Thursday, 21 April 2016

CLIVE HOUSE (BAROKOTHI)


Clive House, otherwise known as Barokothi is located at 91, Rastraguru Avenue, Dumdum (under South Dumdum Municipality) and may be considered as one of the oldest buildings of Kolkata, erected before the seizure of Kolkata by Siraj-ud-daullah, it has also known as “Dumdum House”. Standing on an artificial (?) mound surrounded by a moat.



The history and origin of the building is obscure yet it is presumed to be a Portuguese or Dutch factory or go down of cotton or salt peter. It is also presumed that the building of the late Mughal period was sometimes owned by Nawab Alivardi Khan and his grandson Siraj-ud-daullah and later on passed to the hands of Lord Clive who used its country seat (1757-60). Some historians are even of the opinion that a historical treaty between the Europeans and the Nawab of Bengal was signed in that very building. (Reported to have been a gift of MirJaffer to Robert Clive).During the later part of 18th century, it became a hub for the Europeans.


According to the British civil servant Lewis O’Malley, writing in 1911, “the name Dumdum is a corruption of Dumduma, meaning a raised mound or battery. It appears to have first applied to an old house standing on a raised mound.” He quotes R.C. Sterndale, writing in 1891, that “Dumdum House is a building of some historic interest. It is probably one of the oldest existing buildings in Bengal as it was in existence, though not its present forms, before 1756. But the first mention of the house occurs in Robert Orme’s “History of the war in Bengal” (first published in 1798). “Orme” states that when Clive marched through the Nawab,s camp at Sealdah on the morning of 8th February 1757, in a dense fog, he crossed the Dumdum road. “The road leads to Dumdum, an old building stationed on mound”.



O’Malley continues “The buildings appears to have been originally a one storied brick house, so constructed as to secure a flank fire along each face with underground chambers or cellars. The walls were of great thickness for four to eight feet. No authentic account of the origin of this building can be found but it was probably a Dutch or Portuguese (artillery?) factory… Sometimes after the battle of Plassey, Lord Clive made the building his country house alternating the lower storey so as to destroy its character as a defense position and building a fine upper storey: the grounds were also laid out with great expense and taste in the prevailing formal Dutch style…. From its elevated position and the massiveness of its structure, the old house would still be capable of a stout defense against anything but artillery.”





The common people in that area tell another story. Probably Clive cleaned his guns and tested them. The Dham-dham sound generated from testing of guns got established as “Dum Dum” and was accepted as name of the area. This building become the centre of some rather unlikely attention in 1997 when the suggestion was made that it should be restored as part of the 50th anniversary of Indian independence from Britain. This sparked an understandably contrary view from many Indians who thought India had more pressing priorities than to restore the house of a man who did more than anyone else to establish colonial rule in the first place.



Nonetheless the house enjoyed a few years of celebrity, a highlight of which was a programme shown on BBC television in 2002. Their investigation concluded that the house, far from being a Dutch or Portuguese factory, had been the hunting lodge of an Indian prince dating back to the 16th & 17th.Centuries. Having placed this evidence before the Bengali authorities there was some optimism that restoration work would begin.



And some work did begin. Soumitra Das, “The Telegraph” journalist, wrote in 2006 that “The deep rooted trees were removed and the huge mass of debris on the southern side was cleared. After removing the debris blocking the northern side, a semi-circular stairway leading to the arched opening was discovered. The pillared verandah in a precarious state was consolidated. Some stairways were restored but the main staircase on the north western side remains untouched.” Fifteen years later there has been little further progress, except that the Bangladeshi families which lived inside the house have moved out following the collapse of a roof.


Job Charnock is credited with having founded Calcutta, now Kolkata, in 1690. But excavations conducted recently by Archaeological survey of India (ASI) in Dumdum, near the location of Kolkata Airport, indicate that an advance urban civilization flourished in the region long before the chief of the East India Company got there. According to informed ASI sources, seals, semi-precious stones and terracotta and stone figurines unearthed from the site belong to the Sunga-Kusana period. “ It is fascinating that where Kolkata now stands such an ancient civilization existed”. Bimal Bandhopadhyay, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Kolkata told Frontline.

The excavations took place in three phases-between June and July 2001, from December 2001 to May 2002, and finally from November 2002. Acting on a proposal in 2001 for the protection and preservation of the house in which Robert Clive lived, the ASI surveyed the surrounding areas. “The Clive House is situated on a mound. It is perhaps a Dutch or Portuguese habitation before occupied it and had it renovated into a doubled storied structure, “Bandhopadhyay said.


During the survey, the ASI team found ruins of ancient pottery and brick. Shortly after the surface finds were made, excavations recommenced in June 2001. “The initial excavations, which were done on a 10x10 meters single trench in a horizontal method yielded fascination results. We discovered terracotta figurines, semiprecious stones, coins belonging to the eighth century A.D. and even earlier,” Bandhopadhyay said. Subsequently, a floor made of lime and brick jelly, covering the length of almost an entire trench, a hearth, and around it a a lot of tortoise shells and fish scales were found.




 “ This has lead us to believe that the people of the region were probably non-vegetarians in their diet.” Also judging from the materials found, including art objects, punch-marked coins, and seals, he said, it was obviously a very advanced, prosperous civilization, and people were skilled craftsmen. “ This may very well have been a busy trading centre.” One of the most interesting finds was a seal on which, in Nagari script, was written “Samapasasya”. This language was prevalent in eastern India in the 8th century A.D. The inscription, as deciphered by the scholar and historian B.N.Mukherjee, means “belonging to Samapasa”.


Encouraged by these discoveries, the ASI embarked on an excavation project on a larger scale from 2001. “We found Sunga terracotta’s, pot shards, beads, crystals, punch-marked and cast copper coins, and semi-precious stones like agate, jasper and lapis Lazuli. The pot shards, including greyware, blackware, redware, all in fine fabric, stylistically date basck to around the second century B.C. “These items once again indicate that this region was probably a prosperous business centre,” Bandhopadhyay said.

The findings are all set to revolutionize the history of South Bengal. They reveal remnants of a civilization over 2000 years old. History will have to be rewritten because nobody knew this area had a flourishing civilization so long back.


Sources: 1. “Calcutta Old and New” by H.E.A Cotton.
                 2. “Clive in India”  by Mark Bence-Jones.
                 3. “Two faces of Clive House in Dumdum” by Soumitra Das , The Telegraph, 24th January,2006.
                 4. “A history of Military Transactions of the British Nation in Indostan “by Robert Orme.
                 5. “Bengal District Gazetters-24 Parganas” Lewis Sydney Steward O’Malley.
                 6. “Bishop Heber in India” by M.A. Laird.
                 7.  “Vivat Heritage”  Clive of India’s house at Dum Dum. “Lucifers Voice” under “Heritage Hassles.”
                 8.  “Frontline” Vol-20, Issue -03, Feb 01-14, 2003. Written by Suhrid  Sankar Chattopadhyay.
                 9.  “Old House on the Hill” The Teleghaph, May 23, 2003.
                 10. “The Times of India”. Nov 23, 2001. By Archita Bhatta & Sept 23, 2014 by K. Bandyopadhyay.
                 11. “A remarkable Edifice now in ruins” The Tribune, Saturday, Sept.9, 2000.
                 12. “Dumdum Story” Thursday. April 7,2016, Ordnance Factory DumDum. (Ordnancedumdum.nic.in)
                 13.  “Sabarna  Prithithivi” , “Kolkata Mystery” by Devarshi  Roychoudhury.
                 14.   ASI (Kolkata Circle)
                 15.  “Custodians of the past” -150 years of ASI.

  Research  -Santanu Roy.
   Picture Courtesy - Sudip Ghosh.            
             

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

A LONE TERROCOTTA TEMPLE AT AMDIHA.


A newspaper published in the Telegraph on 21.03.2016 under heading “Maluti Cousin at Bokaro” detailing one Terracotta Temple at Amdiha, Block- Chandankiyari, District- Bokaro, Jharkhand.

After reading, we have been to the place. Result- the following photographes-one temple which is beyond any restoration & other one urgently needs  its overdue restoration.

The temples are without any idol. Some small murals are worshipped in the residence of Mr. Rabindranath Goswami in adjacent village. They were the priest family for these temples. Goswamis has heard there was idol three generation back but current generation is not aware of any other idols barring those murals which are regularly worshipped in their residence.


As per the Telegraph news, this particular temple discovered by Mr. Harendra Prasad Sinha, eminent archaeologist and retired deputy director (archaeology) of the state art and culture department, Jharkhand.


Mr. Sinha noted a striking similarity of the terracotta works of Amdiha with Temple town of Maluti, Block-Sikaripara, District-Dumka (170 km from Amdiha). His reference were from the striking similarities- Bishnupur-style terracotta carvings with scenes from Ramayana along with floral designs of the walls, high arches and stone engravings in proto-Bangla script.


From the incredible likeness, Mr. Sinha inferred that the same family of architects had constructed the Maluti temples over a period of 200 years, beginning 17th Century, as well as the terracotta shrine in Amdiha.


We would like to draw kind attention of our readers to a nearby village in West Bengal, Cheliyama (crow fly distance from Amdiha 11 km). As per the Government Web Site of Puruliya District  the information about this particular temple is :


“ The village contains the temple most richly decorated with terracotta’s in Purulia district and one of the few surviving from the 17th century in West Bengal. The temple of Radha-Vinod, dated sakabda 1619 has a contemporary terracotta plaque in Bengali. In the panels above the archways are depicted Krishnalila scenes. There is also scene like Rama comforting with Ravana in two huge war chariots with monkeys and demons joining the fray. A series of smaller panels rising on the left and right and continuing across the top includes the avatars of Vishnu, the other deities as well as devotees. Along the base on the left ran the usual Krishnalila frieze, and on the right (much less common) a Ramayan frieze. Beneath them is  another frieze of professional and hunting scene. The base and the column panels of the facade are already badly worn  but the panels above the archways are in excellent condition.”



Is there a common thread between all three locations ?
We are eager to have the comment of archaeological experts in this regard.

              75629.jsp#.VvpLqWNXrlu.
              http://purulia.gov.in/tourntravel/tour archeo.html.


 Research & Picture Courtesy - Abhijnan Basu.

HERITAGE AT EXTREME RISK (POLKERI)


There is an old shrine named Sri Sri Baba Bhaironathji Dham in the village Polkeri, Block- Chankiyari, District-Bokaro, Jharkhand. Recently the district administration had arranged one yearly festival on 26.03.15 to 28.03.15 centering this old temple. This festival was inaugurated by Chief Minister of Jharkhand on 26.03.15.

The structure of the temple enclave are recent. One temple is for Bhairobaba, another is form Durgama. Barring that , there are some small temples with other Hindu Idols.


The temple premises has one Kund, cool water source by the blessing of nature, flowing throughout the year and much above the water level of the river Ijri flowing beside the temple. Some fishes are also in the Kund. As per the prevailing folk-lore, fishes are forbidden to be touched. It is believed the kund water can heel many diseases both for adults and especially for the infants. The place of worship is treated as a medication centre for the very long period in the nearby locality. The surrounding of the temple becomes a picnic spot in winter for nearby population.


The folk-lore indicates Arjuna, during his exile, in search of drinking water, created this everlasting water source with his arrow. This myth connects with village with Mahabharata.
The striking fact about this holy place is some of the Idols of Bhairosthan. A few of the Idols of this place indicate a much earlier time than the surrounding structures. The Bhiro Baba’s heavenly Idol is curved out from a black stone, which indicates the enrich mind of an artist who had equally indicate skill to represents his imagination into reality.


Local folk-lore also suggest the Idol brought from outside. The story remains like thus, many generations back one Brahmin of the village used bathe on the black rock in a jhora (water source) outside the village. He had received instruction of Bhirobaba (in his dream), turned the rock and brought the Idol in the village. While brining the rock all bullock-carts of their village got damaged due to shear weight of Bhairo Baba and ultimately the Brahmin, with the blessing of Baba was able to brought Baba on his head. At that time there was a huge tree in place of today’s temple, Baba was placed there. Today that holy tree is no more but the trees of the surrounding area are a bit typically in comparison to the other prevailing trees of nearby area. Only botanist can scientifically explain the typically of the surrounding trees.



Telkupi, a village of the modern West Bengal (crow file distance from Polkeri to Telkupi is around 20km) on the bank of Damodor  was  known as Bahiravsthan from time immortal. Telkupi’s Archaeological Cluster of temples (20 Nos) was first photographed by J.D.Beglar of Archaeological Survey of India in 1872-73. Next photographic evidences of the decadent cluster were recorded in 1903 by Bloch of the Bengal Archaeological Survey, afterwards photographic records of the archive of Archaeological Survey of India dates back to 1929.


In independent India, these ancient structures were subjected to the extrme negligence of the administration. From the INTAC report in 2006-07 under heading Heritage at Risk by Bulu Imam, we quote “During the mid-1950s the fate of the twenty odd temples at a place ancestrally known as Bhairavstan was sealed during the submergence of a large area along the banks of river Damodar on the border of Jharkhand and Bengal through the construction of Punchet Dam across the river”.- It was implementation of DVC Project- a dream of newly independent  democracy.



 The same report report suggests “More than 20 temples from the 8th to 12th centures (Pala period) were submerged between 1956 and 1962 by the waters of Damodar River. In the meantime, the remains of these ruined temples are becoming visible again in the silted-up reservoir”. The last reference of the fates of some Idols worshiped in those temples was recorded by Debala Mitra (ASI) in 1959-60. Debala Mitra was unsuccessful to bring back the submerged Idols as the local boatmen dared to touch those idols. As per this INTAC report- “ Telkupi is about a hundred and thirty kilomitres south east of the jain temple center of Parashnath Hill, and thirty kilometres south of Dhanbad town today. Half the waters of the Panchet Dum are in Jharkhand and half in West Bengal. Some images of the temples are in Jharkhand at  Katapatthar in Dhanbad District. And some in local temples or private houses in West Bengal side of the border in Purulia district.


 Referred INTAC report also indicates “According to W.W. Hunter in his Statistical Account of Bengal (List of ancient Monuments of Bengal, 1896) the image from Telkupi of Bhairav from which Bhairavasthan gets its name, was of Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankra of the jains. In the opinion of F.B.Bradley-Birt the statuary was Jaina ( Chota-Nagpore: A little Known Province of the Empire 1903/1910,p.181). In the INTACH survey of Jaina monuments of South Jharkhand ( Purulia, Sereikela,2006) the Jaina statuary was invariably found in the sites with similar temple architecture as the Bhairavasthan temples of Telkupi. Therefore, every reason to assume Telkupi was a jaina temple clauster.”. In the same INTAC report photographs of some of these idols are also displayed. The structural similarity between the idols of Telkupi and Polkeri is quite evident ; the dissimilarity is only in the red cloth.


Hence, can we draw a rich lineage in between Telkupi & Polkeri ? Is the idol carved out of black-stone before & during Pal Period is still worshipped daily ?

May be the original structure earmarked to house the idol had its natural death or destroyed during the development programme of the young country, against the huge time scale the region of the locality changed from one form to another but the God’s idol remain live by the believers. It had remained a solace to the villagers ; it will continue its peaceful influence on the anxious minds in future. Religion, society & time may change but the idol remains as an assimilation of Indian heritage & legacy forever & continued to be emblem for all hopes & good deeds and a symbol of destroyer of all evils.

Source :  http://www.icomos.org/risk/worldreport/2006-2007/pdf/H@R 2006-2007 21 National report India .pdf
Photo-
           1. Jain idols from Telkupi (from the above report).

           2. Other photographs- Taken by the author.

            Research & Picture Courtesy - Abhijnan Basu.