Bengali’s are a curious lot !! some ready to trot and explore the world and some others happy to be home with the neighborhood gossip pot. I belong to the group that trots for no gainful reason but for the love of the smells, sights and sounds of distant lands. In Jaipur, I bumped into hordes of Bengali tourists at every site, eatery, shopping area, street corner and inadvertently became privy to piquant conversations in loud tones and sometimes hush tones. After a hectic bout of sightseeing, I would smile to myself listening to animated discussions on saucy domestic conspiracies, relationship woes over glasses of sweet “lowssy” Jaipuri style and sometimes figure out that the bulging middle aged woman next to me was actually discussing her weight woes and wondering about my diet. In my usual style, I quickly departed from the bench under the tree not before leaving a smart alecky comment in Bengali much to her horror 🙂 However, this post is not about the Bengali tourist in Jaipur not nor is it about the accidental discovery of an eatery promising delicious “maccher jhol” (fish curry) but about history !!
As I pored over the map on Pink City and wandered through the lanes, I found some order in all the apparent commotion. It was actually very well planned and conceived 3 centuries ago by a Bidyadhar Bhattacharyya who applied Vedic Vastu principles in the design and construction. He was a Bengali who had travelled from Naihati, now a suburb of Kolkata to be employed as an accountant in the Royal Court and subsequently entrusted to be the chief architect by Sawai Jai Singh who was impressed with his knowledge on Vastu Shastra.
After crossing the courtyard in Amer Fort, the entrance on leads towards a temple of Sila Devi who was also known as Jessoreshwari Kali !! Now in Bangladesh, Jessore is a Shaktipeeth where the palms of the Devi were found. Though Man Singh – I built the temple and installed the deity, the origin of the idol is shrouded in mystery. While some believe that Man Singh received it as a gift during his marriage with Raja Kedar’s ( chieftain of one of the provinces within Bengal) daughter after the latter lost the war. There is another version about Man Singh -I praying to Goddess Kali for blessings to win the war and she directed him to a stone (Sila) and instructed him to make an idol out of it and yet another version of him forcefully taking it away from the temple after conspiring with the chief priest of Raja Pratapaditya Roy’s court.
The last connection is with the most beautiful princess of the century – Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur. She was a quarter Bengali by birth and a complete one by naturalization. She belonged to the Cooch Behar royal family who have mixed descent from a tribe in Assam (Koch Rajbongshi) and at the time of state formation in the Union of India Cooch Behar came under Bengal. Her paternal grandmother Suniti Devi was the eldest daughter of Keshab Chandra Sen one of the early proponents of Brahmo Samaj.
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