Wednesday, July 24, 2019 | ePaper

A walk through Kolkata’s colonial past

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Panchali Dey :
olonial history is in the DNA of Kolkata, and there is no denying the fact. In fact, a memorial is also dedicated to the British queen, the Victoria Memorial Hall. Contrary to the popular belief, the British were not the only colonisers to call Bengal its home.
If you trace back the history of Kolkata’s heritage at the Hooghly river, an arm of Ganges river, which provides access to Kolkata from the Bay of Bengal, you will get evidence of how the river brought the European traders here. And if specifics are considered, the British were not the first to arrive here. When in 1690, Job Charnok landed in Kolkata to establish a trading post, the Portuguese, Armenians, Danes, Dutch and French were already settled nearby. Not to miss the fact that all of them left an indelible mark in Kolkata.
If you happen to visit these quarters, you will see cemeteries, clock towers and churches that have been the silent spectator of European presence for almost 400 years. If this intrigues you to sample a piece of Kolkata’s colonial history, interlaced with European heritage, a trip to Kolkata’s own ‘Little Europe’ is all that you need to plan. Check out the places and plan your itinerary accordingly for a fun trip.
Serampore
This place is located around 20km north of Kolkata on the right bank of Hoogly river. Serampore used to be a Danish colony from 1752 to 1845, and was known as Frederick Nagar, who was named a Danish king. This place is also known for the Danish missionary trio William Ward, Joshua Marshman and William Carrey, who arrived during the early part of 19th century, and took on the responsibility to reform the society. Here, you will find Serampore College, which was the brain child of the missionary trio. It is the oldest degree college in Asia.
Along the river, there are several other colonial mansions dating back to the days of Danes, such as the Baptist Mission Church. Then, there is a small park in front of the church that houses 15 Danish canons. These canons earlier used to be in different parts of Serampore, but they were all brought together for public display in 1950.
Chinsurah
It is a small town in Kolkata's Hooghly district, which holds more of history than it reveals. The Dutch settled there in the early 17th century to trade spices, opium, salt and muslin. Today, it is more of a multi-cultural town that reflects the elapsed history of the Dutch in Chinsurah. When here, visit the famous Dutch cemetery that has around 45 graves, with the oldest one dating back to 1743!
Ghorir More, Bara Seal Bari and Shamdeshwar Temple are some places that need a special mention. Try visiting these places if you are interested in tracing the past.  
Bandel
Bandel was formerly a Portuguese colony, located barely 8km from Chandannagar, which later on succumbed to the test of time. This place is, however, popular for being a weekend destination because of its convenient location from the city. There is an old-era feel to this place that is hard to miss. The Portuguese structures that further add fervour to this place cannot be ignored simply. It will push you to delve into the enchanting history of this place. Bandel Basilica and Hoogly Imambara are places that you should not miss when you are in Bandel.
Chandernagore
Said to be one of first outpost’s of India’s colonial past, Chandernagore is more like Puducherry. At first sight, this place will be like any other usual town in India. This place makes for an interesting stop though it lost most of its past glory. A few French buildings managed to survive till date and are standing tall to remind visitors of French influence in this place. In short, spending some time here will feel like going on a French holiday that is laced with distinctive Bengali twist.
The Strand is the Sacred Heart Church in Chandernagore, one of the best attractions of the place and you need to visit it to find the reason behind its popularity. Then, there is Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat built in the 1920s. Spend some alone time here to get the feel of the place. It is however not just restricted to French heritage, the town also boasts of several temples, such as the popular Nandadulal Temple.

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