Calcutta’s Banajee Agiary to get relief: Archeological Survey of India Steps In


November 21, 2014

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The Fire Temple at Ezra Street, though one of the earliest symbols of pluralistic and cosmopolitan culture of ‘Calcutta’, has long been taken over by trading units that have turned it into an electrical storehouse of sorts. But with the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) taking an interest in the monument, things have started looking up for the 175-year-old building. And if things go as planned, it may soon become a monument of national importance.

Article by Krishnendu Bandyopadhyay | TNN

05mettemple_thumbASI regional director (east) Dr P K Mishra, who inspected the temple recently, said, “The building is an intrinsic part of the city’s heritage. I will recommend the government to turn it into a monument of national importance. We need an urgent restoration work to protect it from complete destruction.”

But as of things stand now, the building — popularly known as Rustomjee Cowasjee Banajee Agiary — is in a sorry state. Plasters are peeling off from each wall, the marbles on the floor have been scooped out and growth of vegetation has weakened the entire structure. Every inch of the building, including the temple basement, has been encroached upon by business units. Even the gate can hardly be seen from the road.

Beyond the gate are huge tuscan pillars holding the roof of the verandah and between the pillars are splendid wooden fretted shutters. Entablature above the pillars has elongated cornice with dentil ornamentation. The outer facade of the building have doric pilasters and openings with triangular pediment at their top. Marble benches with back-rest are there on the sides of the verandah. Through the verandah one has to approach to a long corridor (14.9 meter in length). The main Sanctum, approachable through the right bay, is square in shape. In the centre is a round pedestal that supports the 1.42cm high silver brazier that contains the sacred flame.

“It is a perfect example of Parsi buildings of the early and mid 19th century. They are mostly Gothic in style with a touch of prevailing architectural aspects so common in Kolkata, then Calcutta. So the building is of course a part and parcel of our colonial heritage,” an ASI official said.