Are you interested in Raja-Maharaja’s living style? Or do you have curiosity for history, or above all, do you love nature? If yes, I don’t think you would like to return home without seeing both the historical palaces of Jhargram or without having been immersed a day or two in nature if you have been there.
Journey to Jhargram
Jhargram is a beautiful place nestled in the greenery of nature. So as our car turned from the National Highway No. 6 (near Lodhashuli) towards the road to Jhargram, green trees and colorful flowers have lit up the face of nature. There are numerous lovely sal trees on both sides of the street to greet you. So I got engrossed in the beauty of nature. There was a feeling of immense joy in my heart.
Experiences on reaching Jhargram
We finally reached the Jhargram Rajbari Tourist Complex. It is under West Bengal tourism. We thought that historic Jhargram Palace housed the West Bengal tourism’s ‘Jhargram Rajbari Tourist complex.’
But it was our misconception. Jhargram Palace is a distinct entity adjacent to West Bengal tourism’s Rajbari complex. However, although it has its website for booking accommodation, we were unaware of it. So the hope to stay at the Royal Palace (Rajbari) guest house has now remained only a fantasy for us.
Well, I won’t deny having a slight setback to our expectations. But whatever happened—no point in crying over spilled milk. But I won’t also lie as the West Bengal tourism’s Rajbari complex looked good outside. We were given a separate cottage in Annexure.
But here in the Annexure, there is a nuisance. At night some rowdy element enters cottages premises. They create a noisy scene by playing music in loud volume, much to the occupant’s discomfort. It would be unjust to ignore disturbances of this kind in a hotel of West Bengal tourism. But unfortunately, the manager said his helplessness, citing political pressure.
When we reached here, the previous occupant had not vacated the assigned cottage for us. Therefore, since we had to wait till the place got cleared, we visited Jharghram Palace with due permission to utilize the in-between period.
Jhargram Rajbari (Palace) visit
At the gate of the Palace, we met Siddharth, the staff of the Palace. I liked Siddarth, at first sight, found him very friendly. Siddharth has a.fair knowledge of Palace, having been working here for a pretty long time. The history of the Palace is 500 years old.
The royal family of Jhargram belongs to the Malla Deb dynasty. On the top floor of the Palace are the residents of the current royal family. The lower floor and adjacent royal guest house are for the tourists. It has heritage status. Wandering here would evoke a royal feeling in you.
“But this Palace is not the ancient one. In 1931 the last king of the Malla Deb dynasty, Narsingha Malla Dev, built this Palace. Narasingha Mala Dev was the 18 th ruler of the Malla Dev dynasty. The ancient or the root palace is behind this new Palace. It is more than 400 years old. The general public is not allowed to visit there. Only the member of the current royal family can go there,” said Siddarth.
Raja Narasingha Malla Deb was the Member of Parliament during the congress regime. He gave a facelift to Jhargram by creating many educational institutions, hospitals, and trustees for poor people in the region.
Narasingha Malla Dev’s only son Birendra had been the MLA here during Congress rule. He is also no more. His two sons Shivendra Bijoy Malla Dev and Kumar Joydeep Malla Dev, reside in the Palace with their families. The elder is the chairman of the Jhargram board. . “He is well connected with the administration and spends most of his time in Jhargram. But the younger son lives in Kolkata and comes to Jhargram on Durga Puja or any special occasion”, said Siddarth.
“Jhargram Rajbari Tourist Complex was built-in 2015. But once both Government and royal family together earlier ran this Jhargram Palace’s heritage hotel. So in 2015, Jhargram Palace gave the part outside the gate to the Government of West Bengal. Earlier, today’s West Bengal government’s Jhargram Rajbari Tourist Complex, where it is situated, was a dense jungle,” said Siddharth.
There are two old temples behind the Palace. One is a Shiv Mandir 400 years old, and another is Radhakrishna Mandir, built-in 1941 by Raja Narsingha Malla Dev. Besides, there are lakes, a children’s park, heritage properties, and other amenities.
Jhargram was earlier known as Jungle Khand. But the Mughal Emperor Akbar made Raja Mansingh the Subedar of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Then Mansingh directed Sarveswar Singh and his elder brother, ‘the commander of Raja Mansingh of Ajmer,’ to attack the then Jangal Khand local kings of the Mal tribe.
Sarveshwar Singh was Rajput and belonged to the Chauhan dynasty.
The local Mal king lost the battle. But unfortunately, the dynasty of the defeated local kings of the Mal tribe almost lost its identity.” I have heard that some dynasty people live nearby, but I do not know their names or any details,” Sidharth said in a frank admission.
An exceptionally pleased Mansingh awarded the “Mansubedari” of conquered Jangal Khand to Sarveswar Singh. Thus, Raja Sarveshwar Singh made Jharkhand the capital of the conquered Junglekhand. Jharkhand means a cluster of villages surrounded by a wall of dense forests. The jungle wall is called Ugal.
Strangely the name of kings here has a suffix, Ugal Sanda. Sanda means Ox. It denotes kings of this dynasty had the strength of Ox. So the royal name of the king, as an instance, is Raja Narasingha Malla Dev Ugal Sanda.
In 1954 Zamindari system was abolished by an act of parliament and the Government took over the princely estates.
The next day we went to Chilkigarh Palace or Chilkigarh Rajbari in Jamboni village and other local sight scenes. Zamboni is about 10 Kilometer from Jhargram town. It was raining intermittently on that day. But we were lucky. Whenever we got down from our car and went to see the beautiful places, the rain would stop. Well, let us go back to the main story.
I have no shame in admitting that I have not studied much about Chilkagarh. Still, I felt a strange feeling of emptiness as I entered the vast acre of land of Chilkigarh palace. I closed my eyes, trying to imagine whatever was visible in front of my eyes and the halcyon days of the castle. But today, the castle and other entities in its surroundings are standing in abandonment. The word ‘Dilapidated’ fell short of describing its pathetic state.
An ancient Ashoka tree on the left of the land caught my eye. Perhaps the tree was a witness to the high and low of Chilkagarh Palace. One after another, I looked at three dilapidated temples and some of the ruined houses adjoining the palaces.
Like Jhargram palace, Chilkagarh too has a glorious history. About 350 years ago, a king lived in this Palace named Gopinath Singh. Chilkigarh was its capital.
The famous ancient Kanak Durga temple was established in Raja Gopinath Singh’s reign. Gopinath had no son. His daughter Subarnamata was married to Jaganath of the royal Dhavaldev dynasty of the neighborhood kingdom. In this way, daughter Subarnamati got the Chilkagarh’s territory as a successor of Raja Gopinath Singh.
After the death of Raja Gopinath Singh, Jaganath Dhabal Dev became king of Chilkagarh. Jaganath Dhabal Dev was the husband of Subarnamati. After the death of Jaganath Dhabal Dev, their son Kamal Kant Dhabal Dev became king.
Additional inputs and the current status of Royal family
The Palace houses the West Bengal Government Child development project office. I came across Debashish of the Project office. In no way was Debashish related to Palace history. However, he gained some inputs while still staying here.
“It has a history of more than 500 years. Jambhoni’s king ruled here. Initially, the Brahaman king ruled here. But his army commander Gopinath Singh later occupied his kingdom. He became king. The current members of the royal family stay and settle out of here. Most of them stay in Kolkata, the USA, abroad. So maybe for this, the Palace lied neglected. A lone royal family stays here, but they keep themselves away from public glare,” Debasish said.
The glory of the Jhargram palace even continues today. The main reason for this, I think, is that the immediate members of this royal family have a direct connection to the Palace. They stay here in Rajbari (Palace) itself and are related to public work.
Chilkagarh palace lies neglected. I learned in my visit that most of the royal family members stay abroad or outside. But, as it appeared on the surface, if authorities remain indifferent, the day is not far when the Palace will relegate to the margin of history.