Chandannagar, a former French colony, is just 35 kilometres from Kolkata. It can be reached both by rail and road. Chandannagar became a French colony in the year 1673 and after fifteen years it became a permanent French settlement. Dupleix became the Governor in 1730.
Chandannagar probably derived its name from the shape of the bank of the Hooghly river. It’s like a half moon (‘chand‘ in Bengali means moon and ‘nagar‘ is city).
A municipality was established in 1880 with Charles Dumaine as the first Mayor. Now, Chandannagar is a municipal corporation.
Chandannagar became part of India in 1950 and on 2nd October, 1954 Chandannagar was integrated into the state of West Bengal. Chandannagar is now a subdivision of Hooghly district of West Bengal. The city has rich history and heritage. A number of important buildings and temples are there in Chandannagar.
Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat:
It is located in the Chandannagar Strand. This ‘pavilion’ contains beautiful and decorative stucco works and floral designs. It is built in the 1920s in honour of Durgacharan Rakshit who is the recipient of French highest civilian award the Legion of Honour.
The Chandannagar Strand:
A one kilometre long paved path along the Hooghly river is the Strand. It is decorated with trees. People walk along the Strand during the evening to enjoy the scenic beauty. There are a number of chairs for people to sit and take rest. The night view of the Stand is just mesmerising.
Sacred Heart Church:
This beautiful church was designed by the French architect Jacques Duchatz and inaugurated by in 1884 by Father Goethals. Inside the church one can find beautiful stained glasses.
Chandannagar Museum was earlier the French Governor’s palace. A number of small canons can also be seen. The museum had a rich collection of French antiques including the personal collection of Dupleix.
Nandadulal Jiu Mandir:
Built by Indranarayan Choudhury in 1739 it is the finest specimen of do chala (double sloped roof) mandir of Bengal’s temple architecture.
The temple houses the idol of Nandadulal in kosthi pathar (touch stone). Dolyatra and Janmashtami are the principal festivals here. A two-day function was held every year on the day of Janmashtami and it continued till the next day, ie, Nandautsav. The temple has stucco works containing elephant’s heads.
This is another important building of the city. Situated by the side of Hooghly river and located near the Stand, the lower floor of this house is submerged in the Ganges. It is an example of architectural excellence. The Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar had visited this house.
This temple was founded by Srimanta Sadagar and is one of the oldest temples of Chandannagar. The foundation plaque just at the entrance to the temple says this.
Situated in Sarishpara, the temple has undergone renovation.
Dolmancha & Shivmandir, Narua:
A beautiful pink-coloured Dolmancha is situated in Narua on a raised platform by the side of the road. I think possibly that there shall be a Radha Krishna temple nearby as because the idols of Radha and Krishna are made to sit on this Dolmancha on the day of Dolyatra (festival of colours). I enquired about this Dolmancha and the locals say it is pretty old.
A short distance from the Dolmancha is a set of eight aatchala (eight roofed) Shiv Mandir on the same side of the Dolmancha. To me, the temples have undergone renovation. I was told that there are a total of twelve temples. But I found eight. Possibly the remaining four are on the back side.
The principal festival of Chandannagar is Jaggadhatri Puja held in October-November every year. It is a four day festival like the Durga Puja when people of all sections of life are in a festive mood.
In fact when I visited Chandannagar in 2016 during Jaggadhatri Puja I saw that the idols of Jaggadhatri are pretty tall.
The pandals are also beautifully decorated.
Another thing which deserves special mention is the lighting.
One will simply be mesmerised by its superb lighting.
Chandannagar can be an ideal place for a weekend visit. One may hire a toto or an auto or a rickshaw and can tour the city.
Blog of Rangan Datta.
Date of posting: 16th June, 2018.