Wikipedia Takes Kolkata Photowalk – Season IV

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When I heard the fourth edition of Wikipedia Takes Kolkata is in the month of December, I was very happy. Last time the walk lasted nearly 6 hrs and we covered 8 km. and 20 landmarks. While I must admit it was a very successful one, the typical Calcutta heat and humidity exhausted us a lot too. So a much comfortable December was a welcome change.

Introductory Discussion - Wikimedia Photowalk - Tollygunge - Kolkata 2014-12-14 1370

Introductory Discussion near Tollygunge Phari (Photo – Biswarup Ganguly)

This time the focus was on the temples around the Adi Ganga or Tolly’s nullah (canal). Rangan Datta, the famous travel blogger, led us like the previous editions, but this time Deepanjan Ghosh aka The Concrete Paparazzi helped him a lot. From finding the temples to planning the walk and sharing the history with us. And like the previous walk we covered some out-of-the-list landmarks too, and all thanks to Indrajit Das for that. He scooped out those extra information from heritage site lists on the spot.

Nabaratna Temple of Mondals

Navaratna Temple of the Mondals (Photo – Sumit Surai)

We started off from Tollygunge Circular Road and Deshpran Shashmal Road crossing around 8 AM. The weather was good and the enthusiastic group soon reached the first temple of the Bawali Mondal family. Bawali, a small place around 30 km. south west of Calcutta, is from where, with Robert Clive’s invitation, two brothers of the Mondal family came to settle in Calcutta, in the eighteenth century. They settled on either sides of the Adi Ganga and today several temples build by them can be found in this area. The biggest and the most well-maintained one is on Mondal Temple Lane.

Nabaratna Temple of Radhabinode - Tottlygunge, Kolkata

Navaratna Temple of the Mondals. Better view of the spires (Photo – Indrajit Das)

The 90 feet tall nabaratna (9 gems or the 9 spires) temple is dedicated to Radhakanta and the idols found here are of Radha, Radhakanta and Lakshmi Narayan. While the first and the last one is made of ashtadhatu (8 metals – gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury) the primary idol is of kashtipathar (black stone). A black stone with inscriptions can be found on the left wall of the temple and according to it the construction work began in 1796 and was completed in 1807. The idols were installed in 1809.

Bawali Mondals Chhoto Rashbari

Chhoto Rashbari temple complex from outside (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Our next stop was the Chhoto Rashbari of the Mondal family. Unfortunately the gates were closed and we could only see it from outside. There were several temples within the complex and while the one that can be seen from the main entrance was of Nabaratna style, we noticed several At-Chala style temples also.

Bawali Mondal Chhoto Rashbari

Chhoto Rashbari Nabaratna temple (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Boro Rashbari Bawali Mondal

Boro Rashbari At-Chala temple (Photo – Sumit Surai)

The Boro Rashbari of the same Mondal family was our next destination. The walled complex have a well maintained At-Chala style temple, but there are 14 temples outside the wall which needs immediate attention. Encroached completely, most are damaged beyond repair and one replaced by a hut. Two of the temples here are of Pancha Ratna (5 gems) style while the rest are At-Chalas. It was hard to believe that a listed grade I heritage site can be left with such negligence.

Bawali Mondal Boro Rashbari Broken Temple Complex

Boro Rashbari encroached temple complex. We can see one Pancharatna and four At-Chala style temples here (Photo – Sumit Surai)

We were to visit the temple complex of the Chandra family next, but Indrajit Das, who was going through various documents, told us that there is one more temple and a mosque in this area, both of which fall under Grade I of the heritage list. It is always great to find new places nearby while on a walk and we all decided to visit them first. The temple is somewhere between the Chhoto and the Boro Rashbari and after searching for some time we found it to be inside a modern apartment complex. Initially we were denied entry, but when we explained our intention and told that though inside the apartment complex, the temple is a public heritage site, they allowed us. It was heart-breaking to see how the At-Chala style architecture has been converted to a run-of-the-mill modern temple.

Mathur Shah Temple TollyGunge

Mathur Shah Temple (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Unlike the temples we were visiting, Zohra Begum Mosque, our next destination, is a little away from the canal and was named after a member of the royal family of Mysore. Tipu Sultan’s descendants were sent to Calcutta on exile and they built several mosques, this being one of them. Maulabi Tehseeruddin showed us around the place, which he said was built in 1264 (Hijri Calendar) or 1847-48 C.E. The mosque is well maintained but the structure looked modern at first glimpse. When asked I was told that the covered area around the main mosque was built recently. How we violate heritage conservation rules everywhere! The mosque is presently run by a 6 committee waqf board.

Zohra Begum Mosque Tollygunge Calcutta

Zohra Begum Mosque from outside (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Zohra Begum Mosque Tollygunge

Zohra Begum Mosque (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Zohra Begum Mosque Minar

Minar at Zohra Begum Mosque (Photo – Sumit Surai)

After completing the two off-the-initial-list landmarks, it was time to visit the Dwadosh Shib Mandir (12 Shiva Temples) of the Chandras. Built in 1853, this, according to me, was the best place for the day. The family still owns and maintains the complex. Pachugopal Chandra and his son Subrata, the current owners, have kept the place open for all although it is a family owned property. The Chandras, originally from Kamarpara, Behala, settled here, currently known as Kamarghat, and this temple complex was built by Nilmoni Chandra. The lane in front was named after his son Pran Krishna Chandra.

Dwadosh Shib Mandir of Chandra

Dwadosh Shib Mandir (Twelve Shiva Temples) complex of the Chandras (Photo – Sumit Surai)

Our last stop was Tarpan Ghat. This used to be a burning ghat and home to sages. Later an ashram was built here. The place now have few temples and the tombs of the sages.

Tarpanghat 4

Tomb of a sage at Tarpan Ghat (Photo – Arup Chowdhury)

The walk though ended here for the day, opened new avenues for more walks (like landmarks related to the exiled descendants of Tipu Sultan) and research. Hope to be back with more stories and places around this area soon.

Wikipedia Takes Kolkata 4 - Participants Group Photo

The team at Dwadosh Shib Mandir complex of the Chandras (Photo – Indrajit Das)

38 Comments

The Roaming Renegades

Literally every photo looks amazing and just makes me want to visit India even more! I would love to join one of these walks when we come, looks like a great idea, you see a lot and learn much too! 🙂

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Amy @ Will Run For Ice Cream

Wow, this is stunning – absolutely stunning. I’ve never traveled much, but this sure makes me want to go out and see this in real life instead of just online. I didn’t know that these ‘walks’ existed. It definitely looks like it was a beautiful day.

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Local Adventurer

you got some great photos of these heritage sights! i wonder who is in charge of keeping them protected & maintained. i haven’t visited many heritage sights myself but it’s a shame that some of them are getting converted and taken over. i’d love to visit one day.

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Indrajit Das

It always makes me happy, when you specially acknowledge my presence. Thanks Sumit and once again, I would like to tell you that I am ardent fan of your writings.

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Krystal

What an adventure. I can only hope to visit one day. I have had friends who have traveled to India and fell in love with the cities and the culture. It seems like a wonderful place to explore!

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melody

India is high up on my bucket list, mostly for the food and culture, but man, I am blown away by the beautiful architecture in these pictures. What a fun walk to be on. Are you a professional photographer as well? These are really amazing photos.

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Michelle Hwee

Wow looks like you guys had a wonderful traveling adventure! The architecture is absolutely breathtaking. I love how chiseled and detailed everything is. So beautiful to see that original buildings like this still exists. Thank you for sharing the beauty!

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Anirban Halder

Very good subject! Glanced through the text. Will finish next time. Wonderful pictures! Never knew of this tour. Would like to be part of one. Am a blogger too and I have a city blog- on Kolkata (Re: website URL given). Yours is one blog I keep coming back to.

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Morgan Sullivan

I have never heard of this event! So I’m so glad you wrote a post about it 🙂 The pictures are amazing. I’ll definitely have to look into this more when I get the chance.

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Miss Tipsy

These photos are amazing, especially the beautiful architecture. I wish I could visit India and join these walks.I love to visit historic places. It seems like you had a wonderful day.

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rochkirstin

Those temples’ architecture looks really fascinating. I admire the artists who built the design and the sculptors who helped in the construction of the establishments. Even the modern mosque looked great, very colorful!

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Donna Meyer

Beautiful! In wonderful words and pictures you took me there. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Now I just need to get a plane to take me there! Nice job!

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Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

While reading, your remarks made me think about the tireless work all kinds of preservationists do around the world. I share your disappointment that some of the sites have been allowed to fall into disrepair. This was a lovely tour. We’re looking forward to our first visit to India in 2015.

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Yona Williams

Gorgeous photos of the Navaratna Temple of the Mondals. I also like the colorful examples of architecture as well. I would love to take a tour of destinations that I am not familiar with one of these days. I was just talking to my sweetie about how we need our passports. I think a photowalk would be cool…I wonder if it would tire me out.

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Michelle Hwee

How cool is this! The buildings and architecture in general is astonishing, such beautiful work. I love the designs, those artists, sculptors and architects definitely deserve some praise. Thank you so much for sharing this, these buildings are so inspirational!

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Giveaways 4 Mom

This is my first time hearing about this. However, based on the photos it looks like it was a great experience. You were able to see a lot of cool thing. I wish I could experience something like this.

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Emily

Wow – there are so many beautiful buildings all on one tour! This sounds like it was a wonderful experience to be a part of, as often I think many people don’t know the history of the places found on their back door.

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Sam

My favorite places to vist are always the temples and the worship places. I think it is where you find man’s best work as offered to their god

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Dr. Nirmalya Kumar Majumder

POROM Sneher Rangan,Deepanjan – ebong- Indrajit—APOORVA!!! Chobi dekhe mone holo tomra sob amar cheler boisi ba aro choto. JA KAJ KOROCHO –ANTORIK BHABE TARIF NA KORE PACCHINA!!!—AMAR 70 BOCCHOR AGEKAR FELE ASA–KOLKATA 0 TAR MON BHOLANO SOB DROSTOBYO STHAN–JOL JOL KORE CHOKHER SAMNE BHESE UTHLO!!! EKI KOM PAOA? ER SONGE KOTO–TOK-JHAL-MISTI SMRIT?!—MONE PRANE TOMADER PROCHESTAKE ASHIRWAD KORLAM–BHALO THEKO–CHANDOODA

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