Located inside the Milk Colony in Belgachia, the magnificent Belgachia Rajbari, also known as Paikpara Rajbari is now almost in ruins.
History says that, ‘Belgachia Villa’, the magnificent and one of the most famous mansions of the mid 19th century, was once belonged to Auckland, an Italian. Around 1823, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore purchased the property with the intention to use the same for some specific purpose. He spent nearly two hundred thousand rupees and had it redesigned and redecorated by an English architect in perfect European style. Actually, he used the villa as his Garden House, where grand parties used to be thrown frequently. As his wife was a very religious and orthodox lady, Dwarakanath had to opt for a separate house for such social entertaining gatherings. At that time, even amidst all the pomp and grandeur of the contemporary elite society of Calcutta, this beautiful mansion stood unrivaled in its size and elegance. At the entrance of the villa, there still stands a marble bust of Alexander the Great on a stone pedestal as if a witness of the Bengali aristocracy during the British rules.
The staircase of the building is a unique example of engineering wonder. It is undoubtedly surprising, because the entire flight of steps does not have any support from underneath and its beautiful decorative cast-iron statues can find a rival only in Buckingham Palace. Built more than a century ago, the palatial building has 54 rooms with an adjoining huge rectangular lake in the complex. This was the location of “Jalsaghar” and Ghare Baire” – the two great films of the great filmmaker, Satyajit Ray. During its glamorous days it had a beautiful garden in its front, which was rich with different types of roses and season flowers. The two parts of the garden were separated by “Moti Jheel”, a lovely lake with a bridge joining the two parts of the garden. The sitting room past the garden was ornamented with expensive period furniture and magnificent works of the famous painters and sculptors. The fountain, at the backyard of the house, was surrounded by beautiful Venetian statues.
The Viceroy of Bengal with his companions was invited to this villa in November 1836. The best European groups of singers and instrumentalists were appointed to entertain the guests of honour with music on that day. The actors and actresses of the French Opera were also invited. The best brands of drinks were served to the guests. The dance and music continued till midnight. When Lord Auckland came as the Viceroy, he was also invited there by Prince Dwarakanath in the same manner. On February 25, 1841, Dwarakanath arranged a dance and an evening dinner party at this villa, in honour of Miss Emily Eden, the lively sister of Lord Auckland. They visited the villa more than once.
After the demise of Dwarakanath, Devendranath had to sell his father’s beloved garden house by auction to meet his debts and after July 1, 1857, the house became the property of Raja Pratap Chandra Sinha Bahadur of Paikpara and the mansion came to be known as ‘‘Belgachhia Rajbari”.
But even after the change of ownership and change of identity from Belgachia Villa to Belgachhia Rajbari, the tradition of throwing parties remained unchanged. Distinguished guests like King Edward VII, Prince of Wales, and the Marquis of Ripon visited the place in 1875, and in 1882 respectively. The place became a Bengali socio-cultural centre, where Europeans were also invited to take part. Full hearted initiative and drive of Pratap Chandra Sinha and Ishwar Chandra Sinha gave birth to the “Belgachhia Theatre” and Pandit Ram Narayan’s drama, “Ratnavali” was acted in the Belgachhia Garden House. For the European guests, the English version of the drama was also staged under the guidance of Michael Madhusudan Dutta, which surpassed the utmost expectation. That was really the beginning of a new chapter and from late 19th century to the early 20th century the villa played a key role in the history of Bengali theatre in Calcutta.
Today there stands the big old two storey colonial structure, worn away by the currents of time. The upper part of the building is in a dilapidated condition, with strong branches of trees growing out from the walls here and there, covering an entire portion with their canopy. The frontage of the entire ground floor is totally demolished by the compound of a factory. Over the asbestos roof of the factory, the upper storey, with the pillars of intricate designs can be seen. The Moti Jhil can hardly be called a stagnant pool, let alone a lake. Today it is merely a smelly marsh, with the thick undergrowth of weeds and some local women use it to clean and wash their utensils on its one side.
Location of Belgachia Raj Bari / Belgachia Villa / Paikpara Palace