Of Indigo weaves, Wet Earth and Krishna Consciousness

The clouds were waiting to break water.
Gray, yet not quite gloomy, the Monsoons were playing hide and seek this year.
Bengal with its vivid greens and riverine scapes is probably at its prettiest in that season of expectant drizzles.
The best time to set out to explore .
And this time our destination was the district of Nadia.
Nadia of historic roots,
Beyond colonial creations.

Historically Nadia probably can be traced back to the Sena Dynasty.. Situated at the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Jalangi rivers, the city was reportedly founded by Ballalasena sometime in 12th century..Till date there is excavation site there called Ballal Dhibi.
Nadia is further noted as a pilgrimage site for the Bhakri movement founded by Shri Chaitanya , that swept through Bengal and beyond in the 15th century uniting cast and creed in a unified Krishna Consciousness.

Nadia is also the land of Bhabananda Mazumdar and Maharaja Krishnachandra.
Maharaja Krishnachandra was a great patron of literature. Bharatchandra, one of the famous poets of the 18th century, was his court poet. It was at Krishnachandra’s request that Bharatchandra composed his masterpiece, Annadamangal which remains an iconic part of the history of Bengali literature. .Other men of letters at his court included the ascetic poet Ramprasad Sen, who is famous for his Shyama Sangeet or devotional songs for Godess Kali. Gopal Bhaar, known far and wide for his wit and humour was also part of his court . Children even today are regaled with stories about Gopal Bhar.. Krishnachandra spent huge sums of money to promote Sanskrit learning at Navadwip , the birth place of Sree Chaitanya .He established a large Shiv temple at Shivnibash which became a revered religious destination. He was the first to introduce Jagaddhatri puja in Bengal. It was at his initiative and encouragement that some reputed potters from Natore moved to Nadia and even today the clay dolls of Nadia are beyond compare


The idea of exploring this beautiful historic place was like going back in time on a treasure hunt. A four hour drive from Kolkata and we drove into the historic Balakhana Estate at Maheshgunj.

The Maheshgunj Estate, Balakhana was built in the late 18th century as a Neel Kuthi or ‘Indigo Bungalow ” by an Indigo planter, Mr John Angelo Savis. Indigo was the prime colonial cash crop of the time, but its forcible cultivation by the British resulted in the famous Indigo Uprising by the workers and peasants.  By the 1870s Balakhana was put up for sale by it’s the then owner, ( grandson of the original owner) and it was bought in 1875 by Mr Biprodas Palchoudhuri, a landowner of eminence, dealing with tea, bell metal , microfinance etc. Wealthy traders of the 18th century, the Palchoudhuris soon established their estates in Santipur, Narayanpur and Maheshgunj. They went on to build a new fortune as pioneer planters of tea gardens.

The Maheshgunj Estate Balakhana is retained and looked after by the family and they have recently opened their doors to guests.
Five beautifully anointed rooms with lovely antique furniture await to welcome guests.
The room that I stayed in, had a original four poster , the traditional ” palanka” where I had to climb up a small flight of stairs to get to bed.
The long white marbled verandah is another sight to behold. It runs through the entire frontage, supported by tall columns and overlooks the beautiful gardens.
The Verandah is strewn with easy chairs and marble tables and on two ends there are two jhoola beds , ideal for curling up for an afternoon siesta or just day dreaming.
It is here that the current custodian Mr Ranodhir Palchoudhuri and his lovely wife welcomes guests and ensures that they feel at home, regaling them with stories of yore.
Just as warm and wonderful are the mealtimes with the family as they serve delicious home cooked meal after meal , full of local variety and flavour.

Although it is wonderful to bask in the old world charm at Balakhana, yet a trip to Nadia would not be complete without visiting some of its unique sites all within close proximity of Maheshgunj Estate.

Krishnanagar, the district capital is barely a half hours drive away.
A visit to Krishnanagar must include a trip to Ghurni, the artisan village.
Being an avowed patron of art and culture, Maharaja Krishnachandra brought families of potters from Dhaka and Natore and settled them in Ghurni.
These artisans specialised in making clay dolls
unique in their making and finish, and they represented a breakaway from the traditional form. Fruits, fish, insects, animals, birds, and of course the entire pantheon of gods and goddesses, are even now, exemplary in the detailing.Exhibitions of Krishnagar dolls have been held overseas. Ghurni clay models have won medals and certificates at international exhibitions.

Not too far away from here is a massive excavation site popularly known as Ballal Dhibi This is located at Bamanpukur
and historians believe that the ruined palace belonged to Ballal Sena. How ever some others recorded the discovery as a Shiva temple. Miniature shrines around the main structure were dated between the 10th and 11th centuries.

Just about 24 km away from Krishnanagar lies the Bethuadahari Wildlife Sanctuary.The sanctuary has feed-pits located allover where you can spot the deers and wild hogs. There is also a Gharial (Indian Alligator) Rehabilitation Centre here.

One of the most historic places in Nadia district is the ancient town of Nabadwip.
It is a holy place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born. A center of learning and philosophy in medieval India, the city is still noted for its traditional Sanskrit schools

Adjacent to Nabadwip is Mayapur. The headquarters of ISKCON is situated here
The ISKCON Chandrodaya Temple has become an important religious site . This is one of the most important temples established by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness,. It is always buzzing with devotees who come here from domestic and foreign shores to pay their respects to Sri Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.

Nadia is also famous for the handloom sarees of Santipur and Phulia. The handloom weaving style unique to this region is famously known as Santipuri Sari . Post partition many skilled weavers from Tangail in Dhaka, inmigrated into West Bengal and settled around the cities of Shantipur and Phulia . Over the years it ihas become renowned in producing hand-woven fabrics sold throughout the country.

Any discussion on any place in Bengal needs to end on a sweet note. Nadia, having such a rich historical legacy, even it’s most popular sweetmeat brims with historical sweetness.
The famous Sarpuria is mentioned in Chaitanya Charitamrita written 500 plus years ago. It is said that Advaita Acharya sent Sarapuriya to Chaitanyadev.Even today the best Sarpuria can be found at Adhar’s sweet shop in Krishnanagar , the sweatshop founded by Adhar Chandra Das who was the family member of the creater of Sarpuria.

Indeed a visit to Nadia is a historical treasure trip full of creative and spiritual sweetness

Note~ Pictures Source ~ Internet

22 thoughts on “Of Indigo weaves, Wet Earth and Krishna Consciousness

  1. This is wonderful illustration of rich history of Nadia district. I can add few more facts and figures of the history of Nadia District. The British Districts of Nadia was formed in 1787 but the identity of the area was well known since the ancient period of Indian history due to erudite culture and refined scientific temper of traditions that still bear the fruits! There are lots of other things we can mention for which Nadia District is famous and it has very rich history since the ancient period of India. 1) The author and famous medieval time poet translated first time Ramayana from Sanskrit and his original work in Bengali Sri Ram Panchali is popularly known as Krittibasi Ramayan Krittibas Ojha was born in Phulia, Nadia 2) Shantipur and Phulia are famous in India for handloom saree 3) India’s first radical communist movements took shape in Nadia district and this was led by Kanu Sanyal and Charu Majumdar 4) Ballal Sen and Laxnan Sen two famous they ruled many years in this province and lots of mediaeval Gothic structure Palaces were built during that time! 5) Shantipur is famous for most refined and traditional culture of India which has thousands years of rich history 6) the Neel cultivation was first started in the district of Nadia, the British rulers chose Nadia because of its finest texture of soil that is ideal for neel cultivation. Indigo Revolts were first organised in Nadia district by two brothers Bishnu Biswas, Digambar Biswas who led the movements against British rule, organised mass awareness and organised successful movements against Forceful cultivation of Indigo. This movements were the first of such kind against the exploitation of British rulers! 7) Nadia centering around Nabadwip is the home of Sanskrit language and culture since medieval and May be ancient time that enrich, spread and practices of Sanskrit language later under the leadership of Chaitanya – original name is Visvambhar Mishra was a great scholar and a unparalleled in the skills of debates-a large number of Sanskrit toles were established and gurus were teaching pure Sanskrit language Indian history culture during that time. Nabadwip is fondly called as ‘Oxford of Bengal ‘and one of the ancient India’s first School named Navya Naya – was developed in this District and was the capital of Bengal of Sena Empire lead by Ballan Sen and Laxman Sen 8) Dwijendralal Roy a famous poet and a contemporary of Tagore and a fierce critic of Tagore’s work born and worked in Krishnagar. He established a literary society in Kolkata Purnima Milon in 1905 9) Kavi Karuna Nidhan Bandyopadhyay was born and work in Shantipur and he a living legend in his time because of his beautiful composition of poems. 10) Shantipur and Krishnagar Municipal systems of Administration were one of the first experimented and successfully functioned as local governing systems in Nadia in 1864 for the benefit of local people. 11) During the period of Chaitanya and Ballal Sen Nadia had experienced a Renaissance of Bengal with the establishment of many high schools and colleges and Bengals first cultural movements and the movements against traditional prejudice, ignorance, illomen were addressed by people’s movements led by many stalwarts including Chaitanya, Nimai and other renowned scholars later this was spread across Bengal and then India! 12) Iswar Chandra Gupta was a famous Bengali poet born in Kanchrapara, Nadia 13) Ramtanu Lahiri a famous Young Bengal Leader, renowned teacher and social reformer was born in Nadia. 14) One if the three world famous Bengali writers one of which Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was Bon in 1894 in the Muratipur village of Kalyani, Nadia and other world famous Bengali writers are Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay and Manik Bandyopadhyay. 15) Poet Jatindranath Sengupta was born in Shantipur he was an Engineer by profession but he was at the same time recognised as major poet of Bengal and was contemporary of Tagore. 16) Dinabandhu Mitra was a famous dramatists of Bengal born in Nadia and influenced by Iswar Chandra Gupta and became famous for his powerful drama Nildarpan later it was translated by Michael Madhusudan Dutt in English and one of the most important works about exploitation of British against Indigo planters that contributed many anti-British movements. 17) Madam Mohan Tarkalankar was famous Bengali poet and Sanskrit scholar a contemporary of Vidyasagar. 18) Jagadananda Roy- born in Krishnanagar in 1869 was contemporary of Tagore and his works on scientific matters and making complex scientific issues into lucid explanations attracted attention of Tagore and he then asked him to teach his children later Tagore invited him to teach at Shantiniketan and was editor of Sadhana magazine that was one of the most famous journal in Bengali and till 1932 he taught at Shantiniketan 19) Basanta Biswas was born in Nadia and was an active member of revolutionary party Yugantar and a follower of Rash Behari Bose 20) World famous Actor and Dramatist Soumitra Chattopadhyay was born in Krishnanagar 21) Lalon Fakir was famous Sufi saint born in Nadia 22) Subhas Mukhopadhyay famous poet born in Nadia. 23) Hemanta Sarkar was a freedom movement leader born in Nadia !!

  2. চমৎকার লিখেছেন। লিখাটির মধ্যে নিজেকে সম্পৃক্ত করা যাই। মানসচক্ষে ভ্রমণ প্রায় সম্পূর্ণ, সশরীরে ঘোরার তৃষ্ণা বেড়ে গেল। ” মধুরেন সমাপয়েত।”

  3. Excellent write up Ipsita !.Well researched & very informative about the richness of Nadia district as a whole .
    Nadia district boasts of some important centres of pilgrimage and ancient learning like Nabadwip, Santipur and Mayapur, places of historical interest like Ballal Dhipi, Battle ground of Plassey, Krishnanagar Rajbari, Birth place of Poet Krittibas at Fulia and tourist spots like Bethuadahari Forest and Ghurni.

  4. Awesome description.It was almost like a virtual tour of the place for me.. At maheshganj estate climbing steps to bed is incredible.Ipsita your writing is a travel guide to the area and I am sure many footloose are going to make a trip after reading your post.

  5. Between the lines I could visualise the place. I read few lines then closed my eyes to visualise then move so it took long time to finish it. It is really a treat. Thanks.

  6. Its very nice. And interesting reading.
    Just suggest that add a map on beginging showing all places you talked about so we can visualise spread of location.

  7. Very beautiful penned Ipsita. Desire to visit has become more. Looking forward to visit as early as possible. Keep up writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Theme: Overlay by Kaira