A dollop of Bengal – Jatra & Jagat Seth’s House

From the iconic Jadubabur Bazar in Bhowanipore, Kolkata to one of the most important Bengali poets of this generation – Joy Goswami , the all-rounder National level cricketer Jhulan Goswami, the paradise of bird lovers situated in Alipurduar ditrict – Jaldapara National Park and the neighbourhood in North Kolkata fanous for being the home of the country’s pride Gurudev Rabindranath Tgore – Jorasanko, J had a magnitude of options. I decided to pick up two categories, one that is at the core of rural Bengal – Jatra and the other as continuation of Murshidabad series – Jagat Seth’s House.

Jatra –

Jatra- Hemendra Kumar Hota.jpg
Jatra from rural Bengal – Source:Surendra Kumar Hota

Jatra or jatra pala is a folk theatre form still popular in rural Bengal. The word jatra means journey or going. The origin of jatra – intrinsically a musical theatre form is influenced from the ritual of songs and dance which formed part of the religious festivals in villages. It is traditionally credited to the rise of Sri Chaitanya’s Bhakti movement, wherein Chaitanya himself played Rukmini in the performance of Rukmini Haran. Dramatic elements in the compositions of these songs and dances like conversations among the various characters of the mythological stories on which they were based were given histrionic interpretations by the performers. Jatras were performed in a square or round area of flat ground with the audience sitting all rounds. There were reserved entry or exit points and the actors moved into the square from the midst of the audience. In the first half of the twentieth century, Swadeshi Jatra became very much important. Jatras were performed to make the people conscious of the British dominance over Indians. Quite a few times the role of a female character gets essayed by a male actor.

Jatra_Posters Wikimedia.jpg
Different Jatra Posters on a busy street- Souce:Wikimedia

The season of Jatra starts from September with Durga Puja being the starting point and ends when the monsoons are just about to come. The whole troupe travel to rural places to perform their play. These troupes are booked in advance by the organising committee and then announcements are done on a cycle rickshaw through microphone in different styles. The Jatra Pala in Bengal lasts for four long hours with full action packed dialogues. Six to seven songs are also performed in the play. These kinds of songs are known as Jatra Gaan. Jatra has also given birth to a popular actors who have gained fame in the medium of theatre and cinema eventually.

Jagat Seth’s house –

House of Jagath Seth - inside premises
The beginning of the premises – after entry

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A dollop of Bengal – Imambara (Murshidabad)

There were so few words with the letter I that it was getting difficult to pick up a relevant word for the day. The heritage Indian museum in Kolkata, the iconic educator and reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who worked towards upliftment of women’s status in the society and ISKON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness)  in Mayapur – the Kirtan capital of the world with devotees of Lord Krishna gathering from various continents. However, in my quest to bring out some more interesting facets of the state, I have decided to continue with Murshidabad diaries with the featured subject for today being Imambara.

Imambara (Nizamat Imambara) –

Panoramic view of Imambara
Imambara and the old Madina Mosque in one frame

Imambara in Murshidabad is names as Nizamat Imambara. It is located in the same campus of Nizamat Kila right opposite to Hazarduari Palace. It is a Shia muslim congregation hall. This was built by Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah in the Nizamat Fort Area. It was built with wood and had soil brought from Mecca. It caught fire and nothing was left of the place except the old Madina Mosque. The new Imambara was built in 1847 during the era of Nawab Nazim Feradun Jah under the supervision and direction of Sayed Ali Khan just opposite to the Hazarduari Palace and very near to the banks of Bhagirathi river. This is 680 feet long and is the largest Imambara in Bengal. A new Madina Mosque was constructed within the Imambara.

Imambara from the side of Hazarduari
Panoramic view of the Imambara

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A dollop of Bengal – Hazarduari palace

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 –

Hazarduari Palace
Hazarduari Palace – view from the front

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.

Lion on the left side of Hazarduari Palace
The Victorian lion on the left side of the stairs

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.

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Nine Lessons That I Picked Up In The First Week After My Son Started Preschool

Last Tuesday we began a new journey of life with our two and half-year old toddler joining preschool. It was the day of induction where the parents and the children were briefed about the set expectations from the Montessori method of teaching at the preschool. It was heartwarming to see the compassion with which the teachers and the principal dealt with the toddlers. The youngest in the class was a cute 1.9 yrs old girl and the eldest a 3 yrs old boy. The interaction was made interesting with a lot of games and some chocolates. We went back satisfied with the assurance we felt while talking to the teachers. Little did we know that this was the beginning of a roller-coaster ride on emotions.

Day 1 – There was no difficulty in getting him to school. There it began with one kid crying when everyone decided to follow suit. For my son, this was the first time that he was staying in an environment without a single family member. While he went inside without much fuss, I came to know later that he had not left his class teacher alone even for a second. After the stipulated forty minutes, he came out crying.

Day 2 – It was a bit of struggle to get him ready for school. He kept refusing to dress up. Nevertheless we kept trying to get him excited about the games that he would get to play with his friends in school. There were numerous moments of meltdown. The preschool has a fantastic approach of taking the students inside the premises. They hardly allow any time for goodbyes. Yet again he came out crying after the stipulated duration. We were told that he had played a little with the ball but mostly had been clinging onto his class teacher.

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A dollop of Bengal – Goyenda

The alphabet G gave me a tough time to find a word with relevance in my life. While there was the famous Gorumara National Park in Dooars known for its breeding population of rhinocerous, Gadiara – a favorite picnic and tourist spot in Howrah, Gupi Gayen Bagha Bayen – the vintage fantasy adventure movie by Satyajit Ray and Gopal Bhar – the iconic court jester in medieval Bengal, this series would have remained incomplete without a dedicated post to one of the iconic characters in Bengali literature – the sleuths/detectives/private investigators referred to as Goyenda in colloquial bengali.

Goyenda –

Feluda, Gogol,Kiriti,Akkida
Feluda,Kiriti ,Gogol and Akida Bengali books – my collection

One of the most popular detectives in Bengali literature happens to be Pradosh Chandra Mitter aka Feluda – resident of 21 Rajani Sen Road, Ballygunje, Kolkata. Accompanied by his cousin Topse and friend Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu, this character created by Satyajit Ray is popular among young and adult audiences alike. The stories have been brought alive on-screen by Ray himself with Soumitra Chatterjee playing the role of Feluda. Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Abir Chatterjee and Parambrata Chattopadhyay have been seeing playing this role in movies/web series since then but Feluda to most bengalis will always mean Soumitro as etched in their memories by Ray.

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A dollop of Bengal – Fish and Football

Considering the number of queries I had for this post, F should have been for Feluda – the sleuth in Satyajit Ray’s detective series. F could also have been Flurys – the vintage shop on Park Street or one of the best place for eating out – Free school street or the trademark Bengali style panipuri/golgappa called Fuchka (no we don’t add sweet to the tamarind water in fuchka). But my pick up for the day happens to be the deadly combo of fish and football.

Fish

Bengalis are traditionally known for their love for fish, specially the ones available in rivers. Infact their favorite food is always assumed to be machch-bhaat (fish and rice). From Rui(rohu), katla, chingri(prawns), chitol(chitala), basa to ilish(Hilsa) and many more, the local fish markets are nothing less than a sight to behold with the range of the species available. Few of the famous fish markets include that of Maniktala and Gariahat in Kolkata, Howrah and Digha.

Fish vendor stall
Inside one of the fish stalls in the Kolkata market

Fish is not just an item to be consumed in a Bengali household. It is also considered to be an auspicious item for a few rituals like marriage. On the morning of the wedding, the grooms family arrive with the wedding gifts (Tattva) that consists a set of gifts for the bride and her family (saree,cosmetics,bags being few of the items) along with the largest Rohu fish and turmeric paste for the ceremony of Gaye Holud/ Haldi. When the new bride is welcomed in the grooms family, she is either shown a decorated fish or made to hold a fish as part of the celebrations.

Football –

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A dollop of Bengal – Esplanade

E is for Eden Gardens – the mecca of cricket, Ecopark – the biggest park in India situated in New Town- Rajarhat and Entally – one of the oldest localities in Kolkata, but for me E is and will always be the heart of the city –Esplanade.

Esplanade –

Situated in central Kolkata, this is the area from where the first tram and then the first underground metro started. It is also one of the busiest areas with 2 to 3 lakh vehicles passing during the rush hours each day. Esplanade has a bus terminus near Shahid Minar from where buses connecting spots within the city as well as places within the state begin their journey. Walking down the streets give a feeling of the bygone era. Most of the vintage cinema halls like MetroNew Empire and Lighthouse have been mostly replaced by multiplexes and malls. The pavement has branded showrooms on one side while street hawkers selling a range of items on the other. It is difficult to walk through the crowded place with thriving business on the street side stalls.

Esplanade
Esplanade

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