Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Shobhabazaar Rajbari - A Well Preserved Heritage


Raja Nabakrishna Deb (1733-1797) was considered to be "Calcutta's (now Kolkata) premier zamindar" during his time and his palace in Shobhabazar was thought of as the foremost in the list of North Calcutta's great houses.

Originally built by Shobharam Ghosh in the early eighteenth century, Nabakrishna, came to own the property (at 33A Raja Nabakrishna Street) in 1757.
Raja Nabakrishna Deb
 After acquiring the palace he did a series of alterations and renovations. The Thakurdalan was completed in just three months, in time for a lavish Durga Puja Festival. Such was the prominence of Nabakrishna in the North Calcutta society that other Durga Puja ceremonies could only begin after the firing of Nabakrishna's palace cannon.





Even after the passage of more than 250 years, this puja is being performed by the descendents of Raja Nabakrishna Deb at the same "Thakur Dalan" with traditional dignity and devotion.


Durga puja of Sovabazaar Rajbati (Rajbari) is performed based on "Brihadnandikeswar Puran".
The idol of Godess Durga has remained identical since the inception. The image of the lion, that is known as the Vaahan of Ma Durga, resembles more with a horse than that of a lion. The entire structure consisting of Maa Durga, her family members (with their "vaahans"), and Mahisasura etc, are accommodated inside a single compact frame which is called "Ekchala" in Bengal. Artisans Start preparing the idol/image from the auspicious day of "Rath Yatra" and take around approximately three months to complete the same. Another interesting fact is that the ancestral moulds that were used by the ancestors and fore-fathers of the deb family for creating the faces of Gods and Godesses are used till today.

Prior to the introduction of this grand Durga Puja in 1757, by Raja Nabakrishna Deb, the old city of Kolkata that comprised of three villages, namely Sutanutee, Govindapur and Kolkata never experienced Durga Puja in such a large extent which was celebrated with unthinkable pomp and grandeur. The gates of the Rajbari were kept wide open for people from all the walks of life. The Durga puja celebrations start one month before the actual puja. Many great artists have performed in during these celebrations. Many renowned dancers like Miss Rangham, Noor Baksh, Malkajaan, Gauhar Jaan and many others have performed in the Natmandir of Sovabazar Rajbari.



The original palace building (33A, Raja Nabakrishna Street) features Mughal and medieval Bengali temple-style architecture.


However, some areas that are partially restored show European influence, particularly the Palladian style loggia at the entrance and the twin iconic columns on either side. Even today Restoration project is going on in some parts of the palace.


Many renowned English men like Lord Clive and Warren Hastings were in the list of invitees during Durga puja festivals. Raja Nabakrishna was also the munshi (clerk-cum-interpreter) of Governor Drake. The britishers used to call him "Nubkissen" and also earned the title of ‘Maharaja Bahadur’ in 1766.

In Kolkata Sovabajar Rajbari is reagarded as one of the most popular Bonedi Bari or Aristocratic Mansion of Kolkata.

The history of the Sovabazar Rajbari was enriched with the foot prints of dignities like Sadhak Ramprasad, Thakur Ramkrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Debendra Nath Tagore, Rabindra Nath Tagore and so on.


The first civic reception of Swami Vivekananda after his return from Chicago was celebrated at Sovabazar Rajbari premises in the year 1897 by Raja Binoy Krishna Deb Bahadur. Even today we can see the place from where Swami Vivekananda addressed the people.

 
 
 
 



Later a new extension to the rajbari was built in 36, Raja Naba Krishna Street, where Raja Rajkrishna started Durga Puja in 1790. This building is also very beautiful and has the grandeur and magnificence of a Palace.



This new building is popularly referred as  Notun Bari or new home. This palace has an old world charm and at the same time a newness. The building is well maintained and has Mughal and medieval Bengali temple-style architecture.



The Lion of Godess durga in this palace is different from the one in the other building (33A, Raja Nabakrishna Street). It looks more like a lion and not a horse or Unicorn. 

There one can even see the Sandook (Box) in which the Zamindars used to bring the Khajna (Taxes). The last tax collection was done in the year 1953. We can see many antique clocks and artifacts in this building.



The members of Deb family also organize a photo exhibition that tells us about their forefathers and about "Gopinath Jieu" (Lord Krishna) whom they worship. There is a very interesting story of Gopinath ji that was published in "The Telegraph"... here's the link "250 years of Raja Nabakrishna’s ‘dream’ deity"



To reach this place the best way is to take a metro train (an underground train similar to the tube in london) and get down at Sovabazar - Sutanuti metro station. The palace is very much near the metro station.

After visiting this place if you feel very hungry then there are two very famous eating joints nearby which you should visit. One is "Allen Kitchen" and the other is "Mitra Cafe".

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post on the Shova Bazaar Rajbari Pujo… The
    descriptions of the sandook and lion and other artifacts is interesting… Would
    be great to have some more posts on the other Bonedi Barir pujos of Kolkata.

    Saw this album on the Bonedi Barir Durga Puja of 2013 at http://www.learningandcreativity.com/album/6641/

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