Home > Bengal Festival, Day Trips from Calcutta (Kolkata), General, Travelogue > Achipur ~ Birth Place of Calcutta Chinatown

Achipur ~ Birth Place of Calcutta Chinatown

Achipur

~ Birth Place of Calcutta Chinatown ~

In the late 18th century a Chinese tea trader by the name of Tong Achew landed on the banks of Hooghly, somewhere near present day Budge – Budge, never to return again. The then Governor General Warren Hasting granted land to Achew to set up a sugar cane plantation and sugar factory.  According to records to British East India Company “Achew was granted 650 bighas of land about 6 miles south of Budge – Budge for an annual rent of Rs 45.”

Chinese Devotees light candles, Achipur Chinese Temple

After acquiring the land Achew set up a sugar – cane plantation along with a sugar mill. He brought in a band of Chinese workers to work in his plantation and factory and thus forming the first Chinese settlement in India. But Achew died soon after and his sugar factory was abandoned. His workers left for the city of Calcutta, where their descendents still continue to live.

The place came to be known as Achipur after Tong Achew. Sadly today apart from a Chinese Temple and Achew’s horse – shoe – shaped grave Achipur has no Chinese connection. But once every year, on the Sunday after Chinese New Year, the sleepy hamlet of Achipur comes alive with the beating of Chinese drums. Possible every Chinese of Calcutta make a pilgrimage to Achipur to pay tribute to the man, who started the first Chinese settlement in India more than 230 years ago.

Tribute to Tong Achew

Located 33 km from Calcutta, Achipur can be best reached by route No. 77 bus from Esplanade. Get down at Boro Shiv Tala and walk for 10 minutes to China-man-tala, housing the Chinese temple.

As you enter the Temple you will be surrounded by hordes of Chinese offering prayers to the Chinese Deities. Candles and incense sticks are lit and the table in front of the alter is laid with an most amazing spread, ranging from whole roosted pig to chicken, from bottles of wines to heaps of fruits from exotic spices to expensive nuts. Sadly the mouth watering food is for personal consumption, so it is best to carry your own food.

The temple houses the male & female deity of Khuda & Khudi. Although distinctively Chinese in appearance their head gears are predominantly Islamic. Although legends says that the Temple was established by Achew himself, but historians doubt about its authenticity. It is quite likely that the Temple was established at a later date but the idols of Khuda & Khudi are quiet likely to be brought in by Achew himself.

Main Gate of the Achipur Temple Complex

The low ceiling of the temple has remarkable wood work and so does the pillars. The walls are filled in with excellent Chinese calligraphy. Apart from the main alter there are several prayer halls, which are lit up with candles, during the New Year celebration. Also Chinese fortune tellers make a brief business by predicting your fortune for only a couple of rupees.

Bidding farewell to the Temple head for Achew’s grave. The Horse – shoe – shaped red coloured grave overlooks the Hooghly. Here also the Chinese pays tribute by lighting candles incense sticks, to the man who started it all. It is also a place to enjoy the breeze and a senior Chinese can well narrate you the good old days of Chinese New Year celebration in Calcutta.

Gate of Achipur Chinese Temple

Even during the 1950s the Hooghly was navigable and whole vessels were chattered to bring the Chinese to Achipur. The decks consisted of food & gambling stalls and money flowed freely. The Chinese New Year in Achipur was celebrated with Dragon & Lion Dance complete with beating of hundreds of drums.

The river have long silted up, the Indian Government has imposed ban on gambling and the young Chinese are leaving Calcutta for greener pastures. Today the Dragon & Lion Dance have long stopped and the beating of drums can hardly be heard.

So if you want to experience the last of the dying culture of the Chinese of Calcutta it is best to visit Achipur on the Sunday after the Chinese New Year, which can double up as a winter Sunday picnic.

Related links from my website:

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

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  1. February 5, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Fascinating history. Great writeup.

  2. July 18, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    Thank you very much for sharing this information on Achipur. I have shared this page with others on Facebook- Calcutta-Photographs & Memories.

    • August 9, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Thanks Mr Sircar for sharing my blog entry in FB.

  3. April 16, 2013 at 9:06 AM

    Wonderful write up with history

    Travel India

  4. A. Kundu
    October 25, 2016 at 10:35 PM

    After getting interested, I visited Achipur yesterday. But unfortunately, found the temple under lock and key. People around told us the temple remains open in the month of February during the Chinese new year. And they suggested to come on any Sunday mornings during February. Visiting the place other times seem to be of no value.

    • shuvadip
      March 4, 2017 at 10:20 PM

      why not have u not visited the job charnok’s barud khana.though in ruins but a historical site.the road u have taken for the chinese temple will lead u to barud khana,keep on asking people till u get it.

    • March 4, 2017 at 10:36 PM

      Dear Me Kumdu the Chinese Temple in Achipur is only open on the second Sunday after the Chinese new year. Did you visit the grave of Tong Achew??

    • March 4, 2017 at 10:38 PM

      Dear Subhadip, thanks for sharing. Frankly never heard of Job Charnok’s barud khana, can you mail me a few photos at rangan@rangan-datta.info

  5. shuvadip
    March 4, 2017 at 10:13 PM

    sir where is exactly the grave of tong achew located ,i went there even saw the chinese temple from outside but couldn’t find the grave.

    • March 4, 2017 at 10:34 PM

      The grave of Tong Achew is located right on the banks of river Hooghly and is sandwiched between two brick kilns.

      To reach head follow the same road past the temple and head towards the river, ask the locals for Chota China Mandir, that is how Achew’s grave is known as.

      For the Chinese Temple it is generally open on the
      .

  6. shuvadip
    March 6, 2017 at 3:12 PM

    that is the road for charnock’s barud factory too ,after reaching the river bank take the left flank,the road is a kuchha road rough to drive a bike,approx 1 km u will get it,i have sent pics at ur e mail provided here.

    • March 6, 2017 at 7:53 PM

      Thanks Shuvadip for the photos. It seems there are two structures, one flat roof and other 3 domed. Are they located near each other and are they both called Charnock’s barudkhana??

      Also how diod you come across the name Charnock’s Barudkhana, did the locals tell you the name or you got it in some book??

  7. shuvadip
    March 6, 2017 at 3:23 PM

    it would be better if u visit the place and write to the cultural department of the govt of west bengal to maintain the site,me too is planning the same.

    • March 6, 2017 at 7:56 PM

      Dear Shuvadip, your photos are highly inspiring and I will be visiting Achipur soon. I will definitely write about my experience but have no idea about WB Govt. response.

      Thank you once more.

      • shuvadip
        March 7, 2017 at 3:27 PM

        actually i visited achipur earlier once in 2014 but had no idea of this places,one day i was going through a blog like urs and got the two names,thereafter i visited once again 2-3 days earlier,i asked the locals what are the things worth visiting other than this 2 places and they said no nothing more but this 2 places,thereafter i headed on first to the barud khana as it was getting late ,i was there during dusk and sun was fast setting so i quickly took snaps.the barudkhana also known to the locals as barud factory is in an area approx 2 acre,the double storeyed house was the factory,and the one storeyed structures were godowns of saltpetre now known by the name potassium nitrate,all the structures are located close by,there are 7 structures existing.all located in the same complex.i have already e mailed to the cultural ministry with the photos and will do so again in hard copy.go during day time so u can have ample time to visit the inside as the structures has no windows.

  8. Samikshan
    May 16, 2017 at 1:07 AM

    Just curious : what’s the religion of these Chinese people? Isn’t it Buddhism ?

    • May 16, 2017 at 8:12 AM

      The official religion of majority of Calcutta Chines is Christianity,, but they still practice Buddhist, Taoism and Confucianism rituals at home.

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