Home > Bengal History, General > Chinsurah (Chuchura), Remains of a Dutch Legacy

Chinsurah (Chuchura), Remains of a Dutch Legacy

Chinsurah (Chuchura)

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).

Clock Tower, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Clock Tower, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

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.

Chinsurah (Chuchura) Court

Chinsurah (Chuchura) Court

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.

Hooghly Madrasha, formally the Dutch Barrack

Hooghly Madrasha, formally the Dutch Barrack

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.

L: Commissioner House, Chinsurah (Chuchura). R: VOC (Dutch East India Co.) Logo

L: Commissioner House, Chinsurah (Chuchura). R: VOC (Dutch East India Co.) Logo

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.

Sandeshwari Temple, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Sandeshwari Temple, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

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.

Dutch Cemetery, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Dutch Cemetery, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

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.

Armenian Church, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Armenian Church, Chinsurah (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.

Susana Anamaria's Tomb

Susana Anamaria’s Tomb

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.

Necessary Information:

Getting There:

  • 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

 Getting Around:

  • 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)

Eating:

  • The Clock Tower crossing houses basic eateries to good restaurant
  1. indrani
    April 17, 2014 at 7:11 AM

    Never knew about these places. The driver who took us around in WB belonged to this place. He never said a word about these places. Probably he never realized the importance.
    Great post.

    • December 5, 2014 at 2:50 PM

      Indrani we just can’t blame the driver, they need to me made aware of the history and heritage.

  2. April 17, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    A good post, Rangan-babu, and thanks for highlighting my old school town. The district court was once a Dutch fortress (Gustav Fort) and was surrounded by a customary moat. The moat survives as a few ponds. My school (Hooghly Collegiate) is now housed in Hadji Muhammad Mohsin’s erstwhile residence; several more buildings have been added later. Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya, amongst other luminaries, was a student there. In its earliest incarnation (of several), the school was founded in 1812, but was located elsewhere in Chinsurah. Neither etymology suggested by you is possibly correct; like many of Bengal’s place names, it too was possibly derived from an old Austro-asiatic word in an aboriginal tongue, much in the league of Ghushuri, Purshurah, Jirat, Haorah, Rishra, to name a few. You must do a more detailed blog on the town and its surrounds (beyond the Armenian church and the present one).

    • December 5, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      Thanks Anuridha da for your detailed comment. Also nice to know that you are a student of the illustrious Hooghly Collegiate School.

      Apart from the long list of notable alumni Hooghly Collegiate School is housed in a historic building dating back to the Dutch days of Chinsurah (Chuchura).

  3. April 17, 2014 at 2:41 PM

    A familiar place for me….comes alive with your photographs..:-)

    • December 5, 2014 at 2:49 PM

      Thanks Maniparna (a random state of mind) for the comment

  4. May 27, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I used to live in Bandel and Chandannagar at one point. Your post brought back a lot of memories. Wonderful!

    • December 5, 2014 at 2:48 PM

      Thanks Deepanjan (Double Dolphin). Hope to explore the places with you.

  5. December 5, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    I am working on the evolution of the urban centres developed along the west bank of Hooghly River. For that purpose I need some help from you. If you provide your contact details, then I am grateful to you. Subhendu Ghosh

  6. January 17, 2015 at 11:17 PM

    Nice and informative post. I hope to visit these places sometime

  7. Aniruddha Mukhopadhyay
    February 25, 2015 at 12:28 AM

    That is my town. Beautiful in its own way. I remember few years back, I took some of my friends to visit this place, who were from other parts of India, and they were awestruck with the beauty of this place. I guess, the town is quite underrated in terms of tourism given the history it dates back to. Whenever anyone asks me where do you belong to, I proudly say I belong to Chinsurah and not Kolkata. I guess that is one more thing with the current generation. When they go to any other places, and when they are asked about the place they belong to, normally the people from the towns like chinsurah and chandennagore and Srirampur,they escape saying they belong to Kolkata than mentioning the place they actually belong to.

  8. Oindrila Dutta
    May 14, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    Good job done, Rangan !! This is very informative. I am born and brought up in Chinsurah. So now whenever I will miss home, I know where to go…:) Feeling very nostalgic..

    Just a few suggestions to make this write up more comprehensive- You can include the history of Hooghly Mohsin Collage and Duff School. To my knowledge they too date back to mid 19th century….Keep up the good work.

  9. June 21, 2015 at 11:52 PM

    very well written article. really well documented. i am planning to explore the town. Is there any public transport to Anna Maria’s grave? how far is it from the station? is it open in all hours?

  10. June 21, 2015 at 11:53 PM

    very well written article. really well documented. i am planning to explore the town. Is there any public transport to Anna Maria’s grave? how far is it from the station? is it open in all hours?

  11. June 21, 2015 at 11:58 PM

    Reblogged this on whistlingintherain and commented:
    very well documented article. gives a certain historical glimpse to the town to outsiders

    • subhashis
      July 9, 2015 at 12:39 AM

      Lovely place..we used to visit during winter vacation to my mamar bari with mom.love the place.lot of childhood memories are there near Gharir More,premnagar and khelar meth.

    • July 9, 2015 at 9:32 AM

      Thanks Agantuk for the comment and reblog.

    • July 9, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      Thanks Subhashis, fro sharing your childhood memories.

  12. Habiba Khatun
    November 12, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Good information.It will helpful to civil service interviewees.

    • July 30, 2016 at 9:09 PM

      Thanks Habiba, hope your civil service interview went well.

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