Say the word Imambara to the average Bengali in Kolkata, and what he or she is likely to think of first, is the Hooghly Imambara. Prod a little further and the Nizamat Imambara will come up. Located in Murshidabad, it is the largest in Asia. The really well-informed will be able to name the Sibtainabad Imambara in Metiabruz where Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Oudh is buried. But what the vast majority of people in Kolkata don’t know is that there are some 20 imambaras in city, most with long histories and some are spectacularly beautiful. For Muharram this year I would like to highlight this unknown aspect of Kolkata.
Thursday, 20 September 2018
Sunday, 8 July 2018
Since Murshid Quli Khan moved the capital of Bengal from Dhaka to Murshidabad around 1704, there have been only 4 Nawabs of Bengal from two dynasties to have succeeded him, before the East India Company’s takeover. The Nasiri Dynasty to which Murshid Quli Khan belonged, was unseated by the Afshar Dynasty, led by Alivardi Khan. The Afshar Dynasty’s rule came to an end with the Battle of Plassey, on the 23rd of June, 1757. The next to take their place on the Musnad of Murshidabad, was the Najafi Dynasty, beginning with the much-maligned Mir Jafar. But while the war that brought the Afshar Dynasty to an end is much discussed, and how its last scion, the hapless Siraj-ud-Daulah met his end has been memorialised in plays, the end of the Nasiri Dynasty has been almost completely forgotten. We know where every Nawab of Bengal is buried, except the last Nasiri Nawab, Sarfaraz Khan. For years, books have pointed to the rough area where he was buried, but no one has given the actual location, nor printed a photograph of the tomb. Has the tomb of a Nawab actually been lost? And how did it come to this?
|Interiors of the incomplete Fauti Masjid. Construction was started by Sarfaraz Khan and ceased upon his death|
Sunday, 1 July 2018
“How would you like to stay in a 100 year old hotel”? The question from fellow blogger Poorna Banerjee was a purely rhetorical one, of course. She knew that I would jump at the chance. And so it was that in the last weekend of the month of May, I found myself escaping the heat and dust of Kolkata for the chilly comfort of the historic Himalayan Hotel, now the Mayfair Himalayan Resort and Spa.
Friday, 15 June 2018
On Beliaghata Main Road, a little under a kilometre southeast of the point where the road crosses the canal lies a mysterious, abandoned mosque. I say abandoned because the mosque is not used for prayers by Muslims anymore, although it is far from empty. What was once a mosque is now used as a residential building and storage space. I first found out about the abandoned mosque in Beliaghata from a Facebook post by my friend Avijit Das. Avijit and Souvik had been alerted to the presence of the mosque by another Facebook post. “Sayan Banerjee had posted about the mosque, claiming that it was the oldest mosque in Kolkata and that it was ASI property”, Souvik told me. But when they visited the site, they found it to be occupied by a Hindu family. Souvik was able to identify the family as Vaishnava based on the “kanthi” or wooden necklace that a male member of the family was wearing. The sheer ridiculousness of a Vaishnava family living inside a mosque was enough to pique my curiosity, and so I decided to do some investigation of my own.
Friday, 18 May 2018
Such is the reputation of Kolkata’s Indian Museum, that when one says museum or “jadughar” in Kolkata, the Indian Museum is what one refers to, and that one word is enough for taxi drivers to take you to your destination. However, housed in various buildings around the city, are a number of smaller museums, from 1-room displays to multi-gallery affairs, which house antiquities and objects that can educate and provoke curiosity.
Sunday, 13 May 2018
Back in 2015, I remember having the first conversation about what is now the Calcutta Bungalow with Iftekhar Ahsan. I had known Ifte since college and had watched his Calcutta Walks growing in popularity, till it became the number one thing for visitors to do, on Tripadvisor. A Bed & Breakfast for his guests seemed like the logical next step.
Sunday, 6 May 2018
Located in the Saptagram area of Hooghly district in West Bengal, Sayed Jamaluddin’s Mosque is the only surviving monument from the Hussain Shahi period when Saptagram was a flourishing port and mint town. The last surviving witness of the glory days of this erstwhile capital of southern Bengal, Sayed Jamaluddin’s mosque is also a fine example of that phenomenon unique to Bengal – a terracotta mosque.
Sunday, 1 April 2018
The Taj Mahal is India’s biggest tourist attraction, one of the seven wonders of the world, and one of the world’s most photographed monuments. For professional photographers and photography enthusiasts, getting that perfect photo of the Taj Mahal can be a daunting task. What gear should you use? What time of the year should you visit? Where can you get the best shots from? And are there any angles or vantage points from where you can get a Taj photo that no one else has? I visited Agra in October of 2017 and stayed in the city for 7 days. In this blog, I’ll share with you my experiences and tips about photographing the Taj Mahal.
|View from across the river. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM, f/8, 70 seconds, ISO 100|
Sunday, 18 March 2018
In Achipur, near Budge Budge, approximately 33 km to the southwest of Calcutta (Kolkata), stands an abandoned gunpowder magazine with an interesting story behind it. On google maps, the area is currently marked as “Birlapur Riverside Picnic Spot” and locals call it the Achipur “barood-ghar” (barood – gunpowder, ghar – house). Veteran blogger Rangan Datta was the first to bring these abandoned structures to my notice. Trying to find details about them led to the uncovering of a wealth of information, but as is the norm with Bengal, there more questions than there are answers.
Thursday, 1 March 2018
Serampore’s Denmark Tavern was formally inaugurated on the 28th of February, 232 years after it was first opened by British innkeeper James Parr. Part of the “Serampore Initiative” of the National Museum of Denmark, the restoration of the Denmark Tavern took 3 years and was led by the National Museum of Denmark, INTACH, MASCON and Continuity Architects. Manish Chakraborti was the restoration architect with inputs from Danish architect Flemming Aalund. Ambassadors from 5 Nordic countries, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland attended the inauguration ceremony. With the restoration project making news around the world, a little-known chapter of India’s history is also highlighted.
Tuesday, 27 February 2018
We had spent just over a week in Jammu and Kashmir. Harsha, Prasenjit, Ananya, Sreyashi and I, had been to Srinagar, Kargil, Drass, Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake and were now at the end of our trip. We would spend our last day in Leh, the capital city of Ladakh, exploring the monasteries and palaces in the neighbourhood and shopping.
Sunday, 14 January 2018
Anyone unfamiliar with the early period of Christianity in India will likely be shocked upon first entering the Roman Catholic Cemetery of Agra, because it does not resemble any of the better-known colonial era cemeteries, such as the South Park Street Cemetery of Calcutta (Kolkata). Here in Agra, with its Mughal legacy, the tombs are built of sandstone more than marble, and their design makes them appear more Muslim than Christian. Added to this is the fact that inscriptions on many of the headstones are in Persian script. Furthermore, if it were not for the crosses atop these tombs, it would be difficult to identify them as actually Christian.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
2017 was the year where I ventured into writing for publications in a big way, concentrating mostly on online publications, as opposed to print. I must thank Devjyot Ghoshal of Quartz who got me started down this road. He emailed me expressing interest in republishing my article about the “invisible cemeteries of Kolkata”, which was re-run by Scroll. I then approached Scroll asking them if they would be interested in the kind of stuff I write for, and to my surprise, they said yes. I also must thank the wonderful people at Live History India, from whom I have done a couple of articles this year and hope to do more in the future.
Here’s a list of articles I did for publications this year –
Sunday, 3 December 2017
The boy stood by the east window, waiting patiently. He had missed his chance earlier. When he had seen the black Landmaster going past his school and towards his house, he had paid it no heed. It was only when he came back home that he was told who the Landmaster was ferrying. He wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. He had been waiting at that window ever since the family Jeep had left for the station to fetch their famous visitor. It was mid-February in the dusty little Bengal village. The once grand mansion was now in ruins and stood perilously close to the river that separated India from East Pakistan. It was 1956. It would be another 15 years before Bangladesh would be born in a bloodbath.