Chandannagar ~ A slice of France
About 100 years after Vasco da Gama landed in the west cost of India the European traders started making inroads into Bengal. Bandel became a stronghold of the Portuguese while the Danes and the Dutch had their supremacy in Srerampur and Chuchura respectively.
Chandannagor was the French colony. Unlike the other European colonies of Bengal the French control of Chandannagar continued even after independence and it was only in 1950 Chandannagar became a part of India.
Once a beautiful town with French masons and boulevards, Chandannagar has lost most of its past glory. Today it represents a crowded unplanned town on the Howrah – Burdwan main line. A few of the French buildings have passed the test of time and can still be seen today reminding one of the French days of Chandannagar, offering a French holiday with a distinctive Bengali twist.
The largest concentration of colonial building is along the Hooghly and is known as The Strand, and is still considered as the most beautiful stretch along the entire Hooghly.
Just off The Strand is the Sacred Heart Church, on of the prime attraction of Chandannagar. A statue of Jesus greats the visitors to the two storied church complete with twin towers. A marble plaque says that the church was inaugurated by Father Goethals on 27 January 1884.
Interior has beautiful stained glasses and walls contain coloured reliefs of Jesus carrying the cross. Long corridors and confession boxes add a dignity to the church interior. Sadly the church is not well maintained with plasters peeling off at several places.
The Chandnnagar Strand is dominated by the Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat. Built in 1920s in honor of Durgacharan Rakshit, the recipient of the French award of Legion d’honneur. The elegant looking pavilion consists of slender columns with decorative stucco works consisting of elephant’s head and floral design.
Also along the river lies the Duplex’s Mansion, now the Chandannagar Museum & Institute, housing a rare collection of French artifacts, including personal collection of Duplex, the French Governor of Chandannagar.
Just in front of the museum is an elegant mansion called the Patal Bari (Underground House) as a portion of the house is submerged by the Hooghly River. The Patal Bari, with is beautiful wooden sunshades and decorative water outlets, has a long list of distinguished visitors including Rabindranath Tagore & Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar.
The northern and southern entry point to Chandannagar is marked is marked with two entry gates. The northern gate no longer exists but the southern gate, although encroached by banners and festoons can still be seen today. The gate consists of two square pillars topped with urns. Inaguarated on 14 July 1937, in memory of the fall of Bastille, which tiggered off the famous French Revolution. The gate contains the slogan of French Revolution “Liberte, Egalite & Fratarnite” which translated into English is “Liberty, Equality & Fraternity.”
Although a French Colony for 275 years (1678 – 1950). The heritage of Chandannagar is not restricted to French architecture only. The town also houses several temples, including Nandadulal Temple. Standing on a rectangular base of 52 feet by 21 feet it is the largest do – chala (double sloped roof) temple of Bengal. Sadly apart from a few lotus motifs it totally lacks terracotta work, which is the trade mark of Hooghly Temples.
Hooghly is famous for its terracotta temples, and Chandannagar is no exception so terracotta enthusiasts shouldn’t be disheartened as the Boro Shvtala area of Chandannagar houses a spectacular nine pinnacled terracotta temple.
The temple has triple arch entrance of two sides along with intricate terracotta panels. The two side entrances of the triple arched entrance on both side are false and only the central arch entrance operates. The temple also houses a giant Shiva – Linga.
- Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya
Links from my website:
- Chandannagar Travelogue
- More photos of Chandannagar
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal