Iconic Tripura palace to be turned into museum celebrating royal history, Tagore links

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The century-old iconic Pushpabanta Palace, built by an erstwhile Maharaja of Tripura, is being developed as a national-level museum and cultural centre.

Nestled on a small hillock in the capital city, the old heritage structure was built in 1917 by Maharaja Birendra Kishore Manikya, who himself was a painter and used the picturesque palatial home as a studio. It also doubled up as a guest house of the Manikya kings.

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Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who had close ties with the royal family, visited Tripura seven times. During his last visit to the state in 1926, Tagore stayed at the Pushpabanta Palace.

Tagore’s 80th birthday was celebrated here by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya during a programme in May 1941, experts said.

Documents related to Tagore’s visit to the Pushpabanta Palace, and excerpts of his work will be displayed at the proposed museum.

After the princely state merged with the Indian union in 1949, the 4.31-acre palace was converted into the chief commissioner’s bungalow and then the Raj Bhavan till 2018. The Raj Bhavan was finally shifted to a new building in 2018.

State Tourism Minister Pranajit Sinha Roy said Rs 40.13 crore has been sanctioned to develop the heritage structure as Maharaja Birendra Kishore Manikya Museum and Cultural Centre.

He said it would showcase the rich heritage of all the northeastern states, Southeast Asian fine arts and contemporary photography, along with national and international archives.

“It would be fully climate controlled and CCTV-monitored, and one among the few in the country with realistic digital experiences. Our government is committed to preserving the cultural heritage and the immense contribution of the royal dynasty of Tripura,” he said.

Executive Engineer of Tripura Tourism Department, Uttam Paul, said the building facade has a strong British colonial influence with neo-classical features.

The palace is a three-storied building constructed with brick-load bearing walls set in lime mortar. It has a large ground floor measuring 1,114.7 square metre and a small first floor of 159.25 square metre.

“The Pushpabanta Palace building itself is an important item of history and should be retained with minimum structural changes so that its architecture may be appreciated by the visitors from inside and outside,” Paul said.

The secretariat building near the entry gate is proposed to be used as a cloak room, cafeteria, library and souvenir shop.

There are plans to convert the ground floor of the Durbar Hall into an archive store, along with research facilities and restoration labs.

Paul said the palace museum, which is the original structure, would feature components like the Tripura gallery – showcasing history of the royal family and the state, the Rabindranath Tagore gallery, a photography gallery and the Northeast India gallery.

Panna Lal Roy, a writer, who chronicled Tagore’s ties with Tripura’s Manikya dynasty, said: “Five of the Nobel laureate’s famous songs were composed in Tripura, when he visited as a guest of the royal family. The kings also contributed generously to the construction of the Visva-Bharati University (in Bengal’s Shantiniketan).

“Tripura’s last ruler Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya conferred on him the title of ‘Bharat Bhaskar’ just a month before the bard passed away.”

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