Thursday, 20 November 2014

Serampore Rajbari

Exactly how rich were the Goswamis of Serampore? Sample this. When the Danes, finding their factory in Serampore to be a losing concern, were looking for someone to sell their title of Serampore to, Raghuram Goswami offered to purchase it for the sum of Rs. 11,00,000! However the Danes found this sum to be inadequate and ultimately sold their possessions to the East India Company in 1845, for 12,00,000. The Goswamis of Serampore, are the descendants of one of the five Brahmin families whom Adisur, King of Gaur had invited to settle in Bengal, with gifts of land and monies, for the propagation of knowledge. One of his descendants was Lakshman Chakravarty. Lakshman was married to the daughter of Achyut Goswami, son of Advaitacharya Goswami, an ardent disciple of Sri Chaitanya. Lakshman settled in Shantipur, with Achyut’s family, and out of their marriage was born a son, Ramgobinda, who took on his mother’s maiden name, Goswami. It was Ramgobinda’s son, Radhakanta, who settled in Serampore. His grandson was Raghuram Goswami.

Serampore Rajbari South Block

Saturday, 15 November 2014

St. Stephen's Church, Diamond Harbour Road

We call it “the rocket Church”. I mean come one! How can you not? Take a good look. That unique looking steeple, that looks like the body of a rocket, complete with nose cone, and on both sides of the entrance, you see the way the walls are sloping? That looks like tail fins, right? The books say that the Church is typically Gothic in architecture, and that steeple, while unique, was never meant to look like a rocket. It was meant to look like a ship’s lantern from the old days. The reason why a Church with a steeple like a ship’s lantern is located on Diamond Harbour Road is simple enough to understand. The Kidderpore docks are nearby, and therefore, this area would have been filled with seafaring people. This would have been the first Church anyone would see when travelling East towards the city after disembarking from a ship. Located on 3, Diamond Harbour Road, St. Stephen’s Church is right next to the St. Thomas Boys’ School, but must be entered through the somewhat chaotic lanes of the Kidderpore Bazaar.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Radhanath Temple, Mondal Temple Lane

The temple as seen from a neighbour's rooftop
A little less than 30 kilometers to the South West of the city of Calcutta, is the village of Bawali. During the Mughal era, Raja Ram Mondal received from the emperor a royal charter granting him full control over fifteen villages (the East India company, in contrast, began with three). Thus began the story of the Bawali Raj family. Sometime in the eighteenth century, Robert Clive invited the Mondals to come and settle in Calcutta. In response, Ramnath and Manick Mondal moved into the area known today as Chetla, and settled by the banks of what was then the Adi Ganga; today’s Tolly Canal.

The family deity of the Mondals was Lord Krishna, and the temples that they constructed in the area, are to his various manifestations. The largest and most spectacular of them still exists, on the road named after it. Approaching the Radhanath Temple of Mondal Temple Lane can be somewhat tricky. If you’re coming from Tollygunge Phari, once you cross the bridge over the Tolly Canal, the second turn on your right is Chetla Road, but right turns into the lane are prohibited before 1pm, and therefore it is simpler to take the next right turn, a serpentine lane that connects with Mondal Temple Lane. Turn right at the T Junction, and keep a lookout to your left. The huge temple, located near the crossing of Mondal Temple Lane and Chetla Road, is easily visible even through the jigsaw of modern buildings.