Guwahati Gyan | Mukherjee Lodge and the Maharana Club
An old double-story building at Danish Road, Panbazar. A century-old monument about to be lost amongst the new megastructures in the vicinity of this fast-growing metropolis. Let’s talk about the Maharana Athletic Club.
Located just opposite the Mahendra Mohan Choudhury Hospital in Panbazar, the building is a major landmark known after the club that it housed.
Did you know that this house was originally known as “Mukherjee Lodge?”
It was built by Panchu Gopal Mukherjee, the first Indian Deputy Commissioner of British-ruled Assam in 1900. Mukherjee was British by heart. The portraits of the English Queen and King were displayed proudly on the verandah of the house even many years after independence.
As an orthodox Hindu, Mukherjee hosted a sadhu in this house who performed ‘puja’ and other religious activities here. But after the sadhu’s sudden demise in a road accident, rumours went rife that the first floor of the house was haunted. The family locked up the upper floor. After Panchu Gopal Mukherjee’s death, his family members went back to Calcutta. The ground floor was given on rent but the top floor remained locked.
The Maharana Athletic Club that was established in 1907 bought this top floor later. Reportedly, when the rooms were opened they found an old bed with its mosquito net still hanging, not touched for years. Everything was rotten and decaying. The rooms were cleaned up and used for hosting players from outside who came to the city to play football matches. However, nobody ever complained of any haunting experience.
Maharana Athletic Club:
It was established in April 1907 by ten boys of Guwahati including Jogesh Chandra Sengupta, Pabitra Gupta, and Uttam Chandra Das. Possibly the first organised sports club by the people of Guwahati, it was first named as Oriental Club. Unfortunately, the members spilled within two months of its formation. A new club was formed by Kartabya Gupta, Nripen Sen, and Shyama Gupta in June 1907 that was named Lago Shyama Club.
Unhappy about the peculiar name, Nripen Sen suggested the name Maharana Club. The new name was taken after the historic king Maharana Pratap Singh. Sen got the inspiration from a play that was being staged at ‘Arya Natya Mandir’ during that time named ‘Maharana Pratap.’
The club made its debut with a hockey match in October 1907. However, it was later established as a football club. Maharana was the first team to play outside of Assam province with its participation in the Govindalal Shield Competition at Rangpur in 1932. They also won the gold medal in this competition. Apart from other major wins, the team won its first Bordoloi Trophy in 1953.
The involvement of sports organisers like Animesh Ganguly took the club to new heights of success. In 1939, Maharana Club became the first civilian club of the northeast to participate in the IFA (Indian Football Association) Shield tournament. This led to the formation of the Assam Football Association with Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed as the president and B. Roy Choudhury as its secretary. It continued to play in the IFA Shield for 19 years and reached the semi-finals in 1949. The Bengal government declared a half-holiday when the Maharana Club fought against Mohammedan sporting at Calcutta in the IFA Shield tournament of 1940.
The club produced some of the finest jewels of Assam football and its glorious years remain recorded in the sport's history of the northeastern region.