| The once-resplendent Jalpaiguri palace is in urgent need of maintenance. Picture by Biplab Basak
Jalpaiguri, Sept. 22: Once the abode of the Raikats, the kings of Baikunthapur estate, the Jalpaiguri palace is now gasping for survival.
The grand house of King Prassanadev Raikat and Queen Ashrumati Devi and their ancestors is crumbling. The building matches the Cooch Behar palace in area, but not in glory.
Descendants of the residents of the palace are also not too keen on restoring the building. According to them, they are not in a financial position to carry out any major revival job.
Says Pranata Kumar Bose, the descendent of the Raikat family and the grandson of King Prassanadev Raikat and Ashrumati Devi: “We are trying our best to maintain the heritage of our family. Still, there are certain problems.”
The Raikat family also owns estates in Panga, Bijni, Darang and Beltali areas of Jalpaiguri. The palace is now in a pathetic condition, and is in urgent need of maintenance.
Being a place of visit for the tourists and local residents of the town, the palace is losing its glory. The government has taken over the pond, or the “Rajbarir Dighi”, and has converted that into a garden which is worth watching.
But as far as the palace is concerned, Bose and the other members of his family are not ready to hand it over to the government. “We do not have any such plans to hand it over to the government. Whatever we can do to preserve this hereditary property, which is of historical importance, we are doing,” he said.
But the youngest son of Princess Prativa Devi admits that if the property is handed over to the government, it would be in a better condition.
Royal families in Rajasthan have leased out their properties to hotel groups and are minting money. Why, then, can’t Jalpaiguri go the Jaipur way and turn the palace into a heritage hotel'
Because, Bose says, family pride is at stake. “Yes, I know that some people, especially in Rajasthan, are converting palaces and forts into heritage hotels. They may have done right but we do not want to take such steps,” he replied.
According to Bose, the palace is not only proof of the identity of the reign of the Raikat kings but is also a storehouse of numerous old maps and mementoes.
The Jalpaiguri palace could also have been turned into a museum but “Kuchubabu”, as Bose is known locally, has rejected this proposal as well. The family simply does not have the funds to convert the palace into something like the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad.
The palace stands with the large building, the portico, a bushy garden, two temples and two gates at the entry point. The area is large enough to build a Heritage Hotel or a museum. Presently, it’s the Durga and Manasa pujas that the descendants are continuing like their ancestors.
Bose, who is based in Calcutta, drops in at the palace before the Durga Puja, recollecting the memories of his childhood when the Rajbari used to teem with relatives and friends.
The remembrance of glory and fame of the puja at Rajbari still brings a sparkle in his eyes. Reminisces Bose, “It was altogether a different time. We used to wait for the pujas for the whole year. It was a different experience.”
Asked whether the new generation felt the same way about being part of the Raikat family, Kuchubabu says: “They are very much interested in visiting their ancestral home. They feel proud to belong to the family.”