Monday, 27 April 2015

Chetla Baro Ras Bari, 78, Tollygunge Road

One of the four temple complexes in the Chetla area of South Calcutta (Kolkata), the Baro Ras Bari (also spelt Bado Rash Bari, Bado Rashbari or Bado Rashbadi) on Tollygunge Road is probably the most neglected, in spite of being declared a Grade A Heritage Building. The story of Baro Ras Bari begins in the village of Bawali, 30 kilometers to the South West of the city of Calcutta, where the Mondals had reigned since the Mughal era. Raja Ram Mondal had been granted full control of 15 villages by the Mughal Emperor. His descendants, Ramnath and Manick Mondal settled in Chetla on the invitation of Robert Clive. Their name is associated with three of the four temples in the Chetla area.

The ruined temples of Chetla Baro Ras Bari

Chetla’s Baro Ras Bari is actually two temple complexes. One is in Bengal’s traditional “aatchala” style. The other is a group of 12 temples, arranged on three sides of a large square. The 12 temples are in a deplorable state and have all but perished. These were all originally Shiva temples, and the Shiva Linga may still be seen inside many of them. A few of the Lingas are damaged, some have been stolen, and several of the temples have been taken over by squatters, who live inside the sanctum sanctorum. I was a little shocked to find a man drying his laundry and a woman cooking lunch next to a Linga. Yet more of the temples have been appropriated by locals who run a barber shop from within a temple. The plaster has long disappeared, the bricks are exposed, trees have taken root all over the structures, and the complex appears beyond repair. Modern brick and cement walls have also been haphazardly been erected all over the complex. The main square is now used as playing ground by local children, and cricketing contests are often held there. There were probably two more temples here which have completely disappeared. Drainage tunnels around the complex still visible indicate that the central square was flooded at high tide by the Adi Ganga, today’s Tolly Canal, which flows right beside the temple.

Baro Ras Bari's foundation stones

Aatchala Temple of Baro Ras Bari
The “aatchala” Madanmohan Temple of the Baro Ras Bari complex is in fairly good shape, and is in use. Plaques on both sides of the gate explain that the temple was built around 1828 C.E., 1750 by the Saka Calendar. There are also two more dates according to the Bengali calendar; 1241 which corresponds to  1835 C.E. and 1235 which corresponds to 1829 C.E. This discrepancy can be assumed to mean that in 1835, 7 years after construction of the temple was begun, the idols were installed in the sanctum sanctorum. Both plaques confirm that the temple was constructed by Udaynarayan Das Mondal of Bawali who was the son of Manick Mondal. The principal idols in the temple today are of Radha and Madan Mohan, a manifestation of Krishna. Idols of Radharani and Lord Krishna from the decaying temples of the complex lying right behind this temple were brought in here at some point. Several other idols from the decaying complex have also been relocated to this temple over the years. Infront of the temple is a pillared portico. Around the inside of the perimeter wall are rooms, and in one corner there is a tower, the exact purpose of which I cannot understand.

Blogger Rangan Datta at Baro Ras Bari

Baro Ras Bari's tower
The Baro Ras Bari complex of Chetla is a “Grade A” heritage building in the Municipal Corporation’s list. There are boards around the neighbourhood stating this, and warning against causing any damage to structure. But any more damage hardly appears possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday, some unscrupulous promoter simply demolished all the temples to build a high-rise. The Madanmohan temple itself is stuck in legal complications. Large sums of money belonging to the temple trust, along with priceless ornaments used to decorate the idols are all sealed, pending the verdict in a court case. For those of you looking for directions to the Baro Ras Bari, let me tell you, it’s easy to find. Enter Tollygunge Circular Road from Tollygunge Phari and take the right turn just before you hit the bridge that crosses the Tolly Canal. Ask anyone on the road where the Baro Ras Bari is, and you will be guided to it. Visit and photograph the place before it’s gone forever!

Gateway to Baro Ras Bari

- by Deepanjan Ghosh


THE TEMPLES OF CHETLA


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
  • My thanks to all members of the Facebook community “Calcutta – Photographs and Memories”, especially Mr. Timirbaran Pal.
  • Thanks also to my friends Ayan Dutta and Arijeet “Poltu” Banerjee for their guidance and advice about the Chetla area, which they are intimately familiar with.

SOURCES

Temples in Calcutta – Roy, Pijush Kanti




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