Two interesting heritage places in Murshidabad

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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What I did
Dutch cemetery
Hazarduary Palace and museum

Flag of India  , West Bengal,
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Dutch cemetery in Cossimbazaar is the first of our Indian Dutch heritage places on our one-month travel list. Only two inscriptions of the 22 at the cemetery in Cossimbazaar are readable when we visit it in the morning of 10 December 2013. They are of Gregorius Herklots and two of the Bahe family.

The cemetery is well kept, but we are disappointed that most of the stones seem to have been getting a layer of cement so that inscriptions are no longer visible. But in the 2011 book The VOC in India (in Dutch) Bauke van de Pol has a picture of 1900 by the journalist Maurits van Wagenvoort, who writes that there were only five inscriptions visible at that time. See also a Bauke van de Pol video.

It is interesting to note that both the Archeological Survey of India and the Department of Tourism of the West Bengal Government have information boards at the entrance of the Dutch cemetery. But heritage tourism to this area is hampered by the bad condition of most of the Kalkota – Murshidabad road. It took us almost eight hours yesterday, most of them very bumpy. At quite a few places road enlargements are underway, it will take years before they'll be finished. The bad news is that we have to go back the same way tomorrow to Kolkata airport for our 17:55 flight to Chennai.

Hazarduary Palace and museum

The second heritage place in Murshidabad is the Hazarduary Palace turned into a museum. This is the main attraction in Murshidabad. The English architect Colonel McLeod build it from 1829 to 1837 in European style for the local king Nawab Nazim Humayun Jah. Inside are 19th century weaponry, furniture, thrones made of silver and marble, flower vases, marble statues and many oil paintings with nawabs. The museum draws scores of Indian visitors. For us the museum is not spectacular.  This one is similar to a former palace that we saw in Kolakata a long time ago.

We stopped a while for pictures at the Bhagarathi river in which Chris swam a 19 kilometre long distance race in 1988. A nooka with cyclists and a few women crossed the river near a small temple.

Underway to Murshidabad we passed a very busy wholesale vegetable market. Bundles of cauliflowers, pumpkins, aubergines and ladyfingers change owner and are carried on heads, transport rickshaws and bicycles.     

In touch with Dutch honorary consul

I have to report one other thing still from our last day in Kokata. We met the Dutch honorary consul Mr. Namit Shah by chance at the Songs of the Seasons 2013 in the Assembly of God Church. The church looked more like a theatre than a church.

 At the start of the musical story with Christmas songs, some of the notables were asked to stand up to be acknowledged for their contribution to society. Mr. and Mrs Shah were called. They happened to be sitting two metres away from us across the corridor! As last Chris was asked to stand up and he was announced as a famous swimmer.

Responsible for that was a friend who as a boy of 11 was taught by Chris how to swim in the Dalhousie Club. He, now himself a father of two and his father came to say hello before the show started and they invited us to sit in the VIP area.

The message from musical and the preaching in between were very clear, but well balanced: make others happy and look beyond yourselves, your needs, your wants.  From my communication and marketing experience, I found that his was a much better production than the 40 years LWS.IT celebration.

When the programme was finished we briefly talked with Namit Shah and his wife. I shared some of my Chinsurah heritage efforts and contacts with them. He had looked at my 1989 pictures and story with great interest. He is very keen to bring me in touch with the bright, young architect from Delhi, who started her six-month assignment from the Dutch embassy to survey which buildings in Chinsurah can be contributed to the Dutch period. I am only too happy to help where I can.

Chris was happy about one other fact that he had found out when visiting the Dalhousie  Club. The record he set in 1986 for a race over three hours in that swimming pool still stands today! 
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dieuwke janssen van raay on

Ik vind leuk dat de Indiërs nog altijd de herinneringen aan hun nederlandse kolonisators zo goed in stand houden. Ik vraag me af of dat in Indonesië ook zo is, betwijfel het. -Voorts het zwemrecord van Christiaan van 27 jaar geleden! Nooit geweten dat hij een sportheld is geweest! Groet, Dieuwke

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