HOOGHLY DISTRICT-History of Hooghly
The pre-colonial era of Hooghly district
India has always been interesting for travelers from all around the world. Whether the stories of 200 years of British rule or the stories of the kings and their dynasties India has it all. Not just the British, but several other countries have also invaded India in order to settle an establishment and ensure the business of exports. In this article, we will get to know about the lesser-known places of Hooghly District which have been ruled by several countries prior to the British rule in India.
History of the place.
Around 52 km from Kolkata, Bandel is a little town in district Hooghly. This small town was founded by the Portuguese in the year 1599 with the establishment of Basilica of Holy Rosary also known as the Bandel church. During the middle 16th century, Bandel was used as a port by the Portuguese settlers. Around 1571 they were given permission by Emperor Akbar to build a town in Hooghly.
The Portuguese build their town along the bank of river Hooghly and named the place as “Bandel” which means port. The famous Bandel church and a Portuguese fort were also built during this period. It is believed that once a Portuguese sailor was sailing through river Hooghly when his ship dismantled due to a dangerous thunderstorm. Being a true devotee he prayed to mother Marry for help. Miraculously the dangerous storm stopped and his life was saved. As a sign of gratitude, he embedded the Mast of his ship at Bandel church. A shrine was established on the upper part of the church which was named “Our Lady of Happy Voyage”. The mast stood strong for centuries but sadly after a massive cyclone in West Bengal in 2010 the Mast collapsed. It is still laid down in the same place for the visitors to admire.
Places to visit in Bandel
Bandel church –
After Emperor Akbar granted permission to build a settlement in the banks of Hooghly river priests from Portugal arrived and began to preach Christianity. Thus in the year 1599 Bandel church or the Church of Holy Rosary was built in Bandel a famous place in the Hooghly district.
Hangseswari temple –
Build in the year 1814 this five-storied magnificent Hindu temple of the goddess Hangseswari resembles human anatomy. The building was built by Raja Nrishinga Deb Roy after he had a dream of maa kali. The temple has 13 miners, shaped as blooming buds of lotus. It is a must-visit when in Bandel
Hooghly Imambara –
Build in the year 1861 by Mohammad Mohsin this mosque is famous for its vaunted clock and its sundial. One has to climb 152 steps to reach the clock room. The clock has two small bells which ring after every 15min and one huge bell which rings to indicate one hour. This famous clock was bought from M/s Black & Hurray Co., Big Ben, of London.
How to reach.
One can board a train from Howrah station. It will take around 1hr20min to reach Bandel. You can also book a cab and drive through GT road or Delhi road in order to reach Bandel.
History of the place
A place that has witnessed the rise and fall of several ruling countries. Chinsurah or Chuchura has stood the test of time for centuries. Located at around 50 km away from central Kolkata. This small town of Hooghly district has been ruled by the Dutch’s (people of Netherland) prior to the British rule.
During the Mughal Bengal period of 1610 to 1800 century, Chinsurah was under the dictatorship of the Dutch East India Company. Until 1825 Chinsurah was a colony of the Kingdom of Netherland and after 1825 it was taken over by the British East India Company. Dutch East India Company started trading with Bengal in the year 1615 onwards and after trading for 20 years in 1635 a settlement was established in Chinsurah. Trade from Chinsurah was mainly of opium, silk, spices, and muslin. This old Chinsurah town still stands strong with several remaining of the Dutch architecture even today. A visitor once in Chinsurah cannot miss the opportunity to witness the below-mentioned places.
Places to visit in Chinsurah
The clock tower or the Ghorir more –
Built British in the year 1914 in the memory of King Edward VII, this is a major tourist attraction of Chinsurah in Hooghly district. This 116-year-old clock has been showing the right time and is perfectly maintained by a watch company of Chinsurah.
Hooghly Madrasa –
One can visit the Hooghly Madrasa which was the primary Dutch settlement or the Fort Gustavus and witness its Dutch artillery walls which still stand strong.
The Dutch cemetery –
Yet another tourist attraction in Chinsurah. This cemetery of the 18th to 19th consists of about 45 graves of the Dutch citizens in Chinsurah. The oldest grave with an epitaph is that of Cornelius Jonge who dies on 10th Oct 1743. The last Dutch governor Daniel Overbeek (died 1840) is also buried here. This cemetery is maintained by ASI.
Hooghly Mohsin College –
It is a famous Arts, Science, and Commerce college registered under the University of Burdwan. This beautiful college was initially the residence of the Director of Bengal of the Dutch East India company sir Albert Sichterman later on in 1804 to 1805 it was remodeled by General Perron a French general in Scindia Army.
The tomb of Susanna Anna Maria –
This neoclassical and baroque hybrid monument situated in the middle of a green garden belongs to a Dutch lady of the same name. This lady was married twice, once to the director of Bengal and later to a well to do businessman. However, locals believed that the lady had seven husbands and she had murdered each of them. Famous author Ruskin Bond has written the novel Susanna’s seven husbands based on her story. A Bollywood film based on this story has also released in 2011 naming “sath Khoon maf”.
How to reach.
One can reach Chinsurah by boarding a train from Howrah. This journey will take around one hour. Chinsurah is well connected by roads hence one can book a cab from their preferred location and reach Chinsurah.
A visitor in Chinsurah will always be enchanted to witness the age-old history of this place.
History of the Chandannagar
The name Chandannagar is derived from two Bengali words “Chandra” meaning moon and “Nagar” meaning land. Geographically the part of Hooghly River which flows through this small town is shaped like a crescent moon, thus giving justice to the name of this place “Chandannagar”. Chandannagar was under French power after 1674. The first French fort The Fort d’Orleans was built during 1696-97. The first governor of the city Joseph François Dupleix was appointed in 1730. A trade involving opium, indigo, silk, rice, rope, sugar, etc. was done by the French East India Company. There had been several wars between France and Great Britain to occupy Chandannagar. Finally, in 1816 the city was returned to French colonization and was controlled by the French governor-general of Pondicherry. Only after 1950, it was a part of West Bengal.
Places to visit in Chandannagar
Chandannagar Strand –
Build during the French rule in Chandannagar. This is a long pathway along the Hooghly River. Build in the French architectural style this place holds several historical monuments to enliven the tourist’s interest. This is a must-visit once in Chandannagar.
Chandernagore Museum and Institute (Institut de Chandernagor)-
Build in the memory of the first governor of Chandanagor this museum has stored several antiques that are difficult to find elsewhere. One can also see the possession of Joseph Dupleix. This institute has been teaching the French Language for several years. The museum is closed on Thursdays and Saturdays.
The sacred heart church –
Situated near Chandannagar Strand this church has been a perfect example of French architecture since the last two centuries. Tourists in Chandan Nagar should not miss the opportunity of visiting this church.
The underground house (Patal Bari) –
Situated at one end of Chandannagar strand this house has its lower floor submerged in the river during the monsoon. Famous people like Rabindranath Tagore and Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar visited this house quite often.
Apart from these notable places, Chandannagar is also famous worldwide for its Jagadhatri Puja. Visitors from all over the world come to worship goddess Jagadhatri.
How to reach
Chandannagar is about 50 mints from Howrah by train and is well-connected to Kolkata and other parts of Bengal and thus can be easily accessed by car.
History of Serampore
This pre-colonial city on the western bank of Hooghly River was once occupied and ruled by the Danish India. This old city has seen the rise and fall of the feudal system. Started with the ruling power of the Danish to the British the city has seen it all. The urbanization of this place began with the capturing of lands and building a settlement by the Danish (people of Denmark). Serampore was under the Danish rule during the 18th to 19th centuries. It is also famous for the Rath Yatra of Mahesh.
Places to visit in Serampore
Serampore college –
Established in the year 1818 Serampore college is one of the oldest colleges after Presidency College now presidency University. founded by William Carey, Joshua Marshman, William Ward. As Serampore then was a Danish Colony king of Denmark, King Frederick VI issued Serampore College as its Royal Charter of Incorporation. Thus giving the college privilege in awarding degrees in Arts and Science. People from all cast and creed could be a part of this college.
- Denmark Traven –
In the year 1786 a British innkeeper James Parr opened THE DENMARK TRAVEN & HOTEL. with no time if became very popular among the Danish residents and Britishers from Calcutta. In 2018 a glorious restoration of this traven was done and opened for the public as a joined collaboration of The Park and Flurys.
Mahesh Rath Yatra –
Mahesh Rath yatra is one of the most popular and oldest rath yatras after the puri’s trio rath yatra. This week-long festival since 1396 is still celebrated with great enthusiasm
How to reach
Shrirampore is 40 min journey by train from Howrah station. One can board a cab from any part of Bengal as it is well connected by roads.
Thus, these are few less known places of Hooghly district that holds immense historical relevance. These places have something new to offer its travelers and take them to a pre-historic era.
Hooghly District Map
Written By: Nabomita Mukherjee( Travelofina Travel Stories).