Have you ever wandered inside old mansions, turned into corridors where there is a strong sense of time being in a coma. Have you felt as if the portraits on the wall are watching you, and you miss the feeling of familiarity with a modern building? Modern India has come a long way from the decades of the past. While modernity has crept in slowly yet forcefully, one of the collateral damage to this has been the grand family homes or mansions built and used to house generations of families. As households shrink and new buildings and cities emerge, the future of these mansions looks bleak more than ever. As a part of my exploration of Bengal, this post is themed Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal.
Dhanyakuria, the village of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Bengal located in 24 Parganas of Bengal, is a paradox of sorts. An air of amazement is exhibited by the visitor who comes across mansions beneath the crumbling façade, gives an opulence experience of English countryside mansions.
My journeys in Bengal
I have been travelling and exploring Bengal. It is an endeavour that is in its nascent stages, and coming to the village of Dhanyakuria was an eye-opener. Though I have seen multiple towns in Bengal, which are characterised by terracotta temples or the intricately panelled temples dedicated to the Goddess Shakti and Lord Shiva yet come to Dhanyakuria and one is confronted Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal, thereby giving the village the nickname of Village of castles and Mansions of West Bengal.
What is my blog all about ?
My blog focuses quite a bit on ancient history, among other places of travel which I keep doing. The history posts come up because there is in ancient Indian History, so many monumental architectures created. Read through the post on the Grand Living Chola Temples of Tamil Nadu or the magnificent architecture of the UNESCO heritage designated Pattadakal temples. I am sure a visit to them would be fascinating to just about anyone purely from an architectural magnificence prism of view. In case interested, read about Mahabalipuram & Aihole here. How about some thoughts on Manikarnika Ghat, Varanasi.
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Dhanyakuria is a perfect getaway for a day trip from Kolkata or bicycle here if fitness is an essential aspect of one’s schedule. It is a quiet village where history speaks through the large palatial mansions. In places such as these, one realises how time has moved on when one sees mansions derelict, mothballed or looked after by caretakers.
Day trips from Kolkata
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.
Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal
Narrating Dhanyakuriya – the village of Palaces
Through this blog post themed Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal, I will be primarily focusing on three prominent mansions that can be seen here. At the outset, a visit to the mansion’s interior depends on permission from the original owners or coaxing the local caretaker to allow a sneak preview.
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Gaine Garden House
The first mansion encountered by the visitor is known as the Gaine Garden house, modelled after an English mansion in the country. Bult in 1935 by the then Gaine Zamindars, this mansion was built on forging a business link with the Britishers. I can visualise that it must have looked magnificent during its heydays with a picturesque pond in the front and a small pond in the behind.
However, the turrets, towers, windows are all in a state of disrepair now, with nature reclaiming her land. Trees, roots and vegetation growing all over the place and forces of nature crumbling the strength of pillars and the castle’s foundation.
At the main gate of the mansion, one can see twin towers with arched gate in the centre. The main attraction is the arched entrance crowned with stone figures of two Englishmen fighting a lion barehanded.
Bidding farewell to this place after strolling a bit in the interiors and being mindful of not stepping onto snakes in the overgrown vegetation, I headed back to the village of Dhanykuria. Next was to look at the Gaine Rajbari as a part Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal.
Gaine Rajbari , Dhanyakuriya
The Gaine Rajbari is over 200 yrs old and was the residence of the Gaine family. The mansion is one of the landmarks of Dhanyakuria, pink in colour and a pleasant sight to look at. This is an L shaped mansion with 21 massive pillars that portray a strong sense of strength and regality. I could see a first floor that runs the entire length of the mansion, and the caretaker informed me that there are a total of 60 rooms in the mansion. One side of the garden is the temple of Rasha Krishna, the presiding deity of the Gaine family. The temple is known as Shyamsundar Jiu and is also L shaped and painted pink. It was established in the year 1821.
The mansion I was denied entry is studded with a beautiful garden, and unlike the Gaine garden house, this one is maintained very well and is in pristine condition. I could also see a structure that was later infirmed to me as a Najar Minar used for cultural evenings during the early days. Musicians used to sit in the tower and play their instruments on certain days to mark the occasion. Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal was turning out to be a delightful visit indeed.
Sawoo Rajbari, Dhanyakuriya
Fresco decoration and Corinthian pillars are the hallmarks of Sawoo Rajbari. The mansion is inhabited and is looked after by the caretakers. Not as maintained as the Gaine Rajbari, the Sawoo Rajbari is indeed grand from within. The central courtyard paving the way to the Thakur Dalan is encircled by corridors supporting massive pillars that give rise to the encircling structure of the mansion. The windows and rooms are presently locked, and there was no way to peep into their opulence.
I admire the concept of Thakur dalan in the mansions of West Bengal. The presence of this structure imparts so much serenity and sanctity to the entire house. Even here, the beautiful Thakurdalan was visible, having five archways studded with rich stucco panelled wok.
Ballav Rajbari, Dhanyakuriya
The third in the list which I visited was the Ballav Rajbari. Locally known as Pututl Bari ( House of dolls ). The mansion’s twin storied and houses attractive idols on the terrace with a blend of Indian and European architecture. I was lucky to have been granted access to visit the interiors.
One walks to the mansion’s interior through the short narrow corridor, which opens out to the central courtyard with the impressive Thakurdalan at one end. The intricate structures and frescos on the pillars looked eye-catching with well-maintained interiors. Painted white and green as the others mansions of this era, there are huge photographs of the erstwhile zamindars and prominent family members hung on the corridors of the courtyard.
I walked through the entire mansion, including first floor, to get a feel and vibe of history that hung in the air all over. Time has stood still in a comatose way I felt. The mothballing of these mansions is indeed the harsh reality of life as we all move ahead. I did not see the tower out here, which was similar to the Najar Minar at Gaine Rajbari.
Coming out from the Ballav Rajabari, a short walk ahead led me to the Ras Mancha, a five arched beautiful white structure with four side entrance.
It is a nine pinnacle two stored structure in which, during the Ras festival, idols of Radha Krishna are worshipped. The white colour temple is indeed a pleasant sight to see and is worth the visit. The worship of Vishnu, it seems, was very prevalent in this part of the country.
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My thoughts Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal.
A trip to Dhanyakuria would be an impressive affair, especially during Durga Puja when the Gaines, Sawoo and Ballav cone down to celebrate the puja in the traditional ways, thus getting these mansions to Life for a short period. Else a winter trip is always a great idea to soak in the winter sun looking at the dew on the green blades of grass amid winter flowers in the company of these magnificent vistas from the past.
Bengal has got some fantastic historical monuments and splendid tales associated with it. However, with no preservation or positive engagement with the owners of these mansions to find a way ahead to preserve these opulent mansions, in time, these structures will wither away. That will be a substantial loss in the Historical heritage of Bengal. I find myself fortunate enough to have in the short time of my stay here to see these structures while they still stand proud yet old. Of English Architecture inspired Castles and Mansions in Dhanyakuriya, Bengal would be a perfect way to spend a holiday if the reader resides in Bengal.
Best time to visit: As stated, it would be the Durga puja time else the winters of West Bengal
How to reach: If one is coming by train from Kolkata, get down at Basirhat station and book an auto for Dhanyakuria. Else travel by road, and it’s a two-hour drive.
Eateries : I found none actually. So carry your own arrangement.
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