Chittaranjan Saha started the open-air book shop with 32 titles published from Kolkata
On February 8, some 48 years back,Chittaranjan Saha started selling books by laying sackcloth under a mango tree to pay tribute to the martyrs of 1952 language movement and created the history.
He, popularly known as "Dada", displayed the books published from his own publishing house "Muktodhara Prokashoni" at the base of Aamtola (mango tree premises), next to the main entrance of Bangla Academy, where the security room is currently located.
He started the open-air book shop with 32 titles published from Kolkata. From then till date the book fair is being organized every year, centring the Shaheed Dibos, February 21.
The innovative idea and his sincere effort drew the attention of other publishers and later these actions turned into Amar Ekushey book fair.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Sajib Saha, chief executive officer of the publishing house, said the short arrangements were for seven days only. "The fair was organised without any announcement, and it laid down the foundation of the Amar Ekushey book fair."
Two years later in 1974, books were sold from that very stall (eight feet by eight feet) set up by Muktadhara.
Later in 1976, a few other publishing houses –Nauroj Kitabistan, Khan and Brothers, and Boighar from Chittagong took part in the book fair at the same place, with the initiative of Chittaranjan Saha, said Sajib Saha, son of Jahar Lal, the director and a witness of Dada’s initiative.
Jahar Lal, also the brother-in-law of Chittaranjan Saha, told Dhaka Tribune last year: “The day was so memorable, and I was one of the eyewitnesses to the first attempts in 1972.”
According to Sajib Saha, in 1978, the then Director-General of Bangla Academy Dr Ashraf Siddiqui who was in his office between June 1976 to 1982 officially patronized the fair for the first time.
The founder of Muktodhara also founded Bangladesh Pustok Prokashok O Bikreta Samiti in 1979. The forum and Bangla Academy authorities jointly organized the fair in the Bangla Academy courtyard.
Chittaranjan Saha: The pioneer
After Chittaranjan Saha’s death in 2007, his wife Bizli Prova Saha published a book titled "Chittaranjan Saha memorial book".
According to the memorial book, born in 1927 at Chaumohani in Noakhali, Chittaranjan obtained BA degree from Chaumohani College in 1948 and began the publication business in 1951 with the "Punthighar".
Writer and journalist Amir Hossain in his article in the book said Chittaranjan might have been inspired to get into publication business being influenced by reading books at a family library.
He moved to Dhaka’s Patuatuli and set up Punthighar publication house there in 1956. Later the office was shifted to Banglabazar.
In 1967, Punthighar turned into a private limited company and its head office was established in Farashganj. Later in 2002, the office was again relocated to Dhaka, said Amir Hossain.
During the liberation war in 1971, Chittaranjan went to Kolkata. There he met exiled Bangladeshi writers and convinced them to write for the country, said Hashem Khan, an advisory committee member of Muktadhara, in his article in the book.
He published 32 books during the liberation war, founding Muktadhara Prokashoni in Kolkata. The first book published under this house was Roktakto Bangla which included writings of noted writers like Zahir Raihan and Ahmed Sofa and was edited by Prof Anisuzzaman. Eminent artist Quamrul Hassan illustrated the logo of Muktadhara, said Hashem Khan.
These books were displayed and sold in February 1972. Till date, Muktodhara has published over 2,000 books.