Chinsurah (Chuchura), Remains of a Dutch Legacy
Remains of a Dutch Legacy
Chinsurah or Chuchura has a interesting etymology, according to some sources the word derived from a special cane called chinchira while others opine the word was derived from the Bengali word Chura (Spire).
The former Dutch colony (1615 – 1825) was once considered the most beautiful town of Bengal. Today Chinsurah or Chuchura is just like any small town of West Bengal, crowded, unplanned and accompanied with chaotic traffic.
Although known for its Dutch heritage the prime attraction of Chinsurah or Chuchura is the British built clock tower.
Located at a crossing and at the very centre of the town the clock tower was constructed in 1914 in honor of Edward VII.
Just south of the Clock Tower is the District Court, with its long corridor, considered as the longest in India.
The building was built in 1829 with materials from the demolished Dutch Fort of Gustava.
A short distance away is the Hooghly Madrasha, which was formally the barracks for the Dutch (later British) soldiers. A marble plaque and a few scattered Dutch cannons still stands mute witness of the colonianl days of Chinsurah or Chuchura.
Next to the Madrasha is a elegant colonial garden house, and once served as the residence of the Dutch Governor of Chinsurah.The original building have long been demolished and the British constructed a building at the same place, which serves as the residence of divisional commissioner of Burdwan.
The original building was built in 1744 and was named Welgeleegen. The new building contains a plaque with the inscription VOC (Vereenigde Ostindische Companie, meaning Dutch East India Company) 1687.
The compound of the commissioner House still houses two VOC canons. The canons pointing out toward the Hooghly River, are the only reminder of the days the Dutch Fort Gustava.
Nearby there are several office building and official residence of high government official, although most of the buildings have been modified but their distinctive architecture reminds one of the colonial days of Chinsurah or Chuchura.
The area also housed the Dutch Church, sadly with was demolished in 1980s. The nearby Hooghly Mohosin College was once the residence of French soldier Perron.
The river front of Chinsurah or Chuchura is not restricted to British and Dutch architecture only. The Sandeswari Temple with its towering spire is a must visit for every visitor visiting Chinsurah or Chuchura.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva the Sandeshwari Temple complex houses several other smaller temples and shrines. The temple also houses two brass drums and a brass Shiva Linga, which are taken out for public display on the last day of the Bengali calendar.
The attractions of Chinsurah or Chuchura are not restricted to the Hooghly River front only, inside the town is the Dutch Cemetery.
Located in a very congested part of the town is the Dutch Cemetery, a Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected site.
The cemetery contains a assortment of graves scattered under the shade of ancient trees. The oldest date back to 1743 while the newest one is on 1840.
Apart from the Dutch and British the Armenians had also left their mark in the town of Chinsurah or Chuchura.
The Armenian have the distinction of having the oldest church in the town, which also happens to be the second oldest church in Bengal (Bandel Church is the oldest church in Bengal).
Official known as the St. John the Baptist Church, the Armenian Church of Chinsurah or Chuchura dates back to 1692.
The Armenian Church of Chinsurah or Chuchura usually remains closed throughout the year.
But every year on the second / third Sunday of January the Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata) make their annual pilgrimage to the St. John the Baptist Church.
Just outside the town of Chinsurah or Chuchura, on the Grand Trank Road (G T Rd.) is the temple styled grave of Susana Annmaria.
Susanna Annamaria was a Dutch Lady married to an Englishman named Mr Yeats.
Although nothing much is known neither about the lady or her husband.
Built in 1809 the Octagonal structure is an ideal example of Indo – Dutch architecture.
The two storied octagonal structure, with arched gateways and slender columns is crowned with a dome.
The tomb contains no epitaph but the name Susanna Annamaria is inscribed in the drum of the dome.
The trip can be combined with the Hooghly Imambara, located in Hooghly, the sister town of Chinsurah or Chuchura.
- Local trains are available from Howrah to Chuchura
- Local trains are available from Sealdah to Naihiti, from there ferries are available across the Hooghly River to Chinsurah
- Cars are also a good option
- The Dutch architecture on the riverside is best explored on foot for the remaining places a rickshaw is the best option
- For Susana Annamaria’s Grave a car is required. Also in a car trip the other nearby colonial settlements can be covered like Bandel (Portuguese), Chandannagar (French) and Srerampur (Danish)
- The Clock Tower crossing houses basic eateries to good restaurant