On the lines of the Buddhist tourism circuit, the West Bengal government is planning to highlight Murshidabad as a Jain tourism hub. This decision comes to effect with the third instalment of the Murshidabad Heritage Festival that will showcase the Jain heritage in the district.
The history of West Bengal dates back thousands of years. From the Guptas to Palas in Gouda to the Nawabs in Murshidabad, there is a huge minefield of heritage sites in the state. The focus of the government seems to be cashing in on the same.
Murshidabad was the capital of Bengal during the Nawabi era. It was during this time that Jains migrated to this state and settled here – Jagat Seth was one among them. Jains were primarily a business community. After the transfer of power to the Englishmen, they became their henchmen. The Jains of that era left behind large mansions, palaces and temples. These sites will be the focus of the Murshidabad Heritage Festival Programme that will be held throughout this weekend.
Pandit Jasraj is the star attraction of the event organised jointly by the Department of Tourism, West Bengal government and Murshidabad Heritage Development Society. Bangladeshi band Prem Juri will enthral the audience with their rendition of baul songs and music of Lalon Fakir. The Murshidabad Heritage Development Society was founded in the year 2010 in the august presence of Ravi Shankar and Rashtra Sant Padmasagar Suri Maharajji. According to the spokesperson of the society, “Suri Maharajji was an original inhabitant of Azimganj and his sole aim is to popularise the heritage of the place among a global audience.”
Even before the Marwari communities started migrating to Bengal during British Raj, the Jains had started settling in the province in areas like Azimganj, Jiaganj and Alambazar. They served as the bankers for Mughal kings and Nawabs. They were the owners of huge land plots and mansions. These structures stood the test of time and still stand tall. However, they needed serious renovation and maintenance. The Murshidabad Heritage Development Society was formed with this aim. The festival is one way of popularising the district’s heritage globally.
The Murshidabad Heritage Festival will serve as the platform for Jains across the world to come together to relish a part of their history. The event will be flagged off with a puja ceremony at Adinath Dev Thakur temple in Azimganj. The guests will be hosted at Lalgola’s Kathgola palace and treated to Nawabi lunch, although vegetarian. This will be followed by a tour of some historical sites and cultural programmes in the evening.
There are a lot of tourist places in West Bengal which need to be promoted in newer ways, just as states like Kerala and Rajasthan do. This is commendable effort.
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