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Chakdighi

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BY AMBARISH SINGH ROY

The Chakdighi Singh Roy clan are direct descendants of Yaduvanshi Rajput Kshatriya, a sub clan of Sooryavanshi Rajputs, Rulers from Kalinjar, Chittorgarh and Bundelkhand in Rajasthan and later Chunargarh in UP who were rulers for over 11 centuries. The family has a glorious recorded history spanning 14 generations starting in Rajasthan and ending in Bengal where the family was the erstwhile zemindars for the last 350 years. The family held the largest Zemindary in undivided Bengal, second only to H.H. MaharajadhirajBahadur of Burdwan, having zemindaries in almost all districts of undivided Bengal. The family was responsible for many developmental works in Bengal including the abolition of Polygamy, the widow remarriage Act, the institution of one of the only 3 English medium free schools with hostel facilities in 1856, the foundation of a Free 10 bed Hospital also in the same period, introduction of the Bengal Provincial Railways, the construction of an old age asylum and the commissioning and construction of a 32 Km pitch road in the district of Burdwan, most of which are operational till date. The Bengal Provincial Railway Company worked a short (33 mile) 2' 6" narrow gauge railway from Magra (in Hooghly district) to  Tarakeshwar.

Construction started in 1894 and extended to 33 miles in 1905, included the Dasghara – Jamalpur line in 1919 and extended 42 miles in 1943. Two 2ft 5.53in gauge 0-6-0 tender locomotives (Baldwin 50788 and 50789) intended for the Alapeff Mining Company in Russia were rebuilt by Baldwin to 0-6-0 tanks and then despatched in December 1918 to the War Department in India, being assigned respectively to the Bengal Provincial Railway. Apart from this each 'Mahal' under the Zemindary had a free clinic and a free Primary School for the subjects run entirely by the Estate.

Baganbati, Chakdighi is situated 84 Kms away from Kolkata in the district of Burdwan. The seat of the Rajput Singh Roy hereditary Zemindary which spanned over 3 states and 800 years. The family migrated to Bengal under Raja Man Singh as Dus Hazari Mansabdars to quell a rebellion in Mughal Bengal and finding the land rich and plentiful decided to settle here. The Zemindary received many distinguished Honours throughout history beginning with the Mughals, till date.

The Titles include Rai, Rai Bahadur, Raja Bahadur, Order of the British Empire, British Military Ranks such as Major, Lieutenant, C.I.E, JP (Justice of Peace) and last but not the least Knighthood (KCIE). Cultural, Religious and Social activities of the Zemindary are still carried on by the last surviving Zemindar, which include two annual Durgotsavs, daily rituals at 29 of the family temples in the area, Chakdighi Sarada Prosad Institution, a Free Higher Secondary school for over 1200 students established in 1856, Sarada Prosad Databya Chikitshalaya, a free hospital and Hemlata Chatushpati, a centre for Sanskrit Education. The family was responsible for many developmental works in Bengal including the abolition of Polygamy, the widow remarriage Act, the construction of an old age asylum and the commissioning and construction of an 36 Km pitch road in the district of  Burdwan, later renamed Sarada Prosad Road. The family has also constituted academic awards such as the 'Sarada Prosad Award' at the Calcutta University, The 'Jyotikana Devi Scholarship' for Higher Secondary Students of Chakdighi Sarada Prosad Institution and the 'Rai Bahadur Lalit Mohan Award' for the topper in the Secondary Section of Chakdighi Sarada Prosad Institution.

The film-maker Satyajit Ray shot his National Award winning film Ghare Baire here, during which eminent litterateur Salman Rushdie visited the place and according to his book Imaginary Homelands , set the plot for his famous novel Satanic Verses when he saw the Baithak Khana.The building itself was designed and landscaped by French Architects. There have been numerous historical events which have been graced by numerous Heads of State, British Viceroys, Governor Generals and several distinguished personages of past and present.

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