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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Darjeeling stir sends tourists flocking to Murshidabad

Sagarnil Mukherjee, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, August 26, 2013
First Published: 10:47 IST(26/8/2013) | Last Updated: 13:16 IST(26/8/2013)

Darjeeling’s loss has turned out to be Lalbagh’s gain.

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The turmoil in the Darjeeling Hills and the series of indefinite bandhs there has compelled tourists to come to Murshidabad’s Lalbagh in the off-season.

So heavy is the current tourist rush here that hoteliers are having a hard time trying to accommodate all the visitors in the town’s hotels.

Murshidabad was once the capital of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

And Lalbagh was the seat of the Nawabs who ruled their kingdom from here.

Historians say that the Nawabs built their royal palace, Hazarduari, with 1,000 gates to flaunt their prosperity.

In addition to this early 19th century palace, there are other royal monuments, royal graveyards, the houses of famous zamindars in Lalbagh that are a major tourist draw.

Though the tourist rush here is usually witnessed during winter, this year the political upheaval in the hills has forced visitors to look for other places to holiday - as a result, Lalbagh and particularly, Hazarduari is flooded with tourists during the off-season.

A senior official of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which looks after the Hazarduari palace and museum, said, “Seldom have we seen so many tourists in August. For the last 2-3 weeks, the rush has been very heavy. We are selling around 2,000 tickets every hour on weekdays.

So, we are opening extra counters in the holidays.”

“I had planned to go to Darjeeling this August with my family. I made all arrangements, including booking a hotel there. But I had to change my plans after the unrest in the hills,” said Avash Ghosh, a resident of Howrah, who has come to see the palace.

The hoteliers are not the only ones rejoicing over this off-season bounty though - the unexpected rush of tourists has made the ‘tangawalas’ (horse cart pullers) equally happy.

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