Hooghly or Hugli is a district in West Bengal,India.It is very well known both in Bangladesh and India.

Distance from Kolkata:45  KM

Time:About 30–50minutes by train.

Where to stay:Bandel or Chandanagar(if you have to stay in any case).

Advice:Hotels fare around 1000 Rs or more,just stay in Kolkata.Come back next day unless you want to experience the semi urban area.

 

To my amazement,I learned a year ago tht it ws founded by the Portuguese in 1537.The Portuguese like their fellow Europeans had come in the disguise of trade but in reality wanted to settle and rule.Vasco De Gama was a fellow Portuguese who found the sea route to India when he landed in 1498.Thanks o him the fabled land of India was finally found.There is a saying in Bengali which translates to the saying if you give an inch they will take a yard.

The Portugese called Hooghly Ugolim.

That Is what happened to all the Europeans who came as traders.But that is another story that the British conquered with only 1100 British soilders against an army of the nawab having 34,000 soilders and heavy artillery.Though using deception and money Robert Clive secured Bengal for the British Crown in 1757.A battle which even after 250 years the Bengalis cannot forget.Well he might have used

What most Indian and Bengalis forget Robert Clive did spend studying.He used strategy.

Sun Tzu says :

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.” “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

I always had what so special about this guy Sun Tzu guy and his book Art of War.Ok he is Chinese,so?.Well the above quote amazed me ,and this military commander lived in China around 400 BC.I will bet Robert Clive had read his book:The Art of War.Well you know what I’m going to buy this book!

Sun Tzu also said:


“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

Bengalis,you reading this above quote,right?

So you understand the importance of reading books or pdfs that is.But I would recommend reading the old fashioned away.

History

Pre European:

Hooghly has history going to 3rd century BC to the time of Ashoka the Great.

Then the Mughal rulers conquered Bengal in the 13th Century.

The places to visit is mainly of historical importance for lovers of history.Other is a quiet peaceful city town going about their daily chores.But Hooghly remains a major area of West Bengal from where some of the intellectual thinkers do come from.

So tour of this area will start from Howrah.I mean this where you start if you want to have good view of this area.

Howrah Railway junction is located around 20 km from the Airport.It is known as Howrah,all trains from India coming towards West Bengal must stop here finally.

Saptagram

Satgaon or Saptagram ,presently known as Adisaptagram is Hooghly.Situated about 40 km from Howrah Station.The city is seen when travelling from Howrah to Burdwan by train.

I have passed so many numerous times ,never thought it was worth visiting or exploring!It has history since pre Muslim era.

The Muslims conquered Satgaon under 1298 CE during time of Sultan Rukunuddin Kaukas.Come to think of it,you wonder this place looks sleep and you have wars for conquering this town.Satgaon is part of Hooghly district.During time of Sultan Feroz Shah this place was used as a military base for conquering Sonargaon,which is presently in Bengal around 1324 CE.In around 1535 Sultan Mahmud Shah gave permission to the Portuguese to establish factories in Satgaon and Chittagong(Bangladesh).

Ibn Batuta is said to have entered Bengal through Saptagram or adisaptagram.

In 1579 Antonio Tavares founded Ugolim(Hooghly) though Satgaon was already founded earlier.The Holy Rosary was established in 1599.It is to be noted that lot of wars were fought between the Portuguese of Ugolim and the Mughals.Ultimately they were rounded and taken to Delhi.A miracle happens leaving the Mughal court astounded and finally the Mughal Emperor grants them Hooghly as well as other privileges.

Places to see:

Chandanagar:

This was a town that was ruled by the French uptil 1950.3 years after indian independence.(1947).

The French Director Desplandes paid 40,000 gold coins to Mughal Subedar to gain control of this area.As like other French colonies ,Chandanagar was under Pondicherry.Prominent person who made this place great was IndraNaryan Chaudhari.He came at end of 17th Century from Jessore(Bangladesh).

Well I went there recently and place was unbelievable.Huh the whole area was like Europe somewhat in semi urban Bengal.For some it would be rather interesting.Say in 1740’s you have the Portuguese,French,Danish and British living in Hooghly about max 20 km from each other! This is best summed up by Mridha as :

“Imagine a day, you have started with a great English breakfast with few English friends from Plymouth, UK, then go to an Armenian Church to meet some of your friends over there.

After that you are scheduled to meet some French officials and have lunch with them, you can’t wait to have those French dishes and of course original French wines, but on the way to meet them, some Greeks, travelling with you on the same boat, offered some cheese, you can’t refuse their offer of some original Geek Cheese, meanwhile another Persian traveler offered some dry fruits of their traditional preparation, which just went fabulous with the Greek cheese, this not even the Italian sailor could deny.

Afternoon you spend with some Dutch friends playing cards with Beer which is locally made with Dutch skill. But you can’t stay long over there as you have me meet a Danish family before the sunset but it didn’t take time to forget the Dutch beer when Danish cookies are offered on a nice plate brought from China. “

in Speaking Tree.

The British fought with French because of the Napoleonic wars.Robert Clive did conquer this town(now city) and later returned it to the French.

I mean have a day free in Kolkata,you really should visit Hooghly since whole tour takes around 5 hours.Get Early in the morning and have good breakfast.

Places of interest :

  • Chandannagar Strand
  • Chandannagar Museum
  • The Sacred Heart Church(l’Eglise du Sacré Cœur)
  • French Cemetery
  • Patal Bari(Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar stayed in this place).

Bandel

Bandel was the other trading town that was founded by the Portuguese.It has lot of history and wars with the Mughals.Founded by the Portuguese in 1599 was dedicated to Nossa Senhora da Rosary.The Portuguese was given permission by Emperor Akbar around 1571.

The Portuguese settled in Bandel and the prominence of Hooghly increased.They also made a church in Bandel.A farman or royal order was given by Emperor Jahangir to the Portuguese for continuing their trade in Hooghly.The Portuguese had turned ferocious and had done many wrongs.Also Emperor Shah Jahan was displeased with them.He sent an army with elephants to battle the Portuguese.Finally they surrendered to the Mughal army and were taken as captives to Delhi.Hoping to be killed by the Emperor,a miracle happened in which the elephant picked up a father and let him go.This pleased the emperor and he let them return to Bandel with privileges.The church was rebuilt.

All this in quite Hooghly,doubt if local people know the history around.

Places of interest:

  • Bandel Church

Chinsurah

The Dutch East India Company established their factory in 1645 in Chinsurah.A place that rings a bell.This town known for its court.Most legal matters of Hooghly area are solved here.

The Dutch East Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie known in sort as VOC had also their colony in Serampore.

The Ghorir More(Watch junction) or Clock Tower to commemorate King Edward VI was imported by the British in the 19th Century.

Places of interest:

  • Dutch cemetery built by Louis Tallifiert (director of VOC).
  • Tomb of Susanna Anna Marina.
  • Some parts of Fort Gustavus(inside Hooghly Madrasah).
  • Bara Seal Bari(a majestic mansion built by rich merchant of Chinsurah.
  • Someshwar Temple

Serampore

Serampore a small town is in Hooghly district.About 35 KM from Howrah.It was founded in 1755 as Fredriks Nagore,meaning city of Frederick(in honor of King Frederick VI of Denmark) with the purpose of trading.

Though before the Danish came King of Gaur invited few families to settle in Serampore.

The Danes paid 50,000 Rs. to Nawab Ali Vardi Khan for permission to establish a trading post.The town looks peaceful and elegant.I visited this place twice and really loved it.The Danish government has launched a program called The Serampore Initiative to restore the Danish heritage of the town.The Bengali comedy film called Bhooter Bhabishyat’(Future of the Ghosts) was shot in mansion of the Goswamis(a rich family in Serampore).

The Danish colony was later sold to the British in 1845.

Places of Interest

  • Serampore Rajbari
  • Danish cemetery
  • Serampore College -the oldest in India to impart Western education.
  • Serampore Jute Mill

If you are looking for Nordic influence in India,Serampore is a nice place to visit.

Achipur

This place lies in the banks of Hooghly.But it is not European,rather Chinese.300 Years ago a Chinese named Tong Aschew came to banks of Hoogly about 300 years ago.He later started a sugar mill and was given permission by Warren Hastings.Documents of British India show Tong Aschew was given land by Warren Hastings because of his service to Hastings.He was called Aschi Saheb.

I always wondered how the Chinese got to Calcutta or Kolkata.

Places of interest:

  • Chinese Temple
  • Tomb

It is a nice place for picnic or getaway from the hustling busy scene of Kolkata

 

The above sites are in Hooghly and be visited withing 4-5 Hours and there is no need to stay nearby.You can return to your Kolkata hotel(which takes an hor by train).

There are other places to visit in Hooghly but will be covered in an upcoming post.