Dhanyakuria, a rural village, barely 52 kms away from Kolkata, in North 24 Parganas, reminds the great lifestyle of that era, when affluent Bengali zaminders built magnificent palaces with neo-classical European touch and British influence. The elaborate iconic Corinthian pillars symbolize the splendour of British empire through magnificent Roman architecture.
7 km after the Berachampa crossing (known for Chandraketugarh) one will come across a magnificent gate way, which seems to come straight out of the pages of the fairy tales. The castle is surrounded by a huge open space, which was once a manicured lawn intercepted by tree line pathways. The compound was once complete with decorative fountains and huge ponds.
The place is called Dhanyakuria and the castle styled building is the Gayen Garden House or Gayen Bagan Bari.But the Gayen Garden House is not the only place of attraction in Dhanhyakuria, which is best described as a village of palaces.
The palaces were built as outhouses in this village, so that the family members could spent time out of Kolkata, in utmost luxury.So the Gayens, Sahoos (Sahus), Ballavs, Mondals and a few more constructed fantastic mansions to turn the non descriptive village into a village of palaces, which is probably one of its kind in the whole of West Bengal.
Gayen Garden House
The Gayen Garden House dates back little over a century and was constructed by Mahendranath Gayen and covered an area of 30 acres. The building has remarkable resembles with the Tagore Castle in Kolkata. Unlike the heavily encroached Tagore Castle the Gayen Garden House has maintained its true elegance and grace.
The Castle looks run down and has a burnt out appearance. However, unlike the other English Castle like building (Tagore Castle) in West Bengal, this one looks unchanged in the frontal area. At first look it looks like a miniature of Windsor Castle with its battlements. The arches on the balcony and entrance doors were well designed and thankfully have not been modified yet.
The castle gate is huge and has two towers at both ends. Atop the gate are figures of two men fighting a lion. There are roots of plants spouting from the towers and the grounds within are in a bad shape. Entry is restricted and one can only view the huge building from outside. The building that stands on the grounds resembles a castle. In front of the building is a pond used by the inmates. The tower and turrets of the building are magnificent. The huge building is built in a style that is a fusion of Indian and European architecture. The house has a tower that stands on huge Corinthian pillars that have arches reminiscent of Islamic architecture. As one enters the huge gates, one notices the beautifully maintained lawns with flowers in full bloom. Gayen Bari is ‘L’ shaped and has two domes on the top. The entire building is painted in a shade of pink. There is an overhanging balcony that has green iron railings. In one corner of the place, a temple is dedicated to Radha Krishna, the presiding deity of the family.
Just a few km from Gayen Bari is the Sawoo Mansion, that belonged to the Sawoo family. The building is white and is not as well maintained as the Gayen Bari. This structure also has huge pillars and a stucco decoration on the window arches, a few of the windows have shades on them and some have stained glass designs too. This house too has a thakur dalan that has arches and pillars.
There is also Ballabh Bari and locals refer to this mansion as Putul Bari, the Bengali word ‘putul’, means ‘doll’ There are statues adorning the mansion. Painted in green and white, the mansion has huge iron gates. It is similar to the other mansions in the area that has pillars and stucco work on the corridors of both floors.
Dhanyakuriya is just about 30 kms from Barasat, not very far from Kolkata, yet most people living in the city and its surroundings have never heard of the place.