Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lal kothi

Lal kothi, now the seat of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council(DGHC) was once a place dedicated to Queen Bhawani Dewan Roy and originally known as ‘Gori wilas’. Maharajah Prasad Nath Roy had build it in the likeness of a western villa and was in fact the Maharaja’s own private ‘Taj Mahal’ dedicated to his beloved wife.

During the British Raj itself, Giri. wilas became very popular among the British officers as the king and the queen hosted sumptuous parties. It is said that British officers would be seen hurrying towards Giri.wilas in caravans of rickshaws to attend one of such parties. Darjeeling also being the summer Capital of Bengal, even the Governor was said to have been a frequent visitor. However, the British fascination of the Palace and its surrounding eventually worked against the Maharaja as it was ultimately occupied by the British Government in 1942, who took possession of the same ‘out of reasons of the Maharaja’s inability to the maintain the palace’. In 1947, meanwhile, the British had to leave and the palace fell vacant only to be temporarily used as a Tibetan School until being taken over by the Indian Government. In the subsequent years, Giri.wilas was transformed into a guesthouse, store house and then ultimately into a holiday home for the Government Officials.

Due to its very location, Giri.wilas became a much sought after shooting location for both Hindi or Bengali moves. The palace itself was a perfect ‘set’. It is no surprise then that one of the first movies shot at it became a super hit. This movie was known as ‘Lal Kothi’ and Giri.wilas from thence, also began to be popularly known as Lal Kothi. Such was Giri.wilas’ popularity among the directors that more than twenty movies were shot in its boundaries. Truly, Lal Kothi has today became an encapsulated ‘nostalgia centre of the entire Darjeeling Hills.

Copyright © - FALLEN CICADA, "Unwritten History of Darjeeling Hills" written by Sanjay Biswas/Barun Roy.