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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.