Monday, 19 May 2014

Dumraon House, 26 Camac Street

The en masse migration of labourers and daily wage earners of Bihar to Calcutta is well known. They still form a large part of the menial workers of the city. But not many are aware that the upper crust of Bihar society also had a presence in Calcutta, and like all other communities that came here, they left their mark on the city.

Surrounded by new flats and glitzy commercial buildings, at 26 Camac Street, stands Dumraon House. Dumraon is one of Bihar's oldest municipalities and one of India's oldest princely states. It came into being under Narayan Mal, who through his friendship with Mughal Prince Khurram, received the title of Raja. The 4th ruler of the dynasty, Raja Horil Shah (1708 – 1746) shifted the capital to Dumraon, which was initially called Horilnagar. Skip ahead 200 years and we have the birth of Maharaja Bahadur Ram Ran Vijay Prashad Singh in 1907. Ascending the throne on death of his father, Maharaja Bahadur Sir Keshav Prashad Singh in 1933, Ram Ran Vijay Prashad Singh inherited a depleted treasury and massive debts owed due to almost continuous litigation. He was able, through his short reign, however, to revive the fortunes of the family. To augment the family’s incomes, properties were acquired outside Bihar in places like Calcutta , Dehradun, Mussoorie, Shilong and many other places. The property on Camac Street was acquired during this period, and Dumraon House was constructed in 1922.

Some will no doubt recall the company Dumraon Textiles, which was started by the Maharaja’s son, Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh in 1968.  Dumraon House today continues to function as what the official records call a building of “mixed usage”. There are residential flats, as well as commercial establishments functioning out of the building. There is a large open space in the rear, which is used as a car park, and part of it has been converted into a garden where the building’s ‘darwaan’ lives with his family.

One of the most famous people to emerge from Dumraon was the Shehnai maestro, Ustad Bismillah Khan, who was born in Dumraon, on 21 March 1913.

- by Deepanjan Ghosh

  • I am grateful to Shivang Vijay Singh of the Dumraon royal family for his comments on the article.
  • Thanks also to Tirtha Tanay Mandal for pointing out certain errors in the original post, which have now been corrected.


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