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Documentary puts spotlight on ruins of Raj Darbhanga's famed palace in Bihar

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 21, 2019  | 12:13 IST

Patna, Apr 21 (PTI) An opulent 19th-century palace in Bihar's Mithila region which suffered extensive damage in the devastating 1934 earthquake is the subject of a new documentary that shines a spotlight on this heritage in ruins. Thick vegetation has taken over the walls of the Naulakha Palace, sullying remnants of its architectural grandeur while its famed gardens vanished long time ago. For Gurgaon-based couple, Manish Jha and Gargi, both of whom hail from Bihar, a common passion for travel and photography, ultimately fuelled a shared love for heritage. And a travelogue of their journey into Bihar's culturally-rich Mithila region translated into a documentary on the ruins of the once-regal palace and the temples in its premises in Rajnagar. "The town, located in a corner of north Bihar's Madhubani district, otherwise famous for its eponymous painting style, does not get tourists, despite the wealth of architectural splendour -- be it the palace ruins, the temples in the premises and other old buildings in its vicinity, like the Vishweshwar Singh Janta College, housed in an iconic heritage building," Gargi told PTI. Gargi, a software professional, and Manish, an Air Traffic Control Officer, both in early 30s, decided to make the film after doing extensive travel in 18 districts of Bihar over a period of two years. "During our travel, we saw the ruins of Rajnagar, and realised, we needed to promote it as a heritage tourism spot. Bihar has so much to offer but, information is either not disseminated or done very inadequately. Hence, sites like these remain neglected," said Manish. The documentary -- Rajnagar: The City of Ruins -- opens with a drone shot of the ruins of Naulakha Palace built in later part of 19th century in Rajnagar by Raj Darbhaga, the erstwhile zamindari estate of north Bihar. Gargi, who hails from Ara but grew up in Madhubani, said, the film also has some archival images of the palace, including a pre-1934 monochrome image which captures its grandeur. The Bihar-Nepal Quake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale had struck on the fateful day of January 15, 1934, with its epicentre at some 10 km south of Mt Everest. The shock wave had flattened countless houses and destroyed priceless architectural heritage in both the countries. "The quake of 1934 inflicted massive damage to the heritage of Mithila region, among other places. Even its ruins now are extraordinary and ornate carvings on walls and pillars, and painting in different temples are worth seeing. But, the place still lies in shambles," she said. Manish, who hails from Madhubani, said, the "place could be turned into a tourist magnet and promote Bihar as a heritage tourism destination". A screening of the over 20-minute film in English, was held on April 18 at the Patna Museum on the occasion of the World Heritage Day. "Senior officials from ASI, the museum, among others attended the screening which was followed by a discussion on preservation of heritage in Bihar. We are planning to hold a screening in Delhi too," he said. Gargi lamented that instead of being showcased as a priceless heritage of Bihar, the place has become a victim of neglect and people's indifference. "Just outside the palace, local boys can often be seen playing cricket, and many couples, scratch their names on walls or make heart sign on them. Government and people both should should build awareness and people must take pride in our heritage," she said Raj Darbhanga, with its seat at Darbhanga, was one of the rich zemindari estates in Bihar, and besides building opulent palaces in Darbhanga, Rajnagar in the district, also constructed palatial houses in various other cities, including Patna, Delhi and London. Madhubani, earlier part of Darbhanga district, is locate about 170 km from the Bihar capital Patna. The Rajnagar palace's portico has arches standing on four elephants, one of the most unique design that echoes the heydays of this crumbling Raj-era relic. She said, they got married a couple of years ago, and since then have been travelling together to explore Bihar, and inspire people to respect their heritage, and appeal to the government to"pay attention our decaying legacy". The duo are so much in sync, sharing this passion, that they jointly go by the name of 'Gargi Manish', as also mentioned in the credits for the film, produced by them. "In 2018, we did out first Bihar expedition from March 1-22 and this year from March 3-15, covering 18 districts. In next two phases, we wish to cover the rest of 20 districts of Bihar," she said. Manish said, "They have already started work on other documentaries which they had filmed during their travel. So, we are working in Rohtasgarh Fort in Rohtas, Sama Chakewa festival, historical Panji system, an extensive genealogical records maintained in the Mithila region, among others." Asked, why they undertook this journey, Gargi, who completed her schooling in Madhubani, said, "Our parents did not tell us to take pride in our architectural heritage. We would not want to repeat the mistake with our children." PTI KND ZMN

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