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Jagannath Shankarshet
Born 10 February 1803(1803-02-10)
Mumbai, Maharashtra
Died 31 July 1865
Mumbai, Maharashtra
Nationality India

Hon. Jugonnath "Nana" Sunkersett Esq. (also spelled Jagannath Shankarsheth [1] and Jagannath Shankarshet) (10 February 1803 – 31 July 1865), was an Indian philanthropist and educationalist. He was born in 1803 in the wealthy Murkute family of the Daivadnya brahmin caste in Mumbai (Bombay). Unlike his forefathers, he engaged in commerce and soon developed a reputation as a very reliable businessman. So high was his credit that Arabs, Afghans and other foreign merchants chose to place their treasures in his custody rather than with banks. He soon acquired a large fortune, much of which he donated to the public.

Sunkersett became an active leader in many arenas of Bombay life. Foreseeing the need for improvements in education, he became one of the founders of the School Society and the Native School of Mumbai, the first of its kind in Western India. The school went through a series of name changes: in 1824, it became the Bombay Native Institution, in 1840, the Board of Education, and in 1856 the name which continues to this day, the Elphinstone Educational Institution. When the Students' Literary and Scientific Society first opened their girls' schools, Jugonnath Sunkersett contributed much of the necessary funds, despite strong opposition of some members of the Hindu community. Other educational projects he began include the English School, the Sanskrit Seminary, and the Sanskrit Library, all of which are located in Girgaum, South Mumbai.

In 1845, along with Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, he formed the Indian Railway Association. Eventually, the association was incorporated into the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, and Jeejeebhoy and Sunkersett became the only two Indians among the ten directors of the GIP railways. As a director, Sunkersett participated in the very first train journey in India between Bombay and Thane, which took approximately 45 minutes.

Jugonnath Sunkersett, Sir George Birdwood and Dr Bhau Daji were instrumental in the some of the major reconstruction efforts of the city, beginning 1857. The three gradually changed a town made up of a close network of streets into a spacious and airy city, adorned with fine avenues and splendid buildings. He became the first Indian to be nominated to the Legislative Council of Bombay under the XXTY 26 Act of 1861, and became a member of the Bombay Board of Education. He also was the first Indian member of the Asiatic Society of Bombay, and is known to have endowed a school and donated land in Grant Road for a theatre. His influence was used by Sir John Malcolm to induce the Hindus to acquiesce in the suppression of suttee or widow-burning, and his efforts also paid off after the Hindu community was granted a cremation ground at Sonapur (now Marine Lines). He is known to have donated generously to Hindu temples. During the First War of Independence of 1857, the British suspected his involvement, but was acquitted due to lack of evidence. He died in Bombay on the 31 July, 1865. A year after his death a marble statue was erected at the Asiatic Society of Bombay. A road and chowk (Nana Chowk) are named after him in South Mumbai.

Jagannath's ancestor Babulshet Ganbashet migrated to Bombay in the mid-1700s. Babulshet's son Shankarshet, was a prominent businessman of South Bombay in the late-1700s. Gunbow Street (now called Rustom Sidhwa Marg) in the Fort business district of present-day Mumbai, is named after Ganbashet, and not, as many people assume, a British colonial name.

The Bhavani-Shankar Mandir and The Ram Mandir near Nana Chowk were built by Shankarshet Babulshet, in the early-1800s and are currently in possession of the Sunkersett family.

References

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