If you have watched the Vikramaditya Motwane-directed Lootera, or the Netflix original Bulbul, or even Piku, chances are you have seen the impressive palatial bungalows that bring West Bengal’s yesteryears to life.
These rajbaris, or the houses of the royalty, belonged to the landed gentry of West Bengal, the zamindars, back during the days of the British Raj. But long after the British left India and zamindari got abolished, some of these grand buildings remain while some others lie in decrepitude. Complete with Corinthian pillars meeting grand arches, sprawling clustered courtyards, arcaded verandahs, and marble statues on top, rajbaris are perfect examples of English-design-meets-local-architecture.
Take a look at some of these grand rajbaris, most of which have been restored into heritage stays, that are seeped in nostalgia, heritage, and reminiscence.
Owned by the Mondal family, this rajbari, located just two hours from Kolkata, is an architectural marvel replete with yesteryear opulence. It was spotted by current owner Ajay Rawla in 2008 in a state of disarray, and he restored this heritage building and opened its doors to an authentic Bengali experience, complete with Bengali cuisine, walks around the village, cultural performances in the courtyard, and much more in this heritage hotel.
The princely estate from Lootera is the Itachuna Rajbari, located in the Itachuna village in Hooghly. Dating back to 1766, it was owned and is still run by the Narayan Kundu family who restored the house with the help of the State Tourism Department. The rajbari has now been turned into a heritage homestay for those looking to escape the city for the weekend.
Owned and run by the royals of the Malla Deb family who used to rule Jhargram until pre-independence, the Jhargram Palace embodies ethnic and Italian style architecture. Its lush green lawns and gardens are set against vaulting domes and courtyards. In 2016, part of the Jhargram Palace was turned into a heritage hotel to give people a taste of the royal lifestyle.
Bari Kothi Heritage
Located about six hours from Kolkata in Murshidabad, the Bari Kothi Heritage is situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. It was owned by the Dudhoria Raj family from Azimganj back in the 1700s. Featuring a spectacular mix of Green, French, and Roman architecture, the heritage house was left in a state of despair for half a century before it was turned into Murshidabad’s first restored heritage hotel, Bari Kothi Heritage Hotel.
Built in 1962 by the Upadhyay family, the Mahishadal Rajbari is also known ‘phool bagh’. Located in Haldia, about three hours from Kolkata, the palace opened its doors to visitors in 2012 and set up a museum to ensure this beautiful building remained functioning and maintained. The museum soon became popular and the descendants of the Garg family, who became the rulers as the Upadhyay lineage came to an end, opened a two-room homestay on the ground floor of the rajbari. Its Jagannath rathayatra and Durga Puja are about 200 years old, and attract hundreds of local tourists every year.