Chandrani Roy ChoudhuryChandrani loves exploring different parts of the world…
During her visit to an 18th Century Rajbari away from Kolkata, the author Chandrani Roy Choudhury recounts a thrilling yet mysterious experience that is certain to generate an eerie feeling among the readers
Itachuna Rajbari, one of the Rajbaris of West Bengal dating back to the early 18th century, is a sort of revamped history, if one is allowed to describe it.
A major part of this palace has been renovated and re-furnished to make it a tourist destination.
Anyone who wants to spend a day amidst true historical surroundings, left untouched by time and unscathed from modernization, can pay a visit to this place, not very far from the City of Joy.
Without going to the historical details, I would like to share my personal experience of this beautiful palace dotted with many unforgettable memories.
We chose the most colourful day of the year, Holi (the festival of colours), to visit this grand palace and to our pleasant surprise, the occasion provided us with the opportunity of meeting one of the present descendants of the owner of this mansion, Mr Kundu.
As we were staring with awe at an old menu card hung on the wall of the dining hall sporting more than 60 items, we heard a voice from behind.
“It is the menu card of my grandfather’s marriage, more than a century old,” Mr Kundu put to rest our curiosity.
A friendly gentleman with a pleasing personality, he shared some additional information about his ancestors.
Mr Kundu was, in fact, present with his family in the dining hall for lunch, as it is the custom of the Rajbari to serve meal at a particular time to all the inmates of the palace.
A two-hour drive from Kolkata brings you to the magnificent Itachuna Rajbari, a portion of which is still under lock and key.
But the part opened to the tourists is huge enough to give one a rough impression about its majestic grandeur.
We preferred to stay in one of the four mud huts, built recently in the backyard of the palace, instead of the centuries-old colossal rooms that seemed too big for our comfort.
Even the beds are so steep in some of the rooms that you need a staircase to climb on it!
The decor of the mud huts is really artistic and what impressed us the most is the innovative way of using ghonta(bell) and dhol (drum) to notify the caretaker, if needed.
There is a hammock between the two huts where you can relax watching the pigeons and squirrels roaming around freely.
We sat there, surrounded by many trees, blooming with colourful flowers and enjoyed watching their activities, till it was time for lunch.
Authentic Bengali food was served during lunch in traditional brass and copper utensils.
We were also informed that the present cook belongs to the same family that used to cook in the palace during the 18th century.
The food was, indeed, mouth-watering and the way it was served, gave the guests a royal feeling.
After lunch, we got ready for exploring the Rajbari.
Each day in the afternoon, a free guided tour of the Rajbari is arranged which should not be missed at any cost. It gives one the access to some areas where the entry of the visitors is otherwise restricted.
One such room is the “Naach- ghar”, which has still been kept untouched.
An invasive glance at the room with age-old furniture, ceiling fans, carpet and chandeliers is enough to give one a kind of eerie feeling.
It only increases manifold when one is told that the locals could still hear the sounds of “ghungru” coming from the Nach-ghar even now, especially during full moon nights.
Apart from this, a pond in the backyard reminds one of the customs of the ladies of that time who used to take bath there.
The tour took us to a huge chess board in the garden, some very old weapons and photographs, a few rooms with antique showpieces and furniture and also a visit to the terrace from where the entire Rajbari and its surroundings are visible.
The tour ended at the “Thakur-dalan” where the deity is worshipped thrice in a day.
The evening Aarti performed every evening where the locals also participate is a wonderful sight to watch.
But once the aarti gets over and the lights are switched off, the sound of silence all on a sudden befalls the place – a pervading silence which is hard to describe in words.
After sometime, dinner was served and we retired to our room after a hectic day. In sharp contrast to city where honking of vehicles continues throughout the night, the silence of the surroundings lulled us to sleep quite early.
Past midnight, I woke up suddenly to a faint sound of music. My eyes opened wide, my ears became alert as I could hear clearly the sound of a flute coming from a distance.
Had I been hallucinating? Immediately I switched on the light while my little one was fast asleep beside me.
“Hey! Did you hear anything?” I mischievously whispered to my husband who too was awake.
“No, nothing at all”. He appeared to be convincing though his eyes betrayed his words.
Well! The truth finally dawned on me.
After all, it was Dol Purnima – a full moon night !
Photographs by : Rudrarup Roy Choudhury
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Chandrani Roy ChoudhuryChandrani loves exploring different parts of the world and the uniqueness of lands and their cultures. Her passion to explore manifests itself in the beautiful artefacts she creates…in the form of metal mural, mosaic and stained-glass paintings which adorns the wall of her house