An institution keeping memories of Durga Bhabhi alive
With her dedication to create an educated generation for India’s development, freedom fighter Durga Devi turned a simple classroom into a legacy called Lucknow Montessori Inter College
LUCKNOW : Commonly known as ‘School of Durga Bhabhi’, the Lucknow Montessori Inter College in Purana Qila area here bears testimony to freedom fighter Durga Devi Vohra’s dedication to create an educated generation for the development of India.
Durga Devi turned a simple classroom into a legacy called Lucknow Montessori Inter College.
But, before choosing education as the tool to improve the society and bring independence to the country, she joined revolutionaries to bring this change.
She was born in Allahabad on October 7, 1907 and was married to Bhagwati Charan Vohra in 1918. Bhagwati Charan Vohra, was a well known revolutionary and credited for drafting the famous constitution of Naujawan Bharat Sabha. He introduced Durga Devi to the then ongoing Indian revolution and she participated in it voluntarily.
At just 23 years of age, Durga Devi courageously decided to accompany Bhagat Singh in the disguise of his wife when the latter was being chased by British authorities in the Saunder’s murder case.
“It is said that she took along her two-year-old son to make the disguise of a couple look more real,” said PK Srivastav, a retired history professor and one of the members of the existing general body which manages the school.
According to Srivastav, the other incident which proves her mettle is the Lamington Road incident in Bombay.
“On October 8, 1930, Durga Devi Vohra fired at Hailey, the then Governor of Bombay. The shot couldn’t accomplish what she wanted, but Hailey and another officer accompanying him were injured,” informed Srivastav.
Vohra took this extreme step, just four months after losing her husband in a bomb explosion. The explosion occurred while Bhagwati Charan Vohra was testing bombs to be used to break into Lahore jail where Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdeo were waiting for the gallows. The incident made Duga Devi a widow and the British also hanged the revolutionaries.
‘Durga Bhabhi’ was arrested in 1931 for the Bombay incident. After her release, she took up the career of teaching at Ghaziabad in 1935. She also had a brief political stint with the Indian National Congress and was made the President of Delhi State Congress.
However, politics didn’t appeal to her.
In 1939, she visited Madras and received Montessori training from Maria Montessori herself before opening a school with five students in a private house at Cantonment Road, Lucknow in 1940.
It was the first Montessori school in North India.
Gradually, the strength of students increased and a big building was hired to accommodate them.
The new building was situated near the present Lucknow Publishing House until the construction of its own building.
The initial managing committee of the school comprised of luminaries like Acharya Narendra Dev, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Chandra Bhanu Gupt, Yashpal, Dr Sadhan Bose and Shiv Verma.
In 1954, after the death of Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, ‘Lucknow Montessori Society’ was dissolved and ‘Rafi Ahmad Kidwai Montessori Memorial Trust’ was founded to replace the society for the purpose of looking after the management of school.
On this occasion, the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Lal Nehru was also present.
In 1956, the government of UP provided land in Purana Kila, Sadar, for the construction of the school building, the foundation stone of which was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru on February 7, 1957.
‘Durga Bhabhi’ continued looking after the management of her school till the age of 76 in 1983 when she decided to settle in Ghaziabad with her son Shachi. She was replaced by Chandra Dutt Tiwari, as the manager of school.
While leaving Lucknow, she gave up her residence on the school campus for founding ‘Martyrs Memorial and Freedom Struggle Research Centre’, which was founded and developed by Shiv Verma, a close associate of Sardar Bhagat Singh, and a life convict of Lahore Conspiracy Case.
An elderly revolutionary of more than 80 years, Shiv Verma, took keen interest and poured a good deal of labour in the cultivation of this memorial of martyrs and research centre, which in course of time earned a reputation of producing significant researches in the field of revolutionary history of India.
Its unique library of revolutionary history contains a treasure of rare books, documents and private papers of revolutionaries.
The Lucknow Montessori Inter College in Purana Qila area of Lucknow