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The Historical Hooghly Imambara

Ritusmita Biswas

This summer if you are planning to visit London and see the Big Ben we have a better option for you. You can simply take a trip to Hooghly and visit the Imambara to see the second largest watch in the world next only to Big Ben. Apart from that exquisite cut-glass chandeliers from Belgium, frescos by Spanish artists make this place a worth visit. Tucked in a small suburban town in West Bengal, the Hooghly Imambara is a great weekend destination for all art and history lovers.

The Colonial Heritage

Many of the suburban towns along the river Hooghly are old European settlements. Dotted with colonial style cottages, cemeteries and heritage buildings these towns have an old world charm that is irresistible to a city mouse like me. If you are fed up with the claustrophobic atmosphere of a metropolitan city then try out a tour in nearby Hooghly. You can pick one particular destination or take a leisurely trip down the river Hooghly visiting the Dutch, Portuguese and French colonial towns.

Shia Imambara in Hooghly

One of the biggest attractions of the area is undoubtedly the huge Shia Imambara built by Haji Muhammud Moshin in late 19th century. Imambara literally means the home of the Imams who are the revered heads of the Shia Muslims and also denotes the assembly hall for gathering during religious occasions like Muharram.

The Hooghly Imambara consists of many attractive features including a mosque, a monument and the Ghorighor or the clock tower. The mosque and the saraikhanas or inns for weary travelers were built of Italian marble. The walls of the mosque are beautifully engraved with lines from the Holy Quran. Stepping foot inside the mosque one is struck by the pretty chandeliers made of delicate Belgian glass and stained glass windows that reflect the sunlight. The calligraphic inscriptions on the walls create an ambience of reverence and awe. The Imambara has a madrassa as well where you can find dedicated young pupils engaged in their studies of the Holy Quran. Haji Muhammud Moshin was a philanthropist who donated money not only for the construction of the mosque but also for a hospital and college.

Photo credits: Imambara Clock: The Concrete Paparazzi                      Photo credits: Outlook India

Ghorighar in Imambara

The mosque and the madrassa are not the only attractions. The Ghorighor or the clock tower is located opposite the main building. The sundial and the huge clock built by Black & Murray, London are magnificent to look at. If you can climb up 152 stairs to reach the top of the clock tower you will be amply rewarded by the view of three enormous iron bells and a room full of intricate machinery. It is fascinating to watch the technology. The magnificent view of the Imambara juxtaposed over a panoramic view of the river Ganga is simply from another world.

If you get tired rest in the courtyard and watch the little gold fishes frolicking in the water tanks. Enjoy the light breeze beside the river and watch the changing colors of the water as the sun sets over the distant horizon. One can spend hours contemplating the meaning of the world and life in this peaceful setting enjoying the peaceful scenery. If you are a history buff then do not forget to check out the backyard where the last will and testament of the founder Haji Muhammud Moshin is inscribed. All in all a day at the Hooghly Imambara is fulfilling experience.