About six hours from Kolkata and flanked alongside the eastern bank of the Ganges river lies Murshidabad. As you arrive, it feels like you have stepped into a bygone era. Buildings big and small greet you; they beckon a second and third glance and seem to whisper tales of their prosperous past. In the 18th-century, Murshidabad was a wealthy cosmopolitan city, home to affluent banking and merchant families from different parts of the Indian subcontinent and wider Eurasia, including the Armenians. European companies, including the British East India Company, conducted business and operated factories around the city.
The ‘Sheherwalis’ were one such community that moved from Rajasthan to Bengal, who adapted to the then prevalent cultural influences in the region namely, Mughal, British, Bengali and European and as such created their own unique culture, which was a mélange of all these influences. The Sheherwalis settled in the Azimganj-Jiaganj part of Murshidabad and made the town famous for having more wealth than the combined wealth of the (then) British aristocracy. The most notable Sheherwali was Jagat Seth (literally, ‘universal banker’, a title accorded by the Mughal empire) who was considered to be the richest man in the world at that time.
It was in this context that the Bari Kothi was built in the late 1700’s with influences of Greek, Roman and French architecture by the Dudhoria family. This spacious mansion has various purpose-built rooms and chowks (courtyards) embellished with colourful glass and patterned tiles. Sadly, like most others of its ilk, once the capital moved to Kolkata (Calcutta), it lay unoccupied for 50 years and fell into decay.
Brother-Sister duo Darshan and Lipika, current owners of Bari Kothi were inspired to revive the grandeur of their family home and so in 2015, a Canadian architect and restoration specialist was invited to Murshidabad, tasked with bringing the palace back to its former glory. Events that transpired thereafter was history in the making; with a team larger than 100 personnel restoring Bari Kothi to make it into the first self-sustaining rustic luxury heritage hotel. The project was nicknamed “Project Priceless”.
The dream was not merely to convert the palace into a heritage hotel but was to create Bari Kothi into a self-sustaining eco system that could restore and save the soul of Bari Kothi i.e. make it generate its own income, improve the local economy, better the lives of the local community and most importantly, carry forward its legacy.
Bari Kothi offers 15 rooms divided across 3 categories, Heritage Suites, Royal Heritage Suites and Maharaja Heritage Suites. Period furniture adorns all the rooms, some pieces are more than a century old with various artefacts. The Heritage Suites is the base category with traditional interiors and antique décor. The Royal Heritage Suites are furnished with 250-year old antique furniture, high ceilings and rich fabrics themed around the jewellery and other aspects of the life and lifestyle of the erstwhile residents of Bari Kothi. Three Maharaja Heritage Suites embody the quintessential luxury of Bari Kothi; elegantly appointed with hand-picked fittings, intricately carved archways and traditional furniture; some suites also feature a sunken bath. Leisure spaces within the property include a library, a music room, open courtyards and lounging areas: Janana Chowk, Gaddi Ghar, Halwai Khana, and Gulabi Chawara.
Food features prominently in the Sheherwali community and includes the finest vegetarian dishes; a wonderful melange of the cuisines of the west and the east of India. Typically, Rajasthani food used ingredients like gram flour, lentils and pulses and rich, oily preparations in keeping with the dry desert climate. Bengal offered a range of fresh and leafy vegetables as well as regional spices, and both were fused together to create some unique savoury and sweet delicacies. Particularly noteworthy, are the local mangoes; at one point it is believed that 200 varieties of mangoes were grown in the orchards of Murshidabad. They are not only delicious to eat as they are, but at Bari Kothi they are also turned into delectable deserts, sherbets, jams, chutneys and preserves as well.
There are three main restaurants in the property: Naubat Khana, a Mughal inspired dining room with hand painted floral motifs, the atmospheric Zareen Mahal with hues of gold and Durbar Hall, the erstwhile royal dining room characterised by a magnificent 18-seater dining table and a 250-year-old chandelier. This impressive space has hosted eminent guests from Nawabs to British officials in its heyday.
You will be spoilt for choice for things to see and do around Bari Kothi. There is a range of specially curated experiences; from heritage walks around town to see historic buildings like the impressive Hazarduari Palace and Footi Mosque, afternoon tea overlooking the river, boat cruises on the Ganges as well as immersive craft experiences at Tantipara Weavers Village and Islampore known for its sericulture.
Every evening at Bari Kothi is about showcasing the heritage culture and lifestyle. This may take the form of story-telling in one of the courtyards or performances of folk dance and music. Lost dance forms such as the 500-year-old Rae Beshi and the more popular Baul and Fakiri are signature evenings at Bari Kothi.
The Bari Kothi is a standalone destination in its own right and ideal for a 2/3 night stay, but also a great addition to an exploration of East India, with good connectivity to Kolkata. It combines well with the other RARE properties of the region: Rajbari Bawali and the Glenburn Penthouse in central Kolkata as well as the Assam Bengal Navigation’s river cruises on the Ganges and Brahmaputra.
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Nearest Airport : Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Airport, Kolkata
Nearest Railway Station : Azimganj railway station
1. Cancellations 72hr prior to the travel date will not be penalized.
2. There will be no charges for cancellations done a day before arrival due to a medical emergency.
3. In the event of a date change, rescheduling can be done without any extra charges.
a. Please make advance reservations via email to assure room availability.
b. The advance amount of 50% of the total invoice needs to be paid for confirming the tentative booking.
c. The balance amount of 50% shall be paid 30 days prior to the date of the stay. If the balance amount is not paid timely, the booking is liable to be cancelled and the entire advance amount shall be forfeited.
d. Rates may change without notice and may vary for special events except for confirmed reservations.