H could have been the magnificent Howrah Bridge that has almost become synonymous with Kolkata , Hilsa – the favorite fish of Bengalis , Hogg market – the vintage market in Kolkata and Hooghly district – famous for Bandel church, Tarakeshwar temple, Hooghly Imambara and Chandannagore town which is renowned for lighting during Jagadhhatri puja. But my pick for the day is another iconic structure Hazarduari Palace in Murshidabad.
Hazarduari Palace –
Murshidabad is known for its historical lineage and Hazarduari Palace is the one of the most significant historical and famous tourist spots in the state. It was built by architect Duncan McLeod during the reign of Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah of who had Bengal, Bihar and Orissa under his power. It is located in the campus known as Kila Nizamat or Nizamat Kila that also houses Nizamat Imambara, Clock Tower, Madina Mosque, Chawk Masjid, Bacchawali Tope, the Shia Complex, Wasif Manzil, the two Zurud Mosques and the Nawab Bahadur’s Institution surrounding it.
Hazarduari means the one with a 1000 doors. Out of these thousand doors, one hundred are false doors. If any person had ill-intentions that they managed to pull off successfully, the concept was to prevent him from escaping by creating confusion between the real and false doors. The palace has a grand flight of thirty-seven steps of stone out of which the lowermost step is 108 feet long . It is supported by seven huge pillars. On either side of the staircase, two statues of masonry Victorian lions are situated in sitting posture. The palace was the designated place for holding durbar and conducting meetings with the Britishers.
The palace is now converted to a museum displaying paintings, furniture, cutlery items and other antique pieces like the mirror where one can see the image of people standing on either side but not their own. This mirror had been kept in the durbar hall for the Nawab to keep an eye on his people and their activities. The durbar hall has a silver chandelier hanging from the ceiling that is believed to be a gift from Queen Victoria and is the second largest in the world. The main gates have Naubat Khanas (musicians’ galleries) over them and are so large that it is believed that an elephant with howdah could pass through it easily and comfortably.
The Bacchawali Tope (canon) was brought to the city by Murshid Quli Khan. It was believed that the canon, when fired created such decibel of noise that pregnant women were forced to give birth on the spot.
The Clock Tower or Ghari Ghar was believed to have four clocks (only one exists now) with a sounding bell adorning the top. The tower was designed by Sagore Mistri – the native assistant of Colonel Duncan MacLeod.
Murshidabad is accessible from South and North Bengal by train and bus alike. Murshidabad railway station is located in Lalbagh, Murshidabad.
Stay and food
While the city has come up with few decent options for stay, my recommendation would be to get down at Berhampore and take up lodging at any of the decent hotels. Berhampore to Murshidabad is barely a thirty minutes journey by car although multiple other options of transport like autos, trekker jeeps, buses and trains are also available at frequent intervals. Two days will be sufficient to complete Murshidabad sightseeing.
Hazarduari palace has a strict policy of no camera. Just beside the ticket counter, there is a provision of handing over cameras and mobile phones for Rs.50. Registered tourist guides are available at a price of Rs 100 – 150. However they are not permitted to get inside the palace. They guide the tourist about the history and take them along for a guided tour of the palace from outside but one is left to fend for himself inside the premises.
Just outside the palace there is a market selling local toys like wooden horses and decorative items like miniature swords. Local snacks are also available at the stalls of street vendors. Walking down the market is quite an experience in gaining insight into the bygone era.
Best time to visit:
The best time for visiting Murshidabad is during the winter season. November to January is considered as the peak months.
The source of information related to the history of Hazarduari Palace is as follows –
- Nawabi Amol – Nirmal Sarkar (Bengali book)
- Murshidabad Parichiti – Suprabha Chakraborty (Bengali book)
- Tourist guide at Palace
The personal angle –
The first place that I had ever visited for sightseeing was Murshidabad. As a child I was mesmerized by the grand essence of the Hazarduari Palace . As I grew up, I realized that history was really not my area of interest. Yet I couldn’t resist visiting the place during most of my visits back home. However it wasn’t until this January that I decided to do a full-fledged series on Murshidabad as a tourist destination. I spent three weekends collecting information, clicking pictures and doing research. BlogchatterA2Z challenge gave me the perfect forum to begin Murshidabad Diaries and there couldn’t have been a better start to it than introducing Hazarduari Palace today.
Enjoy this historic ride until we meet again tomorrow with a new topic.