Itachuna Rajbari: A heritage hotel
I was mesmerised by the manicured lawns, well architected Mahals, magnificent rooms, long balconies, an ancient temple, kitchen garden, tea room, living-room, courtyard, pond and some ducks too. Away from the concrete jungle, tall buildings, smoke, dust, pollution, neon lights and hustle bustle of the city life, I woke up to the magical melodies of a flute played by this gentleman over here.
Flute music at Itachuna Rajbari
Well, I got a taste of royalty at Itachuna Rajbari which is a century old heritage resort in Hooghly district, about two hours’ drive from Kolkata. This heritage mansion as the name rightly suggests, is built of Ita/bricks & chuna/limestone, located in the village of Itachuna. The easiest way to reach here is to board any Burdwan bound train on the main line from Howrah station and then get down at Khanyan station. Thereafter, a ten minute toto ride will take you to your destination. You can also drive down from Kolkata in the comfort of your vehicle.
In fact, I had gone to attend a wedding in Kolkata when I heard about heritage homestays around the city. As we know, Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal (a state in eastern India) used to be Calcutta, the first capital of British India. The City of Joy was once upon a time the City of Palaces, say about hundred years ago, dotted with Rajbaris or magnificent mansions. These Rajbaris have become heritage stays in this day and age transporting us to experience the grandeur of Bengal of a bygone era. The history of Itachuna Rajbari (also known as Bargee Danga) dates back to the eighteenth century when Bargis or Maratha warriors attacked Bengal and Odisha to collect taxes. The ancestors of Safallya Narayan Kundu who originated from the Maratha region built this beautiful mansion in 1766.
Bahir Mahal / Outside Mahal
The moment I entered this Rajbari which is a melting pot of rich culture, deep rooted history, fine dining, regal life & tradition, I could see this Mahal called Bahir/Outside Mahal. The reception is located here. On arrival, we had to fill in our details and produce our identity proof.
This gate leads to Thakur Dalan / Debottar Mahal / Nat Mahal from Bahir Mahal.
Thakur Dalan / Debottar Mahal
Aarti is performed at this temple twice daily, every morning and evening. This is a century old practice wherein lights with wicks are soaked in ghee and offered to the deity at the temple. This is a Hindu ritual, a part of puja/worship.
Evening aarti at Itachuna Rajbari
This place has beautiful cast iron lamps, but it wasn’t the lamps or the Rajbari that enthralled us, rather the magic of moonlight with stars twinkling in the sky infused with the sound of Aarti at the temple that left us spellbound. Guess I never knew the true value of that lovely moment that night until recently when it has turned into a precious memory.
Andar Mahal / Inside Mahal
The ladies of this royal family lived here once upon a time. Today guests can stay only in this Mahal, not in Bahir Mahal or Debottar Mahal. On arriving here, we were welcomed with some refreshing lime juice and before I forget to mention, check in time is 12 pm and check out is at 10 am the next morning. There are about sixty odd rooms in the Rajbari. Most of them are under lock & key. Only a few of them have been let out to guests.
All the rooms are comfortable and beautiful too. In fact, we had booked the best room at the Rajbari which was stunning and beautifully decorated with antique furniture and family photographs, attached to a long and gorgeous balcony.
Nameplate outside our room
The rooms here are not numbered, instead they are named after relations like Boro boudi/elder sister-in-law, choto boudi/younger sister-in-law, thakuma/grandmother, boro pishi/aunt, boroma/aunt, choto pishi/aunt, bordi/elder sister and so on & so forth.
Well, if there is something called a palatial washroom, then this is it; almost as big as the rooms if not bigger with all the basic amenities plus cupboards, book shelves, paintings and much more.
Shades of green, shades of hope
Ideal for hosting your next tea party is this lovely patch of green which seemed to greet us with open arms on entering this huge mansion.
There is a lovely vegetable garden at the back of this Rajbari where fresh veggies like chilli, brinjal etc. are grown. Now I understand why home cooked meals served here taste way better than food elsewhere since they not only grow their own vegetable, but it is also served with dollops of love and warmth.
There is a small cricket ground to get your muscles working and if you need some tonic for your brain, then there is a big chessboard too. Next to it is the tea room where you can come down in the evening for your cup of tea while relishing your choice of snacks.
There is a pond at the back of this mansion where ladies of this royal family came down to bathe in the yesteryears.
View from the terrace
In fact the view was much better when we climbed up the stairs to reach the terrace. We could see a part of this gorgeous Rajbari, some ponds, miles of greenery, birds chirping; cool breeze was blowing on our face, enveloped by a tranquil surrounding.
On the terrace
This Rajbari is covered by tall trees on all sides
For reservations which obviously has to be done in advance, you can click on their website http://www.itachunarajbari.com
This Rajbari has been the shooting location for many hindi and bengali films like Lootera, Rajmohol etc.
There are some mud huts at the back of this magnificent Rajbari with beautiful names like Aparajita, Madhabilata, Kanaklata and Jhumkolata. Some old fashioned things like the rustic ambience, ducks quacking, blue sky & greenery all around are in fact some of the most precious blessings of life…..well, cannot be described in mere words, rather has to be felt with the heart.
There is a living-room too with a small library in one corner, a carrom board and some photographs of Calcutta of the bygone era. Surely makes one nostalgic.
Kolkata's bygone era
Decorative items on the walls
The walls of this place are adorned with all kinds of beautiful handicrafts and artefacts including handmade lampshade, paintings, decorative items and much more.
Comfort food of Bengal
Food is symbolic of love and the cook here literally brought soul to each of the items served on the thali. It was delicious, scrumptious and flavorful. The meals are served in copper thalis, both vegetarian and non vegetarian with so many traditional dishes to choose from and as royal as the living out here.
The Dance Hall At Rajbari
This used to be the Dance Hall of this Rajbari in those days. Every item here is an antique piece, be it the Chandelier, palanquin, the hookah stand or for that matter any furniture over here.
Precious Memories & a tearful goodbye
The next morning as I climbed up the stairs to my room after a hearty breakfast, I realised that time could not erase the glory, beauty, history or the elegance of this magnificently beautiful Rajbari. I was pampered with good food, great ambience, a lovely stay steeped in luxury, rich history and some precious moments. I almost felt like a princess, though it was short lived.
The walls and the huge windows here have tales to tell us of the glorious past including that of hidden wealth while the locals have some eerie stories of ghosts and the likes to share. I was quite disheartened to leave Itachuna Rajbari, but promised to return someday sometime if I ever wanted to be pampered like a princess all over again.
So, till we meet again, stay safe, healthy and indoors. Take care