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RUINS OF CALCUTTA – Story of Putul Bari

Putul Bari Kolkata

Popularly known as one of the haunted places in Calcutta, “Putul Bari” or the “House of Dolls” is situated at 22 Hara Chandra Mullick Lane, by the side of the Circular Railway track and very near to the Shobhabazar jetty. At the turn 20th century the Hooghly River was navigable and Calcutta was an important port to call for export and import. Ships from other countries, and Country boats from other parts of India loaded with various items, used to head for the Ghats of Ahiritola and Sobhabazar. For the storage of those items, which mainly consisted of Jute, Rice, Spices, Silks and others, gigantic warehouses were constructed along the Strand Road. Putul Bari was one of those warehouses. Probably, the classical statues at the top of the building have earned the former warehouse the nickname “Putul Bari”. Even today it is difficult to ignore the huge building with its intricate detailing in stucco and plaster. Apart from being a warehouse, the marble-lined top floor was used as the owner’s residence.

It seems to be unbelievable that this magnificent building which once served as a shooting location for Roland Joffe’s “City of Joy” was actually built to serve the purpose of a warehouse like the other warehouses constructed along Strand Road. But the reason as to why such a delicately decorated structure was built for the purpose of a warehouse, is lost in the mists of time.

Putul Bari View of Terrace
Putul Bari View of Terrace

This huge Roman style building ornamented with dolls of antique designs adorning the terrace is sure to create goosebumps and send a thrilling chill through anyone’s spine. It is said and believed that the Babus (wealthy owners) who inhabited the place in those misty days of “Babu Culture” used to sexually exploit young women here and if necessary even killed some of them to hide their crime. It is also said that the spirits of those murdered women are still haunting the place in order to seek justice.

Putul Bari - The Lone Guard
Putul Bari – The Lone Guard

However, on its front, there is a huge board announcing that trespassing is strictly prohibited inside the building. It also indicates that there is absolutely no ghost in the building and no one should disturb the residents for verification of those baseless rumours and nobody should spread any rumour about it. Some of the locals also confirmed clearly that they have never witnessed any supernatural phenomenon in the house, and that the poor residents have been literally “harassed by the ghost enthusiasts”, since the stories about the ‘’haunted house’’ rumour in the social media have been doing the trick. It seems that there is a possibility that the rumour was pre-planned and was purposely spread for vested interest to create panic among the residents, so that they leave place peacefully and automatically.

Makhan Lal Natta
Makhan Lal Natta

It may be noted here that, Putul Bari is the home of Natta Family – the family who were the owners of the famous Natta Jatra Company. Until recently, the Natta Company was under the  management of  Sri Makhan Lal Natta, who acquired the property in 1978. He, however, passed away recently. The office of the Natta Company was on the third floor. At present most of the rooms are occupied by tenants, who are neither interested nor competent enough to maintain the massive building.

It seems that, there is no initiative from any quarter to renovate, restore and preserve the magnificent structure. At present it is in a dilapidated and pathetic condition. Unless proper action is taken without any delay, it will be lost forever.

Dibyendu Banerjee
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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