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Rural Palaces of Bengal: The forgotten Andul Rajbari – GetBengal story

23 May, 2024 17:30:12
Rural Palaces of Bengal: The forgotten Andul Rajbari – GetBengal story

A breathtaking sight in all its faded grandeur may be found in the Howrah region on the eastern banks of the Hooghly. Reaching the 185-year-old Andul Rajbari requires travelling 30 kilometres along the palm tree-lined Andul Road after passing over the Howrah Bridge or Rabindra Setu. Unlike the industrial belts of Howrah, Andul is a relatively quiet, semi-rural town. In the heart of this tropical setting sits the majestic, but now forgotten, Andul Rajbari. The palace that served as the backdrop for the renowned film Saheb Bibi Gulam is still so magnificent that one can almost imagine how magnificent it must have been in its prime. In its arched entryway, its massive pillars, its hallways—time stands still.

This historic family dates back to founder Ramcharan Roy (1720–70), who worked as a dewan for the British East India Company in the 1740s and attracted the attention of Robert Clive. Ramcharan was proficient in Persian, Arabic, and English; hence, Clive endorsed him, and he enjoyed the patronage of British rulers. Roy’s position and prospects improved after the Battle of Plassey, so when the Mughal emperor bestowed titles, Lord Clive recommended Ramcharan Roy. But he refused to take the title and asked his eldest son, Ramlochan Roy, to be given the same. Accordingly, the title of Rajah was bestowed on Ramlochan in 1766, and he was given the command of 4,000 troops.

The palace that stands today was built in 1834 by Raja Rajnarayan Raybahadur, a descendant of Ramlochan Roy, who was the dewan of Lord Clive and Warren Hastings. Andul’s royal family was a contemporary of Shovabazar Rajbari. Both royal families created their historic legacy during the same period. But Ramlochan contributed greatly to the construction of his home. He installed a marble dance floor, Belgian chandeliers, a Durga dalan, silver wall pieces, and numerous oil paintings in the Rajbari. It is said that Ramlochan was one of the earliest Bengali Rajas to have sent an invitation to Lord Clive carved in ivory to attend the palace’s first grand Durga Puja held in 1770. Clive arrived on 30 horses.

These days, there are rumours that purport to Andul Rajbari being haunted by spirits. However, locals say such stories are untrue. There is a large, open courtyard in front of the palace, once believed to have the free-flowing Saraswati River reaching its gates. Though the river is nowhere to be found today, you can still see certain structures that prove that a river was nearby. During the winter, you can sit in the comfort of the courtyard facing the palace, engage in an adda, and learn about the history of the area. 


The Annapurna Temple beside the palace belongs to the Andul Royal family, where the deity is worshipped daily. There is a cannon at the entrance of the temple, which used to be shot during the sacrifice of buffaloes during every Durga Puja. The sound of the cannon would reach every household in Andul. Preparation for the Durga Puja was an elaborate affair at the Andul Palace. Painters and patuas were brought in from Krishnanagar, and stayed for months making the idol, an Ekchala Pratima, in silver foil. The Ashtami bhog consisted of 80 different kinds of sweets, 200 varieties of fruits, and motichoor ladoos that were shaped like cannon balls. On Saptami mornings, a Scottish Highland band from Fort William accompanied the kolabou for the ritualistic bath in the Saraswati river. There are two Shiva temples beside the main temple. Even today, many come to offer their prayers here.

Sadly, though the palace has been declared a heritage building, no measures have been taken to restore it. The dance room is completely ruined, the promoters are hounding the few members of the family that still reside here to sell the grounds surrounding the palace, and many locals have encroached upon the property as squatters, and some have even started renting out the rooms. The vast, imposing architecture of Andul Palace, which is still marked by time, will instantly spark your imagination with unlimited possibilities. But will it survive the present?

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