Sunday, 11 September 2011
Today I had a chance to visit the famous "Town Hall" of Kolkata... my brother who is an history aficionado like me had praised the place a lot. In fact, it is India's first interactive museum where the audience is treated to a series of Light and Sound shows, chronicling the our nation's history as well as the history of Bengal. We were taken through the period, when Job Charnock first stepped off the boat onto a sleepy little village on the banks of the mighty Ganges, which went on to become one of the most populous cities of the world. It was indeed amazing to learn that at the site of the present Kolkata, there stood a lonely village which primarily served as a pilgrimage place for visitors near and far. There was a Kali Temple in the vicinity of Prinsep Ghat or as some historians opine, this old temple of the goddess is the Kalighat Temple itself. However, there was only one muddy road that led to this temple and most of the populace of this village were bangle makers. "Pola" and "Shankha", a red and white colored bangle,worn by married ladies in Bengal, used to be the main type of Bangles made. There was a room chronicling the Battle of Plassey, the game changer in the History of Bengal, as well as of India. It was wonderfully presented, all the facts being cent percent correct. The mannequins looked pretty life like and the light and shadow effect was brilliant. There was also a show on the music of Bengal. It was indeed hearty to note that there were street singers in those early days who used to be composers, lyricists, singers all together. There was a street singer named "Rupchand Pakkhi" who actually dressed up like a white eagle, and sat on a palanquin carried by four men and he actually wrote songs on contemporary events. Some of his songs are still now sung in the villages of Bengal. There's also show on the Bengal Renaissance which took place in the late 16th century AD. This Bengal Rennaissance show has been divided into two parts, one dealt with just the literature and the arts, because this period was accompanied by a storm of literary writings and a host of new writers with a different world views emerged, the second part of the show was dedicated wholly to the Social Reforms that this period ushered. As is pretty well known, almost all the social reforms that we now take pride in, started from Bengal. From the abolition of Sati, to the legalization of Widow Remarriage and the education of girls, and even the women's right to her paternal property were all started in Bengal by stalwarts such as Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, Raja Rammohan Roy, Kesub Chandra Sen, Vivekannada etc. There are various facts have been illuminated on them. One of the meost important events of our history, the partition of Bengal or Bongo Bhongo, has been shown in a really enlightened fashion. The show has been very well conceived and it starts with Lord Curzon's tirade on how dangerous united Bengal copuld be. An ordinary Imdian's blood would actually boil listening to this speech. The only snag in this near perfect museum, was that the show dedicated to the Indian Freedom struggle, tries to pack in as much info as can be there in too short span of time which results in somewhat confusion. The pictures and videos are also of poor quality and some of the facts overlap with each other making it difficult for the ordinary audience to understand. Other than that, The Town Hall of Kolkata is a most memorable place to visit and on any given weekend, it would be a great leisurely educative trip.