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Archive for May, 2012

All Souls’ Day, Kolkata (Calcutta)

All Souls’ Day is a day when Christians remember their friends & relatives, who have passed away. This comes from an ancient belief that the souls of the dead will return, on this particular day, to have a meal with their family & friends. Candles are lit to guide the souls to their home for the meal.

Although different churches celebrate All Souls’ Day on different dates but it is predominantly celebrated on the 2nd of November. In Kolkata (Calcutta) the Christian community celebrates the day in the active cemeteries of the cities. The largest gathering happens in the Lower Circular Cemetery and the Bhawanipur Cemetery.

Read more…

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Mitra Mustafi Family Trilogy

May 23, 2012 9 comments

Mita Mustafi Family Trilogy

Ula Birnagar, Sukharia and Sripur

In the early 18th century Rameshwar Mitra of Ula, worked as the Auditor General in the court of Murshid Kuli Khan in Murshidabad. In 1704 Rameswar Mitra received official Mustaufi title from Emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi.

Rameswar Mitra made a huge fortune and constructed several mansions and temples in ULa, which later came on to be known as Ula Birnagar.

Ula Birnagar

Birnagar, Nadia

Jora Bangla Temple, Ula Birnagar, Nadia

Jora Bangla Temple, Ula Birnagar, Nadia

Some of the early brick temples of Bengal was built in the form of thatched hut and came to be known as the Bangla Temple. The architects soon started making more elaborate temples by joining two Bangla temples side by side, which came to be known as the Jora – Bangla style.

Sadly only a few Bangla and Jora – Bangla temple have survived the test of time and can be still seen to this day. The Mitra – Mustafi family temple, at Ula Birnagar, can be considered as one of the finest example of Jora – Bangla Temple of West Bengal.

Built in 1694 the temple, is approached by a triple arched entrance, and  has elaborate terracotta decoration of the front side. Panels includes, scenes from Krishna Lila, Ramayan, Gods & Goddesses and scenes from social life.

Sadly the Mitra Mustafi Mansion have long crumbled to dust and the famed Chandi Mandap with elaborate wood carvings lies in utter neglect. A branch of the Mitra Mustafi family still stays in Ula Birnagar in a small newly constructed house. Read more…

Sukharia

Somrabazar, Hooghly

Rameswar Mitra’s son Anantaram Mitra left Ula and settled in Sukharia in 1712. Anatram also built a huge mansion in Sukharia along with several temples. The mansion is in ruins and many of the temples have been converted into modern structures and in the process loosing their beauty and grace.

Ananda Bhairabi Temple, Sukharia

Ananda Bhairabi Temple, Sukharia

The 25 pinnacled Anandabhirabi Temple is the star attraction of Sukharia.  The approach to the Ananda Bhairavi Temple, housing the idol of Anandamoyee Kali, is flanked by two parallel rows containing six temples each. Five of the temples on each row are of aat – chala (8 sloped roofs) type while one each are of pnacha – ratna (5 pinnacled) type. One of the panch – ratna temple is dedicated to Ganesh while the rest nine houses shiva – lingas. The temple has under gone several renovations and reconstruction and in the process lost much of its beauty and grace.

Hara Sundari Temple, built in 1813 is a naba – ratna (9 pinnacled) temple has a approach similar to Ananda Bhairabi Temple only in this case each row consist of a total of seven temples consisting of two pancha – ratna and five aat – chalas temples. This temple has recently been restored by the Mitra Mustafi Family. Also read Sukharia Travelogue and Restoration of Sukharia Temples

Sripur

Balagarh, Hooghly

In 1708 Rameshwar Mitra’s eldest son Raghunandan also left Ula and settled in Sripur. Taking advantage of the river trade he soon made a fortune and established a fort complex complete with several temples and other religious structures decorated with elaborate and intricate wood curving. The fort has long crumbled into dust but a few of the temples have survived the test of time and can still be seen to this day.

Boat Making, Sripur, Balagarh

Boat Making, Sripur, Balagarh

The fort complex contains a Rash Mancha and several temples, but the star attraction of the complex is the Chandi Mandap, with its intricate wooden carvings.

The Chandi Mandap constructed in 1707 by the Mitra Mustafi family, has recently been declared a protected monument. The hay thatched roof has been replaced with corrugated sheet, thus robbing it of its former beauty and grace. But the real wonder lies inside the Mandap, where the Durga Pujo is held to this day. The three walls of the Chandi Mandap are decorated with the most intricate wood curved panels. The wooden panels are very similar to the terracotta panels that dot the walls of the numerous temples of Bengal. But the wood work is not restricted to the panels alone. The pillars and the roof beams are curved with the finest floral, geometric & figurative designs.

The century old boat industry still survives, but is only restricted to small boats. The banks all along the Hooghly in Sripur is lined with boat making workshops. Read more…

Special Thanks: Mr Shyamal Mitra of Mitra Mustafi family.

Reference:

Refrence from my Blog:

Reference from my Website:

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

KULPI ~ ABONDONED LIGHTHOUSES & MYSTERIOUS GRAVE

May 16, 2012 3 comments

Recently the West Bengal Government is taken of the initiative of turning Kulpi into a port, but the history of Kulpi and the Hooghly River trade dates back several centuries. Abandoned light houses and forgotten graves reminds one of the glourious days of the Hooghly river trade.

Boats at Kulpi

Boats at Kulpi

Kulpi is located about 10 km south of the popular tourist spot of Diamond Harbour. Diamond Harbour is well connected from Calcutta (Kolkata) by rail & road. Kulpi can also be reached directly by bus heading for Namkhana or Kakdip.

Military Road, Kulpi

Military Road, Kulpi

Get down at Shyam Bose Chlak at Kulpi, cross the road and take a brick paved road heading towards the river Hooghly. The road meanders through agricultural fields and village huts towards the river Hooghly. Locally called the Milatary Road, probably named, because it lead to a small fort  by the river. The Fort has long been swallowed by the river Hooghly but the name “Milatery Road” has some how survived the test of time.

Soon two tower like structures appear in the horizon. There elegant structure and shape distinguishes them from the numerous brick kiln chimneys that dot the Hooghly River bank.

Abondoned Light Houses (Left: Engineberia, Right: Kalitala)

Abondoned Light Houses (Left: Engineberia, Right: Kalitala)

One on the right of the road (pic right) dates back to the days of East India Company. Towering to a height of 25 feet it is probably less than half its original height. Measuring 10 feet in circumference, it probably acted as a lighthouse guiding ships along the Hooghly.

Mana Bibi r Gore, Grave of Manna Bibi, Durganagar, Kulpi

Mana Bibi r Gore, Grave of Manna Bibi, Durganagar, Kulpi

A little away on the left hand side of the road lies another tower like structure. Probably built just before independence this structure does not have much historical value. Much slender than its older counterpart but measuring lesser in circumference, the tower still contains few metal hooks on its outside, probably used for climbing to the top.

Head south along the Hooghly but sadly the river is out of view as the bank is lined with brick kilns. Cross a narrow canal, with several anchored boats. leading to the Hooghly. Just after the canal the path leads to the village of Durganagar, housing a strange baro – chal (12 sloped roofs) structure. Baro – chala is an extremely rare form of Bengal temple structure, where the standard aat – chala (4 sloped roofs) is toped with anothe smaller char – chal (4 sloped roofs) structure.

Strangely this structure is not a Hindu temple but a grave of a converted Christian lady. Sagar Chattapodhay in his book “Dakhin 24 Pargan r Purakirti” describes it as the “Manna Bibi r Gore,” the grave of Manna Bibi, a grave of local lady who married a Portuguese sailor or soldier.

The structure have no European or Portuguese influence. Although historical records suggest the finding of a terracotta idol (7 inches in length) of a Portuguese soldier from near the structure. Sadly the idol have long been missing. Trees have almost covered the entire upper part of the structure making it difficult to understand the unique details.

Locals are totally unaware of the historical significance of the structure, and believe it to be an abandoned Hindu temple, which later on functioned as a lighthouse for the ships on Hooghly. Although there are historical evidences of the structure serving as a lighthouse but there are no evidences of being a Hindu Temple. A little bit of interaction with the locals will lead to strange stories of hidden treasures buried deep inside the structure!!!!!

Sadly the strange temple like structure housing the remains of an unknown lady, lies in utter neglect. The roots of the trees have made their entry deep in the structure brining it on the verge of collapse, its a miracle that the structure still stands.

Reference:

  • Dakshin Chabis Pargana Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay

Rajarani Temple ~ Oriya gem not quiet Oriya

Rajarani Temple

~ Oriya Temple not quiet Oriya ~

Also see my compilation of Bhubaneswar Temples

Rajarani is considered as one of the finest temples of not only of Bhubaneswar but also of entire Orissa. Strangely the temple architecture of Orissa differs significantly from the traditional Oriya Temple Architecture.

Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneswar, Orissa

There are certain parameters that make Rajrani different from the other Oriya Temples. The parameters are:

  • Origin of the Name
  • Shape of the Spire
  • Rigged inner sanctum
  • Presence of female figurine

Origin of the Name Rajarani

Longitudunal cross - section (above) and floor plan (below) of Raja - Rani Temple, Bhubaneswar (Sketch courtsy: Narayan Sanyal)

Sectional digram (Sketch courtesy: Narayan Sanyal)

Apart from Lingraj, the names of the Shive Temples of Bhubaneswar ends with an “Eshwar” like Mukteshwar, Parsurameshwar, Sideshwar, Rameshwar, Brahmeshwar etc. While the Shakti and Bishnu temples are named after the respective Gods and Goddesses, like Vaital, Gouri, Anantabasudev, etc. Strangely Rajarani follows neither of the two.

With the absence of dedicatory plaque nothing is known about the date of construction or the name of the creator off Rajarani Temple, and historians are totally in the dark.

Rajarani happens to be an abandoned temple, with an empty inner sanctum. Some historian opine that the temple was never established while others suggest that it was abandoned at a later date.

The Rajarani name probably originated from the reddish Rajarani sandstone by which the temple is constructed. Incidentally Rajarani is the only temple in Orissa which is constructed by the reddish Rajarani sandstone. The other temples of Orissa are made of the conventional yellowish sandstone.

Shape of Rajarani’s Spire

The spires of Oriya temple consists of a single spire, with horizontal ridge lines, known as rekh.

Left to right: Sectional digram of different spires, photo of Rajarani spire, horizental cross section of Rajarani spire

Left to right: Sectional digram of different spires (Kalinga, Khajuraho & Rajarani), photo of Rajarani spire, horizontal cross section of base of Rajarani spire (Sketch Courtesy: Narayan Sanyal)

The spire of Rajarani Temple doesn’t follow the conventional Oriya rekh style, in fact it has remarkable reassemble with the spires of Khajuraho Temples. The spire of Rajarani Temple consists of a central spire flanked by 32 smaller spires arrange in two different stages. The inner stage contains 8 minor spires and the outer stage contains 24 minor spires.

Rigged Inner Sanctum of Rajarani

Although the outer walls of Oriya temples have projections, known as rath but inner plan of the Jagmohan and Garbagriha (inner sanctum) are rectangles or squares with straight walls.

Floor plan of Biman (Left: rigged interior of Raja Rani, Right: plane interior of typical Oriya Temple)

Floor plan of Biman (Left: rigged interior of Rajarani, Right: plane interior of typical Oriya Temple) (Sketch Courtesy: Narayan Sanyal)

Strangely both the Jagmohan and Garbagriha (inner sanctum) of Rajarani Temple are not rectangles or squares with straight walls but have projections similar to those of the outer walls. This again is not only a dissimilarity with the Oriya style but also a similarity with the Khujuraho style.

Presence of female figurines in Rajarani

Although female figurines are not uncommon on the outer walls of Oriya temples but the female figurines of Rajrani Temples differs considerably.

Female Figurines, Raja - Rani Temple, Bhubaneswar

Intricate sculptures Rajarani Temple, Bhubaneswar

The slender looking female figures in different posture have a remarkable resembles with those of Khajuraho.

Conclusion

So was it some Khajuraho princes, married to a Kalinga monarch, inspired the construction of the Oriya gem? with no concrete evidences the historians are still in the dark.

Reference:

  • Karutirthe Kalinga by Narayan Sanyal
  • Barthiya Bhaskarje  Mithun by Narayan Sanyal

Related links from my website:

Also see my compilation of Bhubaneswar Temples and my list of Blog entries on Orissa

Words of appreciation from Dr. Amitav Ghosh

Amitav Ghosh’s writing has always fascinated me. Although a mainly a fictional writer Ghosh has the ability of blending fictional characters in historical backdrop. For the last couple of years I have been reading his books and have read Calcutta Chromosome, Hungry Tide, Circle of Raesons, Shadow Lines, Glass Palace, Sea of Poppies and River of Smoke. I also read is non – fiction work In an Antique Land.

Top Left: Cover of Calcutta Chromosome; Top Right: Ronald Ross Memorial, Calcutta; Bottom: Ross' Medalion and the two inscriptions

Top Left: Cover of Calcutta Chromosome; Top Right: Ronald Ross Memorial, Calcutta; Bottom: Ross’ Medallion and the two inscriptions

I have read most of Ghosh’s books from the library of International School of Business & Media (ISB&M), where I work as a visiting faculty teaching Mathematics, Statistics, Operation Research and Research Methodology for BBA students.

Recently I picked up the courage to write to Amitava Ghosh sharing a link of my blog entry on Ronald Ross Memorial, which was the centre of attraction of Ghosh’s best selling novel Calcutta Chromosome.

My Letter to Dr. Amitava Ghosh

Reading Calcutta Chromosome at ISB&M, Kolkata library

Reading Calcutta Chromosome at ISB&M, Kolkata library (photo courtesy: Akash Mondal)

Dear Dr Amitav Ghosh, I am one of your numerous reader and one of the numerous persons to write to you. I have read many of your books but the one that fascinated me most is “Calcutta Chromosome.” Centered round Ronald Ross’ Nobel Prize winning discovery the book has left an enormous impact on me.

My first encounter with the Roland Ross Memorial, located on the western wall of the Presidency General Hospital, happened during my days of Post Graduation in the Department of Business Management of Calcutta University’s Alipur Campus (1998 – 2000). During the two years I regularly walked past the memorial and often stopping to read the inscriptions over and over again

I read Calcutta Chromosome a couple of years back and it was enough to ignite my decade old passion on the memorial. I decided to have a small writeup (along with photos) on the Ronald Ross Memorial in my Blog.

I am sending you the link Ronald Ross Memorial.

I would be ever grateful if you come up with your comments and suggestions.

Eagerly waiting for a reply.

Regards
RANGAN DATTA

Left: Inscription from Roanld Ross memorial; Right: A page fro Calcutta Chromosome showing the inscription

Left: Inscription from Roanld Ross memorial; Right: A page from Calcutta Chromosome showing the inscription

To my utter surprise Ghosh not only replied immediately but also posted my letter in his blog, along with a note of appreciation. In spite of his tight scheduled Ghosh also had the time to go through several other entries of by blog and have also appreciated my post on Kolkata’s Chinese Temples and Zorostrian Temple.

Dr. Amitav Ghosh’s Reply

From Kolkata Rangan Datta sends the letter below with a link to an interesting piece on the Ronald Ross memorial. There are several other interesting posts on his page, including an excellent piece on Kolkata’s Chinese temples and one on the Zoroastrian temple, which he visited when it was under renovation (the temples are otherwise closed to (non-Zoroastrians).

To see my letter and the reply visit Amitav Ghosh’s Blog.

Special thanks:

  • Akash Mondal, fellow photo enthusiast and my colleague at ISB&M, Kolkata for shooting my photo.
  • Gobinda Pahari. librarian at ISB&M, Kolkata.