Heritage loss: Photo exhibition relives the glory that was Darbhanga

But, the centerpiece of the architectural landscape of Darbhanga in the late 19th century was the Laxmivilas Palace, whose architecture and beauty of gardens was spoken about in glowing terms in old journals in London From 1960s onwards it houses the Kameshwar Singh Darbhangha Sanskrit University


Darbhanga: Architectural grandeur of 19th century Darbhanga, lost to natural calamity or human apathy, came alive in an exhibition of rare archival images, which seeks to instill love and care for heritage in the next generation.

Titled ‘Durbhungah’, reference to its old name, the visual exhibits included about 100 black-and-white photographs, which recall some of the landmark buildings which were destroyed by the devastating 1934 earthquake, such as the original Raj Library erected in 1890s and the Nargaouna Palace.

Madhepura MP Rajesh Ranjan lamented the “decay” and “poor upkeep” of tangible heritage in this historic city of Bihar, while urging the people to take up leadership for safeguarding their built legacy.

“Darbhanga has a grand past but sadly, when it comes to heritage, its present is bleak. And, if the future is to be bright, people here would have raise concern about their heritage, and take those voices to (authorities) in Patna and Delhi,” he said.

Local MLA Sanjay Saraogi also acknowledged that Darbhanga’s heritage was “on the decline” and urged people to act together for its preservation.

Darbhanga DarbhangaGiving details about the exhibition, put together by Maithili portal ‘e-Samad’ and a few other civil society groups, chief organiser Ashish Jha said, “Altogether about 170 visual archives are on display, including paintings of early 1720s (of Europe) as also the latest colour photographs of buildings erected by the Raj Darbhanga. The idea was to highlight the heritage loss suffered by this historic city. So, more than 70 per cent of the material is on Darbhanga.

“People will, perhaps for the first time see how the original Nargaouna Palace built by Darbhanga Raj looked before the quake; a photo of the Raj Library in 1893, taken soon after it was built with its magnificent architecture and manicured lawn; and the original Motibagh Palace,” he told PTI.

The exhibition, was recently hosted at the iconic Chaurangi Circle in the L N Mithila University campus, in the four open galleries that surround the canopied gleaming white marble statue of Maharaja Rameshwar Singh, one of the rulers of the Raj Darbhanga, whose iconic palaces, forts, temples and gardens, in its glory days, rivalled the best in Europe.

“But, after 70s, the city began to lose its shine, its architectural glory diminished and continues to suffer that ill-fate, its gardens lost grandeur and its fountains dried up. And, administrative apathy and people’s indifference have made the matter worse.

“Our old photos will show, what we have lost and what is at stake if we don’t act fast,” says Santosh Kumar, city-based photographer and INTACH member.

Darbhanga Darbhanga Darbhanga Darbhanga

Raj Darbhanga, incidentally also had a ‘royal saloon’ and Nargaona Palace had a special terminal for the train service. While the saloon, shorn of its glory, is currently dumped at Barauni Junction yard, the platform of the terminal has survived.

Divisional Railway Manager of Samastipur R K Jain, who also attended the event, took a tour of the exhibition, and expressed interest in preserving the railway-related heritage of the city.

“We will now try to assess the condition of the saloon and other archival material, and preserve whatever we can. We will also try to showcase some of these old photos related to railway history at Dharbhanga station,” he told PTI.

The collection has been painstakingly put together by photographer Santosh, who scoured through archives of Raj Darbhanga, LNMU Library (which houses the collection of erstwhile Raj Library), albums of families related to the zamindari Raj and from material drawn from other private collectors.

“After the quake of 1934, the city was rebuilt and therefore these photos have immense historical value. The Nargaona Place, as it looked today is completely different from its architecture before the quake. But, yes, the new palace was built as quake-resistant and had many other smart features in that era,” Jha said.

DarbhangaBut, the centrepiece of the architectural landscape of Darbhanga in the late 19th century was and the Laxmivilas Palace, whose architecture and beauty of gardens was spoken about in glowing terms in old journals in London. From 1960s onwards it houses the Kameshwar Singh Darbhangha Sanskrit University (KSDSU).

“The old wrought-iron main gate grills of the KSDSU that were brought from England have been removed and only the black columns stand, shorn of its splendour. More so, a new concrete gate has been erected in front of it, further reducing the beautiful view of the palace through the boulevard (Raj Path).

“I have seen the gate and the beauty that it was,” Jha, who hails from Darbhanga, lamented.

Source: PTI 

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