|A Dak Bungalow in Himachal Pradesh. team-bhp.com|
|Dag Bungalow near Gaya, UP. tribuneindia.com|
|Gov-Gen of India between 1836 and 1842.en.wikipedia.org|
Above image: George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, GCB (25 August 1784 -1 January 1849). The first high-ranking English administrator who introduced Dak or Travel Bungalows in India during the East India company rule that lasted till 1857-58). He was thrice First Lord of the Admiralty and who also served as Governor-General of India between 1836 and 1842.........................
Dak Bungalows took shape following a decree by Lord Auckland, an English Whig politician and colonial administrator. Travel Bungalows were built at an interval of at least 12-15 miles from each other and the chosen locations were the long established tradition of caravan routes (serais) and dharamshalas (free boarding or lodging )built by Indian rulers. That is the limit of long distance people could cover a day. Such caravan routs dotted with chaultries (or Chatram in Tamil ) were specifically built for the pilgrims traveling long distance. In the state of Tamil Nadu such old chatrams built by past rules like the Nayaks, Marathas in Thanjavur, Pudukottai, Tiruch, Madurai districts are in a poor state or facing utter ruin. Commonly called Travel Bungalos in Tamil Nadu elsewhere in the Southern India, there are many in the Nilgiri hills and other places. It is mentioned in some articles on Dak bungalows in the north that there are 250 to 350 of them in the Himachal Pradesh alone, each 12 to 15 km apart. The bungalows t under the PWD are known as PWD Rest Houses and are usually located inside, or close to villages and towns and the ones under the the Forest Department called Forest Rest Houses (FRHs) lie in an isolated, wooded areas.
Invariably such Dak Bungalows exhibit a simple Indo British design with minimum facilities, tiled roof, long wide verandah from where one could view the front compound wall dotted with trees (mostly fruit-bearing)and the surrounding places. Normally such dak houses were set at a bit higher location . Provided with kitchen, a couple of modest bed rooms, Indian cooks would prepare them their favorite food according to their taste and fancy - courses of chicken, mutton and fish were available to the guests.. Across India certain non-vegetarian preparations that are quite popular today and are on the menu of famous eateries owe their origin to such Dak Houses of the colonial period. The talented cooks were busy preparing nice food for the English sahibs and sahiba. The most familiar one being fiery Railway mutton curry of Dak mutton Bungalow. The Dak Bungalow Curry was another famous dish during Colonial times. It was prepared with either meat or chicken and served with rice and vegetables or bread to the British Officers when they stayed at the Dak Bungalows. The taste was based on ingredients, location and the recipe being followed by the respective cooks. Functioning under Company Rule and later under the Raj, they offered free accommodation for government officials who had to bring their own bedding for night stay and servants to take care of their personal cooking needs etc. khansamah could provide dining for those without their own cook. When the railroad arrived in India in the early 20th century across India, high ranking British officials would arrive in a special bogie with his retinue and get off at the nearest station and from they would go to the Dak House for a night's stay or two along with his servants including cooks and servants. In the earlier days, their only means of long distance travel were either horse- drawn carriages or palanquins. In the case of junior official, they had to travel in the first class bogey and engage a cart (bullock cart, etc) at the station where they got off to reach the Dak Bungalow. The Dak house cooks would make arrangement for preparing and serving food to them, of course free of cost, Dak Houses did not have any running water and attached toilet facility and the guests had to walk several yards from the main building to reach the toilet on the premises. As for water for cooking, etc the guests had to draw it from the well on the premises. During the rainy seasons, sometimes, the officials had to stay there for more than a week.
As for the public, travelers from the business community, etc., they could use the dak bungalow by getting prior permission from the government official and they had to pay a nominal fee plus deposit to be reimbursed upon vacating the premises, if damages were not made in the rooms provided. to them. However, they had to pay separate fee for using firewood during winter or if was a chilly place. Dak Houses are also known as Govt. Rest Houses and were quite useful a century ago connecting travelling people temporarily.
Officials at the dak bungalows included the dakwala (postman), the durwan (caretaker), and sometimes a khansamah (attendant).. Normally the chowkidar or care taker would go to the nearby village market and buy provisions for a week or so not paying cash, but on barter system that was common in those days. In the past, these places were temporarily used to hear legal cases by visiting government officials to the local area. Circuit Houses served the same purpose at district headquarters - both as resting place and hearing legal cases.
During the early English company rule when the British wee very busy grabbing the land by way of war or peace treaty with a twist Dak bungalows or Travelling houses were to their advantage and proper use. They served as the EIC's outpost throughout India in the 19th century, besides serving as staging points for mail runners of the Imperial Mail Service.
Lt Col JK Stanford, ICS a distinguished officer who served in the ICS in India and Burma from 1919 until 1936 between two stints in the British army reported a funny incident in the dak house. A Sessions Judge who was hearing cases on the ground floor was quite annoyed by his his Burmese wife, who was hosting a gambling party for her friends on the first floor. His attempt to stop the wild part ending his being clobbered by his wife right before other. Quite disturbed, he left the government sevics to save his honor.
When the 1857 great rebellion by the Indian soldiers were on for more than a year against the corrupt and mean East India company officials in the northern states, along with them the natives were on rampage. During the tumultuous period such net work of Dak houses became hideout for the frightened and escaping British civilians and their families. Soon after the suppression of the rebellion, even a thatch was prohibited for use in official buildings. Some tragedies did occur at such Dak Houses. The surviving dak bungalows must be restored back to their old glory. Such places once witnessed all kinds of phases in a man's life. They were silent witness to the to much of early Indian history, memsaibs and sahibas, their servants, etc, their romances, quarrels, bouts of violence leading to mayhem murders, suicides and other tragedies. These travel bungalows are frequently clubbed with ghost stories by the locals and orchestrated by the scoop-hungry media. Such scars need to be erased by the government and convert them into tourist spots.
As necessity did nor arise in the later period such Dak Houses lost its importance and fell into disrepair. Later. they were replaced by circuit houses, and to day, not many of them are maintained by the government. Many of them are in ruins or razed to the ground and the surviving ones are being used by the govt. for mainly resting purposes; some are put to use as lodges at the Sipahijola and Radhanagari wildlife sanctuaries.
|Dak bungalow near Bhubaneswar Odisha. newindianexpress.com|