It is end of February but it has already started becoming very hot in Kolkata. Last Saturday afternoon, We had a doctor’s appointment at Garia. By the time we were finished, it was 1PM. As we stepped out, we saw the metro train roll into Garia Metro station. We were feeling bored and decided to go and explore some place in the city. Best option was to take a metro train. Standing there on the road amongst honking cars and buses,we finalized Jorasanko Thakur Bari as the destination. A Rs 15/- ticket and off we were on a non AC metro train.
We got down at Mahatma Gandhi Road metro station and then started walking. The 10 minutes walk would take you along Muktaram Babu Street(past Marble Palace). A right turn at the end of Muktaram Babu Street would bring you to the gate of Jorashanko Thakur Bari.
Located at 6/4 Dwarakanath Tagore Lane, the house where Rabindranath Tagore was born, spent his childhood and then died, is located on Rabindra Bharati University campus. This house was built in the 18th century on the land donated by the famous Sett family of burrabazar to Prince Dwarkanath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore’s grandfather). It is said that Jorashanko, takes its name from the original Jora Shankar, from the twin Shankar (Shiva) temples nearby
As soon as you cross the arched gate declaring Rabindra Bharati University, there is a ticket counter on the right. Entry fee is Rs 20/- per person (children below 10 years of age do not need a ticket). If you plan to take pictures, you need to get an additional “Photography Coupon” valued at Rs 50/-. This coupon is available from Museum Office which is on the left of the entry gate. The coupon is valid for only one device (be it camera or mobile) and they would paste a sticker on your device to authorize it to be used. However, photography is only allowed in the outside premises of the building and in the ground floor of Maharshi Bhawan. No photography is allowed inside the museum. The timings are from 10:30am to 4:30pm and it remains closed on Monday. There is a light and sound event which is oragnized at various times of the year but it mostly happens in the evening.
The first thing which would catch your eye is are two statues on either side of Maharshi Bhawan – one of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore (Rabindranath Tagore’s father) and of Rabindranath Tagore himself. Then you can enter into Maharshi Bhawan and take a look at the huge milky white thakur dalan.
Next, one would proceed to see the museum which is on the first and second floor.While entering the museum, you need to open your shoes and go bare footed. You would also need to switch off your mobile phones (You cannot even keep it in silent or vibrating mode). The museum is highly informative, and offers deep insights into the history of the Tagore family, and also about their involvement with the Bengal Renaissance and the Brahmo Samaj. The museum houses paintings of Tagores, Bengal school, Anglo Indian Schools, manuscripts of Rabindranath Tagore and the family, distinghished persons of the 19th century; photographs, personal effects, books and journals, tapes, disc, records, etc.
On the first floor you have multiple rooms each of which has several photographs, writings and paintings on the walls and also has items being used by the Tagore family members. You can see Maharshi Debendranath Tagore’s bedroom with bed and his dress, Sangeet room, Maternity room, Kitchen of Mrinalini Devi (Randranath Tagore’s wife) etc. There is a huge chart pasted on one of the walls running from ceiling to floor which outlines the entire Tagore family tree. You have exhibits like the scale model of the train in which Rabindranath traveled from Shantiniketan to Kolkata for the last time. There are scale models of cars used by Rabindranath. In addition, there is Vichitra Bhawan and also rooms of Mrinalini Devi (with old world mirrors) and also rooms belonging to the other Tagore family members. One wall was dedicated to Jagadish Chandra Bose where I saw a writing mentioning the friendship between Rabindranath and J.C.Bose and it seems they had planned to build a house in Puri near the sea where only two of them would spend time along.
The star attraction are four galleries in this building:
- Japan Gallery – This is loaded with artifacts starting from paintings and drawings of Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose to wash paintings made in Japanese style. The walls are full of pictures, newspaper clippings, writings, facts and figures which all cover the visit of Rabindranath Tagore to Japan.
- Chinese Gallery – This gallery is beautifully decorated with a chinese gate painted in vibrant colors at the entrance and red colored lanterns hanging. This again has huge collection of artifacts depicting and narrating the times when Rabindranath Tagore visited China. I saw a water and ink painting of Tagore by reknowned scholar Wen Yiduo during Tagore’s visit to China in 1924.
- American Gallery – Host of magazines and newspaper cuttings along with photographs are housed in this gallery. I saw a newspaper cutting from newpaper Portland Ore Oregonian published in Oct 1, 1916 which had heading “Noted Bengal poet sees Portland from cushions of automobile”. Few photographs which would catch your eye are the photographs of Rabindranath with Helen Keller and Einstein.
- Hungarian Gallery – This mostly has the artifacts from times when Rabindranath visited Budapest. A very interesting item on display here are a set of 8-10 rotating prism shaped pillars. On each of the side of the pillar is a part of an image. You need to rotate and align the pillars to see one picture at a time. In total, there are three pictures of mansions in Hungary. Ankur was very happy to see this.
Once the first floor visit was completed, we took the steps to second floor which has a balcony on one side. The rooms which are at the side of the balcony mainly contain artifacts related to Renaissance period. The gallery is aptly named Renaissance Gallery.
It took us more than 2 hours to cover everything and still we were not able to harvest all the material that was there on display. The collection is huge. On our way out, Ankur spotted a structure behind the ticket counter at the gate. There were iron bars on the gate and inside there seemed to be a vehicle. As we approached, we saw it was actually the Fiton car which would have belonged to the Tagore family which still stands there with all its royalty.
Jorasanko Thakur Bari is a must visit for all. Its a treasure trove of artifacts related to life and work of the great poet Rabindranath Tagore. On a weekend, make sure you do pay a visit to this place.