Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta

Indian architecture speaks volumes about the glorious past and unparalleled work of the master craftsmen. Today we are living in the 21st century, the skyline of urban India tells a story of steel, glass and concrete, the building speak of India’s tryst with modernity. Of course, we as an economic powerhouse and an important global player reaching new heights, but today’s modern building can’t match the charm which the heritage buildings encompasses.

All over India there are thousands of such structure, some ruined some in good condition that describe the stories of glorious past of India. Calcutta, once the capital of India is home to a number of magnificent palaces. Take a journey with Incredible India down memory lane to the 19th century Bengal, where Venetian chandeliers and ballrooms, puja rooms and zenanans co-existed to a world of luxury and privilege, and then the decline, slow decay and now an almost forgotten world. Situated mainly in North Calcutta, these houses were once known for their grandeur and unmatched beauty. But post Independence the situation became progressively worse, sadly they now lie decrepit and uncared for.

Built in the colonial era, these houses now stand as historic records and give us an important insight into the past. Among the forgotten palaces of Calcutta, Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s Palace is very important. Considered to the then one of Calcutta's greatest zamindars, he came to own the palace (originally built by Sobharam Ghosh) with the assistance of the ruling British. Most of the houses had a European facade, with Ionic columns, lion heads mounted on Corinthian pillars. While the inside was structure more traditionally with courtyards and separate quarters for men and women.

In addition to these, there are a number of other equally charming palaces in Calcutta. Today, those palaces have been hidden behind the hustle and bustle of modern day Calcutta. Some royal families have handed over part of their properties to the Government to restore and manage, while some are allowing parts of their houses to be used as schools and hospitals. In fact, the ancient palaces in Calcutta need proper attention from the government, unless we would be able to see them in historic books or travel magazines in future only.

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