While the entire city of Kolkata was frisking on the contemporary clamour of theme pujas, we decided to peregrinate onto a less travelled & an archaic countenance of the city on Navami to taste the corrugated glory of early 19th century Calcutta.
The Bonedi families of Kolkata are cloistered on both sides of the stretch from Central Avenue to Sovabazar Sutanuti, dappled on lanes which were once eminent for copious activities pertaining to rennaissance of bengali folklore. “Apnar drop ekahne ache”, the apathetic voice of our Cab driver along with the contigious festive dissonance almost ruptured the bubble of a chimerical bygone era that was running through my mind.
We started from the “Ghosh bari” of Balaram dey street, which is located just few metres away from the Girish park. The area was free from the usual dithering concourse which made it more difficult for us to locate the edifice, as we had to ask few locals for the direction. The wooden entrance had few names inscribed which was embellished with dregs of dust & dirt, corroborating the period of remiss that it had gone through over the years. The entrance took us to the derelict thakur dalan, where the members of the family, currently diasporas were busy in all the ritualistic arrangements & almost nonchalance of our presence except few cynical eyes which suddenly staged us to the cynosure of recognition. We slowly absconded from the predicament after clicking few pictures of the deity.
The exit took us to the “Khelat Bhavan”, located in Pathuriaghata street, infamously known as “Pathuriaghta ghosh bari”. The Ghosh bari entrance symbolizes the authoritarian position it had during the early 19th century. The short passage from the entrance to the colossal dalan, educes the refulgent eon that the Ghosh family had seen in its zenith. The members came from all parts of the world to relish the festive season with each other. The screaming beauty of the palace and fidelity of the effervescence was longing for the euphonious rythm of the dhak or some mellifluous classical tune. After spending some time, we headed towards the “hathkhola dutta bari”, located in the Nimtala ghat street which is very close to the river Hooghly.
Nimtala ghat, the place were almost all the notable Bengali scholars were cremated, where the couples used to spend hours near the bank away from the eyes of inexorable society, where the babus of the north calcutta used to import sweets & groceries from Hooghly, is now just a morbid corner of the city with stench of feculant remains, grubby wastes from the street food hubs, filled with spooky hooligans and mendicants all around the streets. The area is a classic epitome of invasion that Kolkata has went through erstwhile and how it has struggled against all the socio-political vendetta while trying to preclude from getting robbed off its originality. The Dutta bari is one of those victims which is still standing tall despite of the cultural pilferage due to surrounding miscegenation. We had a small conversation with a generous old man who greeted us with smile and said “ei pujo ta 1789 e suru hoy” which makes this puja almost 250 years old.
From, the Dutta bari, we reached “Dawn bari” of Jadulal mallick road just beneath the vivekananda flyover. The scene inside was very alacritous, with huge gathering of crowds from neighborhoods, the exuberating beats of the dhaks, the children dancing on the rythm, women dressed in traditional wears, the vainglorious expression of the older counterparts and the holistic buzz in the atmosphere was magnificent to watch. The outsiders were given Navami prasad on such a convivial occassion.
Next, just on the opposite of the main Central Avenue road lies the “Chatubabu Latubabu” puja. The edifice is not only famous for its rich cultural cognation but also it is a very famous shooting location for both Bollywood & Bengali film industry. A very famous movie of Pradeep Sarkar, “Parineeta” based on the novel of famous author, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay was shot in this palace. The palace is currently under the circumspect of a famous NGO. The exodus happened during the post communist era of 70s, when a major chunk of the aristrocate class of North Kolkata left to various parts of the world, absolving of their roots.
Lastly, we ended our trip in Darjipara, just few lanes away from Chatubabu Latubabu palace. In darjipara, resides the famous “mitra family” who were rich merchants during 19th century. The interior of the palace is serene with only few people gossiping in the dalan, the priests and other elderly ladies of the family were busy in some peripheral activities and the childrens were cavorting around the commodious dalan. There were few tourists and photographers to feed their scenic apetite by capturing the photogenic architecture.
Kolkata has been the epicenter of Bengali rennaissance, the tremble of which has reached all parts of the world through labyrinth, bringing with it the richness and transcendence of glory & cultural heritage. The flamboyance of the city is slowly fading away with everyday emigration of the working class bengalis which is jeopardizing the allure & esteem of Kolkata. Such socio-cultural infringement might one day witness all these beautiful traditions cease to exist and we will left with a city, stripped off its vanity and identity.