How more than 200-year-old Jhulan Baari was restored
ANITESH CHAKRABORTY & DEBANJANA SAHA
Turn right from Bowbazar Bank of India square and you reach Shashibhushan De Street. Keeping Muchipara police station road to your left, keep walking. On the right side, you come across a pair of red houses, that have stood there for more than 200 years. Ask anyone around, and they will tell you the story of the fabulous ‘Jhulan Baari.’
The beautiful architecture on the outer walls of the house
Before you dig into the rich history of this house, you will be amazed to notice its imperial structure. Probably it doesn’t have a match in the whole city. There is a narrow lane in between the two buildings, used by pedestrians, rickshaw-pullers, bikers. But amazingly the two buildings are connected to each other with a help of a bridge! Yes, you heard us correct, a bridge built centuries ago so that those who lived in one building could move on to the other without taking the street below.
Mr. Utpal Adhikary
Connecting bridges between two buildings are found in Presidency College, Kolkata High Court, Jorasanko Thakurbaari too. But the connectors of these public buildings are no match to a private property. One of the owners of Jhulan Bari, Utpal Adhikari, a chartered accountant by profession, said: “The bridge hanging on top of a public road, is probably found nowhere in the city. We call it the Jhulanbaari Bridge.” The famous bridge was mainly used by the ladies, who were not supposed to be seen in public when they moved between the two buildings. Just a few days back, the house was renovated and painted. These days the house is officially known as ‘Adhikari Bhavan.’ Its unique and majestic structure will make you stand in awe. There is an amalgamation of signature Kolkata architecture and Western style of architecture. Unlike many other old buildings of the city that are in dilapidated condition and in need for maintenance, surprisingly Jhulan Bari has been restored to its past glory. Inhabitants and family members are constantly vigilant in monitoring the heritage building.
View of the house from road
Originally the property did not belong to the Adhikari family. Earlier, Baburam Shil was the proprietor. There is also a lane nearby in his name. Krishnamohan Adhikari was his trusted associate. Baburam Shil gifted him this house. Since then, the Adhikary family has dwelled here down generations. The age of main building is approximately 200 years. The third floor was built 80 years ago. The floor was marbled during 1884. But all up-grading and renovations were done keeping the structure of the building intact.
There are many historical anecdotes, attached to Adhikari Bhavan. Ramkanai Ahdikari, great-grandson of Krishnamohan, celebrated jhulan in their Thakur Dalan with great pomp. To mark the festivity, eminent personalities were invited, the legendary musician Jadu Bhatta being one of them. He used to stay in this house and often practice music. His prized tanpura is still preserved here. Many popular artists have since performed in this house during jhulan. The celebration continues for five days even now. Each day has a unique bhog as prasad. Adhikari Bhavan opens its doors for all during this period.
The lobby of the temple is a treat to watch. The floor is exquisitely marbled. The pillars are traditional in make with grapevine motifs on the entrance. This house celebrates unique events such as Phool-dol, Ratha Yatra, Annakut etc. The Adhikari family has shown the path how old buildings are restored. They have truly cared for the dynamic historical lineage of the city. If only other heritage buildings in Kolkata had the same good fortune.
The Mandir Dalan