On a winter morning in December, a group of young boys were playing cricket in front of an abandoned compound in Aminpur village of Sonargaon.
A lake alongside the place had created a perfectly haunted yet rural tone. Spectators who were sitting on nearby dilapidated walls kept cheering the players up.
With their roofs fallen apart and broken floors with old cigarette packets and plastic bottles strewn all over them, the derelict condition of the compound made it hard for us to believe that there used to be a takshal (mint house) there.
The mint house used to comprise of three multi-storeyed buildings. But, its glory days seem long lost behind the bushes and the dirt that have covered the area. Ashwattha trees have crept their way through the once sturdy walls and thus making it hard to believe how tight the security was there hundreds of years ago.
Myths confronting reality
An elderly woman named Rita Rani was passing through the adjacent field when this correspondent asked her about the uninhibited place.
"I heard that in the British era, zamindars used this place to keep their money. One day, local people heard a loud splash and ran to the spot. They discovered a hole on one of the building's wall and realised that the bundle of money had jumped into the nearby lake, all by itself," said Rita Rani enthusiastically.
She went on to explain how the Mansa Rani (snake goddess in Hinduism) punishes the evil by snatching away their money.
She said that since imprudence angered the snake goddess, they had to be more careful, so one of the buildings of the takshal is a temple.
She quickly added recently uncalled police raids are hampering religious activities at the temple because some people use the space to take drugs.
When asked about the takshal, one of the young cricketers said, "I do not know. It is an ancient house, that is all".
Pointing towards one of the buildings, another boy nonchalantly said, "We use that one as a temple, otherwise we have restrictions on entering the premises."
He then lowered his voice and added, "This place has become a hub for drug addicts. We avoid coming here after sunset."
After talking to residents from different age groups, it became clear that there are numerous myths about the abandoned mint house. However, they all agreed on how the place has become a paradise for drug addicts.
Historical significance of Korribari
Mint towns refer to places where emperors or sultans used to manufacture and reserve their coins. In ancient times, mint towns were built in the places where the rulers found it to be most secured. The towns are reminiscent of those early times.
The mint house in Aminpur, locally known as "Korribari", was built when Sonargaon was part of the Delhi Sultanate.
Historical documents revealed that this place had been a mint house for more than a century. Locals claim that until a few years ago, the government had nothing to do with the place.
The last zamindar of the area, Shashanka gave the Korribari to the local people for religious purposes. It was considered as a personal property of Asim Kumar, a descendant of the zamindar. Asim teaches at a nearby college.
People used it as a temple and maintained it, until it was declared a state property. One of the buildings was redesigned with bricks, but the other two are still in dire states.
Preferring to remain anonymous, one of the locals said, "There are legal disputes involving the Korribari. A case is pending with the court over its ownership."
Negligence of the authorities concerned
The Business Standard wanted to reach out to Asim Kumar but his mother Dipali Das Gupta spoke on his behalf. They live in a worn-out house which Dipali claimed is 400-year-old.
She said that over time, land grabbers took over the area and that everything in the territory were actually properties of the zamindars.
The zamindari had become obsolete overnight, but her father-in-law had managed to do some paper works to enlist a few buildings of the area as their personal property.
She said that she too had heard about the compound being a takshal from her mother-in-law, but their family has been using it as their residence.
According to Dipali, her brother-in-law lived in the Korribari and let the mass use the front building as the "nag temple".
"People these days do not know the history behind this place. It was a takshal, but that was long ago. Then everything was ruined. The zamindars started using it as their residence subsequently," said a visibly frustrated Dipali.
With a sad voice, she said they are undergoing tremendous pressure after the government claimed it as a state property.
She informed The Business Standard that they have gone to the court to regain the place's ownership and that the case is still running. They are waiting for the verdict.
The Business Standard contacted Rakhi Roy, regional director of the Department of Archaeology over the decaying history of mint houses in the country.
She said in the 2010 gazette, the Korribari was brought under state enlisted ancient buildings.
She admitted that the authorities had failed to bring this place under state supervision because of rigid local influence. However, she claimed the takshal buildings were not dilapidated at all.
She also said that a case was going on over a building situated in the southeast corner of Korribari and that this place had nothing to do with the case.
They were about to give a written statement that the Korribari is out of that buildings' boundary, but they have not yet done it.
Rakhi Roy said, "Not all ancient structures are the government's property. Most of them are under personal ownership and that is alright. In such cases, we come to terms with the owners."
Addressing the condition of Korribari, she said they never had enough budget to start a conservation or a restoration programme.
Local and personal influences were also an issue. She also said that the authorities would start working on it as soon as they get the budget.