Restored Legacy of 250 year old Ancestral House
As I boarded my train back to Kolkata, I felt that I had almost time travelled to the Erstwhile Capital of Bengal in the past two days. Like many of the staycation , I thought this would be one of the luxurious stay in the heart of Bengal. But, while coming back, I realised that it was more like a royal experience with incredible dose of hospitality and tantalizing Sheherwali culinary experience. I was quite elated with the fact that after a long wait, I would be finally visiting this historical place of great importance, Murshidabad.
About the Sheherwali Community- Who were they?
The term “Sheherwali” came from the movement of Jain merchants from town to town (sheher). They were the investors and were one of the wealthiest merchant community of Bengal. They had come mainly to finance the European traders and the Indian Nawabs. Murshidabad, which was then the capital of Bengal during Mughal era and was also contributing singlehandedly towards 20 % of Nation’s GDP and 5% in the global market. So, that’s when several Jain families came down to settle in the twin cities of Jiaganj and Azimganj and started building several Jain temples and mansions around this area. But, later around mid 1700s , as the time progressed and after the economic downfall of Murshidabad, which is said to be as a result of lost Battle of Plassey . Bengal progressed and the capital was then later shifted to “Calcutta” during British era. And, several aristocrat merchants hence decided to migrate to Calcutta eventually from Murshidabad.
But, the legacy of age old mansions, dilapidated haweli’s and heritage houses still remains in the numerous alley’s of Azimganj. And one such house was Barikothi.
History of Barikothi
Barikothi is one such luxurious and opulent Rajbari’s in Azimganj- Murshidabad, which is now a heritage hotel catering to luxury tourist from worldwide. But, the story dates back as old as 250 years when it was the ancestral home of Dudhoria family who were one of the Jain merchants , also known as Sheherwali. They came down from the parched land of Rajasthan to settle in the lush rich green banks of Bhagirathi river .
Barikothi which means “palace of the elder” belonged to the elder brother “Rai Bahadur Budh Sing Dudhoria” who had built this house somewhere around late 1700s. The architecture and the interiors has a clear influence from Greeks, Romans or the French which makes it all the more significant structures in whole of Murshidabad. But, later when the family also shifted their base to the British Capital , Calcutta for better prospects . So called, mansion was left abandoned and in dilapidated crumbling state for 60 odd years, until 5 years back when Dudhoria’s took up a personal initiative to restored the lost legacy of their ancestral home along with the help of a Bengali NRI architect and restorator from Canada “ Mr. Samar Chandra” whom they lovingly call as “The Magician”. And looking at the property, what it stands now of what it was , the name is actually justified! Infact, his love and dedication towards creating this finesse , family have named a part of this house after him as “Samar Mahal”.
How “Project Priceless” was made truly sustainable?
What intrigued me the most, was the fact that how they named this restoration project as “Project Priceless” where initially all they had envisioned was to make the place liveable for the family members/close friends. But, later what they thought about as a mere repair work came out as a Luxury Boutique Resort and all came with the opportunity of local empowerment.
It was an arduous task to restored the crumbling structures by keeping intact the original essence. During the restoration project, more than repair work they stressed more on the sustainability part. And, to make it so , they came up with three agenda to do the same :
1.To restore the lives of the local community.
2.To preserve the unique culture of Sheherwali community.
3.And, most importantly to empower and restore the local economy by creating employment opportunity.
The entire staff belong to the local community and they have been personally trained by the owners Darshan and Lipika Dudhoria. Each and every staff (where in most of them are women) have been trained to be self sufficient and multitaskers. And most importantly they all give their utmost best to make the guest feel at home by personally taking care of each and every aspect.
About Barikothi hotel and what it has on offer ?
This heritage boutique property is beautifully located on the banks of Bhagirathi River which is spread over three fourth acres of land. It has 15 heritage suites, each having unique theme name. The house mainly has two entrance out of which South west entrance was later added as per the Vastu Compliance.
It is based on the classification of :
Heritage Room – the base category room which is themed as per the precious stone colours for e.g Ruby, Emerald or Diamonds.
Royal Heritage Room– Which was the slightly bigger room also was adorned with royal artefacts.
Maharaja Heritage Suite- It is the largest and most elegantly decked up room with wooden carvings, elegantly decorated antiques and artefacts and I was so spellbound by the intricate details which the washroom had.
All the rooms have elegantly decked up with elaborate chandeliers, antique furnitures , High ceilings, Victorian styled high beds, royal mirror and checkered floors.
I stayed in the Ruby Kamara which was pink in colour and beautifully designed. In the room , we had complimentary local snacks instead of biscuits along with Sheherwali pickle and fruits.
Barikothi has several chowks or the courtyard, one of them has a beautiful marble fountain erected right in the centre. This is the central courtyard where all the cultural performances are held. We were also greeted with Baul musical performance at the same courtyard.
The other places of the house, which are worth mention are Sheesh Mahal, Library, Music Room, Durbar Hall, Janana Chowk, Gaddi Ghar, Halwai Khana, Gulabi Chawara .
Royal Durbar Hall is the huge dining room , which was then used to host the guest and treat them with sumptuous Sheherwali meals. It is a beautifully decked up dinning area with stained glass windows/ doors , large chandelier and a huge dining table in the middle. We were treated with a formal dinner and next day’s lunch by the lovely host Mr. Darshan and Ms. Lipika Dudhoria .
One of the main USP of Barikothi is its gorgeous location along Bhagirathi River. So, a scenic breakfast experience by the river banks and lunch on the boat while catching the sunset was a must on our itinerary. Infact, each guest gets to experience the breakfast by the river side, where one is treated with morning freshness of Gangetic breeze and scenic view.
Gaddi Ghar located on the first floor , which used to be the office area of the Dudhoria’s . The area has beautiful paintings and pictures of their ancestors. And is decorated with big wooden arch entrance and is lighted with chandeliers dangling .
The garden area or what they have named as Mango grove has a huge mango tree inside the premises. It has a beautiful sit out area with white wrought iron furnitures perfectly complimenting the tiled floors.
The Library room or the entrance hall has huge cabinets which includes a well stocked collection of books and pictures taken by various people framed. It is located right at the main entrance of the house.
Experience and Activities which Barikothi offers
The family member/ owner believes to create experience over mere selling of rooms. Hence , they keep the preference of each guest well into consideration and curate experience as per the request.
They curate various heritage walks in and around Azimganj, evening boat ride to witness the sunset over Bhagirathi river, cultural performances like folk music , cooking classes where they educate you on Sheherwali Cuisine , then there are tours arranged around Murshidabad and most importantly tour of Barikothi which itself requires more than a day. Infact, for the photographer’s delight it is recommended to take a night and a day walk around the house separately while listening to the interesting folklore.
Some of the famous places which I visited during my trip were Jain Temples, Hazarduari, Imambara, Bachawali Top, JahanKosha Top, Jagat Seth’s House, Nasipur Rajbari, Kathgola Palace, Fauti Masjid and then the next day we went around the some of the terracotta temples of Baranagar. And our last pit stop before boarding the train back was a visit to the Tatipara of Murshidabad where they show how to weave Silk sarees which are very famous.
With all this experience, I can only say that my stay at Barikothi left a deep impact on me knowing about the significance about Murshidabad’s rich history .
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Darshan Dudhoria and Lipika Dudhoria for giving us this royal experience and opportunity to explore this historical place of great importance . Ofcourse , I would also like to mention about Bikram, our activity manager and heritage tour guide who had been a gem of a person all throughout. Special Thanks to Deepti who has been attending us all throughout taking care of all our minute issues .
Some of the quick facts should you know on Barikothi
For bookings you may write at firstname.lastname@example.org or call up +91 9051200800
And for further details , head to www.barikothi.com
Contact details :
Postal Address : Bari Kothi, Jain Patty,
PO: Azimganj, Murshidabad,
Pin Code -742122.
How to Reach :
Azimgunj is situated by the river Bhagirathi in Murshidabad . It is at a distance of approx 200 + kms from Kolkata. Driving time is around 5 hours depending on the road condition.
There are several trains which goes from Horwah/ Kolkata Station like Hazardwari Express which one can avail till Jiaganj or Azimganj station depending on the availability. The time taken is almost the same.
For a luxury experience, one can also avail the cruise ships (www.vivadacruises.com) which embarks from Kolkata till Azimganj for a perfect Ganges holiday experience.
Without a doubt , I can only say that if you need a hint of luxury with a royal touch, then head to Barikothi for one such experience along with historical indulgence for those who likes to delve in the past.
So, Do you want to know more about the Bengal culture and history? Then hit me up in the comments below. Also, do let know if Barikothi tempts you enough to book a stay over there .
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Disclaimer- I was hosted by Barikothi with an experiential heritage trip around Murshidabad along with my fellow blogger Amrita (taleof2backpacker) , Tanayesh(Shoestringstravel) , Maasood (Photosticlife) and Rangan Da (https://rangandatta.wordpress.com/) As usual all the opinion are my own.