My research into Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of the Kingdom of Oudh (Awadh) started as a simple question – where was he buried? I knew that he had come to Calcutta once the East India Company had dethroned him. But if he had come to Calcutta, would he have died in Calcutta and if he had died in Calcutta, wouldn’t he have been buried in Calcutta? Google threw up a name – Sibtainabad Imambara. But where was this? Further curiosity would lead me to this post on the Astounding Bengal blog. There were scattered newspaper articles on the Nawab as well, but there seemed to be no one place where I could get the complete information. That is when I knew that I would have to do this myself, and as a friend and collaborator, I found Shaikh Sohail, who has the twin advantages of being a resident of the area where the Nawab once stayed and being on good terms with his descendants. More than 100 years after he died, are there any vestiges of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah that still remain?
Sunday, 19 March 2017
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Akash-er Kaachhe in Baruipur is perhaps the only example in West Bengal or even India, of a lovers’ temple. Located 26 km to the south of Calcutta, on the Baruipur Bypass Road, on the Western bank of the Adi Ganga Akash-er Kaachhe is especially popular among young couples who pray for their love to be true and everlasting. While it isn’t especially old, the circumstances that led to the temple being built, are both tragic and mysterious.
Thursday, 2 February 2017
I can think of four reasons that would make the stone temples of Begunia in Barakar, unique. First, the fact that they are made of stone makes them something of a rarity. Stone is difficult to find in Bengal and the vast majority of temples in the state are made of brick and decorated with terracotta tiles. Second, the great age of at least one of the temples. While it has not been possible to verify the exact age of all the temples, one of them is thought to be as old as 800 years. Not much has survived so intact from that long ago. The only other site I can think of is the Dargah and Mosque of Zafar Khan Ghazi. Third, the architectural style of the temples closely resembles that of the temples of Orissa (now Odisha) and is very different from the “ratna” style that Bengalis are familiar with. Fourth and last, would be the sheer ridiculousness of their location – in the middle of an industrial town, in a congested residential neighbourhood, in the middle of a park! Granted, most of that must have happened after the temples were built, but still, one does not walk into a narrow suburban lane expecting to find giant old temples at the end of it.
Monday, 9 January 2017
If you look at old maps of Calcutta, you will find much that has changed. Many roads aren’t how they used to be, buildings have vanished, ponds have been filled up, what used to be open fields have become apartment blocks. But one thing, in particular, makes me very curious – cemeteries that seem to have vanished. Either they are there in old maps, and not there in new ones, or I find graves and tombs in all kinds of odd places in the city. Either people don’t know, or they don’t notice the tombs. These are the invisible cemeteries of Calcutta, hiding in plain sight. How many such cemeteries are there? You’d be surprised to know.
Sunday, 1 January 2017
The finest examples of Bengal terracotta and most unique example of Bengal temple architecture are to be found in a non-descript village by the name of Bali-Dewangunj near Arambagh, in the Hooghly district of West Bengal. In a precarious state now, due many years of neglect, the temples of Bali-Dewangunj present a fascinating opportunity to those who are interested in this unique aspect of Bengal’s history. Bengal has always lacked stone for temple construction, and thus terracotta (literally meaning cooked earth) was born out of pure necessity. But the heights to which Bengal’s artists took this humble medium can be seen only in Bali-Dewangunj. But why does a little village in the middle of nowhere have so many stunning temples?