A fascinating building, with a family history of the kind that often inspires great family saga novels.
The Edwardian Oriental Baroque facade, with its magnificent stairway approach, was constructed early in the 20th Century to replace the earlier palace that collapsed, like so many, in the Great India Earthquake of 1897, in this case killing the incumbent Zaminder, Gobinda Lal.
|Water Fountain- Tajhat Palace-Rangpur|
The family history is another classic of the rise of the Zaminder class under the British. In the middle of the 18th Century, Manna Lal Roy, a jeweller and cap merchant migrated from the Punjab. It seems likely that he, a tradesman, had heard of the opportunities under the East India Company who, from the Battle of Plassey onward, were slowly but surely securing their grip on Bengal.
Where, under the Mughals, Zaminders were as much administrators, and, as in the rest of India, succeeding through family descent, and suppliers of security forces to the Emperor in Delhi, the Company sought people with commercial experience to ensure the revenues their shareholders expected, and to pay for their administration of the territory they had seized.
|Front Stair-Tajhat Palace-Rangpur|
Manna Lal Roy, it appears, was financially adept. He is said to have made a fortune during the famine at the end of the 18th Century, lending money to other Zaminders, presumeably to enable them to retain their position by payment of dues to the Company.
In 1830, he was succeeded by his grandson, and there followed 70 years of complex family successions, including adoptions, to maintain the family fortunes.
Gobinda’s successor was Kumar Gopal Lal Roy, who commissioned the construction of the Tajhat Palace as we now see it, one of the best preserved in Bangladesh. Like his forbears, in 1912 he was awarded the honorific title of Raja.
Also like an unexpected number of Zaminders, it appears that his successor favoured the rise of nationalism, and the irresistible move towards independence. It is not hard to wonder how much they may have lived to regret the outcome of that inclination!