Shilaidaha Kuthibari - A haven for Tagore

Photo Courtesy: Mahmuda Tuli

Shilaidaha Kuthibari at Kumarkhali upazila in Kushtia is one of the must see stops in the itinerary of Tagore enthusiasts. The beautiful red sprawling building surrounded by a large expanse of trees, plants and blooming flowers, is located about 20 km away from Kushtia town. The Kuthibari inextricably holds the memory of Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore who made frequent visits here in connection with his “Zamindari” (estate).

The Kuthibari is a picturesque three-storied, pyramid-shaped, terraced bungalow, constructed with bricks, timber, corrugated tin sheets and Raniganj tiles. The bungalow nestles amidst 11 acres of orchards of mango, jackfruit and other trees, a flower garden and two ponds.

The peace and tranquility the Kuthibari inspired Tagore to pen some of his most unforgettable verses thus contributing to the enrichment of Bengali Literature. Many prominent personalities -- scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, dramatist and music composer DL Roy and litterateur Promoth Chowdhury, visited Tagore at this location.

Tagore stayed intermittently between 1891 and 1901 at Shilaidaha Kuthibari. Sitting at Kuthibari or on a boat on Padma, Tagore wrote a number of masterpieces such as “Sonar Tori”, “Chitra”, “Chaitali”, “Katha O Kahini”, “Kshanika”, most of the poems from “Naibedya” and “Kheya”, and songs from “Gitanjali” and “Gitimalya”. It was here, in 1912, that the poet started translating his “Gitanjali” into English, which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1913.

Tagore was deeply attached to Shilaidaha and Padma, which is evident in his “Chhinna Patrabali.” Rabindranath Tagore once wrote in a letter, “The holy place of my literary pursuits during my youth and middle age was the village of Shilaidaha kissed by the waves of Padma.”

Shilaidaha is a relatively modern name; its old name was Khorshedpur. Before the Thakurs of Jorasanko acquired the village in the middle of the 19th century, there stood an indigo-Kuthi reportedly built by a planter named Shelly. A deep whirlpool used to form there at the confluence of the Gadai and the Padma, and hence the village was known as “Shelly-daha”, which ultimately came to be known as ‘Shilaidaha’.

Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, grandfather of Rabindranath Tagore, became the owner of this Zamindari in 1807 by means of a will executed in his favour by Ramlochan Tagore. Rabindranath assumed the responsibility of looking after the Zamindari and came to Shilaidaha for the first time in November 1889.

Shilaidaha Kuthibari is now a protected national monument. The renovation of Kuthibari has been completed by the Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs. It is known as Tagore Memorial Museum where Tagore memorabilia like his bed, wardrobe, iron chest, lawn mower, framed pictures and a replica of a houseboat are displayed here. Tagore aficionados and art lovers will certainly be pleased to see some rare photos of Tagore and family, courtesy by Pranab Mukherjee, President of the Republic of India, and some exquisite paintings including a few self-portraits by Tagore.

In Tagore’s lifetime, the river Padma used to flow beside the Kuthibari. But over a course of time, it has changed its direction and now is far away from Tagore’s haven. However, the surrounding landscapes, large pond with bojra (boat), are still wonderful to see.


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