. As far as India was concerned,  it was the efforts of Colesworthy Grant that made this society a popular one. The monument is so small, one might miss it if one walks past on the sidewalk.

According to the plaque on the monument, it came into being in 1881 in memory of  Colesworthy Grant, a  worthy man whose main preoccupation  was of defending and protecting animal rights. His crusade against  cruelty to animals began to create a lasting  awareness among the people and at one stage achieved considerable success in the early decades of the 19th century. Thanks to the efforts of Colonel Richard Martin, an Irish politician, who took the matter before the legislature and  and finally the  act in 1822 was passed - one of the early acts of  animal rights legislation.  Richard Martin took one step forward and founded the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. Presently, the society being the largest of its kind in the world is functioning across the globe. As far as India was concerned,  it was the efforts of  Colesworthy Grant that made this society a popular one.

Hastings diamond.
James Pinspep1799-1840, Orientalist.

According to biographer Pyarichand Mitra, who happened to be Grant's colleague, he was of both Scottish and Irish decent  and landed in Calcutta in 1832 at the age of nineteen.  The purpose was to join his elder brother who had a business in Kolkuta, making  clocks and designing mathematical instruments. We have no record regarding his contribution towards clock-making, however, from the media articles on him  we learn that he was a good portrait artist and made a mark in his chosen line of work. One surprising fact is, he never learned the art work from somebody and he was a  self-taught artist and got the handle on the nuances of it the hard way .
john marshman, English journalist and historian

William Carey, British

Grant's works were mainly focused on the popular personalities of Kolkata and many periodicals/magazine, etc.,  like the Indian Review, Calcutta Review, Calcutta Christian Observer and the India Sporting Review published his works. The quality of  his work done with sincere efforts was excellent and won him laurels. He ended up  with a total of 169 such sketches over a period of 12 years, starting from 1838. He specialized in  lithographic portraits.

Among his sketches,  the following may be worthy of mention: The sketch of of James Prinsep, who did pioneering work on the great  Emperor Ashoka  and the Ashokan edicts.  Many of his sketches of famous personalities of the 19th century survived today. and are famous now.  In the colonial period,  the ethnological study of the native castes and professional classes gained importance and Grant was in his full flow when he sketched them under the title of ''Oriental Heads''. The present generation of Indians,  from his vivid  pictures and writings, may get a glimpse of  how the natives of  previous centuries wore tradition dress according to their castes, professions, etc.
Grant's sketch
Grant's sketch Armenian Church, Rangoon.

Grant  travelled many parts of the subcontinent  and never failed to draw picture of what he saw. He went to Rangoon (Yangoon) in Myanmar and to an Indigo factory in Nadia, West Bengal. In addition, he also covered the life of Angelo Indians and their lives in Kolkatta and from the letters he wrote to his mother in England, we understand  how much he loved Calcutta (Kolkata), the capital of East India Company that ran the proxy government for the British Crown.
Grant's sketch

Realizing the need for a mechanical institution and and training in drawings, he founded a Mechanical Institution in 1839 in the city with a view to imparting specialized training in these areas. Being an artist of good repute, he taught drawing to the prospective students. As ill-luck would have it, the institution run by grant and his brother fell apart midway for various reasons. However, the famous  Bengal Engineering College (now the Indian Institute of Engineering, Science, and Technology, Shibpur) and the Government Art College had their roots in Grant's early institution.

Founded in Kolkata  in 1857 in the year of the great rebellion against the British, the Bengal Engineering  was functioning on the premises of  the popular Presidency College due to lack of space and this college has a touch of Grant's legacy.  Here, he was a teacher of  drawing in the Civil Engineering Department,  and he held this post till his death in 1880. The memorial plague of Grant in the auditorium of the Bengal Engineering College (IISER), Shibpur bears testimony to his reputation and the esteem he earned while he was teaching there .

Grant's artistic ability was of immense help to yet another institution in Kolkata and, at the invitation of  Dr. F.J. Mouat, Grant was actively involved in the preparation of a unique project - compilation of  the bilingual anatomical atlas in English and Hindi. Colesworthy Grant sketched anatomical drawings for teaching human anatomy in the Calcutta Medical College. His sketches were so fine, it helped the medical fraternity understand the various delicate parts of the human body.

Mitra recalls Grants crusading work in protecting animal rights. In those days  traveling and transportation of goods were a major hurdle, the people and the government depended on animals in particular, bulls, horses and camels in the desert areas to transport construction materials, mercantile goods, etc, besides riding carts pulled by horses and oxen. When transporting heavy loads of goods on them, they were forced to work for several hours, pushing them beyond their physical limit.   There was none  ''to plead for the alleviation of their suffering''.

Grant's  sustained efforts to protect the welfare of the animals finally bore fruits leading to the formation of  the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ on 4th October 1861. The objectives of the  Calcutta branch was to create consciousness against cruelty to animals through publications and by reaching out to the educational institutions. The Society's continuous campaign  was instrumental in  introducing two legislation for animal rights, Act V and Act XV, “for prosecuting individuals guilty of inhumanity to animals.” The hospital founded by the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, continues to  function in Calcutta, taking care of the sick animals.

Colesworthy Grant's name  will remain etched  in the Indian history of animal welfare for ever. He was the one who made the people across the globe understand that ''working animals'' are part of our society and their rights to live and die  with dignity and welfare are as important to us as  those of our fellow humans.