Chinsurah or Chuchura (as it is called) is a town in the district of Hooghly, West Bengal. Situated on the bank of the Hooghly river, Chinsurah was once considered as the most beautiful city of West Bengal. Today, this town stands as an example of elegant architecture, with a plethora of architectural marvels that include churches, mosques, gardens, clock towers, etc.
The Dutch Connection
Apart from being a scenic destination, this town is also known for its rich history. The Dutch built a factory on the site of present-day Chinsurah, which was used for intra-Asian trade of spices, cotton, indigo, etc. in as early as 1656. In 1759, a troop from Chinsurah attacked British forces which were under the control of a certain Colonel Forde. This led to the initiation of the Battle of Chinsurah, which barely lasted for half an hour and resulted in the absolute demolition of the Dutch troop. In around 1795, the British occupied the town of Hooghly. However, in 1814, a settlement was reached between the Dutch and the British which put the Dutch back into power. Finally, in 1825, the Dutch gave away many of their possessions in India to the British, which included Chinsurah.
Chinsurah also finds an important mention in the Bengal Renaissance and Freedom Movement. Notable literary figure Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, who was an alumnus of the Hooghly Collegiate School, composed India's national song, Vande Mataram at Jogarhat in Chinsurah.
Places to Visit in Chinsurah
1. Edwardian Clock Tower
Also known as Ghorir More, this clock tower is a piece of British architectural marvel. Located at the centre of the town, this clock tower was built around 1914, in honour of Edward VII and serves as the town's prime attraction.
2. Sandeshwar Temple
Located on the riverfront at Chinsurah, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple complex also houses numerous small temples and is one of the most visited sites in the town. A ritual held on the last day of the Bengali calendar involves taking out the brass Shiva Linga and two brass drums (belonging to the temple) for public display.
3. Dutch Cemetery
The Dutch Cemetery of Chinsurah, which is a site protected by the Archeological Survey of India makes your hair rise, even on the brightest of days. Numerous graves from as early as 1743 rest under a thick green canopy. The latest addition to this site was a grave which is said to have been built around 1840.
4. St. John the Baptist Church
The second oldest Christian Church in Bengal and the oldest Armenian Church in India, this Church was built by the Armenians in around 1699. As the name suggests, this Church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and is maintained by the Committee of Armenian Churches. The feast of John the Baptist is celebrated with great enthusiasm during the 13th to 14th of January each year.
5. Bankim Bhavan
Bankim Bhavan at Joger Ghat is a site of great historic and literary importance. Although now in ruins, it was in this house that iconic poet, writer and journalist Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote India's national song Vande Mataram. Hence, Bankim Bhavan is also known as 'Bandematarm Bhavan'. Apart from the national song, he also wrote a famous literary piece like 'Krishnakanter Will' and 'Rajani' while residing in this house.
Apart from the sites mentioned above, Chinsurah also houses several residential and Government buildings which are a living example of British and Dutch architecture.
6. Bandel Church
Founded in 1599, the Bandel Church, also known as The Basilica of the Holy Rosary is one of the oldest and most prominent Churches in the state of West Bengal, as well as in India. Dedicated to Mother Mary, this Church also finds it significance as a Parish Church which is a part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kolkata. The Bandel Church serves as a testimonial the Portuguese settlement in the state. The Church includes three altars, an organ, numerous tombstones and a Shrine to Mother Mary. One will find a mast right in front of the Church, which is said to have been presented by the Captain of a ship that came across a storm in the Bay of Bengal. The Captain remained unharmed, who then credited his rescue to Mother Mary and presented the mast as a token of gratefulness.
7. Hooghly Imambara
Built in the year 1861, the Imambara is perhaps one of the most prominent attractions in the Hooghly district. This monument serves as a congregation hall as well as a mosque for the Shia Muslims. The walls of the mosque are engraved with intricate designs and texts from the Holy Quran. A striking feature of the monument is a giant clock on the main entrance, right between the twin towers. The clock has two dials and three bells. The smaller bells ring at an interval of 15 minutes while the bigger ones ring at an interval of one hour. Two people wind the clock for half an hour each week. The twin towers are approximately 150 ft. in height and have about 150 steps.
8. Hooghly Jail
The imprisonment of legendary poet, writer and musician Kazi Nazrul Islam made the Hooghly Jail a famous location. During the 1920s, Kazi Nazrul was charged with sedition by the British government. He was then shifted from the Alipore Jail to the Hooghly Jail, where he went on a month-long fast as a sign of protest against the mistreatment of prisoners by the British superintendent. He was eventually released from the Hooghly Jail in December 1924.
9. Chandannagar Strand
A walkway along the Hooghly river, Chandannagar Strand is a famous spot among locals and tourists alike. The pathway is about 1 kilometre long and is adorned with many establishments of historical importance, like the Swami Vivekananda Temple. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll on a breezy evening while watching the boats sail by.
Best Time to Visit
Due to the pleasant weather and a plethora of festivals in Bengal, October - March is considered to the best time to visit Chinsurah.
How to Reach Chinsurah
By Train: Chinsurah has three main stations-Chuchura, Hooghly and Bandel on the Howrah line and Hooghly Ghat on the Sealdah line. Chuchura railway station is well connected with other major rail stations like Howrah, Naihati, Burdwan, etc.
By Bus: Chinsurah is well connected with West Bengal's capital Kolkata and neighbouring towns such as Tarakeshwar, Chandannagar, Arambagh, Bankura, Bishnupur, Haripal via bus service. The major auto routes for Chinsurah include Chuchura court- Bandel Junction Rail Station, Chinsurah High Court- Hooghly Railway Station, and Chinsurah court- Tribeni.
Ferry: Chinsurah is accessible from Naihati through ferry service.
By Road: Chinsurah is located at a distance of about 54 kilometers from Kolkata, making it a drive of approximately 2 hours.