The Chandernagore (Chandannagar) City – a former French colony – snuggled on the banks of the river Hooghly still bears testimony to the bygone era. An important trading centre of the colonial period, Chandernagore is also known for its cultural richness which is a blend of both the Indian and French culture. 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. In 1947 the people of Chandannagar formed an administrative council with the President and five members. In the same year. isthe town was declared as a free city. The French National Assembly started the Free city administration in November 1947. The French administrator was still there, holding nothing but a mere nominal power. With the Plebiscite of June, 1949, the administration of Chandannagar came under the authority of the Administrative Council. The de-facto transfer took place on the end of May 1950, on which very day the last French administrator Mr. G.H. Tailleur left Chandannagar leaving the town completely independent of France. The de’Jure transfer took place in June, 1952. Finally the administration of Chandannagar was handed over to the West Bengal. Government on October 2, 1954.
In this era of urbanisation when most of the old buildings are being pulled down to make place for the new ones, Chandernagore have been able to shelter and preserve most of them. The ‘ Patal Bari’ ( meaning the underground house) – where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is said to have penned some of his works – still stands strong on the banks of the Hooghly. The ‘Chandernagore Museum and Institute’, the residence of Joseph Francois Dupleix, the former Governor of the city, boasts of a collection of French artefacts. Another iconic structure is the two century old ‘Sacred Heart Church’ near the Strand Road. The long corridors, stained glasses, scenes from the bible, all depict the beauty of the French architecture. The ‘ Nandadulal Temple’ (devoted to the Indian deities) which is built in the do chala (double sloping roof) style native to Bengal, but is, surprisingly, devoid of the terracotta work that is typical of buildings in this district. Another historical landmark is the ‘ Nritya Gopal Smriti Mandir’ which still serves as a theatre hall and library. This library has one of the largest collections of books in French, English and Bengali in the district. Last but not the least, another main attraction of Chandernagore is the ‘Strand’. This tree-shaded boulevard along the river Hooghly which is an embodiment of serenity comes to life after sun down becoming a hub of recreation and merrymaking. This Strand road is dotted with most of the above mentioned historical landmarks all along its length. Some of the other tourist attractions include the ‘Chandernagore Gate’ which was erected to mark the Fall of Bastille. The ‘French Cemetry’ is another attraction of the town.
Chandernagore is also known for its celebration of the ‘Jagadhatri Puja’ – a five day festival held in the month of October or November. The decked up idols, creative pandals and the scintillating lightings draw huge crowd from all over the world.
Fortunately, Chandernagore has also been able to maintain some of its greenery and the avifauna and smaller mammals like mongoose and rodents, courtesy the big orchards, ponds and the few rambling mansions.
Chandernagore is a rare combination of historical heritage, cultural richness and modernity. The ever hurrying waters of the Hooghly is enchanting and a visit to this town is surely worth it .