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Royal retreats, the heritage palace hotels of Bengal

24 June, 2021 18:17:03
Royal retreats, the heritage palace hotels of Bengal

Jhargram royal palace

Kolkata has traditionally been known as a ‘City of Palaces’. While the sobriquet is undoubtedly justified, it runs the risk of ignoring the hundreds of other palaces that West Bengal boasts of. Truth to tell, this is a ‘state of palaces’, many of which Kolkatans know next to nothing about. What’s more, many of them have been converted into beautiful heritage hotels and resorts, where you can spend an absolutely splendid weekend. This is part of the ‘Rajbari Hotel’ phenomenon, which has rapidly gained ground in West Bengal.

One of the foremost on the list has to be Jhargram royal palace, the ancestral seat of the Malla Deb dynasty, about 160 km from Kolkata. Part of the property is now a heritage hotel run by West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd, called the Jhargram Rajbari Tourism Project. About three km from the railway station, the palace continues to house descendants of the Malla Deb kings, but some parts of it are open to visitors, with prior permission. The main building is an extravagant Italianate structure, set amidst carefully designed lawns and gardens. The palace as a whole evokes several memories of the past, and the complex is also instantly recognizable from several popular Bengali films, such as ‘Sannyasi Raja’ and ‘Durgeshgorer Guptadhan’.

Amadpur Rajbari

Amadpur Rajbari is a nearly 375-year-old heritage property in the village of Amadpur in Purba Bardhaman, about two hours or 90 km from Kolkata by car along the Durgapur Expressway. The nearest railway station is the busy town of Memari, about four km away, though Amadpur itself is a typically beautiful and serene Bengali village. 

The palace is the property of the Chaudhuri family, whose ancestors lived in Malda or Murshidabad, from where Krishna Ram Sen Sharma, who was conferred the title of ‘Chaudhuri’, came to Amadpur after he was granted the zamindari of Amadpur along with other areas of Bardhaman and Hooghly districts by the Mughal Emperor in the mid-17th century.

The renovated structure boasts high ceilings, elegant verandahs and ancient furniture, all of which make your stay a memorable one, alongside the lovely traditional Bengali food. 

Bari Kothi Heritage hotel

Then you have the Bari Kothi Heritage hotel in Azimganj, Murshidabad, an approximately six-hour drive from Kolkata, on the banks of the stunning river Bhagirathi. The mansion was owned by the Dudhoria Raj family of Azimganj in the late 1700s, and is a magnificent mix of Greek, Roman and French architecture. The luxury heritage hotel promises not just a super comfortable stay in its Heritage Suites, Royal Heritage Suites and Maharaja Heritage Suites, but a complete experience of the vibrant culture of Murshidabad and its little known ‘Sheherwali Heritage’, a traditionally Jain way of life.

Mahisadal Rajbari

Mahishadal Rajbari is less than a three-hour drive from Kolkata, a distance of about 100 km. Mahishadal actually has more than one ‘rajbari’, though only the one known as Phool Bagh has been converted into a hotel. The history of Mahishadal’s zamindari families date back to the reign of Akbar, when Kalyan Roy Chowdhury was the first to be bestowed the title of ‘Raja’ with Mahishadal and its adjoining areas under his jurisdiction. In the mid-16th century, when the Roy Chowdhurys defaulted on taxes, the zamindari was handed over to Janardan Upadhyay, who had arrived in Bengal from Uttar Pradesh as an official of the Mughal court. 

Even later, the zamindari went to the Garg family, when the male lineage of the Upadhyay family ended. The Phool Bagh palace, constructed in 1926, has long been a favourite with Bengal’s filmmakers, and its rooms offer a glimpse into the grand lifestyle of Mahishadal’s former rulers. The accommodation is fairly limited, with two rooms capable of accommodating about eight people, but the experience is a unique one nonetheless. 

Bawali Rajbari

Rajbari Bawali is already a fairly well known property located around two hours from Kolkata in the small village of Bawali in South 24 Parganas, now a sprawling heritage resort on a zamindari which once belonged to the Mondal family. No longer inhabited by the family, the huge, magnificent palace with extensive lawns was converted into a heritage hotel with all modern amenities by Kolkata-based businessman Ajay Rawla. 

Itachuna Rajbari

Similarly, Itachuna Rajbari is also located barely two-and-a-half hours from Kolkata in Chinsurah subdivision of Hooghly district, and is also called the Bargi Danga. The mansion was built by the Kundan family, originally from Maharashtra, in 1766. The Kundans are descended from the Bargi, the Maratha soldiers who conducted regular attacks on the Bengal countryside. Having settled in Bengal, the Kundans became Kundus. 

In the modern era, the palace has become familiar as the shooting location for several Hindi and Bengali films such as Lootera, Poran Jaye Jolia Re, and Rajmahal. The red and yellow of the main building, and the adjoining mud huts, make for an interesting ambience. The 200-year-old palace has five courtyards, and its rooms boast antique caskets, ornate wooden décor and many other artefacts from the past. The rooms have quaint Bengali names like Boro Boudi, Chhoto Boudi, Thakuma, Boro Pishi, Kaka Babu and Jyatha Moshai. 

For details of all these locations and their principal attractions, contact

West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Ltd
DG Block, Sector-II, Salt Lake
Kolkata 700091
Phone: (033) 2358 5189, Fax: 2359 8292
Email: visitwestbengal@yahoo.co.in, mdwbtdc@gmail.com, dgmrwbtdc@gmail.com
 

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