My paternal grandmother, the recently deceased Smriti Ghosh had a very interesting maiden name. It was Mitra-Mustafi. Now Mitra is a Hindu surname. Mustafi is a title, and I am led to believe this title was given them by none other than Emperor Aurangzeb. The Mitra-Mustafis were accountants or treasurers to the kings, and made quite a fortune. Unfortunately almost all the magnificent houses they had constructed are now completely in ruins. What survives in very decent shape are several temple complexes built by them within their fortified place of residence.
A local train brought us to Hoogly station, from where a pre-booked car took us to Sakharia, Somra Bazaar. With the help of (very confusing) directions from locals, our tour began with what the locals call “Biswas Bari”.
This is in fact, the home of Radhajivan Mitra-Mustafi. It is in a completely ruined state now. No members of the family live here, and a family of caretakers of the nearby Anandamayee temple inhabit the small portion of the house that remains habitable.
The Anandamayee temple complex was constructed around 1813 by Bireswar Mitra-Mustafi. The complex is open to all, and the temples themselves are in surprisingly good shape, although some have settled and tilted at odd angles. My father tells me that the Birlas had, at one point, provided financial aid for the restoration of the the temples. The Mitra-Mustafi family have set up a trust that looks after the temple now.
Next in line, the “Thakurdalan” of Lakshmidas Mitra-Mustafi. Again in a completely dilapidated state, photographing this relic can prove to be quite a challenge, since the present resident, who claims to be from the Mitra-Mustafi family, is clearly not in complete possession of his senses, is extremely aggressive, ill-mannered, and attempts to prevent photography of any kind. I was lucky enough to take a few snaps when he was not around. His neighbours tell me that they do not speak to him, since all he does, they say, is quarrel and sue, in court, for the smallest reasons.
Two more temples have recently been completely restored by the Mitra-Mustafi family. The first of them is the Harasundari temple, constructed around 1814 by Ramnidhi Mitra-Mustafi.
The second is the Nistarini temple, constructed around 1847, by Kashigati Mitra-Mustafi.
Marble plaques around the Harasundari temple have the history and family tree of the Mitra-Mustafis. Unfortunately a long history of family feuds has ensured that I am not in touch with any of these people. For further information, please refer to their facebook page, and do have a look at this interesting blog post by Rangan Datta.