Chandannagar

Hooghly, West Bengal

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Chandannagar, formerly spelled as Chandernagore, is a Corporation city and former French colony located about 35 kilometers (22 mi) north of Kolkata, in West Bengal, India.

Chandannagar was established as a French colony in 1673, when the French obtained permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal, to establish a trading post on the right bank of the Hughli River. Bengal was then a province of the Mughal Empire. It became a permanent French settlement in 1688, and in 1730 Joseph François Dupleix was appointed governor of the city, during whose administration more than two thousand brick houses were erected in the town and a considerable maritime trade was carried on. For a time, Chandannagar was the main center for European commerce in Bengal.

In 1756 war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Colonel Robert Clive of the British East India Company and Admiral Charles Watson of the British Navy bombarded and captured Chandannagar on 23 March 1757. The town's fortifications and many houses were demolished thereafter, and Chandannagar's importance as a commercial center was eclipsed by that of Calcutta situated down river. Chandernagore was restored to the French in 1763, but retaken by the British in 1794 in the Napoleonic Wars. The city was returned to France in 1816, along with a 3 sq mi (7.8 km2) enclave of surrounding territory. It was governed as part of French India until 1850, under the political control of the governor-general in Pondicherry. By 1900 the town's former commercial importance was gone, and it was little more than a quiet suburb of Calcutta, with a population of 25,000 (1901). But it was noted for its clean wide thoroughfares, with many elegant residences along the riverbank.

 

Places of Tourist Interest

  • Chandannagore Strand: The tree-shaded promenade along the river is about 1 km (0.62 mi) in length and 7 meters (23 ft) in width, and there are many buildings of historical importance along the way. It is a popular spot for local people and tourists alike, who love to stroll along enjoying the breeze and watching the small boats sail by. Along the Strand one can find the Vivekananda Mandir (a meditation centre protruding into the river Ganges).
  • Chandannagore Museum and Institute: One of the oldest museums of the region. It boasts a collection of French antiques (such as cannons used in Anglo-French war, wooden furniture of the 18th century, etc.) which are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The institute still teaches French through regular classes. Jogendra Nath Sen, resident of Chandannagar who died in France fighting in the World War I. His personal items were sent to his brother in India who later donated them to the Intitut de Chandernagore in Chandannagar. The Museum is closed on Thursday and Saturday.
  • The Sacred Heart Church of Chandannagar: The church is situated near the Strand. It was designed by French Architect Jacques Duchatz. The church was inaugurated by Paul Goethals 27 Jan. 1884. The church stands for over two centuries to mark the beauty of the architecture during the French period — a good place to visit for the historians and tourists alike. The remains of the Church of St. Louis is also an attractive tourist spot.
  • French Cemetery: The French Cemetery contains 150 tombs and is located on the Grand Trunk Road opposite Lal Dighi (a large lake). Amongst the remarkable people buried there, one can find the tomb of Duplessis, the founding father of French Chandannagar and also the one of pioneering meteorologist Henry "Storm" Piddington, who is mentioned in Amitav Ghosh's novel The Hungry Tide.
  • Chandanangar Gate: Constructed in 1937, to mark the Fall of Bastille, the gate has the slogan of the French Revolution "Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, equality and fraternity)" etched on it.
  • The Underground House (Patal-Bari): The building is another beautiful example of the advancement in the knowledge of architecture and the aesthetic sense of the people of those earlier days. Its lowest floor is submerged in the River Ganges. The Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore frequently visited the place and appreciated a lot about the building. He felt that the place influenced him to a large extent and broadened his intellectual capabilities. He mentioned Patal-bari in many of his famous novels. The famous social reformer Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also stayed in the building. The house was owned by the zemindars of nearby Mankundu.
  • Nandadulal Temple: Nandadulal Temple built in 1740 by Indranarayan Roychoudhury presents an excellent example of ancient Indian sculptures. There are many fascinating temples devoted to Kali, Shiva and other deities which show marks of brilliant craftsmanship and artistic taste.
  • Nritya Gopal Smriti Mandir: Built by Sri Harihar Sett, and donated to the people of Chandannagore. This building still serves as a theatre hall and a library. It was first of its kind in the entire locality. It has one of the largest collections of books in French, English and Bengali in the district.
  • Bishalakshmi temple: The temple is situated near Brahmin para, Boubazar in the western part of railway station. The history of this ancient temple is not known properly. The deity is worshiped regularly by the local people.
  • Sabinara Thakurbari: A temple of Lord Jaggannath, Lord of the universe. It is situated on 'Rather Sadak' or the road of Lord Jaggannath's chariot. Mahaprabhu Chaitanya is said to have visited this place in his time. Currently this temple is maintained by the Chattopadhyay family.
  • Chandernagore Heritage Museum: Archival materials on the history of Chandernagor and relics of Rabindranath Tagore are available at the Chandernagore Heritage Museum which is located in the vicinity of the Barabazar Auto Stop. (Please note that access to the archive is limited only to research scholars).
  • Radhanath Sikdar Himalayan Museum: The Radhanath Sikdar Himalayan Museum at Ananda Cottage, Bagbazar, sports a fine display of mountaineering equipment and the history associated with such artefacts.
  • KMDA Park: The KMDA Park located West of Chandernagore Railway Station is a popular park and picnic spot. It was made open to the public in 2002 and since then it has served thousands of people who come here for picnics, particularly in the winter months.
  • The Mango Gardens: There mango gardens now privately owned and maintained are popular picnic spots situated west of the railway station near Mankundu. The Gardens have been operational since 2009, and several hundreds of people gather here for winter day outs.Few Such Gardens are named as Amprpali, Amrakunja.

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