Barrackpore - A tete a tete with the city :
Originally known as : Chanak
Location : Eastern India, West Bengal, North 24 Parganas district
Founded in : Before 1st century BC.
Best time to visit : October to March
Local Transport : Rickshaw, auto rickshaw, private cars and buses
Places to see : Mangal Pandey Park, Gandhi Ghat, Gandhi Museum, Dhobhi Ghat and many more places
Souvenirs : Jute products and handloom materials.
Barrackpore - The Tale of the city :
History has it that Barrackpore has featured in all the written works of Greek geographers, navigators and historians during the 1st century BC to 3rd century AD. It was then known was Gangaridae.Towards the 15th century, Barrackpore had towns like Chanak under its control. Barrackpore was then a great marketing centre. Then the Mughal Empire flourished in Bengal and the state was divided into Circars or subunits as per administrative rule. Each Circar had a Mahal. Barbuckpur or Barrackpore was connected with one such Mahal as per the Ain-e-Akbari. The Zamindars ruled here in the 17th century. When the British ruled the first barrack was built here thus giving the region its present name. Barrackpore was the venue where the Government House and Estate was built as the residence of the viceroy. Barrackpore saw two kinds of rebellion - one was the Sepoy Binda Tiwary of 1824 and the other was the 1857 mutiny. This is the place where Mangal Pandey the Indian soldier attacked a British Commander. This was the beginning of a movement as the British disbanded Mangal Pandey’s regiment. Besides Rastraguru Surendra Nath Bandopadhyaya also belonged to Barrackpore. He was the one who started the Indian Nationalist Movement. Barrackpore is also the birth place of Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya who was born in Naihati, Barrackpore.
Barrackpore - Down the Ages :
Down the ages, Barrackpore or Barrackpur, has come to be a part of the area belonging to the Kolkata Metropolitan Authority. Today it is the headquarters of the Barrackpore subdivision and lies in the North 24 Parganas District of West Bengal. It is situated in the delta region of the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra. Lying around 23km from the city of Kolkata, it is situated on the banks of the River Ganges. The River Hooghly flows in Western Barrackpore and so the region is an industrial zone with jute, paper and cotton mills flourishing here. It has the oldest water treatment plant at Palta. The literacy rate here is above the main average of the literacy rate of not only the district but also the state.
Barrackpore - A Rendezvous :
A rendezvous with Barrackpore, the British barrack town, shows that it has a population of more than 1,45,000. With an average literacy rate of 81%. It is the proud owner of having the only military cantonment and Police training Academy. It has a tropical climate with occasional thunderstorms and hailstorms. Monsoon begins here from June and goes on till September. Today the subdivision of Barrackpore is bifurcated with 16 Municipalities and two main blocks. Each subdivision has 11 Constituencies for the Assembly and 2 main constituencies for the Parliament. There is a board of cantonment and chairmen of the Municipality to take care of the administration. Gram Panchayats take care of administration in villages. A municipal chairman takes care of the municipalities. This chairman is elected by the municipal councilors. The municipal councilors are elected by the Gram Panchayats. All the problems like road lighting, prevention of diseases, pollution control and basic living amenities are taken care of by these bodies. The Ganga Action Plan here takes care of the river pollutants and also of the plant and animal lives.
Barrackpore - Travel kitty :
The travel kitty here is to see how the city has flourished well and has many industries like jute, cotton, engineering, handicrafts and small scale cottage industries. The way this region has irrigation facilities and the method of agriculture here also has a good impact on people visiting this place and they are also enthralled by the horticulture and pisciculture along with the floriculture practices here. The Central Inland Fisheries is responsible for production of good quality fishes. The innumerable kinds of religious monuments here also are a good travel kitty.
Barrackpore - Joie de vivre in the city :
Barrackpore, the city of Sepoy Mutiny, is the place where in the year 1857, on March 29, Mangal Pandey, a soldier in the Bengal Army’s 34th native infantry rose in rebellion against the British and hurt two army officers. The joie de vivre is therefore to feel the patriotic feel that people here still have for the hero. The innate ability to still keep alive the flames of the freedom movement is what is striking here . A person coming here would see the following :
Parks and Gardens :
Mangal Pandey Park : Barrackpore is the place where Mangal Pandey rose in rebellion and wounded two British officers with his sword and musket. It was here that he was finally hung on April 8, 1857. Even today the entire town of Barrackpore pays respect to this great hero in the Indian Freedom movement. The Mangal Pandey Park is a proof of the respect shown and also has a Mangal Pandey statue in a busy junction. The park has a memorial to the soldier. The bust sized statue of Mangal Pandey is proof of the days that were and the reason why today people can amble in the park. There is a metal canopy which protects the bust from natural problems like sun, rain and wind. There is a Radhachura tree which gives shade to the statue. Beside the statue there is a baby elephant statue that looks as if it is raising its trunk in respect. There is a person who bathes this statue every day while watering the plants in the park. The whole of Barrackpore still salutes this great hero who laid down his life for the freedom of the country.
Jawaharkunja Garden : this garden is a favorite of the tourists and is a popular picnic spot. It is situated before the Gandhi Ghat. The Government of West Bengal Directorate of Forests takes care of these forests. There are facilities to hire kitchen sheds and have a picnic here. The area though not well maintained yet is a popular spot for picnics. The lovely park with its amazingly huge size and wide variety of flowers is a photographer’s delight. A pond in the centre of the park with water lilies and lotuses floating makes a beautiful scene.
Gandhi Ghat : This is the place which has the Gandhi memorial. It also has a certain portion where the ashes of the Mahatma lie. Murals depicting the entire work of Gandhi are shown on the walls. There is a white arch which is the entry to the memorial. The Ghat looks lovely with the breeze blowing from the River Ganga. The Krishnachura tree shades the park and the experience is enthralling. The serenity and calmness of the place takes a visitor in and the beauty here is mesmerizing.
Nishan Ghat : This was a ghat that was built by the East India Company. It was built so that the Governor General could use it. Besides it was also utilized by his guests and other senior people of the John L Company. The Mangal Pandey Park lies near this ghat.
Dhobhi Ghat : This was another ghat that was built in those times around the residing place of the dhobis. This is the place where the local washermen or dhobis used to wash their clothes. Today this is the place which is used to ferry people across to the other side,Serampore
Buildings in History :
Gandhi Museum : This is a place which has a collection of Gandhi’s works. It is situated on Riverside Road. Formed in the year 1961, this has a large variety of photographs which show the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Around 12000 books and 28,000 letters written by the Mahatma have been stored here. There are press clippings, tape recordings, bulletins pertaining to the life of the Mahatma. The best part is the 81 feet painting in mural by Professor Dhirendra Nath Brahma which is an unbelievable work of art.
Flag Staff House : This is one of the buildings during the time of the British which was built in the year 1863 - 1865.It is located near the vice Regal House.
Masonic Lodge : This was established in the year 1870. It was then known as the St.Luke Lodge. Today it is known by this name from the year 1953. Today it is still functional but is in a dilapidated condition.
Bartholomew Cathedral : This is a majestic cathedral that is located on the road meeting the Governor’s house. It is basically a structure that was earlier built for the soldiers and the English gentlemen.
Besides the St. Bartholomew’s Church, Barrackpore also has the St.Joseph’s Church and the Sacred Heart Church. All the churches bear testimony to the beautiful historical past.
Indira Gandhi Water Treatment Plant : This was established in the 18th century. The Barrackpore Trunk Road got its origin from the need to lay the water pipe line from Palta to Kolkata. Kolkata gets its treated water supply from Palta Water Works as also the Garden Reach Water Works. In the year 2002 , on November 19th the Water Works was renamed as the Indira Gandhi Water Treatment Plant. Today it has a capacity of 200 million gallon.
The Central Inland Fisheries Research Institute : This prestigious institution is as old as independent India. One of the most premier research institutes, this was established in the year 1947 and shifted to Barrackpore in the year 1959 and then got taken over by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in the year 1967. The Institute aims at having investigations for improving the resources of the inland fisheries in the country. Besides this, the institute also tries to bring about better methods for conserving the fisheries and to utilize them better.
Barrackpur Cantonment : This is a town in the subdivision of Barrackpore. Barrackpore comes under the North 24 Parganas District and is known more for the arsenic contamination in the ground water. A walk through the cantonment, is a pleasurable experience. The lovely verdant expanse, and the winding paths along with the fallen leaves enhances the feeling here and the feeling of wet earth is ecstatic. This is the oldest cantonment in India and the area is very historical and nostalgic. The creepers and the trees here, give the entire area a canopy look and the look is mystical. The woody look and the intermittent warehouses that crop up , show the colonial life of the past that existed here. The entire area has stood the test of time and the endless road here makes us feel as if we are walking towards heaven. The sound of the chirping birds, and the serenity of the surroundings, fills the heart with a kind of delight never experienced. A total nature lover’s paradise and a must see for every visitor coming to Barrackpore.
Kali Temple : Situated near the RCTC area of Barrackpore, this temple near a pond is more than 7 centuries old. Soldiers were said to pray here before planning any action for the freedom movement. The founder of Kolkata was Job Charnock. His Indian wife is said to have been a regular at this temple.
Tarakeswar Temple : This is a famous pilgrim centre in Bengal near Barrackpore. Situated near Serampore near the city of Kolkata, this temple was built in the 18th century. There is a congregational hall in the porch and the shrine has two portions - the veranda and the sanctum. The plain sanctum has a linga in the centre. The outside portion of the linga is like a Bengali hut and there are three spires on it. The four-sided porch has three arches opening out to the outside and the marbled floor enhances the beauty. The porch is around 25 feet square and 30 feet high. An open hall overlooks this porch and this hall has a roof which is supported by pillars and a marbled floor.
Chandannagar temple : The Nandulal temple here is very popular. Built by Indra Narayan Choudhry in the year 1740, this temple has magnificently crafted sculptures. Here we also find impressively built temples with Goddess Kali, Lord Shiva as the presiding deities. The brilliant works of crafts and the artistic flavor of the times of ancient era is represented well in these temples.
Nabadwip temples : The Shantipur, Mayapur, Chaitanya Math and Sonar Gouranga temples of Nabadwip are very popular and can be reached from Barrackpore. Ferry connects Barrackpore with Nadia district thereby connecting to Nabadwip.
Mayapur : This is a very popular spot for tourists. They come here from all over to visit the Hare Krishna ISKCON temple here. The Radha Madhava deities are found here and the idols are surrounded by eight gopis. The statues of Narasimha Deva and the Pancha Tatva have been enshrined here in the temple.
Kamarpukur temple : Gopeshwar temple located in Kamarkpukur is a very famous temple. The presiding deity here is Lord Shiva. Sukhlal Goswami founded the big Shiv ling here. Sukhla and his forefather Gopilal Goswami are ardent worshippers of Lord Shiva. It is believed that it is in this temple that Sri Ramakrishna’s mother prayed before getting her son cured from ecstatic moods like madness. She performed penance here to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. A much revered temple amongst Shiva devotees, this is a good pilgrim spot near Barrackpore.
Tarapith temple : This small temple in the district of Birbhum in Rampurhat, is a temple famous for its tantric works. Dedicated to Goddess Tara, this is believed to be one of the 51 Shakti Peeths, Sage Kailashpati Baba is believed to have lived here.
Rani Rashmoni temple : There is a temple dedicated to Rani Rashmoni of Jan bazaar Kolkata who dedicated her life to the welfare of women in the male dominated society. A temple dedicated to her is found near Barrackpore.
Besides temples and churches, Barrackpore also has mosques.
Barrackpore - Entertainment Factor :
Barrackpore is a [place of gaiety, history and entertainment. With the city advancing in all fields, the Durga Puja festival is celebrated here with a month long fair. The fair held on the banks of the River Ganga in Shyamnagar is a congregation of cultures and traditions. Besides this there are annual festivals held at Panihati and Khardaha.
In this way, with a blend of tradition, culture, and history, Barrackpore comes across as a flourishing city with a great tale to tell.
As one leaves this place, one thinks “ History repeats itself in Barrackpore.”