DHANYAKURIA–A Forgotten Wonderland at a Stone’s Throw from Kolkata

12Gaine Rajbari- Front View

A day before the country-wide Lockdown was promulgated, I drove towards north on the VIP Road, then took the Jessore Road, and reached Dhanyakuria, a treasure trove of 19th century castles and baris on the Barasat-Basirhat Road(Taki Road), about 7 km from the Berachampa Crossing(Chandraketugarh) . This adds up to just 55 km from Kolkata. Dhanyakuria is situated  in the North 24 Parganas district, and is definitely worth a day’s outing.

This area was once part of the Sunderbans, but one wealthy merchant Jagannath Das got some area cleared and settled down in 1740.In the 19th century, wealthy merchants established the abovenemtioned rajbaris and baghbaris as weekday homes and weekend retreats.The main attractions in the village are three rajbaris – Gaine’s, Sawoo’s and Ballava’s, and the Ras Manch. There is also the famous Gaine Castle or Baghbari, but is is now closed for repairs , or so they say. I first visited the Gaine Rajbari, which is a huge L-shaped, pink-coloured mansion.

1716712Gaine Rajbari’s construction was begun by a wealthy jute and betel merchant , Gobinda Chandra Gaine, and it was completed by Mahendra Nath Gaine in the mid-19th century. From the outside itself are visible huge Ionian pillars, pointed towers, square turrets, spindly spires, stepped gables, wide corridors on the second floor, the middle and left porticoes and stained glass entrance inside the main bari. This opens into a spacious Thakur Dalaan which is a three-arched structure, and is marked by embedded Corinthian pillars having many pillarets. The coat of arms adorns the top of the terrace. Both the floors have wide verandas and green-coloured widows,drapes and doors.

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3A three-storied hexagonal tower, Nazar Manzil, stands right on the main entrance. It has Corinthian pillars in the corners, and a dome-shaped structure on the topmost floor. Influences of both European and Islamic architecture are clearly visible.

An L-shaped temple structure by the name of Shyamsundar Jiu (mandir) on the left of the bari boasts of a beautiful statue of Shri Shyamsundar(Krishna).

Sawoo Bari- front view

Sawoo Bari- Side & Back View

A beautiful stained glass archway on the Main Door of the SAWOO Bari leads us into a sprawling Thakur Dalaan.  It is a two-storied structure having long, spacious corridors. Two rows of embedded Corinthian pillars provide the Dalaan with a majestic look. The Thakur Dalaan has five archways, and above each archway, elaborate stucco work has been carried out on the half moons. Stucco over window arches with green flaps on the second floor lends an artistic touch. Patit Charan Sawoo got this residence constructed in the early 19th century.

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Inside the Sawoo Bari & its Thakur Dalaan

 

The Ballava bari or the Ballavbati as it is locally called was constructed by Shyam Charan Ballav in mid 19th century. Because of the very visible human images on the front of the palazzo, it is also known locally as Putulbari (the Doll’s House).12The main figure standing above the central arch in red robes and wearing a red cap is that of a European, and he is flanked on both sides by two Indians adorning moustaches and wearing turbans. Two white figures on the far side of the front face can also be admired. A stucco peacock in blue colour graces the central arch, just under the European’s image.

3456789An exquisite cast iron gate and a fence bar the entrance into the bari. Huge Corinthian pillars adorned with intricate stucco work grace the front side of the building. The front verandah is lined with green-coloured window drapes.

A three-storied, yellow-coloured watch-tower (Nazar Manzil) stands outside on the left of the bari. It is not a well-decorated structure like the one in Gaine Bari.

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Raas Manch is a two-storied,nine-pinnacled structure. It has a five-arched entrance. Each Corinthian pillar has multiple pillarets. Vaishnava Ras Mela was held with great fanfare every year in Dhanyakuria. Images of the Lord were kept in the Raas Manch for display.

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The Gaine Baganbari (garden retreat) is influenced by medieval European architecture. But since I could not venture inside, I would desist from describing it.Some other time,then, if I get lucky someday!

In this village where exquisite baris of the past still exist, I noticed a new bari constructed quite tastefully. It is not as dazzling, but a simple structure, yet one can see how it represents the spirit of Dhanyakuria.

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Dhanyakuria is not a very popular tourist destination or a weekend getaway. Yet the treasures it hides in its lap demand a day’s attention. It is advised that one carries his own food and water to avoid inconveniences.

While returning , I also made a halt at Varamihir Dhipi and Chandraketugarh Fort sites, located near Berachampa near Bidyadhari River. The former still has some brick structures/ruins, but there is absolutely nothing to see at the Fort site except the plaque. These sites were excavated in 1950s and 60s revealing a continous sequence of cultural remains from Pre-Mauryan to Pala periods.

I sign off with the hope that Corona scare shall soon wither and allow us to travel across the world. These past three months have been very long.

 

#dhanyakuria #Bengaltourism #westbengal #Kolkata

#gainebari #GaineCastle #rajbaris #raasmanch

 

 

 

 

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