Built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick, The Marble Palace is situated at 46, Muktaram Babu Street, opposite Ram Mandir in Jorasanko area of Calcutta.
The Mullick family of Chorbagan was founded by Ramakrishna Mullick, who made his fortune in business. In his childhood, Rajendra was adopted by Nilmani Mullick, a descendant of Ramakrishna Mullick. When he was only three, Nilmani passed away, leaving behind Rajendra to inherit all his wealth. In his early years, Rajendra received lessons in English, Sanskrit and Persian. Raja Rajendra Mullick, the contemporary of Prince Dwarakanath Tagore was often compared to the later for his affluence and wealth. In 1835, at the age of 16, he began the construction of the Marble Palace with the help of a French architect which was completed in 1840. Later the building was named as “Marble Palace” by Lord Minto.
The palace is rightly named, as it was constructed with different types of precious marbles, specially imported for the purpose from faraway Italy. It is a three-storey building with impressive tall Corinthian pillars. Decorated with openwork balconies and pitched roofs, built in the style of a Chinese pavilion, it has a sequence of large halls. Its interiors are decorated with Western sculptures, Victorian furnitures and antique urns. It is said that these antiques were collected from a number of countries around the world.
Raja’s taste for art and sculpture is to be given a high rank. This prominent person of the nineteenth century was rich and eccentric, but at the same time, he was a connoisseur of art. The statues and other sculptures of the palace are a fine medley of Greek, Roman and Indian mythology, many of which were probably imported from Europe and some of them probably received as gift. A particular room in the palace proudly accommodates a big, beautiful and breathtaking wooden sculpture of Queen Victoria. The large halls and the corridors are adorned with lots of marble statues of historical and mythological characters, Chinese and Japanese porcelain vases and also a number of the original Belgian mirrors fixed in beautiful gold polished frames. There are some full wall sized mirrors in some of the rooms as well. The Palace also contains a valuable and aesthetic collection of some rare original paintings of the European maestros like Sir Joshua Reynolds, Rubens, Murillo, and others.
A spiral wooden staircase leads to the upper stories of the building, which is the residential area of the present generation of the Raj family. This area of the palace is, however, restricted for the interested visitors. A Jagannath temple in the complex is also a prohibited area for the outsiders.
Like other palaces of the rich and famous people of that period, Marble Palace also included a “Nach Ghar” or dance room which was once used to be fully carpeted with comfortable seating arrangements around the center. From the high ornate ceilings hang beautiful large chandeliers reckoning to its glorious past when the room used to dazzle with dance and music. From the surrounding verandahs, the wide courtyard in the middle of the house is clearly visible. The Palace also comprises of a traditional Bengali “Thakur Dalan” or place of worship for the members of the family – which is a curious blend of Indian culture and Western style. The sloping roofs are indicative of Chinese influence.
The palace has a well maintained lush green lawn. Beyond the border of the lawn, there is an artificial pond with an esthetically engraved stone fountain in the middle, which unfortunately does not sprout water anymore. Like the interior of the palace, the garden area is also crowded with multiple varieties of statues, marble top tables and benches. During the heydays the palace proudly maintained the first private zoo India, started by Raja Rajendra Mullick, which was subsequently closed, as per the prevailing law of the country.