Pramathesh palace in ruins

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By BIJOY KUMAR SHARMA
  • Published 30.08.05
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Gouripur (Dhubri), Aug. 30: The grandiloquence and the gradual decadence of Devdas could well be the story of the Assam palace that once housed the family of the celebrated filmmaker who fashioned the Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel into a celluloid classic.

Matiabog Palace, where Pramathesh Barua spent his childhood years, still stands on a picture-postcard hillock by the National Highway 31 in Dhubri district, but its fortunes are sinking like the sun going down behind the hills everyday.

Once the seat of power of the erstwhile princely state of Gouripur, the palace, like many other historical sites scattered across Assam, has been wallowing in neglect. The priceless artefacts inside the crumbling structure include cannons, wildlife trophies, swords, books, utensils, revenue records and royal attire.

Apart from Pramathesh, who moved to Calcutta early in life to study and pursue a career in films, the scions of the princely state of Gouripur include the country’s first woman elephant trainer, Parbati Barua, and the late folk singer Pratima Barua Pandey.

Parbati’s brother Probir Coomar Barua told The Telegraph that repeated requests to the Assam government to renovate the palace and carefully preserve the artefacts had met with no response.

“We have been trying to hand over the Matiabog Palace to the state government for the past 10 years. We want the palace to be preserved as a heritage site along with all the materials inside, but the government has shown no interest.”

The royal family’s association with Gouripur dates back to 1850, when they shifted to the area and built the once-magnificent palace.

Though their lifestyle was shorn of opulence after the abolition of the zamindari system, members of the royal family remained in the limelight through their contribution in the field of cinema, music, art and wildlife conservation.

Probir reeled off the names of politicians and bureaucrats ? including former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and his then ministry colleagues Chandra Mohan Patowari and Thaneswar Boro ? who visited the palace and promised to renovate it, but never did.

He said tourism minister Misbahul Islam showed a “keen interest” in preserving the heritage structure when a fresh proposal was submitted to him three months ago.

“We expect him to take it up with the central government soon. One of the clauses in the Assam Accord of 1985 is that both the central and state governments must preserve such heritage sites.”