I have always had a great interest in the history and architecture of West Bengal which dates back to the bygone eras. And the best time to explore and learn more about such places is during Durga Puja. That is the time when Bonedi families of West Bengal come together to celebrate the festival in their households some of which were centuries old. Also, that is the time when you can get a peek into their lifestyles, their houses, and the way they have celebrated Durga Puja for generations. So I took this opportunity to make a trip to witness Durga Puja in Dasghara and visit mainly the Bonedi Baris where this festival has been celebrated for centuries.
Along with witnessing Durga Puja in Dasghara, it will also be a great chance to visit a place so deeply rooted in history. Dasghara is a small village situated around 65 km from Kolkata. It comes under the gram panchayat of Dhaniakhali block of West Bengal.
You can also read about the Bonedi Barir Durga Puja in Kolkata –
Well, if you are a textile or saree enthusiast to be precise you must be acquainted with the name Dhaniakhali or Dhonekhali which is famous for its handloom or handwoven traditional Bengal cotton sarees also called Dhonekhali sarees.
The history of Dasghara dates back to the time of the Baraduari Raja who established a flourishing trading business on the banks of the two tributaries of river Damodar River- Bimala and Kananadi. The rivers made Dasghara an important place for trading business in Bengal. But the trade flourished only till the river Damodar changed its course resulting in a major setback for the business. Later the rulers shifted to Midnapore.
There are also many stories associated with how Dasghara got its name. Das in Bengali means ten and Ghara means pot. As one story goes, ten neighboring villages- Aglapur, Dighara, Gangeshnagar, Gopinagar, Ichapur, Jhargram, Nalthoda, Parambo, Srikrishnapur, and Drirampur came together to give the name Dasghara. But no one knows the exact details about it.
Yet another story says that to protect their wealth during the brutal attack of Mughals in Bengal the rich Kings and Zamindars at that period stored all their valuables like gold coins and jewelleries in ten pots and deposited these pots in the nearby pond giving the name Dasghara.
How to reach Dasghara– The easiest way is to reach Howrah station and board any Tarakeshwar-bound local train. From there you can board a bus and travel 12 km to reach Dasghara. Also, you can board a Bardhaman Chord line train and reach Gurap station. From there again you need to board a bus and travel for 12 Km to reach Dasghara.
From Shealdah station you can reach Dankuni and from there you can board a Bardhaman Chord line-bound train. Also, Dasghara is just 70 km from Kolkata you can take NH6 and use GPS for proper navigation.
It was during last year in 2022 when I had a chance to visit the Bonedi barir Durga puja of Dasghara. Since I was staying in Sodepur, we booked a local taxi for the whole day. It took us only 2 and a half hours to reach Dasghara.
From there, on the way back we also visited Tarakeshwar Mandir which is just at a distance of 12 km from there and a very pious place for Hindu devotees. All total the taxi charged us Rs5000. Maybe it was a little high due to peak season but given the scorching heat and humidity of October in Kolkata we had quite a pleasant trip.
As we drove towards Dasghara we passed by beautiful villages of rural Bengal. The road was quite in good condition. And it was full of greenery wherever I turned my eyes. I think there is so much similarity in the sights of rural Bengal and Assam. I am grateful that I had my full share of both.
I had already done my full research on which bonedi baris of Dasghara I wanted to visit before I commenced my journey. It took around three hours for our car to go around Dasghara. For local sightseeing, you can also hire an e-rickshaw as they are well acquainted with the Bonedi Baris of Dasghara and all other remarkable places. It will be time-saving and also cheap.
Bonedi Barir Durga Puja of the Biswas family
As were entered Dasghara we had some difficulties locating the first Bonedi Bari that I wanted to visit, which was the Biswas Mansion. But I am thankful that a passerby helped me to find the direction.
As I drove near the huge mansion complex I was spellbound to see its majesty and grandeur. There was a huge pond which is known as Gopisagar, that reflected the image of the mansion complex. It is named after the famous terracotta temple Gopinath Temple which is located right behind the main mansion.
The Biswas Mansion belonged to Jagmohan Deb-Biswas who settled at Dasghara in the 18th century. He was quite an influential and rich zamindar during that period in Bengal. As local residents say the Biswas family was initially settled in Haridwar but later they received the surname ‘Biswas’ and settled down in Bengal.
If we delve more deeply into the roots of this family it is said that they were residents of Odisha but later it was Jagmohan Biswas who settled in Dasghara and established himself as a renowned zamindar. The present Biswas family of Dasghara started staying here since the time of Jagmohan Biswas.
As we walked through the lion gate across the Gopisagar lake the temple courtyard housed a number of beautiful monuments all built with great Victorian architectural grandeur.
The courtyard had a Jalsaghar, Nahabatkhana, main Kachari bari, Joleswar Shiv Mandir, and an octagonal Rasmancha as you can see in the pictures given below. Just at the backside of the main complex stands a beautiful terracotta temple and a four-roofed or Charchala Dolmancha.
The Biswas family’s Durga puja started during the time of Anandiram Deb Biswas. The main Kachari bari had the Thakurdalan where Durga Puja is performed every year. Every year Durga Puja is celebrated here by the family members with great celebration. Goddess Durga is seen here with four hands holding a sword, shield, trishul, and a snake.
Like any other Bonedi bari in Bengal, the idols of Maa Durga and other deities are prepared in the thakurdalan itself. This is probably the only time when visitors can witness the grand temple courtyard without hesitation. A grand festival like Durga Puja in such a beautiful castle-type mansion is in itself a spectacular treat to the eyes and senses.
Also, the temple courtyard is famous for the terracotta temple. It is said that this temple was constructed by Sri Sadananda Biswas in the year 1729. It is a five-pinnacled or temple with five ratnas.
The main deity worshipped is Gopinath Jeu and Radharani. The temples portray some of the finest terracotta works found in West Bengal.
The terracotta works are intricately done with scenes mostly from Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other ornamental sculptures and scenes involving men, women, animals like horses, scenes from daily life, battle scenes of Ram and Ravana from the Ramayana, scenes from the royal court, European soldiers, etc. There are also images of Krishna and other deities. Most part of the temple walls are heavily decorated with several terracotta panels.
While doing my research before I started writing this post I came across several articles on Dasghara on the internet. In one of the articles by Kevin Standage, An Indian Travel Photography Blog I read that artists from Kumartuli in Kolkata under the supervision of Tarapada Pal renovated some panels of the old terracotta work from the temple that got withered away with time. They created and replaced with exact replicas of some 50 damaged tiles.
The idol of Lord Krishna is made of black stone (Koshthipathar) and the idol of Radharani is made of Ashtadhwatu (Alloy of eight metals). When we visited last year the temple was freshly painted and it looked in great condition. Even Rathajatra and Doljatra are celebrated with great pomp and glory in this temple complex.
Bose Barir Durga Puja in Dasghara
Dasghara is famous for the three main Bonedi barir puja namely, Biswas Bari, Bosu bari, and Roy Bari along with other Barowari Durga Puja. Well, I was more interested in visiting the Bonedi Baris. From Biswas Bari we took our car and passed by a very narrow lane to visit the Bosu Barir Durga Puja. Last year marked 420 years of Durga Puja of the family. I could not see any old houses or mansions just as I saw in the Biswas estate.
But given the 420 years mark it definitely bears a history of tradition and heritage. There were so many names inscribed on the walls of the thakurdalan. The banner at the entrance of the thakurdalan reads Sri Sri Basu Poribarer Durgamandir indicating that the Puja activities are conducted here. I was sad that I couldn’t get a glimpse of the household of the Basu family.
Bonedi Barir Durga Puja of the Roy family
Just like the Biswas estate the thakurdalan of the Roy family was built in grand architectural design. This property belonged to Zamindar Bipin Krishna Roy some hundreds of years ago who also built an enormous fortune by the second part of the 19th century in the shipping industry.
Just near the Complex where Durga Puja takes place is a raasmancha. The raasmancha has sculptures of European soldiers and floral stucco work. The raasmancha is beautifully decorated with stucco work and has archway openings on four sides.
Also, the main attraction of the estate is the Octagonal clock tower and the arched gateway both built by Bipin Krishna Roy at the entrance. The clock tower has a statue of a European-style maiden.
Due to extreme sunlight, I could not manage to click a better picture of the top of the clock tower. The main gate has pillars with stucco work, an archway, statues of lions and maidens. All resembling typically Victorian architectural design.
Just at the main gate of the estate, there is a post office and also a charitable dispensary built by Bipin Krishna Roy and now handed over to Hoogle District Board.
Adjacent to the raasmancha is the main complex where there is the thakur dalan surrounded by the courtyard at the center. The ceiling is beautifully decorated with colored fiberglass and everywhere you can see colorful stucco work bearing a European influence on the pillars and walls of the building.
The walls also have embedded images of female deities like Kali, Tara, Tripura Shundari, Bhubaneswari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, and others. The main entrance of the building has a 24-foot wide verandah with a roofed platform and also a small pond adjacent to it.
Along with Durga Puja other important festivals like the Doljatra, Rashjatra, Janmashtami are also celebrated here. On the way to the Roy estate, I also noticed two lion-pillared gates in dilapidated condition standing as a silent observer of the glorious past.
It took around three hours to visit all the three prominent Bonedi baris of Dashghara. Since Tarakeswar was just 12 km away from there on the way back we made a halt and offered prayers at Tarakeswar. Hope you liked reading my post on Durga Puja at the Bonedi Baris of Dasghara. Do share with your friends and let me know if you are planning to visit this place this year during Durga Puja.
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