Continuing with my Chinsurah series today I will take you to the famous Hooghly Imambara. So it’s not only the Dutch Christian Cemeteries but this Islamic institution is also a famous landmark in the town and a must visit destination. As mentioned earlier, I have been to this part of the town several times since my childhood but never seemed to bother visiting the Hooghly Imambara as I was never aware of its historical significance.
It’s a short distance from the Edwardian Clock Tower so if you are in a car it will take maximum five to ten minutes. There is ample parking space outside the Imambara but remember that there is an unofficial parking fee that you need to plat the locals for your vehicle thus do remember to bargain. Approximately you will be charged 20 to 30 Rupees, avoid paying anything more.
There are entry tickets to the Imambara just at the gate but before you enter take some time to enjoy its architecture and its magnanimous presence from outside. It is to be noted here that this is not the original structure as the original structure was rebuild to its present condition.
This Imambara was originally built by a Persian merchant named Muhammad Aga Motahar in 1717. Being a merchant he had a flourishing salt business and with that money built a small building. This building was not as big as the current Imambara but just one storied structure. This is where he stayed with his family along with his entourage of servants.
He dedicated this building in the name of “Allah” the almighty and name is Nazargah Hossein. Further extensions to this building were done by Mirza Saleh-ud-din who was his son in law. This new extension was called the Tazia Khana (possibly where the Tazia is kept).
This, however, is not the Imambara that we see today, the current one was built on the ruins of the earlier by Hazi Muhammad Mohsin. He was related to Muhammad Aga Motahar through his daughter Mannoojan Khanam. The construction was started in the year 1841 and completed in the year 1861. The cost incurred for the construction was a mammoth Rs. 2,17,413 which was a massive sum of money during that time.
Once you enter the main complex you will see a gigantic courtyard with a water tank and a fountain in the centre. Being an Islamic institution this is where the ritual washing is performed. On two sides you can see numerous rooms which I believe is the classroom for the local students of the madrasa.
On the main tower at the entrance one can see a large clock; this was made in England by and procured at a sum of Rs. 11,721 from Black and Murray Company of London and Calcutta. This clock has two faces, one can be seen from the main road and the other from inside the courtyard. The clock dial has time written in Eastern Arabic-Indic numerical. You can climb up the clock tower by climbing 152 steps from each of the two sides. Each side has a demarcation as to its access by men or woman. Please ensure that you follow this rule.
Right in front of the courtyard is the main prayer hall which is known as Zari Dalan. This is the jewel in the crown according to me in this building complex. The hall has beautiful black and white marble something which resembles a chess board and the windows and sky light have equally beautiful coloured glass which creates a spell bounding effect.
There are also beautifully Islamic calligraphy with verses from Quran on the walls. Years of neglect hand most of them in ruins but some of them could still be clearly made out. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the main prayer hall and my words do not do the right justification to its beauty.
The lane left of the Zari Dalan takes you to the back of the complex and right in front of the Hoogly River. Here you can see another landmark the Sun Dial. I have seen several sun dials in my life but never seen one working, unfortunately, it was an overcast afternoon and the sun was not that clear enough to get a good reading.
If you look back towards the Zari Dalan building you can see the deed of Hajee Mohummud Mohsin engraved on the wall in English and Eastern Arabic-Indic.
Following is the English version of the deed:-
I, Hajee Mohummud Mohsin, son of Hajee Fyzoolah, son of Agha Fuzloollah, inhabitant of the port of Hooghly, in full possession of all my senses and faculties, with my own free will and accord do make the following correct and legal declaration. That the zumindaree of pergunnah Qismut Syedpore, etc. appendant to Zillah Jesore, and pargunnah Sobhnal, also appendnt to the Zillah aforesaid, and one house situated in Hooghly (Known and distinguished as Imambarah and Imambazar, and haut (market) , also situated in Hooghly, and all the gods and chattels appertaining to the Imambara aforesaid, agreeably to a separate list; the whole of which have devolved on me by inheritance and the proprietary possession of which I have enjoyed up to the present time. As I have neither children, nor grand-children, nor other relatives, who would become my legal heirs and as it is my earnest wish and desire to keep up and continue the usages and charitable expenditures(Murasum-o-Musaruf-i-husneh) of the nature of fateha, and tuheeat, etc, of the Huzerat (on whom be blessings and rewards), which have been the established customs of this family, Itherefore hereby give, purely for the sake of God, the whole of the above property, with all its rights, immunities, and privileges, whole and entire, little or much, in it with it, or from it, and whatever (by way of appendage) might arise from it, or relate or belong to it, as a permanent appropriation for the following expenditure; and I have hereby appointed Rujub Uli Khan , son of Shekh Mohummud Sadiq, and Shakur Uli Khan, son of Ahmud Khan, who have been tried and approved by me, as possessing understanding, knowledge, relighin, and probity Mootawullees (or trustees) of the said Waqf or appropriation, which I have entrusted to the above two individuals, that aiding and assisting each other they may consult, advise, and agree together in all matters connected with the joint management of the business of the said appropriation, in the manner following. The aforenamed Mutawallis, after paying the revenues of the Government, shall divide the remaining produce of the Muhals aforenamed into nine shares, of which three shares, first of all they shall disburse in the observance of of the fateha of Huzrut Syud-i-Kayunat, (head of the creation) the last of pro;hest, and of the sinless Imams (on all of whom be the blessings and peace of God); and in the expenditures appertaining to the Ushra of Moohurrum-ool-Huram (10 days of the sacred Mhourrum) and all other blessed days of Feasta and festivals); and in the repairs of the Imambara and cemetery. Two shares, the Mutawallis, in equal proportion, shall appropriate to themselves for their own expenses; and four shares shall be disbursed in the payment of the servants of the establishment, and of those whose names oare inserted in a separate list singed and sealed by me. In regard to the daily expenses, monthly stipends of the stipendiaries, respectable men, peadas and other persons, who, at the present moment, stand appointed, the Mutawallis aforenamed, after me have full pwer to retain abolish or discharge as it may appear to them most fit and expedient. I have committed the Mutawlliship to the charge of the two abovenamed individuals as a common (aum) towleeut, In the event of a Mutawalli finding himself unable to conduct the business of the endowment, he may appoint any one whom he may think most fit and most deserving, as Mutawalli to act in his stead. Consequently this writing is executed as a deed, this 9th day of Bysakh in the year of Hijree 1221, corresponding with the Bengal year 1213 that whenever it be required, it may prove a legal deed.
You can actually spend a whole day at this Imambara thus make sure you have enough time in your hand. Unfortunately, my blog needs to end here see you at the next destination in this series. This blog was part of my Dutch heritage and Chinsurah series. My next blog will be on Bandel Church so keep watching this space.
Dutch Cemetery – Clock Tower – Imambara
Bandel Church – Hanseswari Temple – Zafar Khan Ghazi Mosque & Dargah