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.
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.
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.
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).
St. John, the Baptist, Armenian Church, Chinsurah
Annual Pilgrimage of Calcutta Armenians to Chinsurah (Chuchura)
Also see: Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata)
Every year on the Sunday after the Armenian Christmas, which is celebrated on 6 Jan, the handful of Calcutta (Kolkata) Armenians along with the students of the Armenian College make an annual pilgrimage to the St. John, the Baptist, Armenian Church in the erstwhile Dutch settlement of Chinsurah (Chuchura).
Armenian Churches of West Bengal
A compilation of Armenian Churches in West Bengal
Also see my blog posts on Armenians of Calcutta (Kolkata)
The Armenians have been connected with India as traders from the days of antiquity. They came to this country by the overland route, through Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet and werewell established in all the commercial centers long before the advent of any European traders. However, the Armenian community prospered and developed during the 16th right up to the 18th century.
Armenian community sought to reestablish their socio-cultural identity and not just restrict themselves to be a vibrant commercial community. This was one of the reasons that urged them to build churches in their settlements and invite priests. The Church was considered as the centre of all community activities.
In India, wherever they build settlements, they constructed churches. Today, all over India, one can find many beautiful Armenian churches, chapels and historical monuments standing as mute witnesses or silent sentinels of a once-flourishing Armenian settlement. Presently West Bengal alone houses four Armenian Churches in Calcutta (Kolkata) and surrounding areas.