A triple portrait of the East India Company ship Royal Charlotte – Indiaman (1758-1770. Oil on canvas by Robert Dodd. Couresy: National Maritime Museum,



নবজাগরণের যাত্রাপথে ঐতিহাসিক ধর্মতলা স্ট্রিট

As early as in May 1772 when Dean Mohamet (1784–1851) arrived, Calcutta was already a major center of commerce for the English East India Company, prosperous and entrepreneurial. [Dean Mahomet] Calcutta was then just a township desperately in need to grow into a city to fulfill the common ambition of the Company Bahadur and the British colonialism under the administration of Lord Clive and his immediate followers. It is interesting to note that the Industrial Revolution, the critical turning point in modern history, had its origin in village Sutanuti cotton market that allured the British traders to settle and exploit. The wave of Industrial Revolution, which had started a decade ago in Britain with manufacturing of textiles, reached the shore of river Hughly by then, and let its impact felt in the planning for Town Calcutta expansion beyond the up-coming Fort William at Govindpore. Its chronicle gradually discloses a co-relation between industrialization and urbanization.

It all started with the initiation of the new Fort that set off huge mobilization of the Europeans southward and of the natives of Govindpore to Kumartooly, Sobhabazar, and Burrabazar at north and to Taltola at east. Both the parties had to spend lengthy time experimenting with new realities before they settled themselves in changed environment. That was the time since when new occupations being introduced as the unheard-of opportunities coming up as a result of scientific inventions and industrial diversification. Calcutta in the process of urbanization started experiencing effect of industrialization. The external economic orientation of Calcutta to England emerged in18th and 19th centuries, provided the young city with an industrial prospect. It took however pretty long time to develop some minimum indigenous technological systems of production, transportation, construction, and the logistics required for large concentrations of people in urban areas. [Ghose] The progress slowed down because of the typical political apathy and cultural lethargy of colonial Calcutta.


Until 1813 the commercial relations between India and England was free from industrial capitalist exploitation. Trade with India had been relatively small. Its huge potential, however, was foreseen by the industrial capitalist who wasted no time to frame policies for maximizing capital gain to feed British machine industry. They defined their policy with the objective, set out by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, to make India an agricultural colony of British capitalism, supplying raw materials and buying manufactured goods. British rule brought the destruction of traditional handicrafts as well as their technical proficiency, carried off plunder, and revenue extraction. [Sarkar] By 1814 the Company servants themselves had begun to invest their capital in Agency Houses born out of an alliance between the private trading interests of the Company’s servants and the Free Merchants. This unseemly alliance had been continuing since early days of East India Company. We understand from a scholarly note on the Company’s ship Royal Charlotte – Indiaman (1758-1770) featured at the top, that the Company placed bulk orders for official goods with the ships’ captains and supercargoes encouraging the flourishing network of private trade that supported the regular inflow of luxury commodities into Europe. This form of ‘regulated corruption’ was sanctioned through indulgences in Company policy. [Davies]

Despite all the mighty negative forces driven by the political machinery, industrialization happened in Bengal as well as other provinces in India at uneven pace mostly on European initiatives, excepting few instances of Indian entrepreneurship. Calcutta and its neighborhood were on the threshold of a small scale industrial revolution. The local business community embarked upon a broad range of steam-powered industries. Calcutta became ‘a seat of numerous extensive manufactories, vying with many British cities.’ [Stocqueler] The scenario changed in the second half of the 19th century. Faster transportation, and a uniform legal framework, in particular, expanded possibilities of capital and labour movements. ‘The Empire encouraged factor-market integration, increased the scope of public-private partnership and the separation of banking from trading and of trading from manufacturing. This diversification of risk was a key impetus to the industrialization drive.’ [Ray] It was the English who exploited the opportunities most. The natives of Calcutta missed it almost because of their so called entrepreneurial backwardness – a deeply-seated socio-cultural attitude. ‘Power over land, not mercantile or industrial enterprise, was the economic hallmark of social statuses.’ Trade was associated with low ranking castes, Brahmins and Kayasthas considered only the intellectual and administrative professions as proper occupations. Thus the indigenous Bengali elite turned its back on business and left modern industry and international commerce in Calcutta to Europeans. [Sarkar] Neither the shrewdness of colonial policy nor the apathy of general Bengalese toward business could stop Industrialization Revolution that brought forth radical and innovative changes in manufacturing and transportation from manual to mechanical mode. We may note in this context that it all had started with the bonanza of British textile industry at the cost the death of Indian cotton hand mill tradition. The first textile industry in India, Bowreah Cotton Mills, was established in 1818 by British at Fort Gloster near Calcutta; the first jute mill at Rishra started spinning in 1855 when they brought its machinery from Dundee. Industrialization produced a new market economy, and most importantly, a new society desirous of using innovative products and transports to set the revolution go.


Dhurrumtollah Bazar – a section of the coloured lithograph depicting Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart created before 1838 (pub. 1848) by Sir Charles D’Oyly. Courtesy Heidelberg U Univ.


Walking around the Dhurrumtollah Street we may still find few footprints of Industrial Revolution that modernized the ‘process of manufacturing consumer goods and capital goods and of building infrastructure in order to provide goods and services to both individuals and businesses.’ The industrial orientation was discernable more markedly in the new township around the Fort covering the entire southern expansion up to Surman’s Park including villages of Govindpore, Birji, Chowringhee and sections of Colinga – the area commonly understood today in terms of east and west Dhurrumtollah. That time Taltola, or Talpooker, with its segment Jaunbazar was an undeveloped swampy land of Colinga mouza nearest to ‘Bazar of Govindpore on the site of Fort’ (also referred to as ‘Dhurrumtollah Bazar). The only landmark it had was a shrine of Dharmathakur, or the Dharmatala. A road to Dharamtala that known to exist in 1762 as a causeway immediate north of Dingabhanga or Jala Colinga was reinforced with Birbhum gravel in 1796 just after the new Dhurrumtollah Bazar established. [Setton-Kerr]


As we have already noticed, during the time of expansion of the Town Calcutta and construction of the new Fort, there had been massive mobilization from all directions. The Europeans moved toward south, the Govindpore villagers toward north and east where the later had to take up new occupation for living. In addition, there had been a steady inflow of people from outside India of varied cultural background and expertise for doing business or working as professionals or employees in government and private institutions. The uprooted Govindpore folks gained prospect of living in civil areas and availing new job opportunities in exchange of homes they lost. The opportunities were not limited to serving the European and the Native aristocracy as domestics, but also in public places and at the Fort site as coolies, road-labourers, or palanquin-bearers who in those early days were customarily natives of Bengal. So far we understand, the Hindu settlers from Govindpore had no serious involvement in the process of developing Dhurrumtollah into a neighborhood of historical importance. In our collective mind, the area of ‘Dhurrumtollah’ today no more includes the eastern part of Jaunbazar, which found its own identity after Pritaram Das had built his palatial house in 1810s – the hallowed site where Rani Rashmoni, his daughter-in-law, lived her distinguished life of spiritual, social and political significance. As we conceive, Dhurrumtollah of recent time comprises the entire area between the Lindsay Street and the Dhurrumtollah Street. The road was widened up in 1836 allowing the adjacent land to develop fast into a modern colony next to Chowringhee, but unlike Chowringhee, it was for people of all shades, not white alone. So to speak, such liberal inclusion was a striking exception to the administrative directions pronounced for removing ‘native inhabitants from the black town and to build houses for themselves on another spot, at a greater distance from the fort’. We gather from the English traveler, Edward Ives that this was ‘owing to the governor and council’s resolution in consequence of Colonel Clive’s advice, to enlarge and well secure Fort William, which could not be done, whilst the Indian town was standing. [Ives]

The White Town concentrated around the Tank Square. The region centering on the Govindpore Fort, including Chowringhee, Park Street, Dharmatala, Esplanade, formed the European part of the town. [Wallace] Dharmatala, though commonly designated as a European district, can hardly justify so by its mixed populace and liberal lifestyle, which has been encouraged to diversify further culturally and economically, keeping pace with the changes taken place in global societies through ever increasing Calcutta connections.


Of the Nations Most Known in Hindoostan. Solvyns, Les Hindous, Vol. III. 1811

The crowd of Dhurrumtollah Street is always different from anywhere else in Calcutta – “full of the People of India, walking in family parties and groups and confidential couples. And the people of India are neither Hindu nor Mussulman — Jew, Ethiop, Gueber, or expatriated British” (like James Augustus Hickey, Justice Le Maitre, or a David Drummond). “They are the Eurasians, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them in Dhurrumtollah now.” [Kipling] Because of the presence of British insiders, Dhurrumtollah milieu is essentially more inclusive than the grey town Murgihatta, and may be justly called a global town. On this road, Rev. C Cesry found in 1881 many faiths, many occupations, and many institutions existing next to each other. [Cesry] The road becomes congested with swelling population and their multifarious activities – commercial, professional, humanitarian, devotional, and recreational.

Calcutta may aptly be called ‘a city of shop-keepers’ if ‘getting and spending’ proves to be the essence of its economic life. This was what Sambhoo Churn wrote in Mookherji’s Magazine in 1861. The most respectable of its inhabitants were merchants, and the next might be the judiciary and law practitioners in Calcutta. Those days their profession found highly profitable. So were the medical practitioners. Englishmen in those days carried on other professionals as well. They were jurymen. Besides, they were engaged in different trades as coach-making, watch-making, tavern-keeping, tailoring, wine-dealing, shoe-making, hair-dressing, tanning and the like. [Biswas]

A glance through the street directories of late 18th century or early 19th century Calcutta should show the changing pattern of occupations in Dhurrumtollah Street with “addresses of Engineers, Under¬takers, Chemists, Doctors, Midwifes, Photographers, Professors of Music, Horse Doctors, Auctioneers, Jewelers, Book-sellers, Publicans, Barbarians, Scythians, Bond and Free. [Cesry] There were more, most importantly the teachers who contributed singularly to awakening of a new Bengal. The role of Dhurrumtollah Academy of David Drummond and certain other extraordinary institutions carried out gently their grand missions on this rowdy street of ‘shops and bazars’. To Rudyard Kipling the street was like Hammersmith High¬way – the main shopping street in Hammersmith, London.

As we have elsewhere discussed at length about the old bazars of Dhurrumtollah, including the Chandney Market that still exists. [puronokolkata] The old Chandney was altogether a different class of market. It was set to cater raw materials like cloth lengths, threads and needles, or tools like scissors, knives, hammers or a fishing rod, but barely any ready-made consumer goods like garment to wear or fishes to eat. It was also a good shopping centre for household wares. I believe it still continues with the tradition to a large extent.  This apart, I like to draw your attention to the variety of specialty shops in Dhurrumtollah locality that sale, repair and offering services and products of modern technology.

Madan Theatre by Night” by Gaganendranath Tagore. Held at National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi. Image Courtesy: NGMA

There was no dearth of photographic studios, camera shops, professional cameramen, gramophone players, and music records, projectors and films, and above all there was the pioneering Indian cinema production company, the Madan Theatres to show how very receptive the ambience of Dhurrumtollah has been to innovative merchandise. Even today one goes there for a treasure hunt for rare music records, and some finds the master mechanic for gramophones and cameras in its lanes and bi-lanes. Such experience veritably takes us back to the old days of Dhurrumtollah.


Camel Carriage. Coloured lithograph by F. Jones after Captain G.F. Atkinson. 1860

The scenario Kipling described did not grow overnight but an outcome of a slowly built tradition since 1762 – the time when Dhurrumtollah Street was a muddy road frequented now and then by animal-drawn carts pulled by bullocks, horses, and possibly elephants and camels.
The road became wider in 1867; building plots were numbered in 1843 and revised in 1869. Along with the continuous improvement of the Street and its surroundings, changes take place not only in mode of transportation, or form of vehicle, but in people’s lifestyle and the design of the institutions within the orbit of Dhurrumtollah Street.

Dhurrumtollah Street is, as we see, one of the few roads of the 18th century Calcutta that may claim to be a distinctive reserve for augmenting the history of making Calcutta a modern City out of the colonial ‘Town Calcutta’. The Street carries the traces of the socio-cultural progress on the route to urbanization basking in the glow of Industrial Revolution. It turned up in Dhurrumtollah rather than in any other part, because of two reasons, I believe. First, it was a free society and a learning society, continuously adjusting itself with new ideas and technological inventions. Second, the resolute role of institutions and few little-known, liberal forward-looking people that made it all happened.

CHAPIN PUMPING ENGINE.Dwarkanath imported this technology from England for his business ventures

Contrary to this view, there is a general notion that ‘the early and prolonged exposure to British administration resulted in the expansion of Western education, culminating in development of science, institutional education, and social reforms in the region, including what became known as the Bengali renaissance.’ [Bengal Chamber] When there is no denying that India owes to the British for the revival of its heritage, the British had little to contribute to the formation of the liberal spirit of Bengal Renaissance simply because they never had such values in their national character founded on the rock of convention.

Neither the contemporary business world had much to effect a change in Bengali mind-set. We know many illustrious names of the 19th century business and industrial leaders, British and Indian, from Andrew Yule to Octavius, from Dwarkanath to P C Ray. Among the Indian entrepreneurs there were many great public figures but hardly any persuasive leader capable of being an agent of social change. When Dwarkanath launched his firm, Young Bengal found a hero, and expected the Bengalis to ‘compete with the nations of Europe and America, not only in English literature, but in fine arts, sciences and commerce’. [Sarkar]

There had been however many renowned adorable renaissance men, including foreigners like a David Hare, and many more unacknowledged people who readied the Calcutta society at large with their open and inquisitive mind imbibed with liberal values. The society was shaped by those extraordinary minds behind the scene that produced leaders to instill new values in public mind, and influence politics of the land. While the industry, the political power, the social elites all had their respective roles to back the new society to flourish, essentially it was the work of the unaccounted activists – the mind-makers.

To illustrate my views I shall present few cases, starting with Chandney Bazar, an obscured offshoot of the industrial age. It will be followed by profiles of some magnificent men who left their invisible signatures on some very important chapters of Calcutta history leading to Bengal Renaissance. They came from dissimilar walks of life at different points of time – two horsemen, one Caribbean the the other French by birth, a atheist teacher of Scottish birth, and one Brahmoite  American Unitarian activist. Hopefully, you would enjoy their stories so far unheeded, when come out on puronokolkata pages before long.

[Anonymous]. 1816. Sketches of India; or, Observations Descriptive of the Scenary, Etc in Bengal. London: Black, Purbury and Allen. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=tEcVAAAAQAAJ&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Bengal Chamber of Commerce. 2016. Discover Bengal: A Guidebook Of Business Prospects In West Bengal. Calcutta: Bengal Chamber. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwi77uKz1PnhAhUk63MBHQ8vDkYQFjAAegQIAxAC&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bengalchamber.com%2Feconomics%2Fdiscover-bengal.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1V8wDJ0_pSUMaxTwj7VrZ9.
Bengal Hurkaru. 1838. Bengal Directory and Annual Register 1838. Calcutta: Samuel Smith. https://archive.org/details/dli.bengal.10689.14012/page/n5.
Biswas, Oneil. 1992. Calcutta and Calcuttans From Dihi to Megalopolis. Calcutta: Firma KL. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.149376.
Cesry, Rev. C. 1881. Indian Gods Sages And Cities. Calcutta: Catholic Orphan Press. https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.128152.
Chunder, Bholanauth. 1869. Travels of a Hindoo; to Various Parts of Bengal and Upper India; Vol.1. London: Trubner. https://archive.org/stream/travelsahindoot00chungoog#page/n9/mode/2up.
Davies, Pauline. 2013. East India Company and the Indian Ocean Material World at Osterley, 1700-800, East India Company at Home (May 2013). https://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/eicah/osterley-park-middlesex/osterley-case-study-winds-of-trade/
Dean Mahomet. 1997 The Travels of Dean Mahomet: an eighteenth-century journey through India; ed. By Michael Fischer. California: UCPress,1997 https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520207172/the-travels-of-dean-mahomet
Forbes, James. 1834. Oriental Memoirs: A Narrative of Seventeen Years Residence in India; Vol.2. 2nd ed. London: Bentley, Richard. https://archive.org/details/orientalmemoirs00montgoog/page/n10.
Ghose, Benoy. 1960. “The Colonial Beginnings of Calcutta Urbanisation without Industrialisation.” The Economic Weekly, no. August 13: 1255–60. http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/1960_12/33/the_colonial_beginnings_of_calcuttaurbanisation_without_industrialisation.pdf?0=ip_login_no_cache%3Dfc8386086015fc6e2268f71b76bece16.
Kipling, Rudyard. 1899. City of Dreadful Night. New York: Alex. https://archive.org/details/citydreadfulnig02kiplgoog/page/n7
Puronokolkata. (2018). Durrumtollah And Its Old Bazars. Retrieved from https://puronokolkata.com/2018/05/08/dhurrumtollaha-bazars/
Roy, Tirthankar. 2014. “Trading Firms in Colonial India.” Business History Review 88 (1): 9–42. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007680513001402.
Sarkar, Suvobrata. 2013. “Bengali Entrepreneurs and Western Technology in the Nineteenth Century: A Social Perspective.” Indian Journal of History of Science 48 (3): 447–75. http://www.insa.nic.in/writereaddata/UpLoadedFiles/IJHS/Vol48_3_4_SSarkar.pdf.
Sen, Amit pseud. [i.e. Susobhan Sarkar] ]. 1947. Notes on Bengal Renaissance. Bombay: People’s pub. https://archive.org/details/notesonthebengal035527mbp/page/n6.
Setton-Karr, W. S. 1865. Selections from Calcutta Gazettes; Vol.2. Calcutta: Military Orphan Press. https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.44506/2015.44506.Selections-From-Calcutta-Gazettes–Vol-2#page/n3/mode/2up/search/beerbhoom.
Stocqueler, J.H. 1845. Handbook of India: A Guide to the Stranger and the Traveller, and a Companion to the Resident. 2nd ed. London: Allen. https://books.google.co.in/books?id=SelHAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA348&lpg=PA348&dq=a+seat+of+numerous+extensive+manufactories,+vying+with+many+British+cities.&source=bl&ots=O-V1sg-gc6&sig=ACfU3U1bRKpuM94feKVkwAc3A7wwaWsOPg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi8hbmhlO3hAhWKP48KHYEm.
Wallace, Robert Grenville. 1822. Fifteen Years in India; or, Sketches of a Soldier’s Life Being an Attempt to Describe Persons and Things … U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. London: Longman. https://doi.org/10.1016/0003-6870(73)90259-7.


Mullick Ghat and the Jagannath Steamer Ghat Update: Chhottelal Ghat

Mullick Ghat and the Jagannath Steamer Ghat. Update: Chhottelal Ghat

The descriptions of the questioning edifice gathered from texts and photographs fit best to the structure presently stands on the riverbank a little high up with an added floor close by the Howrah Bridge. The cartographers earmarked the riverbank as Mullick Ghat in maps prepared before 1873, when the edifice was constructed, and also thereafter. I was tempted to accept the edifice as the original pavilion of Nemai Mullick Ghat, ‘subject to further verification’. Sri Animesh Kundu, backed by his recent findings, proved my guesswork all wrong, establishing that this grand pavilion was built in 1873 to serve as a memorial to Babu Durga Prasad Chhottelal, a Furrukhabad businessman. The details of the story revealed by his painstaking efforts may be read in Kolkata and Surroundings.  For the first time we come to know the identity of Chhottelal and the nitty-gritty of making of his memorial. The newly acquired knowledge, however, helps us little to answer our old queries such as:
1. Why some old photographic prints, commercial and private, were captioned ‘Juggernath Ghat’ / ‘Mullick Ghat’ instead of ‘Chhottelal Ghat’, ignoring the presence of the eye-catching Chhottelal memorial pavilion?
2. Why we find no mention of Chhottelal Ghat in texts and maps barring very few like Richard’s 1913 map.

  1. The Chhottelal Ghat marble plaque, mounted on wall no more than a decade ago by the National Ganga River Basin Authority who funded for the ‘Improvement & Re-Development of Chote Lal Ki Ghat’. It is a recent notice, undated, written over the original text hidden behind. Conversely, the memorable plaque of the 1887 Ship-wreck preserves the original texts in vanishing ink. The new findings provide no clue to figure out necessary association of the two plaques, in other words, how ‘Chote Lal ki Ghat’ relates to the memory of the ship-wreck on Jagannath jatra.

To my mind, for those answers it is critical for us to recognize a river ghat as a typical public facility in Indian context, mostly set up out of philanthropic zeal, or pious wish. Primarily it consists of a flight of steps to river edge to enable people to reach Holy River for performing rituals, bathing or ferrying. Besides that, optionally, ghat provides pavilion to benefit the bathers, and carries memories of the ghat-founder. Chhottelal pavilion is a rare exception to this convention, being erected on an ‘old existing ghat’ to commemorate someone unrelated to the original ghat. Perhaps, this is the reason why we find some vintage pictures of the Chhottelal pavilion bear names of Jaggernath Ghat, or Mullick Ghat, and the maps indicate no name of Chhottelal Ghat either. Moreover, we need to learn the exact position of the ferry ghat called ‘Juggernath Ghat’. Is it the same as ‘Basak’s Bathing Ghat or Jagannath Ghat of Barabazar? The only guidance to locate ‘Juggernath- ghat’ we find in Bradshaw 1935 where the shipping companies notify passengers to approach:

“Juggernath-ghat, which is situated on the Calcutta side of the River Hooghly above Howrah Bridge, several times weekly on the opening of the bridge.“ See: Puronokolkata.com 

Since there were several river-ghats between Jagannath Ghat of Burrabazar and the Pontoon Bridge, it is most unlikely for the steamship companies to send passengers to the Burrabazar ghat but the ghat next to the bridge instead.

We hope to enrich our understanding with new findings, by correcting and incorporating pieces of information – not only facts but also the rationale to get them established.




Bathing ghat immediately downstream from Howrah Bridge, 1944. by Glenn S. Hensley. Courtesy: Lib.U.Penn


মল্লিক ঘাট তথা জগন্নাথ স্টিমার ঘাট

The river ghats on Hooghly, being intimately connected with almost all events of their life and death, reflect the ethnicities of the people of Calcutta, comprehensive of socio-economic and cultural dimensions. Most of these ghats were created by zealous men and women, natives and foreigners, out of goodwill. Harisadhan listed names of 39 Ghats that existed between Bagbazar and Chandpal Ghat in 1793 [See: Harisadhan]. Since then many have been destroyed, and many more added. Cones’ Calcutta Directory listed as many as 58 ghats existed in 1874 between Bagbazar and Tolly’s Nullah. [ See: CONES ]

Study of Calcutta ghats proves to be challanging. The different names a ghat often called by require tracking and linking one another to tell its story of  ups and downs meaningfully. Mullick Ghat is one of its kind and of great historical significance.


Calcutta. The River Hooghly. Photograph by Johnston & Hoffman. c1885. Courtesy: BL


Down the river, next to the Jagannath Ghat of Sobharam Basak stands Nemai Mullick Ghat. Rammohan Mullick built it in 1855 in memory of his father Late Nimaicharan Mullick on the ground of the old ‘Noyaner Ghat’ that their forefather Noyanchand Mullick made before 1793. The in-between riverside ghats, namely নবাবের ঘাট, বৈষ্ণব দাস শেঠের ঘাট, কাশীনাথ ঘাট, কদমতলা ঘাট, কাশীনাথবাবুর ঘাট, হুজুরীমলের ঘাট ceased to exist long back. Around 1870-74 when the Howrah Pontoon Bridge, the first bridge on Hughly, was in the making, Jadunath Mullick, a great son of the Mullick family, renovated the Mullick Ghat. It needs to be noted that this first bridge on Hooghly, constructed in 1874 to connect the old Howrah Station, was positioned immediate south of Mullick Ghat, about hundred yard away from the existing Cantilever Howrah Bridge, which stands immediate north of Mullick Ghat connecting the New Howrah Station built in 1905. [See: Puronokolkata]

Mullick Ghat took part in the history of making the river water resources useful in public life. The Corporation set up a Pump Station there to distill river water for supplying to the city. A dynamo was installed there on August 19, 1879 to illuminate the Bridge 1,528 ft. long and 62 ft. wide. [ See: Grace’s] The Ghat was also famous for launching passenger and cargo steamer services.  Mullick Ghat still exists, bereaved of its stately look that once prompted Evan Cotton to speak of the ‘handsome masonry structure of Mullick Ghat, which stood ‘immediately to the north of the Howrah Bridge’. We must note that Cotton wrote it before 1907 and the Bridge he referred to was the old Pontoon Bridge. As we have come to know from a recent survey, Mullick Ghat at present has a large and ornate square pavilion while the ghat itself has a more ‘native appearance’ [ See: ETH Studio].

Calcutta. Bathing Ghat. Photograph by Johnston & Hoffman. c1885. Courtesy: BL

 The first photograph of the ghat we find was taken by P.A Johnston & Theodore Hoffman about three years after they established ‘Calcutta Studio’ in 1882. The shot must have been taken before Johnston died in 1891. The British Library (BL) does not specify the Ghat name. They provide instead a generic Title: Calcutta. Bathing Ghat. If I am not wrong, photograph titles are assigned, as convention, adhering to what the photographers or the original collectors stated. BL however takes the liberty to name it Chatulal’s Ghat in their descriptive note and subject tags, presumably on the basis of common belief and order of the day, which are apparently subject to change.

The other photograph, featured at the top, depicts the same bathing ghat, taken by the same photographers and possibly around same time. As Evan Cotton had stated, the bathing ghat, stands on the east bank of the Hooghly River immediately to the north of the bridge. The panoramic view of the Bathing Ghat, shows no bridge in view northward, since the Pontoon Bridge to its south remains downstream and out of frame.

BL provides more details of the pavilion; we are told that the pavilion was ‘crowned by a substantial structure in European classical style, topped by a drum’. As for its date, BL estimates that the ghat ‘was in position by the mid-1870s, and still standing in the mid-1940s, but has since been demolished’.  It was probably the last photograph of the  ghat taken by Glenn S. Hensley in 1944 which incited BL to guesstimate the date of demolition, if demolished at all.

By trailing the cue of the two renderings noted at hundred year interval by Evan Cotton and ETH Studio, we find half a dozen of matching photographs, but astoundingly none citing Mullick Ghat, but two other ghat names, Juggernath Ghat and Chatulal Ki Ghat.

Bathing ghat, Calcutta side of river, downstream from Howrah Bridge, Photographer:Hensley Glenn. 1944. Courtesy: Lib. U.Penn

The common features of these photographs are:

  1. Location: East bank of the Hooghly River immediately to the north of the Old Bridge/ south of the New Bridge
  2. Shape: A large and ornate square pavilion
  3. Features: A substantial structure in European classical style, topped by a drum

The descriptions best fit to the edifice presently stands on the riverbank a little high up with an added floor close by the Howrah Bridge, as shown in the photograph below. We may accept the edifice as the original pavilion of Nemai Mullick Ghat, subject to further verification.


Mullick Ghat : a recent photograph. Courtesy: ETH Studio Basel


Chotelal ki Ghat. Courtesy: TOI

The Mullick Ghat we find today is still a popular site, mostly under the guise of ‘Chatulal Ghat’, hunted by movie-makers and tourists, functions nowadays as dharamsala.  The pavilion has lost its old glory. There is no ornamental dome. An additional floor at the top makes its façade unbecoming. A loud paint colour covering the sandstone wall has lifted its elegance and sobriety. The look is now changed beyond recognition and can give a miss to anyone unguarded. More so, because of its borrowed name, Chatulal Ghat, by which it is known today in lieu of Mullick Ghat.

The anomaly that troubles us in identifying the particular bathing ghat, as represented in all the photographs posted here, has become more upsetting since 2014 when the following glass plate, which looks like another Johnston & Hoffman photograph(c1885), was brought out with supplied caption: The view of Kolkata’s Chotulal Ghat, as seen from Howrah Bridge.


Chotelal ki Ghat. Courtesy: RCAHMS

This was found in a collection of 178 photographic glass plates on Indian scenario under the British Raj, including one more photograph of the pavilion of alleged ‘Chatulal Ghat’ held in the archives of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). The negatives, officially estimated to be dating back to 1912, were found in a fragile condition in a shoebox and were wrapped in copies of the Statesman newspaper dating from 1914. The Chotulal’s Ghat photograph was identified most likely based on some descriptive note found on the negative itself, or some other reliable source. [See BBC]

Interestingly, it was just a year before the name Chatulal’s Ghat was inscribed for the first time in a published map:  City of Calcutta Census Map drawn in1913 by Richards [ See: Richards] and goes missing again in the City of Calcutta Map drawn by Wagner & Debes published next year in 1914.

Chotulal_Ghat_In Richards 1913 CalcuttaCensus Map. Courtesy: Harvard Lib.

Chatulal’s Ghat never shows up in any of the earlier maps of Calcutta, so far I could see. The list of 39 bathing ghats existing in 1793 [ See Harisadhan], or the list of 58 bathing ghats existing in 1874 had no place for Chatulal’s Ghat.   [ See: CONES]. In fact, other than some blogs and the 1913 map of Richards, there is hardly any historical and descriptive accounts of Calcutta, including directories and handbooks, that refer to Chatulal’s Ghat.

Whatever little we know of Chotulal of Chotulal’s Ghat from the recent blogs provides hardly any clue to establish that Chatulal was alive in mid 19th Century taking part in some historical events, like launching steamship to chandbali.  [See: Basu] We understand from an article, “Heritage Ghats of Calcutta – Chotulal Ghat” in Noisebreak 29 Oct 2016 [http://noisebreak.com/?s=chotelal] that it stands next to Jagannath Ghat along the Hooghly River. The ghat was named after Chhotelal Durga Prasad, an eminent practicing lawyer at the Calcutta High Court. As we know from another source, some Chotelal Durgaprasad did actually exist who appeared in Allahabad High Court on 23 August 1938. [See Indian Kanoon]. As the Noisebeak story suggests, Chatulal Durgaprasad was seemingly already a middle-aged man before the ghat constructed; and if not quite impossible, it is somewhat difficult to imagine him pleading in 1938. Furthermore, to call Chatulal’s Ghat a heritage ghat, presupposes its having an extraordinary past – a tradition that reminds us of the philanthropic contributions of its founder, like a Sobharam Basak, or a Nemaichand Mullick, for example. This is after all an issue to be considered by the INTACH Kolkata Chapter. For us it is more critical to find the exact location of Chatulal’s Ghat on the eastern bank of Hooghly. We know from the blog stories that Chatulal’s Ghat stands ‘next to Jagannath Ghat along the Hooghly River’.  According to Harisadhan (1915), and the latest river survey (2008) the next ghat to Jagannath Ghat is none but Mullick Ghat. The position of Mullick Ghat cited in historical maps of Calcutta overwhelmingly proves that Chatulal’s Ghat is an out of place notion. Fact remains that we have not yet found evidence, besides the solitary example of the 1913 map of Richards, to establish that a ghat called ‘Chatulal’s Ghat’ does independently exist and actually founded by Chatulal Durgaprasad. There remains, however, a likelihood of restyling Mullick Ghat as Chatulal’s Ghat unceremoniously.

In a recent article on ‘Mullick Ghat’, Rangan Dutta writes that the steamship ‘Sir John Lawrence’ sailed on May 25, 1887, from ‘Kolkata’s Chotulal Ghat (also called Mullick Ghat) for Chandbali.’ [See: Dutta] It is all important for me that he maintains, as I do, the idea of Chatulal Ghat as an alternative name of Mullick Ghat, although the name ‘Chatulal Ghat’ was possibly introduced long after the ominous day of 1887.



These two historical bathing ghats, once situated close by, are also renowned for providing regular ferry services. Though there should be no good reason to mixing up their identity, quite often the Armenian Ghat is taken mistakenly for Mullick Ghat. Yet structurally, materially and stylistically the two were entirely different.

Common people apart, there are instances of such failings on the part of celebrated writers, like Montague Massey. Massey illustrated his famous book, Recollections of Calcutta, with beautiful photographs, and one of them happened to be actually a photograph of Armenian Ghat captured by Federico Peliti, that he inadvertently picked for Mullick Ghat. [See: Massey]

A singularly beautiful lacy cast iron canopy with arches and pillars – distinguishes Armenian Ghat from all brick and stone pavilions of those days. In the mid-18th century, the rich Armenian trader Manvel Hazaar Maliyan had shipped in an elaborate cast iron facade for the Armenian Ghat, which now only exists in a photograph by colonial era photographer Chevalier Federico Peliti. [See: Sarkar]



It was in early 20th century the English artist cum writer Alfred Hugh Fisher went over to the Howrah Bridge to see the ceremonial bathing on the festive day of Sankranti. On the stone building on his right, he looked over the bridge railing at the top of the great flight of steps; a slab dedicated to the memory of ship wreck victims was let into the wall inscribed in English and Bengali:


২৫এ মে তারিখের ঝটিকাবত্ত স্যার জন লরেন্স বাস্পীয় জাহাজের সহিত যে সকল তীর্থযাত্রী

(অধিকাংশ স্ত্রীলোক) জলমগ্ন হইয়াছেন তাহাদিগের স্মরণার্থে  কয়েকটি ঈংরাজ রমনী কর্ত্তিক এই প্রস্তর ফলক্ষানি উৎসর্গীত হইল

The stone building where Fisher  found the memorial plaque should be in all probability the Mullick Ghat where from steamers took pilgrims to Chandbali on their way to Jagannath Temple. [ See: Fisher] Mullick Ghat bears the sad memory of the wreck of steamship ‘Sir John Lawrence’ with hundreds of women passengers on their way to Chandbali on 25 May 1887. The details of the devastating event were recorded by Buckland as follows:

The centre of a violent cyclone passed to the westward of Saugar early on the 26th; the sea was described as running high beyond all experience. .. For several days no vessels left the river except the ship Godiva, which left on the 25thin tow of the steam tug Retriever, and the steamer, Sir John Lawrence, (the Chandbally boat) with 735 passengers, chiefly pilgrims, which left on the 25th afternoon. The Retriever and the Sir John Lawrence were both lost at see with all hands except one native fireman of the tug [ See: Buckland]

On hearing the fateful news the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, gave immediate expression of his deep anguish in his poem সিন্ধুতরঙ্গ (পুরী তীর্থযাত্রী তরণীর নিমজ্জন) [মানসী] [See: Tagore]


Samuel Walters / THE CLIPPER SHIP SIR JOHN LAWRENCE ‘HOVE TO’ FOR TAKING THE PILOT OFF THE GREAT ORME. oil on canvas. Courtesy: mutualart.com

The Report of the Marine Court of Inquiry to the Government of Bengal found that the Sir John Lawrence was carrying more than her proper complement of passengers and that the tragedy occurred due to the shipmaster’s irresponsible navigation. The report led to an uproar and the demand for the railways to Puri became loud and clear, which had been constantly pushed aside by the Bengal Government since 1860s when two British promoters, Marshman and Stephenson, mooted a plan for rail link between Kolkata and Puri to allow pilgrims irrespective of caste and creed. Government also turned down another proposal for a direct Rail link between Calcutta and Madras via Orissa coastal plains that Baikuntha Nath De did submit in 1881 for a direct rail link between Calcutta and Madras through Orissa’s coastal plains with a branch line to Puri, which promised to provide a faster and safer means of transport for the Jagannath pilgrims.

During 1870s, around 6,00,000 pilgrims visit Puri every year, which would guarantee a lot of profit. Taking advantage of the numbers and government ignorance, some foreign companies started steamer services from Kolkata to Chandbali in Orissa, now Odisha. As the fares were high, it was mostly children and women who would take the steamers, while the men take the unpromising journey by Jagannath Sadak. Tarinikanta Lahiri Choudhury penned his own appalling experience of the journey to Puri by Jagannath Sadak.

কলিকাতা হইতে কতকাদূর জাহাজে, কতকাদূর নৌকায় এবং কতকাদূর স্থলপথে যাইতে হইত। সমুদ্র পথে গমন করিতে হইলে কলিকাতা হইতে জাহাজে চাদবালি হইয়া সেখান হইতে খালের মধ্য দিয়া কটক গমন করিতে হইত কিংবা বঙ্গোপসাগরের মধ্য দিয়া জাহাজে একেবারে পুরী যাওয়া য়াইত। যাহারা কটক সহর হইতে পুরী যাইত তাহারা বিখ্যাত “জগন্নাথ সড়ক” দিয়া গরুর গাড়ীতে, পাল্কিতে কিংবা পদব্রজে গমন করিত । [See more ভারত ভ্রমণ – তারিনীকান্ত লাহিড়ী চৌধুরী  {See: Lahiri Choudhury]

To compete with the steamers of the Indian government on the Ganges, the India General Steam Navigation Company was established in India in 1844. From 1870s onwards, the Company faced hard competition from Rivers Steam Navigation Company Limited, and ultimately had agreed to work together as the Joint steamer companies. India General, who had already undertaken construction of an extension of a railway to the banks of the Brahmaputra at Jaganathganj, went to liquidation in 1899. The new company was named India General Navigation and Railway Company Limited. (1885-1904) [See: FIBIS]

There were other smaller steam navigation companies in operation for different destinations, like:

  • Calcutta Steam Navigation Co., Bengal (1882)
  • Calcutta Lading & Shipping Co., Calcutta (1883)
  • Bengal Assam Steamship Co., Calcutta (1895)
  • East Bengal River Steam Service, Bengal (1906)
  • Port Shipping Co., Calcutta (1906)

In the latter half of the 19th century when the railways came into existence, the significance of waterways as inland trade routes declined, as the railways were faster and safer. [See: Goyal] It has been found, however, that the steamer navigation was being continued as an auxiliary service to Rail Companies for transporting passengers and cargoes, and for river excursions as well (vide পথে বিপথে / অবনীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর। বিস্বভারতী and নদীপথে / অতুল গুপ্ত, জিঙ্গাসা ). As shown in the following two documents, (1) Bradshaw’s Condensed Schedule Assam-Sunderbuns Despatch Service, and (2) a Cargo Delivery notice from Rivers Steam Navigation Company Limited & India General Navigation and Railway Company Limited dated 2.10, 1912, steamer services were being provided till 1912 from several ferry ghats on Hooghly, including ‘Juggernath Ghat’.

The steamer ghat, printed on the delivery notice and in Bradshaw as Juggernath Ghat, makes us curious about its possible location, or more precisely, if this is the same historic bathing ghat, the ‘Jaganath Ghat’ of Shobharam Basak, now reduced to a homely embankment with a long shade to the north of the existing Howrah Bridge.

[Steamers of the Assam Sunderbuns Despatch Service leaves Juggernath ghat, which is situated “on the Calcutta side of the River Hooghly above Howrah Bridge” (Pontoon Bridge). Steamer Pleasure Trip from Calcutta; Advertisement 1934 Macneill & Co Advertisement]

The other possibility remains for us to consider if the ghat pavilion, hugely adored and popularized as ‘Jagannath Ghat’, or ‘Juggernath Ghat’ mainly as publicity materials, had functioned as the Juggernath Steamer Ghat as well.


Gustav Boehm’s Voyage Around the World advertisement for Toilet Soaps and Perfumeries with photograph of ‘Public Bath’. No Mention of Chatulal Ghat or Jagannath Ghat. Before looking into it, we may need to review the status of the old Sobharam Basak’s ‘Jagannath Ghat’ of Barabazar.

The ghat built by Sobharam Basak, ‘one of the wealthiest native inhabitants of Calcutta in the eighteenth century’ [Cotton], was initially called ‘Sobharam Basak’s Ghat, শোভারাম বসাকের ঘাট, and shortly after changed into Jagannath Ghat as shown in the published maps.

Mark Wood’s Plan of Calcutta 1784-85, 1792

The Ghat has been an important landmark seen from the river and land. A long stretch of Hooghly up to Jagannath Ghat came in view from the faraway rooftops of Shimulia houses in North Calcutta as there were no tall buildings in between. There was neither any large steamship in view, but plenty of wooden sailing vessels whose tall masts looked like a forest of dead woods from distance. [See: Datta]

Sobharam built the Ghat around 1760s by the side of the Jagannath Temple he had erected at 1, Nabab Lane. Sobharam’s Jagannath Ghat was present in all the historical maps of Calcutta since Mark Wood’s Plan. The Ghat originally built by Sobharam, might have been washed away into the river and replaced by a shaded structure with stepped embankment for public bathing of no particular significance from the view of public interest.

Jagannath Ghat, Barabazar

Since the pavilion, represented in all the photographs displayed here, has already been identified beyond doubt as of Mullick Ghat, from where steamboats set off to near and far places to Assam and Orissa with freights and passengers and pilgrimage to Jagannath, it’s not unimaginable to have the ghat/ jetty called a ‘Juggernath Ghat’ too.

I am still not sure what is right, but this last proposition to my perception should be a key solution for clearing up the manifold complications we created through centuries by dubbing the ghats by conflicting names unintelligently, as I did myself earlier [See: Puronokolkata. Jagannath Ghat]



Alfred Hugh Fisher. (1911). Through India and Burmah with pen and brush. London: Laurie. Retrieved from http://seasiavisions.library.cornell.edu/catalog/seapage:299_173

Basu, U. (1980). Etched in stone? TOI 21 July 2018, p. 1961. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/etched-in-stone/articleshow/65076457.cms

BBC. (2012). Raj Pictures. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-17973614#story_continues_2

Buckland, C. E. (1902). Bengal Under the Lieutenant Governors; vo.2. Calcutta: Bose. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.104181/2015.104181.Bengal-Under-The-Lieutenant-governors-Vol2#page/n291/search/john+lawrence

Cones. (1874). Calcutta Directory, 1874. Calcutta: Cones. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.94126

Cotton, E. (1907). Calcutta old and new: a historical and descriptive handbook of the city. Calcutta: Newman. Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/calcuttaoldandn00cottgoog

Datta, Mahendranath. (1973). Kalikatar puratan kahini o pratha. Calcutta: Mhendra Pub. Retrieved from https://www.bdeboi.com/2016/02/blog-post_27.html

Datta, Ranjan. (2018). Mallick-Ghat. https://doi.org/10.15713/ins.mmj.3

ETH Studio Basel, C. (2008). River Edges of Kolkata. Retrieved from http://www.studio-basel.com/assets/files/05_River_web.pdf.

FIBIS. (2015). Indian General Navigation Company. Retrieved from https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Indian_General_Navigation_and_Railway_Company

Goyal, P. (2003). Sea and Inland Navigation. History of Indian Science and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.indianscience.org/essays/seaandinlandnavigation-EdtedbyPankaj-edit.shtml

Grace’s Guide. (n.d.). Howrah Potoon Bridge. Retrieved from https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Howrah_Pontoon_Bridge

Indian Kanoon. (1938). JUDGMENTs Bennet, Ag. C.J. Indian Kanoon. Retrieved from https://indiankanoon.org/doc/141456/

Lahiri Choudhury, Tarinikanta. (2015). Bharat-bhraman. Retrieved from https://bn.wikisource.org/wiki/পাতা:ভারতভ্রমণতারিনীকান্তলাহিড়ীচৌধুরী.pdf/৫৫১ %0A

Mark Wood. (1792). Plan of Calcutta. Calcutta: William Baillie. Retrieved from https://www.bdeboi.com/2016/02/blog-post_27.html

Massey, M. (1918). Recollections of Calcutta for Over Half a Century. Calcutta: Thacker, Spink. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12617/12617-h/12617-h.htm

Monovisions. (2015). Photographer Federico Peliti. Monovisions, (March 7). Retrieved from http://monovisions.com/federico-peliti/

Mukhopadhyay, Harisadhan. (1915). Kalikata: Sekaler O Ekaler –. Calcutta: Bagchi. Retrieved from https://archive.org/stream/Kalikata-Sekaler-O-Ekaler-Harisadhan-Mukhopadhyay/Kalikata Sekaler O Ekaler – Harisadhan Mukhopadhyay#page/n0/mode/2up

Puronokolkata. (2015). Jagannath Ghat. Retrieved from https://puronokolkata.com/2015/06/16/jagannath-ghat-calcutta-c1760s/

Puronokolkata (2). (2015). Howrah Railway Junction Station. Retrieved from https://puronokolkata.com/2015/11/18/howrah-railway-junction-station-howrah-1854/

Richrds. (1913). City of Calcutta Census Map. Retrieved from http://ids.lib.harvard.edu/ids/view/11076152?buttons=y

Sarkar, S. (2017). Tudor roses at the Ghoses. Hindu. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/tudor-roses-at-the-ghoshes/article19819052.ece

Tagore, Rabindranath. (2016). Manasi (Poem: Sindhu-taranga). Calcutta: Bichitra. Retrieved from http://bichitra.jdvu.ac.in/search/bengali_search.php


Howrah Railway Junction Station, Howrah, 1854 –

হাওড়া রেল ইস্টিসন, হাওড়া, ১৮৫৪
Howrah railway station is the oldest and the largest railway complex in India. The station owned by the East Indian Railway (EIR) formed in January 1847 by merging the East India Railway Company and the Great Western Bengal Railway Company (GWBRC) into one. See GWBRC and Dwarkanath Tagore


EIR HQ, prior to 1879 14, Theater Road, Calcutta.

On 17th August,1849, the Court of Directors of East India Company signed an agreement with EIR for construction of a short experimental line from Calcutta to Burdwan, originally proposed by the Company in 1845. The East Indian Railway Company’s Managing Director Macdonald Stephenson, George Turnbull, the company’s Chief Engineer, and the engineer Slater made on 7 May 1850 an initial survey from Howrah (across the River Hooghly from Calcutta) to Burdwan on the route to the Raniganj coalfields. Accordingly, the first train of EI Railway started its historic ‘zero mile’ journey in August 1854 from the very place where the Howrah Station stands now.

“The train flagged off full to its capacity from Howrah to Hooghly a distance of 24 miles. 3000 applications were received for the first ride, but only a few could be accommodated. The train having three first Class, two second class and three “trucks” for the third class passengers, a brake-van for the Guard all constructed in Calcutta,  left Howrah at 8:30 A.M. and reached Hooghly after 91 minutes. During the first 16 weeks, the company carried 109,634 passengers: 83,118 third class, 21,005 second class and 5511 first class. See Grace’s Guide  ”That day onward, the EIR ran a regular service, morning and evening, between Howrah and Hugli with stops at Bali, Serampore and Chandernagar. The fare ranged from Rs.3 by first class to 7 annas by third class.

The above photograph of first locomotive, christened “Multum in Parvo” (Latin, “much in little”), shown on the right and manufactured in England, which was used by the East Indian Railway Company in 1854 on its first line from Howrah to Hooghly, a distance of 24 miles. The locomotive on the left is the latest model of 1897, the year this picture was taken in the Jamalpur Railway Workshop, Eastern India. (Image source: Elgin Collection. British Library)

Initial plans for the first Howrah station were submitted by George Turnbull the Chief Engineer of the East Indian Railway Company on 17 June 1851. The government authorities, however, were not too keen to acquire as much land as the Railway Company required, taking into account the enormous anticipated growth rate of the proposed rail station. In May 1852 Turnbull resubmitted his station plans complete with details – a major work of him and his team of engineers. In October four tenders were received varying from 190,000 to 274,526 INR against an estimate of Rs 250,000.


Before EIR took possession of the land, Portuguese Missionaries of Dominican Sect had an orphanage there and a small church by its side. The orphanage was shifted to Calcutta when the Company moved in and made a make-shift arrangement installing few tin sheds to facilitate maintenance work, and train formation yard before train running. The rest of the empty space on northern side was utilized in storage of materials. Subsequently this became the stores depot of East Indian Railway. See Vibrant Edifice


EIR Ticket Counter. Armenian Ghat

There was no landing ghat on the Howrah side. Railway passengers had to go to Armenian ghat on the eastern riverbank to buy tickets from its booking counter. They “had to jostle their way through the ‘exciting’ crowd to the ‘Booking Window’ that issued tickets to all classes of passengers”.The train tickets included the fare of crossing the river to arrive at the provisional rail platform consisting of a tin shed. The scenario prevailed till the Howrah pontoon bridge was ready to replace the ferry service to Howrah station in 1886. See : The saga of Howrah Station. See Vibrant Edifice

As we understand from IRFCA source, there was no official image available with them to suggest what was ’the shape of the station shed before it was demolished to give place to the new station building’. The only visual document on their hand was a ‘Photograph’ of Howrah station printed in ‘The Steam Engine and the East Indian Railway‘ – the first ever historical work on E.I.R. by Kalidas Moitra, published in 1855.

The indistinct print, however, leaves open a possibility of its being a hand-drawn illustration, instead of a photograph, of the model of the first Howrah Station. This view can be well supported by a recently unearthed photograph entitled ‘Railway station near Calcutta’ captured in 1895 by American photographer, William Henry Jackson (1843-1942), for the World Transportation Commission. The photograph is featured here at the top.

There has been another vintage photograph that provides a clear view of the old station building. Unfortunately no date and relative details of the photograph are available for further investigation. Courtesy: National Rail Museum Archive:

So far we know that the old Howrah Station building was a spacious columnar structure, which was demolished later during the construction of the new station building. Initially it was a modest structure of red brick with corrugated Iron sheet roof and one platform. Another platform was added in 1865 for arrival departure of trains separately. The third platform was provided in 1895. These were not very long as sometimes as many as 5 coaches extended beyond platform. The coaches were only four wheelers. 8 wheeler coaches were introduced only in 1903. From this description provided in EIR source it appears that the first station building had been constructed not at one go but gradually by phases, and that is why specific dates of foundation, inauguration, or demolition of the old and new buildings have been found so rarely and often overlapping in historical records. See Vibrant Edifice

Due to a great increase of traffic, a new station building was proposed in 1901. The new station was designed by the British architect Halsey Ricardo. Construction begins in 1905 on a new, larger Howrah Terminus station with six platforms and provision for four more, to replace the older Howrah station in use from 1854, and inaugurated in 1906. See: Chronology of railways in India


The following lines picked up from a recent review of Calcutta’s past may neatly recap the story told here.

“Calcutta’s growth as a major railway junction continued. The East India Railway ran from Howrah all the way to the outskirts of Delhi in the North. The Bengal Nagpur Railway ran from Howrah to Nagpur in Central India, from where the Great Indian Peninsula Railway continued to Bombay. The East Bengal Railway’s line ran from Sealdah, then in the outskirts of Calcutta to the tea gardens of Assam and Northern Bengal. The Grand Trunk Road was built to replace the road built by Sultan Sher Shah Suri of Delhi in the sixteenth century, and now ran from Howrah to Peshawar in the Hindukush mountains. As it had been true for Rome in an earlier age, all roads now led to Calcutta”. See Rule Britannia

Great Western of Bengal Railway Company, Calcutta, 1845-1847

বৃহৎ পশ্চিমাঞ্চলিক বঙ্গ রেল কম্পানি, কলকাতা, ১৮৪৫-৪৭

The story began with Dwarkanath Tagore’s first exposure to railway in Naples on his way to England in January 1842. He wrote home, ‘Think what my sensation when it passed near my carriage’. Soon after he had several occasions to enjoy ‘the greatest wonders of England’ – the train ride. He could well imagine the enormous commercial potential of railway transport in a resource-rich country like Bengal for movement of goods, and passengers as well. Dwarkanath came back loaded with freshly gained experiences and ideas for exploring new industrial ventures. The railway was surely one of those. Dwarkanath landed in December 1842. He had a plan to go back to England next October, but was destined to postpone it until March 1845. See: Partner in Empire

Dwarkanath-Frederick RSay-x

Dwarkanath Tagore by F.R. Say. 1842

Dwarkanath revisited England in March 1845 with intention to secure permission of the Court of Directors of the East India Company to start construction of railroad from Calcutta to the coalfields above Burdwan. On April 14 he arranged to register a company, named ‘Calcutta and Ganges Grand Junction Railway Company’, with the objectives of making and maintaining a line from Calcutta to Rajmahal. Afterwards, on the suggestions of several parties familiar with the location in India, it was considered advisable to extend the line to some point on the Ganges further up towards the north-west, and decided on extending the line to Patna. Incorporating this addition to the former project Dwarkanath registered his company on the 23d of April, 1845 with a new name ‘Great Western of Bengal Railway Company.’ Dwarkanath “consented to act as trustee to the company in India, and his firm,Carr Tagore and Co., created in 1834, was appointed as the agents of the new company in Calcutta.

Dwarkanath tried his best to make a deal with the East India Railway Company, lately incorporated in England under the leadership of Rowland McDonald Stephenson, but never succeeded. Interestingly, ‘Tagore was the man Stephenson came into contact with’ on his arrival in Calcutta in 1843. They had common interests and ‘both dreamed big.’ Stephenson in 1844 wrote a smart persuasive article on the prospect of railways in The Englishman, a paper that Tagore owned that time.

by Camille Silvy, albumen print, 6 March 1861

Rowland Stephenson by Camille Silvy, 1861

“He spoke in terms of trade as well as social uplift, and often quoted views of native merchants such as Tagore, Mutty Lal Seal and others who welcomed railways.” He simultaneously published reports of other railway companies that brought the subject alive and familiarized it to the local and British readers.” See: Two men and a railway line

Dwarkanath’s primary motive was to secure permission to initiate construction of the line by proposing to raise one-third of the capital required for a railway from Calcutta northwest to the coalfields above Burdwan. He faced there greatest opposition from Stephenson, the Chief of the East Indian Railway Company. Stephenson wanted the line to begin from a point 20 miles above Calcutta, where the line would cross the river Hughli. This line would go straight onto Benares, and subsequent later lines would develop towards Delhi and Agra. The Court of Directors of East India Company preferred to guard the interest of the British company, and had reservations ‘to permit a company under native management – to construct such an important railway line’. The Court sanctioned the circuitous route along the Ganga as Stephenson proposed.

Within few months, Dwarkanath Tagore died ‘at the peak of his fortune’ luckless, on the evening of Saturday August 1, 1846. With him died the prospect of his railway enterprise. The Great Western of Bengal Railway Company met for the last time on March 20, 1847 and approved dissolution of the company.

Subsequently on the 15th of April 1847, a proposal was initiated for amalgamation between ‘East Indian Railway Company’ and Dwarkanth’s ‘Great Western of Bengal Railway Company’. Toward the end of that year the two companies merged into a new company under the banner of ‘East Indian Railway’ (EIR) with Rowland Stephenson as its founder MD.

Small locomotive used to draw cane cars 2 ft. gauge, India

Small locomotive 2 ft. gauge

Two years after Dwarkanath died, the Court of Directors of East India Company on recommendation of Lord Dalhousie the then Governor General of India, finally signed an agreement on 17th August,1849 with EIR for construction of a short experimental line from Calcutta to Burdwan. See: History of Indian Railway

This sanction may be reckoned as a belated tribute to the departed soul who breathed his last with dream unfulfilled.

Jagannath Ghat, Calcutta, c1760s



জগন্নাথ ঘাট, বড়বাজার, কলকাতা, c১৭৬০
Jagannath Ghat, built in European classical style with a drum-shaped crown atop, stood imposingly on the east bank of the river Hooghly immediately to the north of the present-day bridge. Those days, a long stretch of Hooghly up to Jagannath Ghat remained visible from the faraway rooftops of Shimulia houses in North Calcutta as there were no tall buildings in between. There were neither any large steamships in view, but plenty of wooden sailing vessels whose tall masts looked like a forest of dead woods from distance. See: Mahendranath Dutta

Sobharam Basak was the founder of Jagannath Ghat. It is said that Sobharam settled in Barabazaar when the new Fort William was being constructed. Therefore, Sobharam must have founded Jagannath Ghat sometime between 1758, when the rebuilding of the Fort started, and 1773 – the year Sobharam died. In all probability, Jagannath Ghat’s foundation should be around 1760s. Sobharam built the Ghat by the side of the Jagannath Temple he had built at 1, Nabab Lane. The Ghat was initially known as Sobharam Basak’s Bathing Ghat, known from the List of Old Ghats published in 1789. See: Harisadhan Mukhopadhyay. Shortly after, the name changed into ‘Jagannath Ghat’ as revealed in old accounts and maps of Hooghly River.

The Jagannath Bathing Ghat, Calcutta a postcard view 1937-rev

This picture-postcard of Jaggarnath Ghat was widely circulated as view of Thailand. 1937

The name Jagannath Ghat continued to be in vogue for two and half a century until 2012, when it was miraculously replaced overnight by an unfamiliar name of Chotulal’s Ghat. All this happened subsequent to the recent discovery of a treasure-trove in shoe-box containing 178 photographic imagery of Colonial India. The shoe-box included two photo prints of the particular bathing ghat. Both the prints bear a short unsigned note: “Chotulal’s Ghat, Kolkata. Photograph probably taken from the old Howrah Bridge, 1912-1914”.

Posted as 'Chotulal's Ghat'

Posted as ‘Chotulal’s Ghat’

The photographs were taken by Johnston & Hoffman in 1885. It is unimaginable how the learned people and institutions could accept unquestioningly a new name tipped off by an unidentified writer, rejecting a well-established name unceremoniously. Today, even the old photographs of the edifice of Jagannath Ghat are being referred to as ‘Chotulal’s Ghat’ – a name that never turns out in historical accounts or maps.


Cargo arrival notice to Lals at Jaggarnath Ghat

But who this Chotulal was? So far we gather, there was no Chotulal, or Chote Lal in Calcutta who might have owned the bathing ghat. Bathing ghats are generally named after a deity or a celebrity who made it for public benefit. Chotulal of Calcutta might have been not a celebrity, but a commoner like Chand Pal, the owner of small shop at the river ghat later named Chandpal Ghat after him. It was not improbable that Chotu Lal happened to be a member of a particular Chiranji Lal – Sham Lal’s family and had a leading role in running their family business of Steamer Cargo Service from Jagannath Ghat steamer station. Jagannath Ghat, from where Chotulal might have conducted his business, possibly in due course earned a nickname Chotulal’s Ghat. This conjecture about Chotulal, right or wrong, has partial documentary support, which shows that there was actually an active marine dispatch service station at Jagannath Ghat, managed by some Lals.

Bathing Ghat Howrah Bridge Calcutta vintage postcard obverse2

Crowded bathing ghat. Postcart printed in Germany. No details

A busy bathing ghat apart, Jagannath Ghat was one of the busiest steam navigation stations on Hooghly serving many of the public and private Liner Services appeared in the published listings, rearranged in late 1841. Between Calcutta and Allahabad, intermediate ports were then Rajmahal, Bhagalpore, Munghyr, Dinapore, Ghajipore, Benares, and Mirzapore, carrying both freight and passengers. By 1852 there was also a Dacca and Assam Line. Similarly, there were liner services with Chittagong, Arracan and Moulmein in Burma. Burma commercial operators, such as the Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company became the British India Steam Navigation Company. 1875 onward, India Steam Navigation Company introduced some of their long distance Liner Services between London-Cal (1875), Calcutta-Australia (1880), and Calcutta- New Zealand (1896). Alfred Hugh, a travelling artist, told us about the memorial tablet he noticed on the stone-wall of Jagannath Ghat. The Tablet revealed that from Jagannath Ghat steamers took pilgrims to far-off places.


This 1944 photograph by Hensley may be the last one

The ghat was standing in the mid-1940s but that has since been lost. The last photograph, I guess, was perhaps the one taken in 1844 by Glenn S. Hensley. The edifice was then in good shape. Now it is turned into an unsightly place overshadowed by desolate warehouses of River Steam Navigation Company and Indian General River Navigation Cooperation of the then Inchcape Group.
The featured photograph at the top presents a bird’s eye view of Jagarnath Ghat on The River Hooghly. The view was captured in c1885 by Johnston & Hoffman

Armenian Ghat, Calcutta, 1734


আর্মানি ঘাট, কলকাতা, ১৭৩৪

Armenian Ghat was built in 1734 by Manvel Hazaar Maliyan, a celebrated Calcutta trader of Armenian origin. This elegant ferry ghat was just one of the many contributions made by the benevolent Armenian toward developing Calcutta’s infrastructure and sociocultural rapport. Hazaar Maliyan, better known in Calcutta society as Huzoorimal – an westernized version of the conventional form of his Armenian name. Armenians were involved in spice to jewelry trade, and this river pier was built specifically to tackle the docking of the merchants of the town.

The Armenian Ghat, locally called Armani ghat, stood on the Hooghly river bank with its gracefully designed cast iron structure. The Ghat was situated on river edge besides the Mallick Bazaar flower market adjacent to the old Howrah Bridge. As in other ghats on the holy river, people used to come here also to take bath, and devotees to worship.


A cropped image from a panoramic photograph of river ghats, by Bourne and Shepherd, c.1880’s. See

It also facilitated running of some well-liked public transport services conducted by the EIR company. From 15th August 1854, the company(EIR) ran a regular service, morning an evening, between Howrah and Hugli with stops at Bali, Serampore and Chandernagar. The fare ranged from Rs.3 by first class to 7 annas by third class. The main booking office was at Armenian Ghat, and the fare covered the ferry to the station on the opposite bank. Besids the passanger ferry services, The Cachar Sunderbund dispatch steamers are berthed at Armenian Ghat, while the Assam Sunderbund vessels work from Jagarnath Ghat.

During 1854 – 1874, the Eastern Railways had their Calcutta Station, and Ticket Reservation Room in Armenian Ghat. From this counter the passengers had to buy train tickets and then cross the Ganges on Railway owned steamers/ launches to board their train from platform at Howrah.  This arrangement continued until the construction of Howrah Pantoon Bridge was complete in 1874.

Cropped view of ‘Old Court House Street, Calcutta’, by Bourne and Shepherd, c.1880’s. See full view

Armenian Ghat turned into a demanding spot for the Calcutta commuters, and it helped them when the Tramway Company introduced in February 1873 their trial service to run a 2.4-mile (3.9 km) horse-drawn tramway service between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street on trial. After a short break the Company, registered as Calcutta Tramway Co. Ltd, laid anew Metre-gauge horse-drawn tram tracks from Sealdah to Armenian Ghat via Bowbazar Street, Dalhousie Square and Strand Road. The service discontinued in 1902.

The Armenian Ghat, one of the prime heritage sites of the city is now lost to oblivion and the eyeful marina is replaced by an unimaginable open-air gym.

The Photograph of the Armenian Ghat featured at the top was taken by Chevalier Federico Peliti, the famous Italian hotelier and restaurateur of Calcutta who happened to be an excellent amateur photographer. Date unknown.

Kidderpore Bridge, Calcutta, 1826

খিদিরপুর ব্রিজ, কলকাতা, ১৮২৬
The Kidderpore Bridge,the earliest stone-and-iron suspension bridge in India, lay at the end of the Course – the road that crossed the Maidan. It was the oldest road on the Maidan and was described in 1768 as being made to take the air. But, as an old song goes, ‘those who frequented it swallowed ten mouthfuls of dust for one of fresh air’. The road, however, is still one of the airiest and pleasantest drives in Calcutta, extended from the Cocked Hat, or কুঁকরো হাটা, to the Kidderpore Bridge, on the north, built up to the canal excavated by Colonel Tolly at his own expense, He reimbursed himself for this toil by a bazar or ganj at the place which still bears his name, Tolly ganj, and by tolls on crafts making use of his canal. in 1775.fiebig_frederick-kidderpore_bridge_calcutta_view The canal, formerly known as the Govindpore Creek, was, in fact, part of the old bed of the Ganges. It now runs into the Circular Canal, which again communicates with the Hooghly, forming the great inlet for country boats bringing produce from the Sunderbunds and the eastern districts of Bengal. The Nullah is here joined by a bridge once known by the name of Edward Surman, the head of the Embassy to Delhi in 1717, but now called Kidderpore Bridge. The bridge was built in 1826 and was the earliest stone-and-iron suspension bridge in India.
Kidderpore, Alipore and Bhowanipore were three suburbs of Calcutta, south of the Maidan. They were set apart from it by the canal known as Tolly’s Nullah (a canal), which necessitated the building of such bridges. It is traversed by the Calcutta ways, which run from here direct to the Esplanade on at the corner of Dhurrumtollah.

The view of the Kidderpore Bridge above is from a hand-coloured photograph print belonging to the Frederick Fiebig Collection: Views of Calcutta and Surrounding Districts, published in 1851. The inset photographic view of the ‘Tolly Nullah’ is also by Frederich Fiebig

Sealdah Railway Station, Sealdah, Calcutta, 1869

শেয়ালদা রেল স্টেশন, শেয়ালদা, কলকাতা, ১৮৬৯
Eastern Bengal Railway Company was registered in 1857 to establish railroad connection between Calcutta and Eastern part of undivided Bengal beyond Ganges(Padma) . First section was completed in January 1962 from Calcutta to Champahati. By May 1862 this extended to Port Canning. Ranaghat was connected in September 1862. Initially the the company was known as  Eastern Bengal Guaranteed Railway and ran its trains on guaranteed lines.  The guaranteed lines were constructed by companies formed in England, who raised their capital from their own shareholders under a guaranteed interest of 5 per cent, from the Government of India
The original Main Station at Sealdah, designed by Mr. Walter Glanville was built in 1869. This was the main station. Subsequently as Calcutta spread, large areas south of the became suburbanised and it became necessary to provide these new areas with railway communication. The lines radiating to Diamond Harbour (once the main port) , Laksmikantapur, Canning and Budge Budge were known as south section. Interestingly this part of Sealdah station was built close to the main station but at right angles to the main station. Due to the same reasons for growing traffic to and from northern suburban areas another new North Sealdah station was built adjacent to main station.
The photograph was published as 1900’s post card, exact year and oth er detail unknown.

Baptist Mission Press, Circular Road, Calcutta, 1818

ব্যাপটিস্ট মিশন প্রেস, সার্কুলার রোড, কলকাতা, ১৮১৮
In 1800, William Carey established a Mission Press in Serampore for the initial purpose of publishing scripture translations. In 1817, W. H. Pearce, who had trained at The Clarendon Press, Oxford, came to Serampore and associated himself with William Ward, the Serampore printer and colleague of William Carey and Joshua Marshman. In 1818, the Baptist Mission Press opened in Calcutta, as Pearce sought to parallel Ward’s work in Serampore. After fifteen years of dual operation, the two presses joined together in a common purpose in 1837.
Between the work of the Serampore Press and the Baptist Mission Press in Calcutta, the complete Bible was printed in Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Marathi, Sanskrit, and Chinese. In addition to Bible translations, a wide range of subjects including science, education, and literature appeared from these presses. They produced literature from some thirty languages of India, including Telugu from South India and Pushtu in Afghanistan, appeared in native fonts at these mission presses. In the early 1970s, the Baptist Missionary Society closed down the press and sold the land. The metal type created during the work of the Serampore Trio was melted down. Newspapers in the Indian languages first appeared from the Serampore Mission Press in 1818. Also in 1818, Carey and his colleagues began publication of the Friend of India, an English newspaper that continued until 1875. Eventually, Friend of India was incorporated in 1897 into Statesman and Friend of India, a contemporary daily newspaper in India. See

Baptist Mission Press was a letterpress printers. That means the process was still basically the same as that used by Gutenberg and Caxton. It requires great skill to take metal type, ink it, and transfer the image onto paper. A lot of type was set by hand compositors, working back to front, placing individual pieces of type, spacers and leading to fill out the meta a catalogue entitled ”

The date and photographer’s name of the above photo of the BMP building are not known. Many interesting pictorials of BMP can be seen online in the booklet, ‘The Carey Exhibition of Early Printing and Fine Printing at the National Library Calcutta‘ dated 195l.