As a child I had grown up listening to many historic & pre – historic tales of Indian Kings, zamindars & babus. I had always fantasized visiting those palaces in real time & get an actual feel of the daily life there. Since I am a resident of North Kolkata in India, I am lucky to visit many such places like Sovabazar rajbari, chatu – latu babur bari, etc. “Rajbari” meaning King’s palace in Bengali. In most of the places I had visited during Durga Puja & therefore could enjoy the beauty of the decorations, fan following, etc but could not get a feel of the daily life or get a chance to visit the “Andar Mahal” – meaning inner spaces of the palaces.
Well, if any one of you have such dreams, then trust me, Cossimbazar’s Choto Rajbari is the perfect place to quench your thirst. I have not seen a better palace which is so well maintained & allows tourist to venture into the inner most rooms while being a present day accommodation for the current family of the “Rajbongso” – meaning royal family.
How to Reach
Located very near to Berhampore court railway station, this place is very well accessible via auto rickshaws, private cars & TOTOS (battery operated 3 wheeler). Although Berhampore roads are a menace when it comes to traffic management, Totos find out a way through the narrow lanes to reach the destination within 30 mins from Berhampore Court railway station. A map would do a bit of help, hence I have uploaded the route map.
Private cars are available in plenty outside the railway station. Hiring them, you may need to pay for the complete day & thereby shed 800 odd rupees. a better & more adventurous option is to get a toto which you can hire for 2-3 hours & pay around 200- 300 rupees.
Berhampore court is well connected to Kolkata by trains namely Bhagirathi Express & Hazarduari Express. Its a journey of approximately 5 hrs & travelling by AC Chair Car can be really comfortable, enjoying the variety of snacks on the way.
Where to Stay
Staying options are plenty in Berhampore, starting from hotels with basic accommodation to 3 star category hotels. Personally I found Hotel Fame situated just 5 mins away from the station really recommendable. It has 3 star facility with one of the best continental cuisines on offer.
You can drop me a message if you require the contact details of the hotel. I happen to frequent the place on official tours.
This palace belongs to the Roy family who have themselves scripted their success story since the early 1700, when they settled in Cossimbazar. It happened to be an important destination in those days as it was a port city & was an excellent place for business. Ayodhya Narayan Roy, with his silk business settled in here with his family. In the coming years due to man made changes of the river course, Cossimbazar lost its importance as a port city. Over the course of years, the family flourished in their business & later under the British rule earned distinguished titles.
One can enter the premises after getting a ticket from the Gate. It only costs around 20 rupees per head. Then you will be accompanied by one of the many maids that reside in the palace throughout the year. The original residents come down on occasions like Durga Puja.
This tradition of Durga puja is being continued since the Roy family settled here from Pirojpur, where Durga puja was also celebrated. It is the time of the year when all the family members flock in from various parts of the country to celebrate the occasion.
Since the 1700s, as new generations of the Roy family started to unfold, each member had their own things of interest & different hobbies. This lead to the rajbari bearing proof of their interests. Some were very keen on wrestling while others were keen on making a garden.
The surroundings of the rajbari is covered with lush green garden & natural ponds. The pond has a wonderful “bedi” – stairway into the pond with a relaxing place at the start of the stairway where one can sit & enjoy.
Coming into the Rajbari inner areas, it is a true display of antique collection & marvelous stretches of architecture. The empty space inside the palace which is locally known as “uthon” in bengali has a wonderful sitting arrangement. The place is surrounded by the arched windows bringing back memories of an ancient Bengal.
All this time the maid that accompanies you will patiently take you around all the rooms of the palace & explain the utility of each. Starting from Hokkah sets to british era Chess boards, the palace has an exquisite collection for antiques. The dressing table made of pure “Shegun” wood & intricately done wood work is a treat to watch. While the hookah set with fine designs on the glass is one of a collection which is hard to find in recent days.
Then your attention will be driven towards something which forms a very important part of our life – ” the palki “, that too with coloured glasses – a magnificent watch.
The chess board where the members are made of wood & coloured to reveal the minute details is another wonderful antique to remember. The manner in which the property is maintained actually goes on to reveal the resolve & interest of the owners.
Turning our attention to the place where Durga Puja is celebrated, the “Uthon” has wonderful marble work on the floor accompanied with a large copper vessel at its center. the vessel will atleast be of 600mm diameter. The chandeliers on top are well preserved with plastic covering to keep the dust at bay while the architecture on the walls keeps amazing you. Even the nicely painted walls are covered with plastic to keep them clean. In all the scene presents a typical Bengali Jamindar family house.
Moving on, you get a taste of a world without electricity. How in the earlier days people used to enjoy perhaps a cooler breeze than that which we get from our modern day fans. Its a bedroom, with arrangements for ancient day Fans made of large piece of cloth hanging from the ceiling & two ropes at each end which the maids need to pull & release to create a swaying motion & generate the pleasant breeze. You start to feel as if you have time traveled 400 years back into a different world.
The meeting hall, is one of a kind with costly tables & chairs again well protected & stretched across a length. In earlier days when the there used to be a meeting discussion, then the ladies would look onto the place from the windows above.
During occasions, “maha bhoj” gets orgainsed i.e. largescale cooking goes on in earthen ovens kept side by side. The round cavity with three protruded portions are the ovens where vessels are kept for cooking. The longer cavities are through which wood is pushed into the fire to maintain the supply of firewood to the oven.
The family chart of the Roy family is an interesting one & one can get all the connections of the generations of Ayodhya Narayan Roy from it.
One can even have a look at the “Sanad” by which the title of “RAJA” was conferred upon Babu Ashtosh Nath Roy by the then Governor General of India.
Another room contains a collection of antique sofas & chairs with British era statues, models resting upon marble tables. Each asset being intricately maintained to preserve it long enough.
It is also understood that there is an outlet of the famous “Sugar n Spice” inside the palace premises. Later I got to know that Supriya Roy – current member of the Roy family is one of the owners of the company & that it was her initiative to begin with. She had extreme inclination towards bakery which she effectively turned into a business – one which the Roy family is proud of.
One can also see the portraits of the family members over their generations hanging from the walls along with many glass flower pots of ancient times.
Truly its a must go for architectural lovers.