Saturday, December 4, 2010


In the grounds of Mymensingh Rajbari, constructed by the last Maharajah, Sashi Kanta Acharya Chaudhury, whose adopted son proved to be the last of the great Zaminders of a long line, stands an extraordinary piece of iron construction, known by some as Alexander’s Castle. Named for one of its early visitors, Grand Duke Boris, of the, Romanov, Russian Royal household, it also hosted visits from such distinguished guests as Lord Curzon, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose (the latter two visitors might suggest that the Zaminders played a part in their own demise!).
A simple wooden bungalow, that seems to owe a great deal to the classic design of Tea Garden bungalows,constructed on a large masonry plinth, and built of wood on an interesting frame work of steel.
The height of the plinth presumably reflected the risk from flooding of the Brahmaputra River that flows about 500 yards in front, and which it overlooked, probably across lawns that ran to the river bank.
Its high, sloping roof, is of corrugated iron, which in monsoon rains must have been rather noisy!
At each corner is a furnace and chimney; winter weather can be cool thereabouts, and guest probably enjoyed hot water from them. And either side the long veranda at the front, stand Greek statue reproductions of the Graces; from the Muktagacha Palace’s revolving stage it isn’t hard to imagine the Maharajah’s interest in such decoration!
A disused and overgrown walled garden stands behind the building, with arches and gateways which suggest past glories.
The use of iron in construction was clearly much favoured by the Maharajah, an honorific Royal title that was unusually high status under the Raj, as is evidenced by construction work in the palace at Muktagacha, where girders from North East UK are visible. But its use in this extraordinary construction, now used as a library by the college in whose grounds it now stands is to an unusual degree, and with a rare level of visibility.
An interesting, and  rare insight into technological, cultural, social and even political life of the late nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century that this building represents.

1 comment:

  1. It was named after and built for the visit of the British Viceroy to India, not Tsar Alexander of Russia! I know because I was born and grew up in Mymensingh and my father, Muhammad Waheed, who told me this, was the General Secretary of Mymensingh Municipality. Nobody knows the history of my hometown better than my father did.