Home > Bengal History, Bengal Terracotta Architecture, General > Its all Dutch with Bauke Van Der Pol

Its all Dutch with Bauke Van Der Pol

In Search of Dutch Legacy with Bauke Van Der Pol

Falta, Aatput (Antpur) and Chinsurah (Chuchura)

From sunken ship to lost cannons and from dilapidated mansions to ruined forts, it was a out of the world experience accompanying Dutch anthropologist and writer Bauke Van Der Pol on his explorations along the banks of the Hooghly.

With Dutch anthropologist and historian Bauke Van Der Pol

With Dutch anthropologist and historian Bauke Van Der Pol

I had the pleasure of accompanying Van Der Pol on three ocassion covering the places of Falta, Aatpur (Antpur) and Chinsurah (Chuchura).

Day: 1, Falta

Ruined Fort and Sunken Ship

Dutch Fort, Falta

Dutch Fort, Falta

Falta, near Diamond Harbour, in 24 Parganas (South)  once housed a small Dutch fort, but today its all in ruins. The Dutch Fort was once surrounded my a moat and traces of it survives to this day.

We entered the fort crossing the moat over a fixed bridge, which replaced a draw bridge and traces of the chains and pullies are visible to this day.

We entered the fort complex through an arched gateway and past a tower, which probably served as a lighthouse. The place is densely populated and the only traces of the fort are the opening of the underground tunnels. The tunnels have long been sealed of and the opening near the mouth are being used as residential space.

Ship on Hooghly River, Falta

Ship on Hooghly River, Falta

The fort once housed several canons and one of them is displayed at the Falta Police Station, but it contained a inscription of a crown, which according to Van Der Pol was of British origin. It was the same story for the Falta Fort cannon, which was displayed at the nearby Diamond Harbour.

After the exploration of the Falta’s Dutch Fort, Van Der Pol shifted his attention on a Dutch dredger that sunk near Falta in 1965 killing 12 Dutch Men and 5 Indians. The stretch of Hooghly from Calcutta to the sea mouth have been a graveyard of ships, and it was difficult to identify to particular wreck.

Van Der Pol went on with is job by displaying old newspapers and photos of the sunken dredger from his tablet. The locals responded and we came to know that the dredger sunk at a place called Rampur, couple of kilometers down stream. Off we went to Rampur in our hired car and the locals were able to spot the exact location of the wreck.

Day: 2, Aatpur (Antpur)

Terracotta Panels of European soldiers

Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

Day 2 was a short day and with no direct Dutch connection. The magnificent Radhagobinda Temple in Aatpur (Antpur) Hooghly contained some spectacular terracotta panels of European Soldiers, including elaborate hunting scenes.

We decided to take the Tarakeswar Local from Howrah and got down at Haripal. An auto took us to the towering temple of Radhagobinda.

It is said that the Radhagobinda Temple of Aatpur (Antpur) was built during a transition period marking the end of Islamic rule and the beginning of European rule. So it contains several panels depicting European lifestyle.

There were several panels with Europeans engaged in battles, hunting and horse riding. Western dresses and head gears were the main features of the terracotta panels.

We ended the day with a visit to the State Bank of India archive on the Strand Road followed by a visit to the Light House Cinema (now a mall). The Light House Cinema along with the adjoining Humayun Courtwas designed by Dutch architect William Dudok.

Day: 3, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Into the Dutch Strong Hold

Chinsurah (Chuchura) the Dutch stronghold in Bengal was the final field trip with Van Der Pol. We took the local train from Sealdah followed by a ferry to Chinsurah (Chuchura) from Naihati.

Dutch East India Company (VOC) Logo at Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Dutch East India Company (VOC) Logo at Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Chinsurah (Chuchura) was a Dutch colony till 1825, when it was exchanged for the island of Sumatra, with the British. Sadly the Dutch Fort of Gustava have long been brought down by the British and only traces of Dutch legacy remains in Chinsurah (Chuchura).

We started from the Madrasa, which was formally the barrack of the British army and continued to the commissioner’s house with the Vereenigde Ostindische Companie (VOC) logo.

We headed for the Mohosin College and finally taking a cycle rickshaw to the Hooghly Imambara. Our Chinsurah (Chuchura tour continued with the visit to the Armenian Church of St. John, the Baptist and the Clock Tower and finally ending at the residence of Ganesh Nandi, the founder of Indo – Dutch Friendship Society. The day ended with a warm reception from the members of Indo – Dutch Friendship Society.

Notes:

  • Bauke Van Der Pol’s book Holland on the Ganges (in Dutch) will be published in 2014
  • Bauke Van Der Pol’s previous book The Dutch East India Company will be translated in English in 2014.

  1. February 13, 2014 at 3:06 AM

    Do you know the origin of the names Hooghly and Chinsurah? They don’t sound to be Sanskrit origin.

    • February 14, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      they are definitely not of sanskrit origins. there are many theories floating around on the origin of these names. most of them sounds very phony to me. however, there is an interesting one that suggests that the word ‘hooghly’ is derived from an old Portuguese word that used to mean jetty or something related to that. similar to Bandel, derived from portuguese word “bandar” meaning small port or dock.
      i have no idea about the origin of chuchura/ chinsura though, but i remember seeing the term “TsuTsura” in an old inscription from 16th century dutch painting of “fort gustav”. i wonder if that is a clue to the original name or just a weird ‘typo’ thing!

  2. February 15, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    I HAVE to plan one more trip to see all these.
    Thanks for the info and also the story on names in the comment above.

  3. Surja
    February 19, 2014 at 9:47 AM

    A very interesting article, Rangan da. I feel that attention towards Chinsurah and it’s role in European colonisation has been much neglected. I suppose quite a few scholarly papers have been written on its history but perhaps the ordinary public and the residents of Chinsurah know little about them. We need people like you to bring out history from academia and show people how colourful it all is. The department I work for (PWD), is in charge of maintaining Mohsin College, Hooghly Madrasah and Hooghly Collegiate School. I have myself been involved in renovation of the old buildings at Hooghly Collegiate School and Mohsin College. Sadly, we are totally ignorant of the history of the fine old buildings and know next to nothing about the architectural style or details. The State Government too treats them like ordinary buildings, without realising the tremendous significance of these buildings and so never provides funds or expertise required to maintain these buildings the way they should be. Perhaps one day these buildings will be demolished to make way for the matchbox style monstrosities that the unimaginative government erects as displays of “progress”. It is a shameful reflection of our pompously uneducated minds and times that we let these gems rot away. There are other estates, buildings and mansions lined all along the western banks of the Hooghly and who can tell what history they hold within them. Most of their stories will never be told and we will be much more poorer for that.

  4. February 19, 2014 at 1:04 PM

    Building India is an invitation to the bloggers community to contribute with their ideas on India.
    In a full day event, to be held in Kolkata, selected bloggers from city of joy and nearby cities will debate and deliberate upon what do they think should be the future of our nation. We are looking for bloggers who will debate and deliberate upon what do they think should be the future of our nation.
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    Venue: Kolkata
    Breakfast, Lunch and Hi-Tea will be served apart from some other surprises. Travel expenditure of outstation blogger will also be re-imbursed.
    If interested, Please contact- sehgalkd@gmail.com or jaydeepdasgupta@gmail.com
    Hurry, Limited seats are available.

  5. Amélie Weigel
    January 14, 2016 at 9:39 AM

    Hi, do you have the contact of Bauke der Pol … I am writing an article about Dutch in India and I would like to get an interview with him.
    Amélie

    • January 14, 2016 at 10:45 AM

      Dear Amelie, i have mailed you the email of Bauke Van der Pol, also nice to know that you are writing on the Dutch in India.

      Will it be possible to share the English translation of the story, once it gets published.

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