Rangan Datta

Afghan War Memorial, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)


Afghan War Memorial

Ordnance Factory, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)

Afghan War Memorial, Dum Dum, Kolkata (Calcutta)

It may sound unusual that a road in Dum Dum, north of Kolkata (Calcutta), is known as the Monument Road and whats more unusual, is that it does have a monument at it side.

The monument is shaped like a white tower and has some resemblance with the Saheed Minar (Octernoly Monument), which is located at the North – Eastern corner of Kolkata Maidan.

It is located next to the entrance of the Dum Dum Ordnance Factory and is dedicated to the fallen British soldiers of the First Anglo – Afghan War (1839 – 42).

The towering Afghan War Memorial was constructed in 1842 and predates the Dum Dum Ordnance Factory. The Dum Dum Ordnance Factory was set up in 1846, following the defeat of the British in the Afghan War, when the British East India Company decided to set up the first ammunition factory in India.

According to locals the dhum dhum sound of the the testing guns gave Dum Dum its name, but historians differ as the reference of the name Dum Dum can be found far beyond the days of the Dum Dum Ordnance Factory.

Afghan War Memorial Plaques (Top Left: Plaque at the entrance, Bottom Left: Restoration Info, Centre: Names of Commissioned Officers, Right: Names of non – commissioned officers)

Historians believe that the name originates from the Persian word dumduma, which means mound. Indeed Dum Dum does have a mound, and it is crowned by the mysterious Clive House, considered as the oldest standing structure in Kolkata (Calcutta).

Top of Afghan War Memorial, Dum Dum, Kolkata

The Dum Dum Ordinance Factory is located on the Jossore Road and the Afghan War Memorial is visible from the factory gate. A right turn from the factory gate leads to the the Monument Road and few steps leads to the Afghan War Memorial.

The First Anglo Afghan War, also known as Auckland’s Folly, was fought between British India and Afghanistan. It marked the beginning of the competition of power and influence in Central Asia and later on came to be known as the Great game.

An Army of 21,000 British and Indian troops under the command of Sir John Keane set out from Punjab in Dec-1838 and reached Quetta by late Mar-1839 and captured Kandahar, Fortress of Ghazni and parts of Kabul on 1839. In 1841 the Afghans struck as the British fell back to Peshawar, defeated by cost of occupation and weather.

British lost nearly 20,000 troops in this war. Lack of ammunition was the basic reason for defeat. In November and December 1841, the First Horse Artillery of British India Army under the command of General George Pollock made a heroic appearance at Jalalabad and Kabul in Afghanistan after a disastrous imperial campaign.

The surviving forces of that fruitless campaign erected a memorial in the memory of their dead fellows at Dum Dum in 1842 known as Afghan War memorial.

Today a small complex adjoining to the Dum Dum Ordinance factory houses the Afghan War memorial, although their are remarkable similarities with the Saheed Minar (Octernoly Monument), but the Afghan Memorial have no balconies on the top neither does it have staircases leading to the top.

The top of the minar has beautiful designed and is crowned with a intricately designed lightning arrester.

The plaque on the front list the names of the dead commissioned officers while the one the back lists those of the non – commissioned officers, sadly all the names are of British origin and no dead Indian soldiers finds its name in the list.

On the right is another plaque, which mentions about the restoration of the Afghan War Memorial in 1980. The complex also houses a small canon but it is not known whether it was used in the First Afghan War?