Rani Rashmoni Bhawan - Prominent Palaces
12-04-2019    81 times
Rani Rashmoni Bhawan Palaces

Born on 28 September 1793, Rashmoni, an extraordinarily beautiful girl, was married to Babu Raj Chandra Das of Janbazar, at an early age of 11. With time, she came to be known as Rani Rashmoni, and became famous for both her fabulous wealth, her immense contribution to charitable causes and her famous confrontations with the British authorities in the imperial capital. She was, in fact, the symbol of woman leadership during the 19th century. After the death of her husband, a wealthy Zamindar and social reformer, Rani Rasmani took control of her husband’s business and expanded it with the help of her son-in-law, Mathur Mohan Biswas, whom she regarded as her son.

Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan
Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan
Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan

Rani Rashmoni was a kindhearted philanthropist and an outspoken champion of the poor. When the ruling British imposed a new tax for fishing in the River Hoogly and thus threatening the livelihood of the poor fishermen, the helpless fishermen rushed to their Rani Ma. The brave and intelligent lady immediately decided to help her poor people and surprisingly took on lease a portion of the river from Ghusuri to Metiabruz, against payment of a huge sum of money. After that, she laid strong iron chains across the river and thus blocked the shipping trade of the British. She denied complying with their request to remove the chain, till the British agree to withdraw the unjustifiable tax. At the end, she won the battle, as her unexpected move compelled the powerful British to abolish the newly imposed tax.

Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan

She was a very religious and generous lady. She founded the Dakshineswar Kali Temple, appointed Ram Kumar Chattopadhyay as the priest of the temple. After his death, his younger brother, Gadadhar Chattopadhyay, soon to be known Ramakrishna Paramahansa, became the chief priest of the temple, with whom she remained closely associated. She was engaged in numerous philanthropic activities, which includes construction of a road from the Subarnarekha River to Puri for the benefit of the pilgrims. She also constructed the Babu Ghat along the River Hoogly and offered considerable charity to the Imperial Library (renamed the National Library of India) and Hindu College (renamed Presidency College).

What is now known as Rani Rashmoni's house at the junction of Rani Rashmoni Road and S.N.Banerjee Road was initially 70 & 71 Free School Street. Rani Rashmoni's father-in-law, Pritiram Das, started to construct the building in 1805 and it took some 7 to 8 years to complete the construction of the massive building. The huge building with no less than seven quarters has more than 300 rooms. There is a Natmandir in front of the verandah, which was the venue of the traditional Durga Puja celebration each autumn. Along with the rituals, the Durga Puja was celebrated with traditional pomp, including all-night Jaatra paala (folk theatre). Unlike most of the rich and famous people of those years, she never had the intention to entertain the Europeans on the occasion of Durga Puja.

Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan
Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan
A neglected statue

Rani Rashmoni passed away in 1861. Today, the descendants of her daughters are celebrating Durga Puja in their respective part of the premises. The house is now divided into three parts. The descendants of Padmamani live in 20 Surendranath Banerjee Road, Kumari's descendants live in 18/3 Surendranath Banerjee Road and Jagadamba's descendants live in 13 Rani Rashmoni Road. The family is now finding it difficult to maintain the more than two centuries old huge building and although the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has declared it a heritage building, nothing has been done so far to conserve it.

Partial view of Rani Rashmoni Bhawan
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    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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