Chandernagor : The Lost French Colony of West Bengal

A quiet suburban town, this place is a slice of Pondicherry, yet so different. Established in 1673, Chandernagor (also referred as Chandannagar or Chandernagore) is a small town that has witnessed the French Colonial Rule in India as well as the struggles under the British Rule.

Located 35 kms from Kolkatta and 54 kilometres from the Vidyasagar Setu, Chandernagor today is somewhere lost in its own shadows. Once the erstwhile French Trading Post, the heritage buildings are now slowly getting depleted and only a few remain.

Places to See in Chandernagor

It ‘s the Gates of Chandernagor with the quote “Liberte Egalite Fraternite” that first welcomes you to this unusual less explored French Colony.

Inscription on Chandannagar Gate, Image Courtesy@Indiamike

The Chandernagor Strand: Take a walk along the promenade or simply admire the beauty of Hoogly, as you stand under the Strand.

There is a artificial rock climbing wall that maybe adventurous for those looking out for more fun. The Govt. of Bengal also run motor rides in the river at regular intervals.

The French Strand at Chandernagor
Outsider View of the Strand. Image Courtesy@AnilVohra

Catch the locals gossip around their daily life or stroll around to discover the by lanes of this fascinating town and marvel at its hidden heritage buildings.

Interesting Heritage Homes at Chandannagor
Exquisite Carving on a Door
Inner lanes of Chandannagore, Image Courtesy @Serena Chopra
Heritage Buildings of Chandannagore

And yes, do visit the Durga Charan Rakshit ghat which was named after Durga Charan, a courtier of the French Government who owns the distinction of becoming the first Indian to be conferred with the Chevalier de Legion d’Honour (Remove term: Chevalier de Legion d’HonoKnight of Legion of Honor)

Chandernagor Museum & Institut De Chandernagor (Former Dupleix Palace):

Institute of Chandernagor, Image Courtesy@Razzwashere

Both are located in the former house that was built for Joseph François Dupleix, the first governor of Chandernagor. With a small yet interesting collection of French antiques including paintings on Ivory, wooden furniture and lots of old maps and literature, the Museum is a treasure trove of the Anglo-French era. There’s even a French Language Center at the Institute run by the Govt. of Bengal where you may enroll for French Classes! Although a lot of initiative and work has been undertake in collaboration of Embassy of France in India, VMF Paris and French Heritage in India Society, the place still needs a lot of care for its conservation.

Interesting to know that the same place was also converted into a French Hotel for some time.

Hotel de Paris, An Old Pic of the Institute De Chandernagor

Public Library of Chandernagore: The Public Library of Chandernagore is one of the most striking building and stands proud even after so many years.

Public Library Chandernagore, Image Courtesy@GuideWithMe

The Patal Bari: With its lowest floor completely submerged in the Ganges, the Patal Bari is aptly named. The underground house belonged to the Zamindars of  Bansberia

Patal Bari as seen from the Strand Road, Image Courtesy @Razzwashere

Rabindranath Tagore frequently visited the place and has also mentioned Patal Bari is many of his novels. The place inspired him for its construction. Even the famous social reformer Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also stayed in the building for sometime.

Sacred Heart Church: Designed by French Architect Jacques Duchatz around 1875, the Sacred Heart Church is a Roman Catholic Church, located right next to the Institute and the Museum.

Sacred Heart Church at Chandernagor
Beautiful Stained Glass Paintings inside Sacred Heart Church

One may also travel around and see the remains of the Church of St. Louis that makes for a quiet picnic spot.

French Cemetery: Located on the Grand Trunk Road next to Lal Dighi, a local Lake, the French Cemetery is also known as Sacred Heart Cemetery and makes for an interesting trip.

The cemetery contains 150 tombs including the tomb of Duplessis, the founding father of French Chandannagar and of pioneering meteorologist Henry “Storm” Piddington, who is mentioned in Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide.

Temple of Sri Sri Nandadulal: Built in 1740 by Indranarayan Roychoudhury, the Temple of Nandadulal has idols of Kali, Shiva and other deities.

Nandadulal Mandir

Borai Chandi Temple: Idol of Goddress Durga was discovered here and since then the place is sacred to the locals.

People also like to spend some time at Vivekananda Mandir (a meditation center located by the river) and visiting Rabindra Bhawan, a center for art.

Festivities and Celebrations

Chandannagor is famous for its Jagadhatri Puja that is celebrated for 4 days with great grandeur. With superd light works, this is the time when the town glistens and celebrate life.

Jolbhara Sandesh at Surya Modok

Eat: Jolbhora Sandesh or Jalbhara Sandesh was first invented here by Suryakumar Modak and has made Chandernagor more famous. Visit the Surya Modok, the legendary sweet shop and tuck in how much how stomach can hold!

More Food Options available at:

  • Benarasi Singh’s fuchka: located on the strand, the fuchka’s here are mouthwatering!
  • Ganesh Sweets: for its yummy lassi
  • Rabida’s Pakoda: besides there famous Mega sized Chicken Pakoda with spicy chilli sauce, you must try the vegetable pakora’s too
  • Satnam Garden Restaurant, Court More
  • Bolaida’s fish fry: near Chandernagore Municipal Corporation in Burrabazar
  • Royal Biryani, Bagbazar
  • Shalimar Hotel, Barabazar
  • Rasoi Restaurant, Strand Road
  • Majlish Restaurant, Lakshmiganj Bazar

    History of Chandernagor

    It was Ibrahim Khan, the Nawab of Bengal who had given Chandernagor to be converted to a Frech Trading Post; while Bengal was still under the Mughal Empire.

    In 1688, it became a permanent French settlement. It was in1730 when Joseph François Dupleix was appointed the governor of the city who changed the towns landscape by building more than 2000 brick houses and enhanced the maritime trade. But soon after in 1756 a war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Chandernagor was captured by Colonel Robert Clive of the British East India Company and Admiral Charles Watson of the British Navy on 23 March 1757 (battle of Chandernagor). Most of the town’s fortifications and houses were demolished during this time. The town 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 miles enclave of surrounding territory. It was governed as part of French India until 1950, under the political control of the governor-general in Pondicherry even after India’s independence in 1947. India became independent of Britain in 1947, and in June 1948 the French Government held a plebiscite which found that 97% of Chandernagor’s residents wished to become part of India. In May 1950, the French allowed the Indian government to assume de facto control over Chandernagor, officially ceding the city to India on 2 February 1951. De jure transfer took place on 9 June 1952. On 2 October 1954 Chandernagor was integrated into the state of West Bengal. (excerpts taken from https://anilvohraphotography.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/chandernagore)

Distance Chart

From Kolkatta: 35 kms

From Vidyasagar Setu: 54 kms

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3 thoughts on “Chandernagor : The Lost French Colony of West Bengal

    1. I am glad you liked it. I glanced at this place while in Kolkata last year but never knew much till I read yours and Nat Geo Traveller’s short guide. Thank you for clicking those amazing pictures. I am sure people would love to explore this fascinating little treasure and travel there to rediscover the rich heritage.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. True. There is a yesterday’s Europe along on the banks of Hooghly. The Portuguese at Bandel, the Dutch at Chinsurah and the Danish at Serampore are all nearby..maybe you could cover those in your next visit. All the best !!

        Liked by 1 person

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