Time is rapidly eating away the grandeur and beauty of Kolkata’s rajbaris – imposing residences of the royals and zamindars (tax collectors) of Bengal. Battling modernization, changing family structures and heavy maintenance costs, some of these awe-striking buildings still stand strong – their aging bricks desperate to preserve its grand past and eager to share its secrets with new generations.
The entrancing architecture of these stately houses is laden with layers of history. Hence, visiting the rajbaris of Kolkata will open up your mind to the greatness of Bengali heritage, to their opulent lifestyle, but also their follies!
Here are some interesting royal houses surviving in and around the city that can make your stay in Kolkata very interesting.
Build in mid 1700s; this rajbari is not only the oldest but also one of the most significant aristocratic residences. It preserved Bengali tradition in the face of powerful British influences. After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the very first Durga puja was celebrated on the courtyard of this rajbari. Even today, the Durga pujas here are carried out with much grandness and pomp, and pull large crowds.
Back then; this royal abode was the heart of Bengal’s culture. The family patronized classical dances, Jatra, Kobi Gaan and more. It was frequented by eminent artistic personalities like Antony Firingi (a folk poet) and Miss Rangham (dancer), and has also been graced by dignitaries like Rabindra Nath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda.
This giant mansion was erected sometime in the early 1800s, but still mesmerizes onlookers with its commanding and intriguing aura. Today, the north and south wings are partitioned by walls, but originally they were connected via a maze of passages, making it a single edifice of great charisma!
The highlight of this rajbari is the ‘’Chandni’’ or ‘’’Naatmandir’’, which in its heyday was the centre of festive occasions, like Holi, marriages, social get-togethers and stage plays. Initially, this area was a tank supplying water for domestic purposes. But after an accident where a young son of the family drowned in the tank, it was converted to a ceremonial space.
The interior of the rajbari is a treat for art lovers! Owing to its regal architecture, it has become a popular destination for film shooting. The entertaining Tollywood movie Bhooter Bhabishyat was shot in this rajbari.
This lavish mansion belongs to the Basu family, who were reputed Bengali zamindars with large estates in Bihar. Nilmoni Mitra, the first distinguished Bengali engineer, was entrusted with the design and construction of this heritage property. He tried to incorporate elements of traditional Bengali and Islamic design instead of the prevalent European style.
In its heyday, this manor was the face of luxury. It had a charming ‘’Natchghar’’ or dancing room where regular dancing performances entertained guests, and a decorated balcony from where women and children could watch programs happening in the courtyard.
Where to Stay in this Historic City?
The above landmarks in Kolkata are not to be missed! But while you enrich your stay in Kolkata with such cultural pursuits, you must be seeking the comfort of a top hotel in Kolkata for resting and rejuvenating. Hotel VIP International in Park Street area is a Hotel with free wifi in Kolkata, besides tons of other modern facilities, like complimentary breakfast, spa and more. Contact us for offers and any other guidance required for your trip to our great city.
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