Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys & East Himalaya Rally

By Indranil Halder

Destination Rally from Belgium has organised East Himalaya Rally ( known for world wide car rallies ) for adventurous participations to take part from October 20 – November 12, 2022. They have recruited the best mechanics, medical emergency team and local authorities to insure their support. The rally will be covering 3 countries 3244 kms of driving in 24 days. According to Robbs Report ( Australia & New Zealand, The Manual for Modern Luxury), it is one of the 4 Rallies that offers world-class driving adventure. All the cars in the rally were older than 1980 and limited to 25 participants at a cost of around $67,600 per pair. The participants from across the globe  will cross three countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan and India in both asphalt and dirt roads. This rally will cover places with amazing Himalayan mountain scenery, while enjoying many different cultural celebrations including the Festival of Light or Diwali.

The rally started from the Indian city of Kolkata (or Calcutta , former capital of British Raj), as participants drove north to Murshidabad ( former capital of Bengal, the richest province of India) to Darjeeling (known for its world class tea), the former kingdom of Sikkim and  Bhutan(the land of Happiness), before heading to  South to the Indian state of Assam( known for one horn rhino and  Agarwood Oil or Oudh distilled from Agarwood plantation) and then to the only Bengali speaking country in the world , Bangladesh. The rally will pass through several towns in Bangladesh including Jashore(where famous Bengali author Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay served as the Deputy Collector and Deputy Magistrate).

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On 22/10/2022, the participants of East Himalaya Rally came to stay at the Cossimbazar Palace or Rajbari of the Roys, Murshidabad. The palace  was the perfect homestay for the participants. Pallab Roy in his dhoti from the palace (director of Sugarr & Spices, owner of Father and Son Restorations and member of Federation International de Vehicules Anciens) welcomed guests with their magnificent rally cars to his Cossimbazar Palace. Rally guests enjoyed an overstay, sumptuous Bengali meal  and cultural program in the fairytale palace ambiance.

Cossimbazar Palace of the Roys with its marble floors, pillared courtyard and antique furniture is a perfect palace for destination holiday. It also hosts festivals such as Durga pujo with grandeur. The Roys made wealth from textile trade with various European traders in Murshidabad district, in the Indian state of West Bengal. Murshidabad was once the capital of the richest Indian province of Bengal where money was made. Trade and commerce was part of life. A district rich in culture, heritage, history and textiles. Ever year, Murshidabad Heritage Development Society (MHDS) organises Murshidabad Heritage Festival  to promote tourism in Murshidabad. The festival is in collaboration with Government of West Bengal Department of Tourism, Department of Information & Cultural Affairs and Department of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises and Textiles.

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Ancestors of Cossimbazar Palace of The Roys’ were exporting silk as one of many trading items for several centuries. Other items they traded were – spices, Indigo, silk cocoons, silk materials, khagra bellmetal ( Kansha) utensils, ivory items  ( those made by the ivory craftsmen of  Murshidabad (Bhaskars) and best globally). In 1735, trading  with  Dutch, French, Armenian & English merchants, saw Roys accumulate unimaginable fortune. Pallab Roy said,” In a short span of time they revived the family’s fortune after losing everything at the hands of the Maratha dacoits – Borgis at Bhogobangola area of Murshidabad. The Maratha dacoits  attacked and set fire to the port with a significant lose in export trading business.”

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Grandfather Raja Kamalaranjan Roy purchased car such as  Vauxhall, Chevrolet Router, Wolseley and the Studebaker as business boomed. They also had horses and horse drawn carriages such as landeaulets, phaeton and tomtoms ( In Bengali language horse carriage with two or four wheeled vehicle). Pallab Roy remembered after completing  the restoration of his grandfather’s official used car (the 1928 Studebaker President 8 State Limousine), learnt it was a prototype and only one in the world. Also noted as a ‘full classic’ and acknowledged by the Studebaker museum in Indiana. In 1928, Antique Automobile Car Cub of America also dedicated a full magazine on Roy family’s Studebaker President 8 State Limousine and praised Pallab Roy’s immaculate restoration in India.

It gives me immense pleasure to see East Himalaya Rally had included both Kolkata and Murshidabad (where I stayed and have wonderful memories) in its rally circuit and as Pallab Roy said,”I really hope to see Bengal  in every international travel map and Murshidabad becoming a destination by itself – that’s my dream.” Time has arrived for us all to promote Bengal with events such as amazing East Himalayan Rally to enjoy  culture, heritage and history  and add Eastern India as favourite destination to global tourist maps.