In my previous blog, I have taken you across a small village in Bengal called Bawali which has a couple of old terracotta temples built by the Zamindar of the village. Apart from these temples, there is another heritage structure that needs a dedicated blog post. The main reason as to why these terracotta temples were built in the first place was due to the Mondol family who had their Zamindari out here and they had built a palatial mansion out here which is locally known as the Rajbari Bawali.
After independence, many smaller landlords or Zamindars lost a lot of land after the land distribution. The ones that survived had purely other sources of income to sustain their opulent lifestyle and also maintain the very palatial living space that they built for themselves.
The Rajbari at Bawali had a similar fate with no maintenance the building slowly but steadily started losing its charm. Walls started crumbling and the plater gave away to show an open brick structure.
History of Rajbari Bawali
Initially, this place was known as “Bowali” but over the years this has changed to “Bawali”. There is also a local saying that this place got its name from the “Bone Eli Gayleei” which translates to coming and going from the forest. Once this part of south Bengal was a part of the Sundarbans thus this village was once a marshy land interconnected with rivers.
The history of the Mondol family dates back to the Hijli Kingdom. Mondol is not their original surname which was Roy. Mondol was a title that was bestowed on them.
The earliest member of this family can be traced back to Basudeb Roy who was a part of the army belonging to the Maharaja. His performance and leadership stood out and were well acknowledged by the Maharaja himself.
Sovaram Roy who was the son of Radhashyam Roy (son or Basudeb Roy) was working with the Maharaja of Hijli as a Patwari (in charge of land documentation) at Chandipur near Budge Budge. Radhashyam Roy was bestowed the title of Mondol by the Maharaja for his service.
The next two generations which included Meghnath Roy (son) and Rajaram Roy (grandson) kept on the work maintaining land and revenue records for the Maharaja.
Rajaram Roy had very good leadership and war skills, he helped the then emperor to suppress a local rebellion. He was the one to lead the counter-rebellion from the front. For his courageous effort, he was made in charge of tax collection for fifteen villages which covered most of what we now know as South 24 Parganas.
For the next century and a half, the family supported the Mughal emperor in land tax collection. Harananda Mondol became the first Zamindar. Bawali became their home and they built a palatial mansion around 1771, this was the same time Harananda Mondol built the first temple in Bawali.
His youngest son Manik Mondal expanded the business and Zamindari thus establishing a strong footprint in this region.
Restoration of Rajbari Bawali
With the palace walls crumbling there was just no way out as the original homeowners were not able to maintain the structural stability of this place. The owners sold off the property and instead of a factory building the new owners had a different plan and were luckily converted into a heritage hotel. What I like about the restoration work done out here is that the aesthetics of the original building has not been tampered with instead with a minimum patchwork the existing structures were made functional.
The restoration process did not include indiscriminate use of cement mortar but rather use the original material used for the construction for the repair work.
The Rajbari is located right next to a large pond that oversees the famous Bawali terracotta temples. As you enter the property you will be welcomed traditionally with the beating of the Dhaak (drums of Bengal) and girls dressed in a traditional white sari with a red border welcoming with traditional tika and flowers.
You can simply visit the property and enjoy one of their famous traditional Bengali lunch served with plates that have been made with burnt clay covered with banana leaf. The food trust me is extremely delicious and is perfectly made in traditional Bengali style. Do not forget to finish off the lunch with Misti Doi (sweet curd) and the famous Rasogolla.
You can enjoy the hospitality at Rajbari Bawali by spending few days out at one of their restored heritage rooms. These heritage rooms have a traditional bed and the décor matches up with the Raj era.
The property has accommodation space within the main compound and also has some separate smaller villas with multiple rooms.
Don’t forget to pack your swimming attire as this property has a fantastic swimming pool surround but lush green trees.
Apart from the main dining area, there is a smaller rooftop cafe and also a small seating area at the balcony overlooking the main courtyard where you can spend the evening enjoying a sip.
Places To Visit Around Bawali
Bawali is located a very short distance of only 30 kilometers from Kolkata city thus this is a perfect getaway for a weekend where you will get luxury and enjoy some beautiful sightseeing.
Old Terracotta Temples
I have already in my previous blog written about the old terracotta temples of Bawali some of which have been restored. There are a total of five old temples built by the Mondol family of Bawali.
The most notable one is the Navaratna style Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple, Atchala style Radhaballav Jiu Temple, the oldest temple in this village Radhakanta Jiu Temple, and other temples like Gopal Jiu Temple, Raj Rajeshwar Shiv Temple, and Radha Gobindo Jiu Temple.
Out here you will also find the Phul Dol Bari which is in complete ruins but was once used by the households of the Mondol family to enjoy the Holi festivities.
Jol Tungi Bagan is also another attraction here which was once a huge garden with a pond at the center. There used to be which you can still see but cannot be used anymore is the water folly.
Read this blog to know more about the Temples of Bawali.
Achipur Chinese Temple
Around 12 kilometers from Bawali is the famous Achipur Chinese Temple which is recognized as the oldest Chinese temple in India built by the Chinese community who had immigrated to India under the British Raj to establish a sugar plantation and sugar refinery.
Read this blog to know more about Achipur Chinese Temple and Sugar Trade.
This is the only abandoned gun powder magazine used during the British Raj to store Gun Powder from incoming ships.
Read this blog to know more about Moyapur Achipur Barood Ghar Magazine.
Achipur Old Telegraph and Post Office
This is an old building that once housed the Achipur Telegraph office. This was part of the telegraph network used to connect Calcutta to Diamond Harbour to alert the port of Calcutta about the movement of ships.
Read this blog to know more about Achipur Telegraph & Semaphore Station.
Falta Dutch Fort
20 kilometers in the opposite direction is another interesting place which was housed a Dutch Fort. You can read more about this place in this blog post.
Read this blog to know more about Falta Dutch Fort.
Around 10 kilometers from Bawali is the town of Budge Budge where you can see interesting things like Komagata Maru Memorial, Old Budge Budge Railways Station which was once used by Swami Vivekananda when he returned to India from Chicago.
Read this blog to know more about Komagata Maru Memorial Budge Budge.
Location of Rajbari Bawali
Address: The Rajbari Bawali, PS, Rajbari, Bawali, Nodakhali, West Bengal 700137.
You can easily book your stay at Rajbari Bawali on any popular online hotel aggregator portals.
West Bengal Government Tourism Department
Dakkhin Chabbish Pargana Jelar Purakirti By Sagar Chattopdhay
Bonedi Kolkatar Ghar Bari by Debasish Bandyopadhay & Alok Mitra
I covered Rajbari Bawali while blogging about the temples of Bawali and was not paid or sponsored to write this blog in any way. This blog was written over time before and after the lockdown. Please contact the resort authority to confirm availability and functioning keeping in mind the situation.