A historic place decorated with street lamps and trees around the banks of the Ganges keeps a peaceful ambience of Chandannagar. Unlike Puducherry, it doesn’t retain cafes, old streets, quarters and charming French colonial past, but gives a slice of experience to try. The quaint town gets its name from the shape of the bank of the river curved like a half moon. A cosy walk towards the Strand along the ghats provides the most striking features of the historical site and monument.
History of Chandannagar
Let’s take a glimpse of its glorious past by walking along the glorious past of Chandannagar. French East India Company purchased three villages from Mughal Subedar in 1688 to build a factory. In 1730, Joseph François Dupleix became the Governor of Chandannagar when the prosperity of the French colony flourished in the Fort d’Orleans. It became the epic centre for European commerce in Bengal with the flocking of people around the city, who left the fledging town of Calcutta, now considered Chandannagar’s poor cousin.
A Peaceful Ambience of Chandannagar Ghat:
The fresh breeze of the Ganges offers a charming French escapade with a distinctive Bengali twist on the ghats of Chandannagar. It is the nearest tourist spot from Kolkata to spend a day and back to your home before bedtime. This little town is alive with its heritage of French artefacts, the cultural festival of Jagaddhatri Pujo and the famous sweet- Jalbhora Sondesh. Let’s visit the places in and around Chandannagar, also the fantastic weekend gateway.
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The Clock Tower
The tall clock tower built in 1880 stands in pride withholding the glory of French people at the famous Strand Road. The base is designed as one storey building- that serves now as Police Station, with an arch gate along a thin block design adding more to its beauty. The clock tower with a ticking roman numerical dial displaying the time compliments the great old banyan tree standing still just opposite to complete the serenity.
Dupleix House Museum
It is one of the oldest museums in India that has preserved the rare artefacts and utensils of the French Colony. The most attractive for me was the clay model of the Fort d’Orleans displaying the attack by British East India. The museum has a well-maintained garden with a statue of Marianne- depicted as the Triumph of the French Republic, at the entrance symbolising the shared heritage of both countries.
Timing: 11 AM – 5.30 PM, Closed on Thursday and Saturday.
Entry Fee: Rs. 5 for Indian citizens and Rs. 20 for Foreigners.
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Sacred Heart Church
A brick-built double-storeyed church is the distinct art of French Architect Jacques Duchatz. The building with a colossal dome in the middle has one main entrance and arched French windows on the front. The artworks of the Church are to be praised during the prayers distinctly for their masterpiece works of Belgium glass visible on the upper portion of the prayer hall and various incidents in the life of Jesus Christ depicted on the inside walls.
The Chandannagar Strand
The Strand- a decorated pavilion at the ferry point with a plaque dedicated to the French Revolution slogan “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (liberty, equality and fraternity) is etched on it. The day was coming to an end with a beautiful sunset on the horizon. From here, the river appears to be curved like a crescent moon, after which the town was presumably named (Chand Nagar = Chandannagar). If you have watched the movie Khaani 2, you may quickly identify this spot.
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How To Reach?
Around 40 km from the north of busy Kolkata, which embraces the banks of the Ganges river, is the small, beautiful erstwhile French colony today known as Chandannagar. It is connected by the popular GT Road of India, which takes 50 mins to drive from Kolkata.
I preferred a bit as the traveller, so I took a bus to Sealdah station. I booked a ticket of ₹10 to Shyamnagar station and moved on the Naihati Local train. It took almost an hour to reach the station, moved towards platform 01. I got a shared auto at ₹10 to Jagaddal Ghat Mor then nearly a 15-20 mins walk from here to the ghat. A pleasant walk in the lanes of old worn-out buildings lets you wonder about the charm and glory this place might have. The Jetty charges ₹9 to cross the mighty Ganges on the other side of the river bank of Chandannagar.