Experience The Royal Life Of Yore At A Bengal Rajbari

Book a stay in one of these historic boltholes, surrounded by antique trappings, excellent food, and the company of hosts who have plenty of interesting stories about their rich past
Jhargram Palace
Jhargram PalaceShutterstock

Consider staying at a Bengal zamindari (landowner) palace or a rajbari the next time you are in Kolkata. While some have been repaired and transformed into historic lodgings, others are still occupied by the original families. Here are five stunning rajbaris in Bengal with bags of personality, history, and incredible architecture. 

Jhargram Palace

The Jhargram Palace reflects the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture
The Jhargram Palace reflects the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture

A stay at the Jhargram Palace will bring to life the legends of Bengal's great Malla Dev rulers. The palace reflects the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture and is set in carefully laid lawns and gardens that were built during the reign of Raja Narasingha Malla Dev Bahadur. Work on the palace began in 1922 and was completed in 1931. The Malla Dev Royal family currently resides here. The family has transformed about ten rooms on the ground floor into a heritage hotel. You can stay at the Royal Guest House in addition to the rooms and suites with vintage decor. The palace has hosted dignitaries such as Raj-era governors (Sir John Arthur Herbert and Lord Richard Casey), several chief ministers (including Dr Bidhan Chandra Ray), Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa, and even famed actors (Uttam Kumar). Jhargram Palace also provides retreats and residencies for authors, artists, and people needing a gift of time. These can be booked for a duration of two weeks to two months. The palace features a cricket pitch with a decent turf surface, making it suitable for cricket fans. The ten rooms can accommodate a team for a few days of cricket fun and reunion.

Getting There: The nearest airport is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata, about 188 km from Jhargram. If you are taking a train, you can board one from Howrah or Tatanagar to reach Jhargram station. It takes about two-and-a-half hours. The distance between Kolkata to Jhargram is 178 km by road and takes four hours. From Kolkata, take the NH6 (Mumbai-Kolkata Highway). 

Cossimbazar Rajbari 

Cossimbazar Rajbari (or the Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys, as it is known) is located near the historical town of Murshidabad. It was formerly a bustling port on the Ganges when Murshidabad was the capital of the Nawabs of Bengal. The Roy family has transformed the palace into the Roopkatha Hotels & Resorts heritage hotel. Some of the rooms have been transformed into a walk-through museum. Chandeliers, antique Victorian furniture, paintings, mirrors, and other antiques adorn the Central Ball Room. The vintage furnishings include four-poster beds, antique dressing tables, and even a "tana pakha" (a fan manually operated by a "punkah-puller" sitting outside the chamber with a rope). The dining room features antique cabinets and drawers, more paintings and chandeliers, and a 20-foot table. You can go on walks in the expansive garden or play a round of tennis on the tennis court. Visit the old Lakshmi Mandir, the Roys' first ancestral home, where Ajodhya Ram Roy settled when he came to Cossimbazar. The Laxmi Mandir, Chandimandap, and annexe structures were constructed in the early 1700s.

The Cossimbazar Rajbari is located near the historical town of Murshidabad
The Cossimbazar Rajbari is located near the historical town of MurshidabadInstagram

Address: 12, Cossimbazar Road Rajbari, Para, Kasim Bazar, West Bengal 

Getting There: The nearest airport is Kolkata, located about 195 km from Murshidabad. The airport is well connected by flights to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru. From the airport, taxi services are available for Murshidabad. The Murshidabad railway station is connected by trains to Howrah, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, and several other Indian cities. Taxi services are available from the station. Murshidabad is also well connected by road. 

Mahishadal Rajbari

The Mahishadal Rajbari is located less than three hours from Kolkata
The Mahishadal Rajbari is located less than three hours from KolkataWikimedia Commons

The Mahishadal Rajbari, located less than three hours from Kolkata, is one of a few former Bengali palaces that have opened its doors to visitors. Mahishadal Rajbari's history extends back to the 16th century when the current location, "Geokhali," was known as "Jibonkhali." Janardhan Upadhya, a high-ranking Akbar army officer, built it.

The Phool Bagh Palace, built in 1926, was designed by a French architect. You can book the two-room homestay facility here. The family has kept the upper floor for personal use. The palace boasts tall Ionic columns on both sides that support the roof, and the white faccedilade is adorned with ornate ornamentation in gold colours, featuring shields and floral motifs. A gun mounted on a carriage may be found on the lawn. The Madan Gopal Jew Temple is the main temple at Mahishadal, established in 1774. The palace is known for its annual Rath Jatra celebrations, which started in 1776 and its ancient Durga Puja festivities.

Getting There: Mahishadal is around 100 km by road from Kolkata via Kolaghat and Nandakumar More. You may travel by train from Howrah but driving down is a more comfortable option.

Itachuna Rajbari

About an hour's drive from Kolkata, the Itachuna Rajbari in Hooghly is a perfect heritage homestay for those looking to unwind in a royal setting. Also known as "Bargee Danga", the Rajbari has an interesting history. It was built in 1766 by the ancestors of Safallya Narayan Kundu. The Kundu family traces its descent from Maratha warriors, the Kundans, who were deployed in this region to collect taxes -- the dreaded borgi of Bengali nursery rhymes. In this case, the attackers adopted the locality and locals for their own. Today, the family manages the heritage property as a heritage homestay, aiming to boost village tourism. The traditional panchmohola (five-halled) mansion of the Itachuna warrior-protector family comprises a courthouse, dancing hall, kitchen wing, guest wing, and finally, the innermost residential halls, the ondor-mohol, where the ladies spent their whole life. In recent years, a wing of the Rajbari has been turned into a heritage boutique hotel and is a charming place to stay, with guided tours of the mansion and environs on request. Rooms are evocatively named for family relations and seniority. Thus Chhoto Pishi, Ginni Maa, Boro Maa, Chhorda, with one in the outer courts called Bilash Manjari, and a set of rustic huts have just been constructed for a rural idyll. The rooms at the Rajbari are attached to an open garden terrace adorned with antique furnishings and a beautiful fountain.  

Itachuna Rajbari is located in Hooghly, about an hour's drive from Kolkata
Itachuna Rajbari is located in Hooghly, about an hour's drive from KolkataInstagram

Getting There: The nearest airport is in Kolkata. It is a two-hour drive from the city. If you are coming by train, get down at Khanyan station, next to Talandu station (Bandel, Adisaptagram, Mogra, Talandu, Khanyan). The travelling time by train is around one-and-a-half hours. 

Rajbari Bawali 

Despite its proximity to Kolkata, Bawali has retained its rural charm. About 35 km south of Kolkata and less than two hours' drive away, the former landlords of Bawali, the Mandal family, have converted a part of their property into a farmhouse. Spread over nine bighas of land, the farmhouse is surrounded by lush green fields and ponds. Inside are landscaped gardens, a flower nursery, a school for underprivileged children, etc. For a spot of sightseeing, you can take a look at the ruins of the 1794 "navaratna" Gopinath Jiu temple, the Radhaballav Temple and the Bawali Rajbari. The Farmhouse allows fishing in one of its ponds, based on a "catch and release" policy. The ample greenery and water bodies also offer good bird-watching opportunities. The Bawali Farmhouse offers four cottages and a treehouse with three rooms. There's no attached restaurant, so all meals have to be ordered in advance. They offer typical Bengali cuisine, from regular to forgotten recipes. Another option is to stay at the Rajbari and taste the Bengali rural palace life.

Rajbari Bawali offers typical Bengali cuisine, from regular to forgotten recipes
Rajbari Bawali offers typical Bengali cuisine, from regular to forgotten recipesInstagram

Getting There: The nearest airport is Kolkata. A car ride from there takes around an hour. The closest railway stations are Sealdah and Budge Budge which are 35 km and 11 km away.

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