Distance from Kolkata: 96 km
Driving Time: 2 hrs
Road Trip: 1-2 days
The word ‘heritage’ has a deep connotation intercalating history, culture and everything in between. There’s a sense of grandiloquence; a rhetoric that aids in the transcendence of these stories of yesteryear into palpable tales passed on from one soul to the other. With the intangible rush of modern times, the past is often looked at in a rather benevolent hue; still nourishing generosity in its womb and advocating the much sought after heritage. To start the New Year amidst the richness of a glorious past, Team WHEELS drove down to Amadpur in Bardhaman, where the Chaudhuris’ heritage homestay lay resplendent with very many anecdotes of a thriving tradition
From Vidyasagar Setu enter Kona Expressway. Go on to the flyover at the end of Kona Expressway and connect to National Highway 2 (NH-2). Proceed forward towards Dankuni toll plaza to enter Durgapur Expressway. Proceed straight by the Durgapur Expressway and exit from Palsit through another toll tax point. Proceed 1.2 km forward by the NH-2 to find a connecting flyover on left. Take the connector and drive around to meet GT Road and proceed towards Memari in Bardhaman. Leave GT Road from the Y fork at Check Post Morh and take the left lane to reach Bamun Para Morh. Turn left again from Bamun Para and continue towards Amadpur High School. Follow the lane beside the school to reach Chaudhuri Bari in Amadpur.
The family lineage of the Chaudhuris can be traced back almost 900 years to the 11th and 12th Century to Shri Sribatsa Sen Sharma, grandfather of Duhi Sen Sharma – one of the court poets of Raja Laxman Sen of the Gour dynasty. During the Mughal era in the mid 1600, the title ‘Chaudhuri’ was conferred upon them along with the zemindari of Amadpur and some areas of Bardhaman and Hooghly. Later, during the British raj, the zemindari was recognized under the permanent settlement act of 1793, which further propelled their expansion up to Serampore in Hooghly.
Along with the zemindari, the Chaudhuris were also equally interested in literature and art. For his poem “Pawan Doota” – Duhi Sen Sharma was bestowed with the title of “Kaviskhsmapati”, “Chakravarti” and “Pandit Ratna” by the Raja. Shri Krishna Ram Sen Sharma, who brought the “Chaudhuri” title to the family, was a highly respected courtier. Shri Mohes Chunder Chaudhuri, another illustrious scion of the family was a scholar, social worker, legal luminary, philanthropist and a fierce debater. He founded and established the Amadpur high school in the mid-19th Century. The school was inaugurated by Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, who happened to be a close friend of Mohes Chunder Chaudhuri.
Based in the village of Amadpur, the Chaudhuri Bari offers an exquisite foray into the lives of yesterday. While entering the front yard of the house, you would be greeted by four Shiva temples bearing terracotta work, two on either side of an open space. This 386-year old heritage building presently offering a homestay, has an ethereal and regal vibe – the air around would undoubtedly take you back a few hundred years. And, it boasts of being the only heritage property in Bengal run by a kin of a zemindar family. Shiladitya Chaudhuri, a family descendant, has taken great care in restoring the property and making sure it still retains that authentic vibe. The building which houses the homestay was the Andarmahal of the property during the zemindari where the women of the household would stay. The other houses around the area, bearing the scars of their battle against time, are the Baithakkhana where the men engaged in business and official work back in the day. The backyard of the heritage homestay has a Dol Mancha overlooking a huge pond of 28 bighas. A quintessential place for adda, one can spend hours over here seated with their friends reminiscing happier times as the wind plays a gentle lullaby.
On the left of the main building lays the Durga Bari where most of the festivals are celebrated and opposite that lays the temple of Radha Madhav. On the right lays the enchanting temple of Anandomoyee with the huge wheels of the Chaudhuri family’s Rath parked at the opposite end.
Take a quick look around the place and you would be able to spot the emblem of Chaudhuri family – a pair of lions gazing towards the horizon with their hollow, unrestrained and hypnotizing eyes. A symbol of power and strength and an aura of invincibility; the emblem rightly describes the grandiosity and royalty of the Chaudhuri family.
Upon entrance, the carefully restored walls and flooring of Chaudhuri Bari is sure to make you ponder upon the unhindered reach of time while the furniture will remind you of the opulence of the zemindari era. Amidst the setting, you will be welcomed like a flower blooming for the first time and basking in the glory of the sun and wind; you will sway to the tunes of history and the immenseness of your surroundings, not as a visitor but as someone breathing royal air.
There are four rooms inside the house where guests are accommodated for the homestay. Denying the minimalistic approach that modern interior designing has evolved into, these rooms still hone the larger than life symbolism. The white walls are well accented with bright green doors while the chocolate hued mahogany period furniture seem to sing a song on their own. The four-beamed beds are about 3-3.5 ft high from the floor and there are small stairs underneath to help climb them. The roofing bears the quintessential Bengali style wooden rafters or ‘kori barga’ as they are popularly called in the vernacular dialect. The old European style lavatories are made of original imported porcelain. The adjustable Belgian mirrors with their chocolate hued mahogany borders blends in seamlessly with the surrounding and are coupled with marble top tables – you would be forgiven for thinking yourself transported in the set of a period drama.
Even though the Chaudhuris are now settled in Kolkata, the entire family gets together during the year-long festivities. The Durga Bari is the seat of some of the major festivals including Durgotsav, – which is observed for 19 days here – Laxmi Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja and Kartik Puja. Other major festivals include Rathyatra, which is a signature festival for the Chaudhuris, Rash Utsav and Dolyatra. Each festival at Amadpur has its unique flavour and the Chaudhuris are at the centre of all preparations.
Amadpur is also famous for the indigenous tribes settled here. According to Shiladitya Chaudhuri, the ancestors of the Chaudhuri family took great care in the settlement of the tribal families around Amadpur. These tribes – Hari, Bagdi, Santhal and Koley – each have their unique prowess. Hari and Bagdi are famous lethels – wooden stick wielding warriors – while Santhal and Koley are famous for their archery using poisoned arrows. The settlement of these tribes in all four corners of Chaudhuri Para helped in the security and protection of the zemindari.
The Bengali new year ushers in the year-long Hindu festivities at Amadpur. Rathyatra, the first festival of the year garners a huge number of devotees – usually 5 to 6 thousand people – who join in the congregation. The Rath (chariot) carrying the idols of Radha and Madhav are pulled by the devotees and parked at a place called Rathtala where a 7-day fair is organised. Rathyatra also marks the beginning of preparation for Durga Puja as the wood and straw structure of the idols are anointed with clay collected from the large wheels of the chariot in a ceremony known as ‘Gaaye Maati’.
The Durga Bari with its grand Dalan is the seat of majority of the festival activities. Bearing a mixed tone of off-white and crème, the Durga Bari has recently been renovated and has accommodation facilities as well. The Durgotsav is the signature festival of the Chaudhuris and is observed for 19 days. Nahabat (shehnai) is still played on all 5 days of Durga Puja where almost three thousand people visit from Amadpur and nearby villages. During the immersion, the procession is led by dhak and shehnai players as the entire pathway is lit up by mashaals (flame torch). The major attraction of the immersion procession is the Santhal dance. The Santhals carry the Durga idol mounted on large bamboo sticks on their shoulder and dance to the beat of the dhak.
The Durga Bari also witnesses the worship of Kali during Kali Puja, which is held amidst much fanfare and like in Durga Puja, a tribal dance during the immersion procession highlights the festival which is witnessed by almost ten thousand visitors. Three Kali Pujas of the Chaudhuri para – Boro Kali, Mejho Kali and Sejho Kali are carried on shoulders by the local Santhals as they dance in a back and forth movement along with the tunes of the dhak. It is intrinsic, lively and a sight to behold for every soul watching. Just before the Santhal dance, a single person carries the idol of a Bhairavi on his shoulder and dances in anticipation of the incoming Kali idols.
Anandomoyee is loved as the family daughter by the Chaudhuris. Legend has it that the wife of Mohes Chunder Chaudhuri saw Anandomoyee in her dream who had asked her to recover pranjantra from the Sunderban area and to establish a temple in her name. The pranjantra she had asked to recover shows a lotus blooming from the naval of Shiva and Kali sitting atop it in padmasan mudra. The picture representation of this form can be found hanging on a wall in the ground floor of the heritage homestay. In the same month as Durga Puja, Janmatithi of Maa Anandomoyee is celebrated where more than 300 people are fed bhog by the Chaudhuri family.
Radha Madhav Mandir
The Radha Madhav Mandir with a huge marble floor Natmandir exudes a deep compassionate tone. The marble verandah in front of the mandir – the seat of Kirtans – is pristine and has a saintly touch to it. The boundary walls of the Radha Madhav Mandir have intricate terracotta work depicting the tales of Puranas.
During Raas utsav, which comes after Kali Puja, the idols of Radha Madhav are dressed in three avatars on the three days of the festival – the Raj besh, Rakhal besh and Natobor besh. Besides, hari kirtana is performed and there are traditional kobigaan, kobi lorai and jatra performances too. The Durga Bari is ornamented with clay dolls depicting the tales of Ramayana and Mahabharatha.
The festival calendar – according to the Bengali year – comes to an end with Doljatra as the Radha Madhav idols are brought out from the temple accompanied by kirtana and bhajans and placed on a swing on the Dol Mancha near the front yard of the Chaudhuri bari.
These lively traditions and larger than life celebrations are what makes the Chaudhuri Bari of Amadpur an ideal heritage homestay location. The food served at the home stay is a hearty and simple traditional Bengali spread.
Profoundly bedizened with a touch of history at every corner, Amadpur preserves the Bengali culture and tradition like none other. At Amadpur, one can spend their day tracing the lines of history at the heritage home stay and by being a part of the evening Arati at the Anandomoyee and Radha Madhav temple. One can even interact with the local friendly people of the nearby villages and listen to the many stories they have to share. At a 10-minute drive from Chaudhuri Bari, one can visit a temple bearing detailed terracotta work, a market of locally produced fresh vegetables and the Nihshankha Ashram – which is home to a 1000-year old banyan tree.
Amadpur, with its palpable history– preserved by the Chaudhuris and indeed by the residents of the nearby villages, is an amazing journey into the heart of Bengali culture and its many sensibilities. The lavish lifestyle and the air of grandeur is indeed something to be felt but it is the garland of stories that decorates this place and is something that everyone fascinated by heritage and culture should experience at least once.
Heritage Homestay at Chaudhuri Bari
No. of rooms: 4
Double bed room – Rs 3000
Four bedded room – Rs 5000