Murshidabad- a weekend visit!

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The India observer, TIO, NJ: “I will get the best chicken sandwiches from Coffee House in College Street,” Rajesh Dutt of a famous family of Bholanath Dutt & Sons, paper Merchants in Kolkata said.

Early morning we boarded the Hazardurai Express from Kolkata station in north part of the city. It was AC chair car and very comfortable in this summer heat. The four-hour journey was enjoyable too as we started with coffee and the chicken sandwiches. Various types of hawkers were in the compartment selling their wares which ranged from soft toys to spicy puffed rice.

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Rajesh who has a penchant for eggs ordered four boiled eggs and also a plate of puffed rice which came with kernel and high quality of ingredients.

We reached Murshidabad station at 10.25 AM.

We were greeted by friendly Toto (electric operated rick shwas) drivers. We chose a young man called Rocky Shah. He turned out to be a very good guide.

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We checked into Hotel Indrajit just a few yards away.  The lunch was superb. Bhaja moog daal (fried lentils with spices) with fried vegetables and the surprise was the Pomfret curry with mustard and green chillies!

After lunch Rocky who is not only a Toto driver but a historian guide took us out for a ride. First we went to Motijheel Park. Located nearby it was an enchanting evening. There are cottages there which you can book and also stay. As you enter there is a famous cannon used in the battle between the British and Nawab Sirajuddaulah. The entire park is lit up and with colourful fountains all over along with a lake where you can go for a boat ride. There is also a canteen which serves snacks and cold drinks. A perfect place lovers too!

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We spent the entire evening there walking around and enjoying the pleasant environement. There was large number of people from all over the country who were visiting and enjoying too.

Rocky took us back to the hotel late evening. But we decided to venture out instead of having dinner at the hotel. There were many “dhabas” (local eateries) and the food was excellent. We ordered rotis, tarkha, and chicken curry. It was delicious and then topped up with rosogollas.

Next day early morning we went to Katra Masjid.

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Rocky narrated: “Nawab Murshid Quli Khan was the tax collector. As such he had to get people tortured and collect the taxes. Before he died he said please bury me below the mosque so that people would walk over my body”!

When we went to katra mosque we were amazed.

The mosque stands on a square plinth. It is a brick built mosque and is surrounded by double storied domed cells, which were built for those who read the HolyQuran in those days, they can also be called a madarsa . All the rooms can in all accommodate 700Quran readers. These rooms form a cloister to the huge courtyard in front of the rooms. Four big minars stand at the four corners.

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These are octagonal in plan and taper upwards. The two towers or the minarets in front of the mosque are 70 feet high and 25 feet in diameter. The whole mosque is quadrangular in shape, the whole mosque has no pillar support but it has been given support by a raised platform below the mosque or by several arches. The mosque has however been destroyed in the 1897 earthquake. Each minar has a winding staircase which leads to the top, one can see a major part of the city of Murshidabad from there. At the two ends of the mosque, two minarates measuring 70 feet high, are still there but in a dilapidated condition. They had domes which were destroyed in the 1897 earthquake. In 1780 AD, a traveller named William Hodges wrote that 700 Quran readers lived there in the mosque. Hodges in his book Select Views of India describes it as “a grand seminary of Musalman learning, adorned by a mosque which rises high above all the surrounding buildings“.

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The entrance to the mosque is by fourteen flights of stairs from the east, Nawab Murshid Quli Khan has been buried under these stairs. It has been done so as per the Nawab’s wish as he was repentant for the misdeeds committed by him and ordered this out of humility. He wanted to be buried in such a place where he could be trodden and could get the foot prints and the touch of the feet of the noble men who climb those stairs and enter the mosque. So since the year 1725 when he died his mortal remain buried under the stairs. In the mosque there is a slab embedded at the top where it is written in Arabic: “Muhammad, the Arabian, the glory of both worlds. Dust be on the head of him who is not the dust of his portal“.

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From Katra after drinking tender coconut water we proceeded to Hazardurai. The seat of power of the last emperor of Bengal Nawab Sirajuddaulah.

It is now a museum and we went around with large number of visitors amazed with how the nawabs lived at that time!

Next to it is the imambara which is closed but opened only during muharram.

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Next stop was Kathgola Gardens. Built by a wealthy Jain Marwari Lakhshmipat Duggar where actually the deal between the British rulers and Mir Jafar took place! They used to entertain European and Muslim guests during trade visits, is a marvel of its own.

The place Kathgola (wood war house) acquires its name from the lumber yard that used to be functional in the area before the palace was built. Built ahead of its times, the place is more than just a palace. The palace, endless gardens, ponds, a temple devoted to Adinath and a statue of michealangelo are few of the marvels you’ll see here.

There were more places to see but we were short in time. So we we came back to the hotel pretty tired on a Sunday late afternnon.

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Rajesh and I went out after a brief siesta. After a brief shower the weather was cool and we just walked around watching the beautiful sceneries around the hotel and also the age old Murshidabad railway station.

We interacted with the local people and found them to be very friendly and humble. Actually when you visit a place you need to talk to with the local people to understand their feelings!!

We had fantastic dinner at a local dhaba. Mutton curry with rice followed by local sweets!

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Next morning we took the Bhagirathi Express at 6.11 hours and back in Sealdah at 10.25 hours. While returning the breakfast in the train was excellent. We had toasts with poached eggs with good coffee. Rajesh was delighted and said that we should again visit Murshidabad to see the places which we had missed!

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Curated and Compiled by Humra Kidwai

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Arup Chanda

Arup Chanda is an investigative journalist based in India with 37 years of experience having worked in leading English dailies, television channels, international wire agencies, and news portals. His areas of specialization are politics, terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and human rights violations. He has worked all over India and covered events in South Asia. He has traveled all over the USA under the prestigious International Visitors’ Programme, in Europe and South Asia.

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