Bengal is the place of palaces. It is the “Land of Two Rivers”. The history of Bengal began its journey from 1000 BC by the name “Banga” or “Vanga”. We see the Stone Age Bengal to Modern Bengal wheeling with her nature and literature. And the evolution happened every century. The places which are now the forest, once they are royal cities, from the Mahasthangarh to Chandraketugarh or from Chetla to Bawali. And I am now recollecting my one day tour to Bawali Rajbari.
Bawali is now a village town near the industrial town of Budge-Budge in South 24 Parganas District of West Bengal. Bawali, which is now the semi urban town in Budge Budge came into existence during the rule of Mughal Emperor, Shehensha Akbar.
Bawali was developed as the most important centre of trade and commerce from the late 18th century to the mid of 19th century. Bawali in Budge Budge has several terracotta styled temples that are built from 16th century to 18th Century.
The interesting spots in Bawali are Bawali Rajbari, Naba Ratna Gopinath Temple, Jal Tungi Garden; Arms Place (Barud Ghar) which are now also still stand there with the strange octagonal structure and recollecting the bygone days of royal life. A walk through the mud roads seeing the ruined buildings of Corinthian order is alluring me in the midst of the sounds of JHI JHI POKA.
Bawali, once the royal city has witnessed many historical proceedings like the crest and trough of Aryan dynastical rules from the medieval age to the time of Independence of India and the Partition of Bengal in the year 1947.
Ferry ghat of Budge Budge greeted Swami Vivekananda in 1897 when he returned from his Chicago visit. Till date, this event is celebrated by the people of Budge Budge on 19th of February every year.
In the year 1914, during First World War, Budge Budge Riot was happened which shirked the total country, where the Sikh nationalist Gurdit Singh was arrested in his Japanese ship Komagata Maru for protesting against the Exclusion Laws in Canada. Unfortunately, 20 Sikh nationalists fell to the British police firing and many were kept under house arrest in the nearby villages.
Bawali Rajbari was built by the feudal rulers of Akbar’s times. Bawali Palace was constructed by the Mondal family of Bawali. It is an rare example of European artchitecture. From the rule of Mondal family, this non-descriptive village, Bawali soon turned into an affluent temple town of South 24 Parganas.
Later after the independence of India, in the year 1947, Bawali town of South Bengal lost its regal glory with the cruel grasp of time. The Mondal family of Bawali constructed several mansions in European style, turning the village into an interesting architectural mix with Western and Oriental thoughts.
Bawali Rajbari was erected in the later phase of medieval time that is during the rule of Akbar. Bawali Rajbari is closely associated with the life of Mondal royal family.
Bawali Rajbari dates back with the Basudeb Ram who was a most significant official of the Mughal Army probably that was the period of Emperor Akbar.
The son of Basudev Ram, Radheshyam took the “Sannayas” leaving behind his only son Shobha Ram who was actually a resident of Basantpur – a village of Nadia District but as demanded by the profession he had to shift to village of Chandipur to oversee administrative job of a huge area centring around Budge Budge of South 24 Parganas District on behalf of British East India Company. At that time, British East India Company was ruling throughout India with the decline of Mughal and other Native princes. Both the son of Sobha Ram, Meghnaad and Raja Ram were holding the high offices under the regency of British East India Company.
Once, Raja Ram had been able to put down insurgency of Marathas (Bargi) at different parts of Bengal. He was triumphant in driving away the Marathas with absolute aptitude and courage and in admiration to the British Royal Kingdom, he was rewarded with the ‘Royal Charter’ empowering them to exercise full control over fifteen villages namely Bawali, Budge-Budge, Kalinagar, Saheban Bagicha and Chakmanik. They are referred as the title “Mondal”.
Harananda Mondal, the grand son of Raja Ram fathered by Dasarath Rama was the most magnificent heir who heightened the status of the royal family by acquiring great fortune by his business insight as well as efficient ‘Land Reforms’ yielding good harvest as well as most favourable revenue from the huge land holding comprising of four parganas like Balia, Magura, Muragacha. on which he expanded his feudal lordship or zamindari about two hundred seventy five years ago during the transition period between the decline of Mughal Empire and advent of British regime in undivided India.
Harananda Mondal was very pious as well as religious mined person. He was also very empathetic with his tenants and sub-ordinates. He was the first person to develop Bawali as the temple town, with the architect Subal Chandra Mistry. In the following years an range of Vishnu Temples were built at different places by the descendants of Mondal Family. Some of the temples in Bawali are Radha Gopinath Jui Temple, Radhakanta Jui Temple, Rashmancha, Radhaballab Jui and Sridhar Jui’s Temple, Radhaballabh Jui Temple and Shyamsundar Temple, Gopalji Temple, Raj Rajeswar Temple, Chandimata Temple and Madan Mohanji Temple. Now these temple are in dire condition.
The huge opulent structure of the terracotta styled Vishnu and Krishna Temples bearing beautiful art work of Oriental and European cult with full marble flooring along with the Greco-Roman architecture carried the spectacle of this place.
I also visited Raypur, which is nearby a census town under Budge Budge police station of Alipore subdivision in South 24 Parganas district. A visit to Raypur riverside in summer evening is really blissful. The river side offers breathtaking and the calm atmosphere is attracted by the nature lovers and the professional and amateur third eyes. Raypur is just 7 kms away from the Rajbari. After taking lunch from a nearest canteen shop in the sunny evening of the summer era, I went to Achipur by taking an auto rickshaw.
A trip to Achipur is a weekend destination for any traveller of Kolkata. The traditional Chinese dishes, and the long ques of momo shop is really photographic. The Chinese temple here is still holding back its wood carvings and a grand entrance of colonial raj days.