Day 19 – Matiari ~
We got an early start this morning at 6:30. We disembarked and walked through the town. We visited a bazaar that featured exquisite handcrafted copper items using traditional and primitive methods passed down for generations. These master craftsmen use recycled metal and create beautifully engraved pots, platters, and other items in their workshops in the village.
Matiari lies on the banks of the Hooghly River, which is a distributary of the Ganges River. Some of the locals refer to the town as the Brass working village. This name comes from the town’s rich history of making utensils from brass that dates back over 100 years, when the village’s senior elders who worked in brass factories in Calcutta were sent back to Matiari as they became less efficient. As they still needed to provide for their families, they started making the brass utensils at home. This is how the tradition got started and continues to this day. It has become a main source of income for the people living in Matiari.
As we walked through the narrow streets, there were curious people looking at us from their doors. We passed a woman packing cow manure patties onto the wall for drying, which they use for fuel. We also saw a few tiny baby goats that were very cute.
We stopped in a couple of brass shops and bought a couple of brass serving spoons that nested together. They’re kind of heavy, but a good souvenir from this little town.
We returned to the ship for a late breakfast and set sail. We passed the site of the 1757 Battle of Plassey, when Robert Clive of the British East India Company defeated the Nawabs of Bengal, the then rulers of Bengal and their French allies, thereby establishing the company rule in India which expanded over much of South Asia for the next 190 years.
At 4:30 pm, we took the ferry to the shore and enjoyed a leisurely walk past local farmers’ fields to Nawab Ali-Wardi-Khan’s (1740-1756), a private and peaceful manicured Mughal style garden complex, where his entire family is buried. It’s also called, “The Garden of Happiness”, His grandson, Siraj-ud-Dawlah (1756-1757), was defeated by the British East India Company at the Battle of Plassey in the year 1757 which changed the course of Indian history. Also buried with the walled compound is Danish Fakir, shot dead by the British, to whom he betrayed Siraj’s hiding place, leading to his death. At the far end of the garden is Khusbagh Mossque built in 1740.
At 6:30 pm, there was a short dance program performed by a small troupe of 12 dancers (male and female). The dances were a combination of both tribal and classical styles, and were accompanied by traditional recorded music. The adult troupe comes from the Behrampur Kala Khestra Dance School a local dance school from the area. There was some sort of large gnats by the thousands that were drawn to the lights, and they were getting in our hair and we kept having to swat them off. I don’t think they were biting, but it was distracting. The program, was interesting and they really put their heart and soul into the performance.