So being a travel blogger during a lockdown is not a good idea since I don’t mind admitting that I have got zero travel assignments in the last year since the pandemic had started. Initially, I was struggling to generate blog content but then I realized that I have enough stock material that could last more than a year.
My last blog was on Chandraketugarh and on the same route around eight and a half kilometers towards Taki lies the small village of Dhanyakuria. Nothing out of the ordinary village on the state highway but with a very unique architectural heritage.
History of Dhanyakuria
Few wealthy Zamindars (landlords) had settled here creating their own Europe right here in India.
They had the money and they wanted to flaunt it in a very unique way, they built a huge English castle type building at Dhanyakuria which by then was still considered as a part of Sundarbans. In the mid-1800s much of these areas were part of the delta wetlands.
While the British were decking up the city of Calcutta with flamboyant building few rich businessmen decided to set up their fairyland out here in Dhanyakuria. They replicated European style mansions and seamlessly merged them with Indian style architecture.
What one business family did was soon followed by other businessmen who settled in this locality and made this place their own developing the locality with schools, clinics, libraries, and of course many temples. As with any Bengali family, these large mansions had their own traditional Durga Pujo in their own Thakur Dalan.
This is the main building on Taki Road and the one that you can see from the main road. Architecture wise this building truly resembles an English castle, right from the doors and windows to the design elements it can be easily passed off as a building built by the British.
As the name suggests this summer garden house was built by the Gayen family as an extension of their house which lies another kilometer inside from the main road.
The property is not well maintained and the excessive wild vegetation makes it impossible to walk around the property safely without the fear of being bitten by a snake. Only the front portion is visible after navigating through feet long grass. The back portion remains hidden behind trees. The building is inhabitable and slowly falling apart with time.
Currently, the property is not owned by the Gayen family and there used to be an orphanage for girls which used to run from an old building within the premises. This has now shifted to a brand new building on the opposite side and the old build lies vacant.
This is one of the best-maintained buildings in this locality. This building is still inhabited by the members of the Gayen family. I would say this building to be a fusion of European and Indian styles considering the Corinthian pillars and the perfect fusion of Thakur Dalan (where idols are kept during Durga Pujo).
This building was built by Mahendranath Gaine around the 1840s however more sections were slowly added to the main building over the years. Mahendranath Gaine was the son of Gopinath Gaine the original businessman who along with other wealthy families built lavish mansions around this region. While most of the family and their extended families have relocated to Kolkata this building still is used as a family home for Monjit Gayen. According to Monjit Gayen, the reason this building still is well maintained is simply that the family regularly rents out the house for movie and television filming. The money from this rent help for the regular maintenance and the fresh coat of paint.
Another interesting structure within the premises of Gayen Bari is the Nazar Minar. This is like a three-storeyed watchtower with a fusion of Islamic and European architecture styles. This is like a watchtower built within the compound.
The building compound also encompasses the family temple Shyamsundar Jiu Temple which is a Radha and Krishna temple. The family also maintains a paid full-time priest for the regular puja rituals.
Another family that settled in Dhanyakuria was that of the Sawoo’s. They were also a businessman and along with the Gayen family and the Ballav Family made fortune with jute, jaggery, rice, and other commodities. It was as if each family was showing off their wealth by building grand European style mansions.
Unlike Gayen Bari none of the Sawoo family members reside here, they have also relocated to Kolkata and only come during Durga Pujo for their annual traditional celebrations.
The size of the mansion is huge and unlike Gayen Bari there is no open space at the front, however, this place has a beautiful Thakur Dalan. This building is however not that well maintained and only the front main portion of the mansion is whitewashed.
Similar to that of Gayen Bari this mansion has also been used for many film shooting.
Up ahead from the Sawoo Mansion is the house of the Ballav’s. Size-wise this might be smaller than the previous two but what it lacks in size is made up of its beautiful frontage. The white front has well-decorated face with idols on the top. The idols have a mix of Indian and western influence. The locals refer to this building as “Putul Bari” due to these.
The white and green building has a small garden in the front with iron gates. Don’t be fooled by this small frontage as there is a huge pond on the right side of the property which locals still use as a water source.
The Ballav Bari also has a Thakur Dalan which comes to life during the annual Durga Puja celebrations. Similar to that of Sawoo’s the Ballav family also do not stay here and have relocated to Kolkata.
On the right side of the Ballav Bari, there is a building similar to that of Nazar Minar that I had seen in Gayen Bari.
A little up ahead from Ballav Bari is the Rasmancha Temple which forms a part of the main festivity during the Rash festival. Idols of Radha and Krishna are brought here during the annual celebrations.
Structurally this is built in the Navaratna style which means that the temple structure has nine pinnacles places in three different levels (4 + 4 + 1).
Dhanyakuria Rathkhola F P School
The rich families not only build their mansions and summer gardens but also built many schools, libraries and clinics out here as a part of their philanthropic activity. This one is located right opposite of Rashmancha and was built in the year 1884.
Dhanyakuria High School
This is a much bigger school and the old building still bears the marble plaque bearing the name of Woopendra Nath Sahoo and the year 1885.
Philomel Public School
This school is located right next to Gayen Bari and was built by them. The year plaque on the top bears the year 1300 (Bengali calendar) which corresponds to 1894 in the Georgian calendar.
This temple is located right opposite Philomel Public School.
Dhanyakuria Sadharon Pathoghor
This is the public library at Dhanyakuria built in the year 1937. This building also acts as a primary school. This building is located right opposite Sahoo Mansion.
Not all the businessmen in the village had very mansions, some that of the Mundul built around 1921 are not that big in comparison but needless to say is quite big and well maintained.
Location Of These Sites On Map
Gayen Baganbari (Gayan Garden) is off-limits from the public and permission is required from the local police station to visit the interiors of this place.
Special Thanks to Monjit Gayen and Amitabha Gupta for helping me with all the facts about this place.