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Bengal’s grand old buildings bear the brunt of Amphan

Damaged weathercock atop the St. Andrew’s Church.

Damaged weathercock atop the St. Andrew’s Church.   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

Centuries-old St. Andrew’s Church, Serampore College, and Dupleix Palace among those damaged

When super cyclone Amphan swept through south Bengal last week, it not only flattened thousands of houses, but also severely damaged some of its centuries-old heritage structures.

Palaces, mosques, temples or offices depicting Islam’s footprint on the Bengal frontier to architectural traditions of European colonialism, gardens from the time of 19th century resurgence in Bengal’s cultural landscape to the recently renovated British-era buildings all bore the brunt.

Shubha Majumder, superintending archaeologist of the Kolkata Circle of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said a report on the damage had been sent to the headquarters of ASI.

For Antara Mukherjee, a teacher and heritage enthusiast, the experience is “traumatic”.

Many of the old buildings, gardens, mosques or colleges in Hooghly district were damaged, said Ms. Mukherjee, who has managed to map the damage with a team from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), within a week of the cyclone.

Serampore College, founded 200 years back by William Carey, a cultural anthropologist who played a significant role in the spread of western education, is one of the damaged buildings.

The mahogany windows of the stately main building, dropped from the first floor and broke into pieces. “The garden in front of a heritage building in the college is ruined,” Ms. Mukherjee said.

The Dupleix Palace at Chandannagar, built by French Governor-General Joseph Francois Dupleix, also suffered severe damage.

Another damage listed by the INTACH members is that to the Hooghly Imambara constructed between 1841 and 1861.

“It has two bronze towers at the top and one of it has plain gone,” Ms. Mukherjee said. The main structure of an early medieval brick temple, Jatar Deul, dating back to the 11th and 12th century CE (Current Era) in Namkhana of South 24 Parganas “has not suffered major damage but the compound and boundary walls have been destroyed,” Mr. Majumder said.

Narrow escape

In Kolkata, the newly restored Metcalfe Hall has suffered some structural damage, while the Currency Building in city’s central business area narrowly escaped when a tree fell a few metres away from the main structure.

The iconic St. Andrew’s Church nearby, which dates back to 1818, also sustained severe damage.

Iska hawa murga chala gaya (the weathercock atop the church flew off),” said Avadesh, the upset gatekeeper of the church, who has been working in the premises for nearly 50 years. “It was the main attraction and prestige of the church,” he said.

“Our first priority will be to remove the trees near the structures and sites. As far as the complete restoration is concerned, it will take time, maybe a few years,” said Mr. Majumder.

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Printable version | Jul 12, 2020 9:52:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/bengals-grand-old-buildings-bear-the-brunt-of-amphan/article31717500.ece

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