Professor, The Department of Sociology
The University of Burdwan
Burdwan town is a blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the modem. Burdwan is today an important business centre, apart from being the capital of Burdwan district. The name, Bardhaman, called Burdwan by the British, is a town of great antiquity. Varahamihir, in his Brihatsamhita, called the place Bardhamanpur .The place had links with the Jain religion and is mentioned in Jam literature. During Emperor, Harshavardhan's regime it was called Bardhamankoti while during the Pala and Sena regimes it was known as Dandabhukti or Bardhamanbhukti.
Burdwan town is situated on the banks of the Damodar river .The Banka river bisects it into two halves. It is located at an average distance of about 100 kilometres from the state capital, Kolkata and is linked to all major towns and cities through rail and road. The Grand Trunk Road runs through the town.
Burdwan is the home of many fine specimens of medieval architecture. The Khaja Anwar Nawab Ber is located in the South of Burdwan town. It is a three hundred year old specimen of Indo- Syrian architecture. The 108 Shiva temple complex, which was founded in 1789 AD by Rani Bishnukumari Devi at Nababhat, is a good example of deul type of architecture found in Bengal, The Sarba- Mangala Mandir was constructed in the 18th century. It contains black stone image of Devi Durga. Sarbamangla was the family deity of the Maharajas of Burdwan. The Baroduari at Kanchannagar was constructed to celebrate a military victory.
Burdwan has a number of Victorian & neo-classical monuments. The Mahatab Manjil, which was inaugurated in 1851 by Mahatab Chand, the Maharaja of Burdwan, was originally the residence of the Maharajas and formed part of the Rajbati complex. It now houses the offices of The University of Burdwan. The University of Burdwan is a four star affiliating university which not only runs traditional academic courses but also vocational courses to cater to the needs of a wide cross section of students. Apart from the Mahtab Manjil, the Rani Mahal has been converted into the Uday Chand Women's College. Aftab House, which houses the Burdwan Raj College, has neo-classical architectural features. The college is a living example of the interest shown by the Maharajas in higher education. The Star of India Gate, on G.T. Road, was popularity known as Curzon Gate. Bijay Chand Mahatab, Maharajadhiraj of Burdwan, constructed it to commemorate his getting the Star of India award from the British government, in 1904. Lord Curzon, who visited Burdwan in 1904, entered Burdwan through this Gate. Now renamed Bijoy Toran, it has become a symbol of the town. It is located on G.T. Road at Raniganj bazaar. Burdwan is now celebrating the centenary of this gate.
Those with a religious bent of mind may visit the temple constructed by the saint Kamalakanta, and the dargah of Pir Khakkar Shah at Rajbati. The Bardhamaneshwar temple at Jilipi-Bagan, Alamganj, should be visited to see the huge shiva lingam. Another important temple is the Kankaleswari temple at Kanchannagore, The image is of great artistic value. After seeing the image, one gets the impression that the sculptor had a deep knowledge of human anatomy. Other places of religious interest include the 108 Shiva temple complex at Nawabhat, where a fair is held during Shiva Ratri, the Church besides the Curzon Gate, Rathtala, where the chariots of the Rathajatra festival are kept, the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Charan Kamal at Shyambazar, and the mosque at Khoshbagan.
Burdwan has been the setting of many great historical events. The graves of Sher Afghan and Kutubuddhin at Pir Baharam stand as mute witnesses to a bygone era when might was right. History depicts Sher Afghan as a rebel against whom Jehangir sent his half brother, Kutubuddhin. Popular plays depict Sher Afghan as a loving husband, whose wife, Meherunnisa was coveted by Jehangir. When Sher Afghan refused to surrender, Kutubuddhin engaged him and in the ensuing battle, both were killed. Meherunnisa was sent to Jehangir's zenana .Impressed by her beauty Jehangir renamed her Nur Jehan or 'light of the world'. It is as Nur Jehan that she exercised great influence over the Emperor. The Khwaja Anwar Nawab Ber is named after two Mughal generals. The Baroduari commemorates the victory Raja Kirtichand Rai over Chitua Barda.
Burdwan also has a number of parks and pleasure gardens. The oldest of them is Golapbag, originally the pleasure garden of the Maharaja of Burdwan. Old timers recall that it was also used as a public park. A walk through this garden in the morning refreshes the mind. Golapbag contains two fine relics off the Raj, the Darul Bahar which was the garden house where Lord Curzon was reportedly entertained, and the Dilkhus which is on an island. The entire garden is encircled by a moat. Golapbag now houses the academic departments of the university.
Nearby is the Krishnasayar Ecological Park. You may unwind at the park. Facilities are available for boating. That apart, Krishnasayar boasts of an aviary, a snake park and an aquarium, a restaurant and an art gallery. The best time to visit Krisnasayar is between 1-10 January every year when during the Holi, the Bengal Dance festival is held. You may also visit the Ramnabagan zoo. It was originally a deer park but now houses some animals and birds. The Bijoy Bahar,which is adjacent to the zoo, is a memorial to the late Maharajadhraj Bijoy Chand Mahtab. During the Shiv Ratri, a big festival is held here. Both are located opposite the first gate of Golapbag.
Burdwan is one of the most tech savvy towns is West Bengal. According to one estimate 60,000 people in Burdwan regularly use computers. A website has now been opened on Burdwan district. It is named www.bardhaman.com It also contains detailed information on Burdwan town.
Two of the most important modern landmarks of Burdwan are the Bardhaman Science Centre and the Meghnad Saha Planetarium. Both of them are located opposite Golapbag. Science comes alive at the Science Centre through numerous games and interactive models. There is also a provision for picnics at the Science Centre. The Planetarium is the most modem planetarium in West Bengal. It is the second planetarium in West Bengal after Birla Planetarium in Kolkata. It is also the only planetarium in West Bengal to be attached to a university.
Burdwan also boasts of an ultramodern auditorium in Sanskriti Lokomoncha. It is located in the court compound opposite Bijoy Toran (Curzon Gate). We may also mention, in this context, the century old Bangshagopal Town Hall. Though the Victorian facade is undisturbed the interior has been thoroughly renovated on modem lines. That apart, we have the Bardhaman Rabindra Bhavan and the Railway Institute Hall. Apart from these halls, Burdwan has a number of cinema halls.
Picnic spots in Burdwan include the Burdwan University Farm and the waterworks at Lakurdi.
Those who are interested in shopping may visit Dutta Centre in Raniganj Bazaar, near Curzon Gate. Other important shopping centres are the Patal Bazar on G.T.Road, and the Spandan Complex. Delegates who are interested in buying local handicrafts may visit Karuj at Spandan Complex for dokra and other fine specimens of art.
The easiest and cheapest way to visit these places is by rickshaw. Rickshaws are available 24 hours a day throughout Burdwan. You can also hire a car from the taxi stand near the Bardhaman Railway Station.
There are plenty of places to stay in Burdwan town. Retiring rooms are available at the Bardhaman Railway Station. That apart you may stay at the Burdwan University Guest House, the Circuit House, Bardhaman Bhavan, Irrigation Bungalow, Guest House of the Burdwan Municipality, Meen Bhavan, Guest House of Bardhaman Cooperative Bank, Guest House of the Department of Agriculture and several hotels.
From Burdwan you may visit many places. You may visit Santiniketaa, the site of Tagore's experiments on education, by train or car. You may also visit Kalna, Katwa, Malda, Murshidabad, Kolkata, Nabadwip, and Santiniketan among other places.
Before you leave Burdwan, be sure to taste its famous delicacies- Mihidana and Sitabhog. Maharajadhiraj Bijay Chand Mahatab specially commissioned these sweets in honour of Lord Curzon, when he visited the town in 1904. A local sweetmeat maker invented them. The Maharaja himself named the white sweet Sitabhog and the yellowish grains, Mihidana. The best quality mihidana and sitabhog is available at Ganesh Mistanna Bhandar in Tentultala Bazaar,adjacent to Raniganj Bazaar.
For further information on Burdwan visit the portal www.bardhaman.com .
[Source: National Seminar on Contemporary Indian Society: Issues & Challenges (February 7th & 8th 2004) Souvenir]
PIX: ANIRBAN BANERJEE
|108 Shiva Temples @ Nawabhat|
|108 Shiva Temples @ Nawabhat|
|Bardhaman Science Centre|
|Dar Ul Bahar (The University of Burdwan, Golapbag)|
|Dargah of Khakkar Shah (Behind Rajbati), Inside View|
|Graves of Sher Afgan and Kutubuddin @ Pir Baharam|
|Guru Nanak Gurdwara|
|Meghnad Saha Planetaurium|
|Sher Shahi Kalo Masjid, Puratan Chak,Burdwan|
|Star of India Gate|
|Star of India Gate|
|Statue on Krishak Setu|