Kolkata is an amalgamation of many aspects and zones. It is an enigmatic metropolis that does not conform to tag of how a metropolis is aught to be . If on one side, we have uber-chic sections of planned townships like New Town and the serene sanity of Salt Lake, on the other end, we have the elegance of South Kolkata and the iconic heritage of North Kolkata. Amongst all these stands boldly the area known as BBD Bagh Dalhousie Square. BBD Bagh stands for Benoy-Badal-Dinesh Bagh. Read here to know about history of this nomenclature. This series of streets and blocks feature some iconic monuments erected during the British reign. In this series of posts, I am exploring the architectural elegance of buildings and monuments within Kolkata. To be specific, this post is themed on Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building.
Architecture is love for many photographers and for those who like to see lines and symmetry in the building’s curves. These lines & symmetry give rise to an ethereal beauty in the architecture of the buildings. I have always loved architecture, and being a self-taught hobbyist in terms of photography, architecture definitely was a challenging genre.
History of Old Currency Building
The old currency buildings were founded in 1833 and used to house the then Agra Bank. Post, it was briefly operated as a mint and later taken over by British India Government to became Currency building in 1868. The currency building was in use till 1993 in various roles and finally was discontinued in 1994. It was slated for demolition in 1996. However, with the timely intervention of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage demolition was stopped. After that, the ASI stepped in and was given the task of renovating the building.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on the ancient history, the art of India, among other places of travel that I keep doing. The history posts come up because there is in ancient Indian History, so many monumental architectures created. Read through the posts on the Mundgod the mini Tibet of India, the reclusive Karwar town in the Western Ghats or my journey to the 5 prayags or confluences in the Himalaya. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an visitor’s inquisitive magnificence prism of view to say the least. In case interested, read about Ganjifa, the slowly dying art of Maharashtra. How about some thoughts on Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi.
Location & Introduction of Old Currency Building.
Situated on the end of the street corner of BBD Bagh at the crossing of Old Court House Street and R.N. Mukherjee Road stands this iconic monument. The currency building looks rather meek from the exterior; the magic happens once we go inside. Big wrought iron doors welcome the visitor as one steps in. The entry is smooth and in line with all protocols. The entire building, built on the classic lines of the Italian and British architectural design, consists of three floors. There are big Venetian windows that give a sense of openness and space. The building’s central hall is open to the sky as the demolition result is seen.
The designers have tactfully used the broken domes and the standing pillars to create a sense of openness to the sky via the central courtyard with classical embellishments on the wall and seamless merging of the arches, widows. As one walks into the central courtyard, one faces a unique sculpture of people dancing in ecstasy with a large eye-catching mural of Maa Kali. Seen in combination, it feels as the people are in euphoria over the divine presence of the Goddess, so central to the concept of Bengal.
Kolkata ,the city of Art culture & Literature amidst the influence of Modernity
Kolkata is I think is the one city that should be considered if one wishes to see how a blend of heritage art, culture & literature coupled with tradition is synced with the journey into modern times and age. As a visitor with no background in any of the above, I loved my introduction to art , culture in this city.
Read here if it appeals to you my experiences on Kolkata titled Amar Kolkata. Then there was my visit to the unique international book fair of 2020 before pandemic hit us all. Early 2020 was a great time for me as i got introduced to a vide array of events which happen in this city. One such beautiful example was by Art Rickshaw in Hindustan Park. The theme of Old Currency building presently is inline with acknowledging the cosmopolitan transformation of Kolkata through the links to the past two centuries of art.
Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building
Coming back to the post in hand, let me describe to my readers what I saw as I entered into the premises of the Old Currency Building, Kolkata.
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Interiors showcasing Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building
Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building is showcased amply here. There are three galleries on the ground floor, followed by multiple galleries on the top two floors. The gallery is all about Bengal heritage and art which evolved in various parts of the state. From modern art to traditional, one is boggled by the sheer beauty, depth and intricacy of the art exhibits. I found it challenging to comprehend the sheer scale of artefacts and art forms available for organizers to choose what to exhibit here.
On the ground floor, we have three galleries, and these include the sculptures of Bengal and a tribute to Satyajit Ray from Nemai Ghosh titled “Photographing Satyajit Ray “.
The sculptures, mostly in various metals, are beautiful but limited in number. However, I am not overly awed by this particular gallery though it does bear spending some time. Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building was turning out pleasant surprise for uninitiated individual like me.
Who is Nemai Ghosh ?
Nemai Ghosh is widely regarded as the individual who framed Satyajit Ray in his public and private life. He worked very closely with Satyajit Ray and crafted many a memorable still frame of the great artist.
I am blown over by the depth of clicks and his personal touch in recounting the moment when the frame was clicked. This is a must-visit for everyone who is either in Kolkata or visiting Kolkata. The entire gallery is designed exquisitely. An aura of going back in time and bringing in the forefront the aura and presence of Satyajit Ray. The great artist memory will always be synonymous with Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata.
Heritage Art Culture in Old Currency Building first floor
As we climb the first floor, Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building displays in almost six different genres of artworks. These are depicted as having evolved over time. From images of Bengal as seen by European artists of that era to the early Bengal art, which developed concurrently. Then the depiction of Devi – the Goddess and unique printmaking art which has somehow got obliterated. There is so much richness seen in the artworks displayed here. Each of these galleries also has several artefacts that complement the theme of the photos shown. The paintings have a narrative of the artwork as well medium on which constructed for understanding the artwork
Heritage Art Culture in Old Currency Building second floor
The second floor as a part of the Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building focuses on the Shantiniketan style of art and a display of modern Bengal art. Indeed an exciting gallery worth visiting. I loved seeing the elusive Kalighat paintings showcasing the elusive beauty of women in those times in the Kalighat area. Famed artists whose works dominate the galleries are Sakti Burman, Haren Das, Gopal Ghosh, Nemai Ghosh and others.
In case reading blogs is tedious at your end, would you like to check the story posts out here
Memo on Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building – Ghare Bahire
In 2020, the Prime minister of India inaugurated the Bengal Art Gallery titled Ghare Bahire – The World, the Home and Beyond, focusing on 18-20th century Art in Bengal. Ghaire Baire happens to be one of the most beautiful galleries that one will come across in India. The museum showcases 700 artworks from Bengal spanning over 200 years gives a size and scale . The name so selected gives tribute to the iconic novel by Rabindra Nath Tagore.
Do note that this unique exhibition ends on July 31 with 12 broad categories showcasing the 700 artworks which are from the DAG Museum collection ( a private artwork based entity) as well as National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi.
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Day trips from Kolkata
Just a input which i thought might interest the readers here. So in the context of day trips from Kolkata or weekend trips from Kolkata. I would recommend you browse my journey to Mahishadal, Khirai, Baranti, Purbasthali, Bishnupur, Serampore, Bandel and Gongoni. There is so much to see in this state, similar to like the Northern Karnataka architectural circuit of Hampi and Badami.
For further visuals ranging from architecture to travel destinations, flora and fauna of India; browse my stock gallery. Click on this inline link here.
My thoughts on Heritage Art Culture in Kolkata’s Old Currency Building
Simply stated my recommendation would be to definitely pay a visit. It is something that makes a positive impact on your literary senses and the visit will leave you with pleasant memories and appreciation of the heritage of West Bengal and the glorious years of the past.