Home > Bengal History, General > Europe along the Hooghly, Serampore, Chandannagar, Chinsurah and Bandel

Europe along the Hooghly, Serampore, Chandannagar, Chinsurah and Bandel

Europe along the Hooghly

Serampore (Danish), Chandannagar (French), Chinsurah (Dutch) and Bandel (Portuguese)

Almost a century after Vasco da Gama landed on the West Cost of India (1498), the Europeans started making inroads in Bengal. Using Hooghly (also known as Ganga or Ganges) as the main source of navigation, they started making inroads in Bengal.

Europe along the Hooghly River (Serampore, Chandannagar, Chinsurah and Bandel)

Europe along the Hooghly River (Serampore, Chandannagar, Chinsurah and Bandel)

Soon, European settlement started growing along the Hooghly River in the present day Hooghly District. Long before the British made Calcutta their stronghold, the Portuguese had settled in Bandel. They were closely followed by the Dutch in Chinsurah, Danish in Serampore and the French in Chandannagar.


Portuguese Stronghold

Bandel Church “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage,” Bandel, Hooghly, West Bengal

Bandel Church “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage,” Bandel, Hooghly, West Bengal

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in Bengal and also have the distinction of building the first Christian Church in Bengal.

The Church of Our Lady of the Happy Voyage was initially constructed in 1599 and demolished by the Mughals in 1632 and was rebuilt the same year.

Sadly, the Church has been reconstructed several times and today represents a modern structure.

It is popularly known as the Bandel Church. The word Bandel means ‘mast’ in Portuguese.

The Bandel Church compound houses a mast, which was gifted by a Portuguese ship captain, after his ship was damaged in a storm in Hooghly.

Apart from the mast and church, nothing much remains of Portuguese history in Bandel. For More information read Bandel, Church and Imambara


Its all Dutch

Dutch Cemetery, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

Dutch Cemetery, Chinsurah (Chuchura)

In 1825, the British exchanged the island of Sumatra, in Indonesia, for Chinsurah, with the Dutch. Thus ended the Dutch rule in Chinsurah or Chuchura.

The Dutch fort of Gustava has long been demolished by the British and nothing much remains of the Dutch legacy in Chinsurah.

The Dutch Church was demolished in 1980s, but the Dutch Cemetery still stands and is a reminder of the golden days of the Dutch.

The cemetery contains a assortment of graves scattered under the shade of ancient trees. The oldest dates back to 1743 while the newest one is on 1840. For more information read Chinsurah (Chuchura), Remains of a Dutch Legacy.


A slice of France

Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat, Chandanagar Strand

Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat, Chandanagar Strand

Unlike Bandel, Chinsurah and Serampore, Chandannagar still boosts a lot of French heritage. Chandannagar was a French colony till 1950 and French is still taught as a third language in many of Chandannagar’s schools.

The Chandannagar Strand is considered as the most beautiful stretch of the Hooghly and still houses a few French mansions.

Just off The Strand, is the Sacred Heart Church, one of the prime attractions of Chandannagar. The church interior has beautiful stained glasses.

The Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat on the Strand is a interesting mix of Indo – French architecture. Also on the Strand is the Duplex’s Museum, housing a French Museum. For more information read Chandannagar, a slice of France.


Danish Delight

Baptist Mission Cemetery, Serampore

Baptist Mission Cemetery, Serampore

Serampore remained under the Danish rule till 1845, after which the Danish Governor decided to sell it to the British East India Company.

Built in 1818, the Serampore College, with its grand facade, reminds one of the glorious days of Danish Serampore.

British missionary Carey, along with Ward and Marshman, started the Serampore Mission Press and published the first Bengali translation of the Bible. They also started the Friends of India newspaper.

Serampore also houses two Cemeteries dating back to the Danish days. The Baptist Mission Cemetery in Serampore contains the family graves of Carey, Ward and Marshman, while the Danish Cemetery houses several other Danish graves.

Recently the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited (WBTDCL) has come up with a 3 day and 2 night road bus cum river package named Experience Ganges. The package covers Bandel, Chinsurah and Chandannagar along with Barrackpur and Bansberia.

More on:

  1. indrani
    January 15, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    I was around those places yet I did not see these, wasn’t even aware. Great post Rangan da! 🙂

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      Indrani, West Bengal has lots of history, but its not promoted nor the general population is aware of it.

  2. January 15, 2015 at 9:02 AM

    This is so amazing. Great work digging out these historical treasures…

  3. January 15, 2015 at 5:00 PM

    Wow… The Danish Cemetery now looks much better than the last time I visited it.

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:53 AM

      Dear Amitabha, the photo is of the Baptist Mission Cemetery, Serampore and not of Danish Cemetery, Serampore. The Baptist Mission Cemetery was not at all well maintained and I spotted three big mongoose!!!!

  4. January 15, 2015 at 8:40 PM

    Awesome post. Also I heard about the following lesser known European settlements along the Hooghly

    Greeks – Rishra, Germans, Prussians – Bhadreshwar, Belgians (along with Dutch) – Bankibazar (Ichapore)

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:56 AM

      Thanks Tirtha for the information about the not so well known European settlements along the Hooghly, but none of this places have any structural evidences left.

      So this was the main reason for not including them in my post.

      I feel privileged to have an esteemed reader like you, keep blogging.

    • Abhra Roy
      March 15, 2017 at 12:55 PM

      I knew about the german colony in Bhadreswar, but the other two were unknown to me. Thanks. I am also curious about the armenian link in kolkata.

  5. January 16, 2015 at 2:05 AM

    I’ve been in Bandel Church a number of times and also visited the Ghat at Chandanagar. But missed the other places. Your posts always come up with surprises 🙂

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Thanks Maniparna for your inspiring comments and keep blogging

  6. January 17, 2015 at 11:10 PM

    Reblogged this on world beneath the feet and commented:
    A fascinating account of European Hooghly …from the maestro, Mr. Rangan Dutta.

  7. January 17, 2015 at 11:13 PM

    Fascinating account of European Hooghly, I took the liberty of sharing this on my blog.

    • February 5, 2015 at 11:59 AM

      Thanks Abhi for the reblog and keep blogging

  8. January 17, 2015 at 11:41 PM

    This is a great post! I love the title also. 🙂

  9. January 18, 2015 at 5:10 PM


    A very well-thought out topic and a nice post, overall. But, there’s just one thing I would like to point out with strong hopes that you appreciate a fair bit criticism as you do in case of any appreciation directed at you. Please make sure you read your post one last time before hitting that ‘publish’ button to eliminate any typos and errors that creep into your final draft. It’s a bit distracting for readers when that happens. Hope I’ve been able to put forth my views without sounding offensive.

    P.S. I’m a witness of the European legacy in Bengal since I grew up in that “Europe-along-the-Hooghly belt. Precisely the reason why this post caught my attention. 🙂

    Best wishes,

    • February 5, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      Thanks Swagata for your sincere comment, I have fixed the typos. Could you please go through the article and poit out the remaing typos.

      Thanks in advance.

  10. January 31, 2015 at 2:37 PM

    Hey pal! Your writing reminds me of those interesting history classes in school. From the blog, it’s evident that the 4 places in Hooghly district will offer a rich experience with melange of architecture. I shall surely take a peep there sometime…

    • February 5, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      Thanks Sunita for the comment, do visit the places for a real life history class, All the best.

  11. Sanghamitra
    March 4, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    Interesting history, and thanks. here is little more.
    On the other side of Hoogly river Ishapore still preserved the Dutch structure inside the defence area and Gunpowder house and Dutch tower is maintained well but painted with modern color during maintenance recently, for this the monuments lost its ancient historic look. Ordnance Factory and the residential bungalows are still have the European look. Dutch used to prepare gun powder before they left for far east exchanging the area for more profitable business to East India Company.

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      Thanks Sanghamitra for the info, I had no idea of the Dutch structure inside Ichapur Ordinance Factory. Sadly due to security reasons these places are out of reach for the common man.

      If you have any further info about the dutch building please drop me a mail at rangan@rangan-datta.info

  12. March 8, 2015 at 11:13 AM

    Thanks for this little known nuggets of history !! These places are virtually unknown as a tourist potential outside of West Bengal…. Keep blogging .Love your posts .. suhas katti

    • March 12, 2015 at 11:14 AM

      Thanks Katti, even the locals in these area are totally unaware of these heritage sites.

      The West Bengal Tourism Department really needs to promote these palaces.

  13. March 19, 2015 at 2:46 PM

    You are doing some of the most amazing work… I must agree and I am sure others will also agree that no one has looked into the past of Bengal like the way you have done it. I am hooked to your blog/s. By the way another good subject will be Good Friday/Easter in Kolkata something very different from the Christmas celebrations but its having its own unique charm..

    • March 19, 2015 at 2:58 PM

      Thanks Subhadip for your words of appreciation. Comments like this are really inspiring.

      Regarding the Good Friday, I have already done a story on Armenian Good Friday, Calcutta, do have a look.

  14. August 22, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    Good mix of history with refreshed memories

  15. September 6, 2015 at 9:10 PM

    Visiting Chandanagore over fifty tears ago I have one memory I have often related was seeing a building with crossed flags and the words “Liberte,Egalite, Fraterite” such a long way from home. I hoped to have seen this on your blog. Peter Hull.

    • September 11, 2015 at 9:50 PM

      Dear Peter, thanks for the info, but sorry I have never seen such a building in Chandannagar.

      I have found the emblem of crossed flags and the words “Liberte,Egalite, Fraterite” on the Chandannagar gate. There were supposed to be two gates on the Northern and Southern entrance of Chandannagar, but only the south gate exists.

      For details you can have a look at my Chandannagar article.

  16. Siddhartha
    December 3, 2015 at 6:02 PM

    Highly informative. Really appreciate your hard work 🙂 I am from Chinsurah and have always been keen to thrive on its historical importance. Your block enriched my knowledge.

    • December 3, 2015 at 11:38 PM

      Thank you Siddhartha, Chinsurah or Chuchura is a wonderfull place.

  17. Bubun Sen
    February 14, 2016 at 3:37 AM

    Ranganda thank you for such good discovery publish:-)

  18. May 2, 2016 at 9:36 PM

    DC/RC for the Legislative Assembly Elections was at Serampore College this year. Have been there before too… the grand columns and stately facade always makes me stop and admire the architecture at least for a few minutes… I think I wouldn’t get bored staring it for hours smile emoticon As I walked back to the station in the warm evening, the old, crumbling mansions along the riverside street looked so full of history.. and mystery. Glad to have seen them before they fade away forever.

    • May 2, 2016 at 9:43 PM

      Thanks Surja for sharing your experience. Election duties are perhaps something, which probably every govt. official avoids doing, but you are an exception. Only a person like you can admire the architectural beauty of a mansion even during an election duty.

      Its true apart from the Serampore College, the other mansions along the Hooghly are crumbling down, the WB Govt. need to take some initiative, before they vanishes.

  19. September 24, 2016 at 2:59 PM

    Wonderful !!! This is a historical work. I have learnt e lot from it. Thank you, sir.

  20. Ashley Raye.
    February 22, 2017 at 7:36 AM

    i lived in Chandanagore in the 50’s What a Beautiful Place it was ,The Church , The Esplanade , And the buildings , just like in paris.

    • February 24, 2017 at 2:24 PM

      Thank you Ashley for sharing your memories. If you have something more to share (including photos) do mail me at raangan@rangan-datta.info

      I will be waiting for your mail

  21. May 24, 2017 at 5:03 PM

    Wonderful Sir. A guide for those who want the history of European settlement in Bengal.

  22. Satyabrata Guha
    October 7, 2018 at 8:06 AM

    Good morning, Ranganbabu. Concise yet useful blogpost. Loved it. I’d love to make a detour of these places once under your guidance. However, I have a bit of reservation on the statement “Built in 1818, the Serampore College, with its grand facede (sic), reminds one of the glorious days of Danish Serampore.”. Could you please check on the veracity of the date once again?

    • October 7, 2018 at 8:56 AM

      Dear Mr Guha, I checked it up, the date is right. Do you have a second opinion, if yes do share the details. Also thanks for pointing the typo, I have rectified it.

  23. Satyabrata Guha
    December 3, 2018 at 8:53 PM

    Crisp and informative blog. A line or two on the accessibility of the sites would have further increased its worth to the lay readers.

  24. April 26, 2020 at 12:47 PM

    Can these four places be visited in one day using public transport?

    • April 26, 2020 at 1:16 PM

      No. If you hire a car you can do it, but it would still be a bit hectic.

      But two places can be done easily in a day by public transport

  1. February 22, 2015 at 9:09 AM

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