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Why Tagore family sold off  Belgachhia Villa?

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The babus of Paikpara took a big step in spreading and popularising Bengali Theatre in 19th century Kolkata. Raja Pratap Chandra, Ishwar Chandra Sinha and Sir Jyotindra Mohan Tagore were great patrons of Belgachhia Theatre Hall where they helped in staging great performances…. Continued….

(A heritage and wildlife enthusiast, Amitava Purakayastha works as consultant in the social development sector)

Had read many years ago in a short rhyme by Purnendu Patri about the Western dining styles displayed at the Belgachhia Villa. No doubt Prince Dwarakanath Tagore was well known in those days as the English prince, who did everything in the British style. However, after Dwarakanath’s death, the family was in deep debt. So his son Debendranath Tagore kept the Jorasanko Thakurbari as their residence and decided to sell off Belgachhia Villa to the highest bidder.

The house was sold off to the royal family of Kandi-Paikpara at only Rs 54,000. The furniture and other belongings were bought by Maharaja of Burdwan. These included Dwarakanath’s favourite crockery and cutlery. An era was almost lost with the selling of the villa. Meanwhile, the family who bought the villa was also a well-known aristocratic clan. Kandi-Paikpara family can be traced to the days of Anadibar Singha, who started staying in Bengal from the times of Raja Adisura in the 9th century. Ganga Gobindo Singha, who worked for the East India company, amassed huge fortune. Later, he became powerful under Lord Cornwallis and was often the deciding head on whether zamindars will be able to hold on to their zamindari. Using this power, Ganga Gobindo became more prosperous.

For those who wish to see Belgachhia Villa these days, one can walk down Duttabagan and will come across a corporation sign board saying: ‘Belgachhia Palace.’ The lane is dotted with huge warehouses and surrounded by factories, slums and dilapidated garages. This area also houses the Paikpara Rajbari. This road leads to Motijheel and Belgachhia Villa. According to Radharaman Mitra, a part of the garden and  water body was demolished when Central Dairy and Milk Colony came up.

Ganga Gobindo’s grandson was Maharaja Krishnachandra, Lalababu, who left all material pleasures and took sanyas. In absence of her husband, Rani Katyayani took over the reins of the family. Their son was Sri Narayan, who had two wives, Tarasundari and Karunamayi. But they had no children and hence they adopted their nephews, who later ascended the Paikpara throne as Pratap Chandra Singha and Ishwar Chandra Singha.

(To be continued)