My trip to Santiniketan in Bolpur in July 2019 had been the most memorable one. It was the first time I had travelled with my friends. Other than the popular tourist places in Bolpur Santiniketan there are a few spectacular locations that have their own unique charm. Of those places, one is the Surul Rajbari also popularly called the Surul Sarkarbari in Bolpur Santiniketan.
Well, this post is all about this spectacular Rajbari that is more than 250 years old. Although it was my second visit to Bolpur the place has such an aura that it keeps attracting me over and over again.
Most of the people who visit Santiniketan either doesn’t know or are not much interested in visiting this century-old Zamindari house.They are also called as Rajbari or Bonedi Bari in Bengali for the palatial grandeur and the flamboyant lifestyle of the rich aristocrats.
Some people visit Bolpur as a day trip as Santiniketan is well connected with the rail. It becomes easy to take a train from Howrah and again board the evening train and return.
But a place like Bolpur which holds a perfect blend of culture, tradition, serenity and calmness deserve more than a single day stay. Once in Bolpur you will long to spend a few more hours. Sitting idle, listening to the sound of the wind, the song of birds chirping, the fresh scent of raanga maati or red soil, immersing yourself in the melodious tunes of the bowl singer and get carried away to a world so pleasant and charming.
On my two day trip to Bolpur in Santiniketan in July 2019 with my friends the first day we visited the Kala Bhavana (Institute of Fine Arts) of Visva Bharati University. It was raining since morning but thank God the rain lowered the mercury level on a hot and humid July day.
Since all of us had visited Bolpur quite a few times before, we kept that trip to explore all the offbeat locations and do a lot of fun.
The Kala Bhavana built in 1919 by Rabindranath Tagore was awe-inspiring. We saw the excellent craft and artwork done by the students of the department. A huge area with ancient trees and painted buildings, art installations giving life to Tagore’s immortal words “Where the head is held high and Knowledge is free”.
We spent the evening shopping at “Sonajhuri haat”. We shopped till it was dark and the market closed. We stayed at Ram Shyam Resort which was barely at a distance of 50 metres from Sonajhuri haat.
Early next morning we woke up and got ready. One of my friends who has a Boutique had planned for a photo shoot in some of the offbeat places around Bolpur on the second day of our trip.
Also, we were supposed to return to Kolkata the next day by the evening train. We didn’t waste much time in the morning. We had breakfast on way. I guess we were too excited to feel hungry!!
We called an e-rickshaw driver whom my friends knew quite well and booked him for a half-day tour. As per the second day’s itinerary my friend Gargi who runs her Boutique Bolpur Vibes had planned a photo shoot for her new collections.
And guess what the models were I and my friends Amrita and Riya. Though both Riya and Amrita are professional models as they do the photoshoot for brands. I did it just for fun and trust me we had a great time.
We started quite early in the morning it was around 6.30 am. We had quite a lot of places to cover and also the photoshoot. At first, we visited Surul Sarkarbari in Bolpur Santiniketan.
How to reach Surul Sarkarbari in Bolpur.
You can hire an e-rickshaw for half-day and he will tour you around the outskirts of Bolpur. Surul Sarkarbari is located at a small town named Surul in Bolpur Santiniketan of Birbhum District. It’s approximately 4 km away from Bolpur main town and the e-rickshaw takes around 45 minutes to reach the main Rajbari.
History behind the Sarkar Rajbari or Surul Sarkarbari in Bolpur
The Surul Rajbari belonged to the Sarkars who were the affluent zamindars during the British rule. The Sarkars were greatly responsible for the socio-economic development of Surul to a great extent. You can get a lot more information and view pictures of various events held at the Rajbari on their official Facebook Page.
The earliest ancestor of Surul’s Sarkars was Bharat Chandra. He along with his wife Srimati Bimala settled in Surul after being advised by their Gurudev Sri Basudev Bhattacharjee.
They gave birth to a son and named him Krishnahari Sarkar. Gradually the family settled permanently in Surul.
Sri Krishnahari had three sons- Jadavendra, Madhavendra and Kalicharan. The descendants of Jadavendra Sarkar and Kalicharan were the inmates of Surul Borobari and the descendants of Madhavendra of the Surul Chotobari. As such there are two Durga Puja celebrated one belonging to the Chotobari and another Borobari.
Most of this information are collected from Internet and local people so there might be some mistakes.
Jadavendra Sarkar had two sons- Brajaballav and Rajballav. Brajaballav had five sons of which his third son Sri Srinivas Sarkar established a distinct name and identity in Surul. He made praiseworthy contributions and played a major role in the well being of the Sarkar family.
This Rajbari was built by Sri Srinivas Sarkar, a prominent zamindar during the 18th century in Colonial India. Srinivas Sarkar earned remarkable name after he started getting involved with the East India Company.
The Sarkars also made a substantial contribution to the establishment of Visva-Bharati University for which Santiniketan Bolpur is famous.
The Zamindari house or Rajbari is around 276 years old and stands still in full grandeur and elegance. The Surul sarkarbari in Bolpur is located in the outskirts and if you visit early in the morning you won’t find any visitors.
Centuries old Durga Puja at Surul Sarkarbari
When we reached it was around 7.30 am. The gates were open and the e-rickshaw driver told us no one stays there. All the family members get together every year to celebrate Durga Puja in Surul Sarkarbari. We entered the small gate that leads directly through tall thick pillars to the Thakur Dalan.
Thakur Dalan as I have earlier mentioned in one of my blog posts is a place allotted to the Worship of Goddess Durga. Most of the Zamindari houses of Bengal during the colonial era took pride in their Thakur Dalan which used to be built in a grand architectural pattern.
We saw that the making of Maa Durga Idol had already started. The framework of the Goddess was right in there and there were a few ladies from the nearby village who had come to offer prayers early morning. The Durga Puja of the Sarkars is around 284 years old. The Goddess is adorned in Daker saaj and gold ornaments.
Durga Puja of the Sarkars began during the time of Sri Srinivas Sarkar from a temple made of mud. Later by the end of the 18th century Srinivas Sarkar along with his brothers demolished this mud temple and constructed a pucca temple or temple made of bricks.
Villagers used to flock in to participate in this traditional festival of the Sarkars. The Mela or fair during the Durga Puja organised just outside the Rajbari itself is quite old and still celebrated with great fervour.
Twin Shiva Terracotta Temples in Surul
Just around the same campus, there were two beautiful terracotta twin Shiva temples. There are a few more terracotta temples that are scattered around Surul and are now in dilapidated condition.
These terracotta temples were constructed during the time of Sri Krishnahari Sarkar. The entrance to the temples is from the left side of the main rajbari. You shouldn’t miss visiting the temples.
For someone who has a great interest in the culture, heritage of ancient Bengal would definitely love visiting the Surul Rajbari in Bolpur. I am sure you won’t miss visiting Surul Sarkarbari and get a peek into Bengal’s ancient culture and heritage that stood against time in ruins in Surul.
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