Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Kolkata Diaries: A Weekend Getaway to Itachuna Rajbari

Just under a hundred kilometers away from the bustling city of Kolkata, a sleepy mansion awaits your visit. This two and a half hundred year old 'Rajbari' is a homestay the likes of which is not too common these days. If you have a weekend free in Kolkata when the weather is pleasant and you are in the mood to get away from it all, book a room or two at Itachuna and take a step back in time.

Itachuna Rajbari
Itachuna Rajbari, literally meaning brick and lime palace, was built in 1766 by the Kundu family who supposedly descended from the Bargis, the dreaded Maratha clan who invaded and looted Bengal time and again annually for a decade (1740s to 1750s). Today the mansion is rented to production houses for shoots of movies or tv shows and to the occasional visitors who rent by the room. The present day owners do not live on the property, visiting only during their holidays.

From the verandah in front of the rooms
We went there in October of 2010. Ours is a large family and we took up all the rooms that were renovated for rent. Barring a few staff whom we hardly ever saw, a big dog downstairs who loved howling in the moonlight and a caretaker who kept appearing and disappearing mysteriously, we had the palace to ourselves.

The inner courtyard
The huge property is ideal for discovering little nooks and crannies. With wonderful views from the roof and delightful oddities just waiting to be chanced upon, you won't know when the afternoon gives way to dusk.

Through the balcony

To the roof

A Shiva Mandir in the distance
Rain water drainage pipes on the roof

A pool in the back
A narrow corridor to the back gardens
Dusk falls, Andarmahal
 This is a place you should go to if you like ghost stories and period films. You can while away time sipping garam cha on one of the many terraces and balconies.

Four poster bed
 There are ornate beds that transport you back to a time when people slept on four poster beds and were waited on by attendants who softly fanned away the heat.  There are old fashioned mirrors in deserted corridors where you almost see reflections of faces long gone from this world.

You still don't see me
As the setting sun filters through the many windows, this place really comes to life. Through years of memories, real and imagined, incessant chirping of crickets, bats in the corners, old lanterns and pictures of half-remembered faces, you feel the shivers down your spine and a delicious thrill that is the sole privilege of those blessed with an imagination

A bat in the corner
A stairway

And the dying light filters in

The inner courtyard at dusk

The drawing room
Do not come to Itachuna Rajbari if you are looking for hotel-like amenities and modern comforts.
Come visit if you want to meet characters lost in a time gone by in a sleepy little town that houses a mansion full of charm for those that seek it.

Have you visited Itachuna Rajbari? Have you ever stayed at an old mansion? Do share your comments below.

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