The Sanskrit word for emerald is ‘marakat’ and the English word ‘Bower’ stands for a pleasant retreat under the shade of a greenwood tree or climbing plants in a garden or wood and generally used to mean a summer house or a country cottage. In fact, Marakat Kunja or the Emerald Bower, located on 56 A Barakpur Trunk Road (popularly known as BTRoad), was once a garden house of Pathurighata Tagore family.
The graceful Emerald Bower was constructed by Sir Jatindramohan Tagore (the man behind the construction of ‘Tagore Castle’ at Pathuriaghata) and Sourindra Mohan Tagore, the sons of Hara Coomar Tagore (Hara Kumar Tagore), the fifth son of Gopimohon Tagore of Pathuriyaghata Tagore family. Hara Coomar, a leading zaminder (land owner) in those days, was a man of letters, a writer, musician and a famous philanthropist. He authored many books, including a manual on procedural matters relating to various Tantric rites, particularly worship of goddess Kali. After his death, Jatindra Mohan shifted in this palace, probably in 1884 and beautified it in various ways. During his days, the huge hall in the ground floor was used for musical performances and was known as the ‘Jalsaghar’.
In 1875 and 1876, the first and the second College Re-union of the erstwhile Hindu College were held in the Emerald Bower. Young Rabindranath Tagore met Bankimchandra Chatterjee in the second re-union ceremony and wrote about the experience in his book ‘Jivansmriti’. However, due to some unknown reasons, Sir Jatindramohan and his brother barred to hold any further re-union meetings in their mansion and consequently, the re-union ceremony were not organised in that building for the next four years. Surprisingly, in 1881 it was again organised in the Markat Kunja and turmoil started during the proceedings of the meeting, as the meeting was held without the permission of the owners of the house.
After the death of Sir Jatindramohan Tagore, his adopted son and the biological son of Sourindra Mohan, Maharaja Bahadur Sir Prodyot Kumar Tagore, became the owner of the Emerald Bower. Like his natural and adoptive fathers, Prodyot was a philanthropist, art collector and a man of learning, taste and enlightenment. In the 1936 Birthday Honours, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (KCIE.).
The Emerald Bower was very much to the liking of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Though he purchased the Nizam Palace in Calcutta, he never stayed there. Instead, he used to stay in the Bower, his favourite staying place, during his annual visit to Calcutta at the time of Christmas and New Year.
The Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, established in November 1961, initially operated from the Emerald Bower and continued till the institute moved to its new campus in 1975. During that time, the beloved ‘Jalsaghar’ of Sir Jatindramohan Tagore housed the library of the Institution.
Today, the Emerald Bower is a Campus of Rabindrabharati University. The Faculty of Arts, founded in 1976, is operating from the gracious mansion, its new campus. Later it was acquired by the Government of West Bengal and became a complex of academic institutions, among which this University has the central and larger share. Among others, the campus also housed the main administrative office of the Rabindrabharati University.