Grace isn’t something one would associate
with decay but Kolkata has that quality; its grandeur may have rusted, but a
certain grace lingers in its neglected columns and statues. Kolkata under the
“Raj” (British Colonial Period) was a melting pot of various cultures. The
nouveau riche of the city absorbed elements of Europe’s Greco-Roman heritage
when they built their sprawling mansions. These houses were studded with
Corinthian pillars and lined with balustrades of delicate grill-work, and strewn with copies of Greek and Roman marble
Today much of this lies in a state of neglect. The statues stand frozen in time and wear a haunted look. Withered, chipped, missing parts and peeling paint, they stand sentinel to a lost time with a quiet grace, like a soul that hasn’t quite left the body.
It is a look one sees mirrored in the neglected residents of these houses.
—by Hardika Dayalani
The house of Duttas, Neemtala Ghat Street. Mirrors made of Belgian glass were considered prestigious possessions for the royal families in colonial times. Some old families still have them, mostly in a neglected condition.
Octagon House, Central Avenue. Octagonal
houses were a unique style briefly popular in the 1850s in the United States
and Canada. They often feature a flat
roof and a veranda all round houses.
One of two still left in Kolkata.
The house of Basu Mullicks, Suryasen
Street. Hermes (Mercury) statues once commonly adorned the house of Kolkata’s
wealthy. Hermes, a Greek and Roman messenger of the gods, is also a deity of
trade and travellers.
A lavish drawing room in Dhurjyoti Villa, Belgachia.
A house in Janbazzar area. Old statues can often be found at dump yards outside dilapidated houses.
Joransako Rajbari, Rabindra Sarani. The ‘Babus of Calcutta’ were the high class, rich Bengalis in the late 18th and 19th centuries who came into being as a result of intimate interaction with the British. They often imported Italian marbles for their floors and balconies.
Joransako Rajbari, Rabindra Sarani. Interiors of old mansions were often decorated with expensive, intricate wood work, oil paintings, and vases made of cut glass. With time most have vanished.
Tagore Palace, Pathuriaghata Street. Corinthian pillars in an old mansion. They were a common feature of colonial construction.
Old Bank Shall Courthouse, Neemtala Ghat Street.
General Post Office, Kolkata.
A staircase of a house in Rabindra Sarani
[The house of Duttas, Neemtala Ghat Street. Durga worship was essential in the best families. In this house even this area is dilapidated.
Dhurjyoti Villa, Belgachia.