Malaysian Bengalee Association
THE earliest Bengalis in Malaysia came from the central and eastern parts of Greater (undivided) Bengal. Leveraging the established track record (explained in page 5), they were recruited by the British colonial system as: a) clerical staff and lower-rung supervisors, both in the government and emerging commercial sectors; b) conductors and dressers in the rubber
plantations; c) LMP, LMF and LMS (licensed medical practitioners) doctors and medical service facilitators; d) engineers and technically competent
assistants in civil construction projects.
The earliest Bengali immigrants settled down in Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Malacca and a few in Penang.
Prominent among these early immigrants is Dr Sarojini Bardhan who was a medical officer to Malacca whose name is commemorated in the Bardhan Trophy, donated by his son, the late Major-General P.N. Bardhan (I.M.S.). Indian Associations from the various states in Peninsular Malaysia still compete for this football trophy.
Bengalis are unable to burke the inherent commitment towards preserving the traditional Bengali culture and societal interaction (samajik riti-niti). Those early immigrants who were scattered across Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak and Malacca organised the first Durga Pooja in Seremaban in 1928.
In theSun's Gujarati feature (Feb 25, 2015) we had reported how Sir Hussein Abdolcader, a Gujarati Vohra Muslim had lobbied the British Straits Settlement to declare Deepavali as a public holiday. Bengali families thus decided to congregate during Deepavali and celebrate Kali Pooja. Without a registered body, these functions were organised on an ad hoc basis with voluntary contributions. Community pioneers like Dr PN Sen, Dr BC Majumdar and AB Paul took the lead to organise the Kali Pooja in Seremban. In the mid to late 30s the community decided to build/acquire their own Kali Temple and ancillary buildings. Half month's salary was contributed by every Bengali family, which helped acquire a 2.5 acre plot of land in Rasah,
Goddess Durga flanked by her children Ganesha, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kartik.