George Eden, better known as Lord Auckland, served as the Governor General of India from 1836 to 1842 and during his term, his sisters, Emily and Fanny Eden, visited their brother in Calcutta and stayed with him in the Governor House. At the initiative of their brother, the work of Eden Garden started during their stay in the city. As the sisters had an inborn liking and love for gardens, they willingly took the responsibility of directing and supervising the general layout of the garden. Initially known as the Auckland Circus Garden, it was later renamed as Eden Garden, in the memory of Eden Sisters.
The Eden Garden in Calcutta is equipped with many attractions, like the Bandstand, the water fountains, Orchid house, Butterfly garden and others. However, the most prominent and unique attraction of the garden is a picturesque Burmese Pagoda, standing in the northern part of the garden and located on an island, almost surrounded by a water body. The Pagoda was originally built in Prome, Myanmar or erstwhile Burma in 1852 by Ma Kin, the widow of Maung Honon, the ex Governor of Prome. It was a prayer hall or pavilion, which housed an image of Buddha, with precious stones encrusted on his forehead.
In 1853, when Lord Dalhousie visited Prome, he decided to shift the beautiful Pagoda to Calcutta for the beautification of the city. Accordingly, it was dismantled by his order and shipped by the East India Company ship, Shway Gong, which reached Calcutta on 29 September 1854. Initially, it was kept in Fort William and later moved to the Eden Garden. It took more than three months by a dozen of Burmese artisans to re erect the pagoda in the garden at a cost of 6,000 Rupees.
Formerly called Tazaung, it is a three tiered Buddhist Shrine. The tiers shorten as it rises up and has a spire on top. Its pillars and eaves are encrusted with intricate and flamboyant wood carvings. Apart from that, the other decorative elements include mythical birds, figures and in the form of haunches of a wild ox known as 'Saing-Baung'.
During 1970, the pagoda was carefully repaired with the help of an expert Nepali artisan from Darjeeling. However, during the later part of the last century, it again needed urgent attention, as it used to look like a picture of decay. Wild plants grew in between the wooden beams and the beautiful woodwork was covered with moss and bird droppings. The giant plaster figures, originally white, became stained with moss and developed cracks. However, finally good sense prevailed, as the pagoda was repaired in 2000. Since the structure of the pagoda was made of Burma teak, logs of identical quality were procured from the government stores. The beams were replaced with steel joists. Layers of wood had to be carefully peeled off to discover the original red-and-gold colour scheme of the structure.
The Eden Gardens, located by the side of River Hoogly, is an ideal place to spend the sultry evenings of Calcutta during the hot summer days.