Nimtita Rajbari : Reminiscences of Jalsaghar

Then it was a crumbling mansion gradually losing its architectural beauty. That was almost 55 years back. ‘Biswambhar Ray’, lead a lonely life there with the decaying surroundings of the palace. That was how things were depicted in the reel life, and strangely in real life, the story that took course with this palace is nothing much different.

Nimtita Rajbari was built about 350 years ago by Gaurasundara Chowdhury and Dwarkanath Chowdhury. The palace was full of royalties but what remains today is nothing but ruins. Where many a famous drama nights and famous plays were once enacted, today time has taken a toll on this immoral Rajbari and thus it has lost all its beauty. The Rajbari, however, has witnessed many known and unknown facts of history.

We can also say that real life is following reel life. This is the very famous Rajbari where Satyajit Ray’s award-winning movie Jalsaghar, The Music Room, was shot. The movie was based on a novel written by Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay. This very grand palace was depicted as a crumbling mansion in the film which was gradually losing its architectural beauty. The film was shot almost 55 years back. The movie revolves around a fictional character ‘Biswambhar Ray’, last in the line of rich zamindars who lead a lonely and isolated life.

Today most part of the palace has already crumbled and Sabita Roy Choudhury, last in the line of descendants of the real builder of this grand palace passed two years ago. She left behind two faithful servants. The decaying process of the house has accelerated after she died. What remains standing today is only the rear portion of the mansion and the grand place which faces the Ganga river. The remains only remind us of what was once very majestic and royal. The architecture of the palace was a combination what we call Mughal, Victorian and Greek.

The Roy Choudhury family were known for their extravagant lifestyle and often hosted musical nights in the palace. From records, we come to know that magnificent feasts, songs and dance performance were arranged. Many famous artists of the county, especially from Lucknow, visited this palace for showcasing their talent. Apart from the musical nights, this Rajbari was also famous for its Durga Puja and thousands of people were fed during the pujas.

According to the local residents, the mansion commenced its decline in the third decade of the 20th century when river Ganga which flows very near to palace changed its course. When the river changed its course it deployed a huge portion of the mansion leading it to crumble into pieces. During the early 1920s and the following two decades, Ganga started moving westwards which has gobbled almost 40 percent of the mansion.

When the movie ‘Jalsaghar’ was shot the river flowed about a kilometre away from the mansion in the east direction. But now it flows only a few meters away and thus enhances the chances of further ruins. The river expanding its course keeps on moving westward every year. Though the erosion has not stopped completely, it has slowed down.

The music room, commonly known as the Jalsaghar, in the movie, was one of the private living room which is on the first floor of the palace. The floor and the roof of this very famous room have been destroyed years back leaving the walls behind for further destruction. The wide first-floor balcony which spreads throughout the entire first-floor has already caved in. There is no way one can move to the first floor as the grand staircase has also collapsed. The terrace is also in a horrible condition and most part of it has already collapsed. What remains is the outer shell of the mansion where most parts of the movie were shot. The portion of the palace where Satyajit Ray stayed during the movie will soon collapse leaving behind only memories.

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