Chandannagar is a city in the Hooghly district in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is headquarters of the Chandannagore subdivision and is part of the area covered by the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA). Located on the western bank of Hooghly River, the town was a former French colony of India. The city has a unique culture due to the mixed Bengali culture and French culture, different from other cities in West Bengal. Indo-French architecture is seen in the colonial bungalows, most of which are in a dilapidated state. The town still retains some of its Francophone cultures. The name Chandernagor is possibly derived from the shape of the bank of the river Hooghly which is bent like a half-moon (in Bengali, Chand means moon and Nagar implies city), so originally it was Chander Nagar. From the riverbank, it looked like a moon-shaped necklace (crescent moon).
History: Historians are of the opinion that the French created the town by amalgamating various smaller localities in the area. The three notable villages to be incorporated were Gondolpara to the South, Boro in the North and Khalisani to the West. The name “Chandernagor” can be first found in the letter dated 1696, intended for the officials of French East India Company, dispatched by Andre Boureau Deslandes and Palle, French officials posted in Chandernagore. No previous mention of the place was known before this. The First Director of the French East India Company, Deslandes paid 40,000 coins to the Mughal subahdar in 1688 to gain control of the area and build a factory there. But the first Frenchman to possess any subsequent landholding in this area was Du Plessis who bought land of 13 Arpents at Boro Kishanganj, now located at North Chandannagar for Taka 401 in the year 1673–74.
The prosperity of Chandannagar as a French colony started soon after. The Fort d’Orleans was constructed in the year 1696-97. In 1730 Joseph François Dupleix was appointed governor of the city, during whose administration more than two thousand brick houses were erected in the town and a considerable maritime trade was carried on. The population of the city reached to be around a lakh at this time and the town of Calcutta was a poor cousin of Chandannagar. From Dupleix’s time to 1756, Chandannagar was the main centre for European commerce in Bengal. The city had thriving centres of trade involving opium, indigo, silk, rice, rope, sugar, etc. The fine clothes of Chandannagar were exported to Europe.
In 1756 war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Colonel Robert Clive of the British East India Company and Admiral Charles Watson of the British Navy bombarded and captured Chandannagar on 23 March 1757. The town’s fortifications and many houses were demolished thereafter, and Chandannagar’s importance as a commercial centre was eclipsed by that of Calcutta situated downriver. Chandernagore was restored to the French in 1763 but retaken by the British in 1794 in the Napoleonic Wars. The city was returned to France in 1816, along with a 3 sq mi (7.8 km2) enclave of the surrounding territory. It was governed as part of French India until 1850, under the political control of the governor-general in Pondicherry. By 1900 the town’s former commercial importance was gone, and it was little more than a quiet suburb of Calcutta, with a population of 25,000 (1901). Like the other three French-occupied colonies of India, Chandernagore was under Pondicherry’s jurisdiction. There was only one Governor for entire French India. He lived in the principal city of Pondicherry, from time to time he would visit the colonies. There was one Administrator under the Governor in each colony. In June 1948 the French Government held a plebiscite which found that 97% of Chandannagar’s residents wished to become part of India. In May 1950, the French allowed the Indian government to assume de facto control over Chandannagar, officially ceding the city to India on 2 February 1951. De jure transfer took place on 9 June 1952. On 2 October 1954 Chandannagar was integrated into the state of West Bengal.
*(All the above information are from Wikipedia.)
Airport: Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata is the nearest airport located at a distance of 40 km from Chandannagar.
Rail: Chandannagar railway station lies on the Howrah-Bardhaman main line Eastern Railway. Local train from Howrah runs frequently and many express trains also halt in this station.
Road: The Grand Trunk Road (G T Road) connecting Kolkata to Delhi runs through Chandannagar.
Ferry: West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation operates river services across river Hooghly (the Ganges) and also between Chandannagore and Kolkata and Belur.
The Sacred Heart Church of Chandannagar: The church is situated near the Strand. It was designed by French Architect Jacques Duchatz. The church was inaugurated by Paul Goethals 27 Jan. 1884.
French Cemetery: The French Cemetery contains 150 tombs and is located on the Grand Trunk Road opposite Lal Dighi (a large lake). Amongst the remarkable people buried there, one can find the tomb of Duplessis, the founding father of French Chandannagar.
The Underground House (Patal-Bari): The building is another beautiful example of the advancement in the knowledge of architecture and the aesthetic sense of the people of those earlier days. Its lower floor is submerged during monsoon when the level of the river rises. Rabindranath Tagore frequently visited the place and appreciated a lot about the building. He felt that the place influenced him to a large extent and broadened his intellectual capabilities. He mentioned Patal-bari in many of his famous novels. The famous social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also stayed in the building. The house was owned by the zemindars of nearby Mankundu.
Chandannagore Strand: The tree-shaded promenade along the river is about 1 km (0.62 mi) in length and 7 metres (23 ft) in width, and there are many buildings of historical importance along the way. It is a popular spot for local people and tourists alike, who love to stroll along enjoying the breeze and watching the small boats sail by.
Chandannagore Museum and Institute: The Chandannagore Museum was established in 1961. It boasts a collection of French antiques (such as cannons used in Anglo-French war, wooden furniture of the 18th century, etc.) which are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The institute still teaches French through regular classes. Jogendra Nath Sen, resident of Chandannagar who died in France fighting in the World War I. His personal items were sent to his brother in India who later donated them to the Institut de Chandernagore in Chandannagar.
The other places of attraction are Chandannagar Gate, Nandadulal Temple, Nritya Gopal Smriti Mandir, Bishalakshmi temple, Sabinara Thakurbari and others.
All the places in Chandannagar can be covered in one day if one starts early.