Cossimbazar, colonial mansions, cemeteries and church

Cossimbazar

Colonial mansions, cemeteries, churches and more

Also see: Murshidabad Heritage Festival 2022

The non-descript settlement of Cossimbazar is sandwiched between Murshidabad and Berhampore. Once a busy river port and a flourishing trading center it presently lives in the shadows of its more famous historic counterpart Murshidabad. Only a handful of tourist who visits Murshidabad makes it to Cossimbazar, which have all elements of an independent tourist destination.

Cossimbazar collage

Cossimbazar
Top row left to right: Palace of Roys, Nandi Family Mansion and Old English Cemetery
Bottom row left to right: Dutch Cemetery, Dos Shiva Temple and Armenian Church

The emergence of Cossimbazar as a river port happened in the early part of the 17th century long before the emergence of Murshidabad. By the mid of 17th century the Dutch, French and British have already established their trading post (known as factories) in Cossimbazar. Known for its exotic silk Cossimbazr soon started attracting traders from far and wide turning the small settlement into an international trading hub.

In the early part of the 19th century, the river started changing its course and Cossimbazar slowly started losing its importance and traders started leaving for greener pastures. Thus the once flourishing post was soon forgotten. All that remained were abandoned mansions and a couple of cemeteries reminding one of Cossimbazar’s flourishing trade and colonial connect.

In recent times Cossimbazar has come up with a heritage hotel, so instead of living in the shadows of Murshidabad, Cossimbazar is slowly emerging as an independent tourist destination. Now tourists have the opportunity of staying in a heritage hotel and exploring the historic sites of Cossimbazar and Murshidabad.

Cossimbazar Palace of Roys (Google map location):

A portion of the rajbari belonging to the Roy family has been converted to a heritage hotel, Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys. The restoration of the family home was an initiative taken by the family.

Cossimbazar Palace of Roys

Cossimbazar Palace of Roys

The history of the Roy family in Cossimbazar dates back to the early days of 1700s when Ajodhya Ram Roy settled in Cossimbazar and started trading in silk. It was Ajodhya Ram Roy who built the Laxmi Mandir, Chandimandap and portion of the palace which stands to this day.

Cossimbazar Palace of Roys

Cossimbazar Palace of Roys

For the next few generations, the Roy family prospered because of their business acumen. The palace went through several extensions and modifications.

After the abolition of the zamindari system in 1950 Raja Kamalaranjan Roy decided to move permanently to Kolkata.

The Roy palace was left with caretakers and occasional visits were made during the Durga puja and other festivals.

In the early 1990s an initiative was taken to convert the old mansion into a heritage hotel. Today it houses 14 rooms, which includes 2 suits, and a restaurant. There is a heritage tour of the hotel, which is free for hotel guests and outsiders have to pay ₹ 30 per head for the tour.

Illuminated Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys

The tour is like a walk through museum connecting courtyards, ballrooms, corridors and leading to Durga and Chandi mandap. The rooms are laid out with Victorian furniture, walls are adorned with trophies and Belgian glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

Note: The Palace of the Roys is popularly known as Choto Rajbari in Cossimbazar.

Nandi Family Mansion (Google map location):

Belonging to the Nandi family but unlike Roy’s counterpart, it is in a rundown state. The history of the Nandi family dates back to the time of Warren Hastings. Krishna Kanta Nandi (popularly known as Kanta Mudi) provided shelter to Hastings, when he was chased by Siraj ud-Daulah’s men.

Nandi Family Mansion, Cossimbazar

Nandi Family Mansion, Cossimbazar

After turning victorious in the Battle of Plassey, Hasting returned his favour by appointing Krishna Kanta Nandi as his agent. Krishna Kanta Nandi made a huge mansion in Cossimbazar and the interiors were decorated with pillars and arches removed from Chait Singh’s palace in Varanasi. Sadly the rajbari is always kept under lock and key making the interior inaccessible.

Note: The Palace of the Nandis is popularly known as Boro Rajbari in Cossimbazar.

Old English Cemetery (Google map location):

This small cemetery contains the mortal remains of the British official and their family members who died in Cossimbazar after the Battle of Plassey.

Old English Cemetery, Cossimbazar

Old English Cemetery, Cossimbazar

It houses about half a dozen obelisk-styled graves and the rest are box-like graves.  They include the graves of Warren Hasting’s first wife Mary and their infant daughter Elizabeth.

Dutch Cemetery (Google map location):

The cemetery had once 47 graves out of which about 20 stands to this day. The oldest tomb dates back to 1721 and contains the mortal remains of Daniel Van der Muyl. Most of the grave follow the obelisk (slender pyramid) style there is a couple of dome-shaped graves but the prime attraction is a white domed-shaped grave belonging to Tammerus Canter Visscher.

Dutch Cemetery, Cossimbazar

Dutch Cemetery, Cossimbazar

There is a similar-looking grave in the former Dutch colony of Chinsurah (Chuchura), which belongs to Susana Anna Maria.

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Armenian Church (Google map location):

The Armenians are a well known trading community. They were also attracted by the riches of Cossimabazar. They settled in Cossimbazar and were soon in need for a place of worship. 1758 the St. Mary’s Church came up as a place of worship for the Armenian Christians.

Armenian Church, Cossimbazar

Armenian Church, Cossimbazar

With the Cossimbazar losing its trading importance the Armenians left leaving their church unattended. The last sermon was held on 1860. In 2005 the Armenian Church Committee of Kolkata carried out a major restoration to bring back the historic church to its former glory.

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Dos Shiva Mandir (Google map location):

Dos Shiv Mandir is a complex of ten Shiva temples belonging to the Roy family. Nothing much is known about the construction date. The temples are active and are maintained by the Roy family.

Das Shiv Mandir, Cossimbazar

Das Shiv Mandir, Cossimbazar

The ten temples are arranged in a L-shaped pattern. One arm contains five temples with char-chala style along with the gateway. The other arm contains two temples in aat-chala style along with three with octagonal domes. All the five temples have a front porch. Two of the porches have flat roofs while the other three have domes in the shape on inverted boats.

Note:

  • This tour of Cossimbazar was part of the Murshidabad Heritage Festival 2022
  • I was invited by the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society (MHDS) to attend the festival
  • A special thanks to the Murshidabad Heritage Development Society (MHDS), Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys, Bari Kothi and all the other organizers for the wonderful experience and warm hospitality

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