The Jorashanko Thakurbari was built in the 18th century by Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, the founder of the Jorashanko branch of the Tagore family.
Dwarkanath Tagore was one of the first Indian industrialists and entrepreneurs, and played a key role during the Bengal Renaissance. He was a descendant of Rarhy, Kushari Brahmins of Shandilya gotra from Khula, now in Bangladesh. But, his ancestors were called Pirali Brahmins, as they were connected to a Brahmin family which had inadvertently converted to Islam. It is considered that Panchanan Kushari was the first person to migrate from Jessore with his brother Sukdeb and settled near the River Hoogly, in the former Gobindapur area. Panchanan’s son Joyram, grew up to become an ‘Amin’ of the British and purchased a plot of land near the erstwhile fort area. But, after a few years, as the British wanted to get hold of the area for the expansion of their fort, they offered handsome money to Joyram. Joyram happily accepted the proposal and shifted to Pathuriaghat to start the story of the Tagore family.
Joyram had two sons, Darpanarayan and Nilmoni. Due to a family dispute with his brother over property, Nilmoni left home in 1765 and built an ordinary house in Mechhuabazar. Thus, the Tagore family was bifurcated into the original Pathuriaghata branch under Darpanarayan and the comparatively new Jorasanko branch under Nilmoni Tagore. Dwarkanath was the son of Rammani Tagore, and the grandson of Nilmoni Tagore.
It is believed that, the plot of land on which Dwarkanath built the graceful building, was donated by the famous Sheth family of Burrabazar. The name ‘Jorashanko’ was probably abbreviated from ‘Jora Shankar, the twin Shankar or Shiva temples located nearby. The Great Poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, son of Debendranath, was one of the grandsons of Dwarkanath. Rabindranath was born and breathed his last here.
The huge mansion was not constructed all at a time, it was extended as required from time, without any definite plan. As a result, it was built with various levels and made to bend according to the necessity, with additional staircases here and there, coming to look a bit like a big enigma. It was a great wonder to Rabindranath when he was a child. The Thakur Dalan is a part of the inner quadrangle of the house. All kinds of ceremonies, celebrations and gatherings of the Tagore family used to take place there. Even today the Rabindranath’s birth anniversary is celebrated here.
Today the Jorasanko Thakur Bari houses the Rabindra Bharati University, inaugurated by the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on Tagore’s birth centenary, 8 May 1962. The complex also includes the Maharishi Bhavan, named after the poet’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, which has now become a museum with three galleries, exclusively allocated to Rabindranath, members of his family and the Bengal Renaissance.
The galleries provide glimpses of the family photographs, full size portraits and Tagore’s evolution as a poet and philosopher. The museum has also included the works of other famous members of this illustrious family, like Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath, Abanindranath and Dinendranath Tagore. It has preserved the clippings about Tagore and a number of his pictures and paintings, along with the works of the other members of the entire family. The gifts received by Rabindrananth from different sources and on different occasions are also exhibited in the Museum. The museum also has a section of old music records and possessions and information about the other great personalities of the 19th and 20th Century, who excelled in the field of Literature.