|In the Long gallery of the archaeology section are arranged stone sculptures from various schools of Indian art from the beginning of the Christian era to about the end of 12th century AD, besides some medieval works from Southeast Asia. These are evidence of the influence of the religion and art of India on those of Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. All the objects are displayed on their own and the cumbersome wooden cabinets have been removed. A map pinpointing the original sites from which they were transported hangs on the farthest wall. The windows of all galleries will be kept open and daylight will illuminate the galleries. But it will be difficult to keep the space dust-free now.
Devotees from across the country and the world to Belur Math will no longer have to travel all the way back to Calcutta or Howrah to put up for the night.
Belur town, which witnesses thousands visiting the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission daily, has got a guest house with modern amenities that chief minister Mamata Banerjee unveiled on January 29.
Funded under the state plan and built by Howrah Improvement Trust at a cost of Rs 3 crore, Jatri Niwas is located around 100 metre from the Math, at the crossing of GT Road and the road leading to the shrine.
The 9,000sq ft property has come up on a Bally Municipal Corporation plot, where once a bus terminus operated.
The guest house has air-conditioned rooms with attached toilets, spacious dormitories, a convention hall and a dining area.
While the project was sanctioned in February 2011, work began in September.
A Metro walk through the three-storey guest house.
The guest house has three floors (excluding the ground floor that will be used as a bus terminus). While the first floor houses a convention hall and a dining area, the other two has four rooms each. The bathrooms have geysers and western-style lavatories.
The marble-floored rooms, each of 400sq ft, will have double beds and can accommodate up to four people. A walk on the terrace on a clear morning will offer a view of Belur Math, Vivekananda University and even the Dakhineshwar temple.
Brahm Prakash Chaturvedi, 34, a teacher at Delhi University who visited the Math in 2012, had to return to Park Street to put up for the night. “This sounds like a great initiative for out-of-towners like me. It is assuring to know that the next time I visit the Math, I will have the option of staying close by and cut down on travel,” said Chaturvedi.
Facing the bedrooms on the second and third floor corridors are six dormitories — three on each floor. Each of the dormitories, over 500sq ft in area, is spacious enough to accommodate about 20 people.
Outside, in the hall on each floor, are a total of four bathrooms, two each for men and women, and four shower cubicles.
The dormitory rooms have a direct view of the Math entrance. Apart from the room and the dormitories, the second and the third floor also have a large hall, which can serve as a sitting or dining area.
Convention hall and dining area
The first floor has been kept open to serve as a convention hall. The 6,200sq ft hall includes a dining hall separated by a wall. There are two staircases on either end of the building — a marble-floored grand spiral staircase with an elevator next to it and a rear staircase.
“We have kept the floor open so that it could be used for commercial purposes or to hold cultural and public events,” said Mridul Kundu, deputy chief engineer, Howrah Improvement Trust.
The ground floor will be used as bus terminus. Minibuses to Esplanade and Garia will terminate and start from right below the guest house, providing the guests above with the convenient option of hopping onto the buses for a quick ride to Calcutta.
The pillars have been covered with a 5ft-high and 8mm-thick steel fence to prevent the buses from colliding into or rubbing against them. Train options are also convenient as the plot is adjacent to Belur Math railway station.
As the plot belongs to Bally Municipal Corporation, engineers at Howrah Improvement Trust will hand it over to back to them. Given the demand that the guest house is expected to generate because of its facilities and proximity to Belur Math, many in the state government feel Ramakrishna Mission would be better placed to take care of the facility.
“We are considering approaching Ramakrishna Mission for the running the guest house but the final decision rests with chief minister Mamata Banerjee,” said a senior officer of the municipal affairs department.
The Mission, however, remained tight-lipped about the project and said that they had not yet received any official communication from the government about the guest house. “No one from the government has approached us as yet and hence we are currently not in a position to comment on it. We have seen it coming up and it is a good initiative but have no information about it,” said a Mission monk.