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Hooghly district,West Bengal

Hooghly district is one of the districts of the state of West Bengal in India. It can alternatively be spelt Hoogli or Hugli. The district is named after the Hooghly River.
The headquarters of the district are at Hooghly-Chinsura (Chuchura). There are four subdivisions: Chinsura Sadar, Serampore,Chandannagar, and Arambag.

History

The district of Hooghly derived its name from the town of Hooghly on the west bank of the Hooghly River about 40 km north of Kolkata. This town was a river port in the fifteenth century.

The district has thousands of years of rich heritage in the form of the great Bengali kingdom of Bhurshut. The first European to reach this area was the Portuguese sailor Vasco-Da-Gama. In 1536 Portuguese traders obtained a permit from Sultan Mahmud Shah to trade in this area. In those days the Hooghly River was the main route for transportation and Hooghly served as an excellent trading port.

Within a few decades the town of Hooghly turned into a major commercial center and the largest port in Bengal. Later in 1579-80 Emperor Akbar gave permission to a Portuguese captain Pedro Tavares to establish a city anywhere in the Bengal province. They chose Hooghly, and it became the first European settlement in Bengal. In 1599 the Portuguese traders built a convent and a church in Bandel. This is the first Christian church in Bengal known as ‘Bandel Church’ today.

The Portuguese traders started misusing their powers. They started slave trading, robbery and converting natives into Christians by pressure. At one of point they even stopped paying taxes to the Mughal Empire. As a result, Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the then-ruler of Bengal province, Qasim Khan Juvayni, to block the city of Hooghly. This eventually led to a war in which the Portuguese were defeated comprehensively.

Among other European powers that came to Hooghly were the Dutch, the Danish, the British, the French, the Belgians and the Germans. Dutch traders centered their activities in the town Chuchura which is south of Hooghly. Chandannagar became the base of the French and the city remained under their control from 1816 to 1950. Similarly, the Danish establishment in settlement in Serampore (1755). All these towns are on the west bank of the Hooghly River and served as ports. Among these European countries, the British ultimately became most powerful.

Initially the British were based in and around the city of Hooghly like traders from other countries. In 1690 Job Charnock decided to shift the British trading center from Hooghly-Chinsura to Calcutta. The reason behind this decision was the strategically safe location of Calcutta and its proximity to the Bay of Bengal. As a result, the center of gravity of trade and commerce in the Bengal province shifted from the town of Hooghly to Calcutta. Hooghly lost its importance as Calcutta prospered.

After the Battle of Buxar this region was brought under direct British rule until India’s independence in 1947. After independence this district merged into the state of West Bengal.

Though the city of Hooghly is more than 500 years old, the district of Hooghly was formed in 1795 with the city of Hooghly as its headquarters. Later the headquarters shifted to the town of Chuchura. In 1843 the Howrah district was created from the southern portion of this district. And in 1872, the south-west portion of this district was merged into the Medinipur district. The last change in area occurred in 1966.

Tarakeswar Temple

The Taraknath temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva worshiped as Taraknath, is a major pilgrimage spot in the town of Tarakeswar. The Taraknath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva worshiped as Taraknath, is a major pilgrimage spot in the town of Tarakeswar, West Bengal. Built in 1729, the temple is an ‘atchala’ structure of Bengal temple architecture with a ‘natmandir’ in front. Close by are the shrines of Kali and Lakshmi Narayan. Dudhpukur, a tank to the north of the Shiva temple is believed to fulfil the prayers of those taking a dip in it.

Pilgrims visit the temple throughout the year, especially on Mondays. But thousands of pilgrims visit Tarakeswar on the occasions of ‘Shivaratri’ and ‘Gajan’, the former taking place in Phalgun (Feb-March) while the latter lasts for five days ending on the last day of Chaitra (mid-April). The month of Sravana (mid-July to mid-August) is auspicious for Shiva when celebrations are held n each Monday.

Places of Interest

  • Mahesh-Serampore: The Ratha Yatra of Mahesh (Serampore) is the oldest Ratha Yatra after Puri Ratha-Yatra.
  • Kamarpukur is the birthplace of Sri Sri Ramakrishna dev.
  • Tarakeswar is a renowned place of pilgrimage and the greatest centre of the Shiva sect in West Bengal.
  • Bandel is famous for the Bandel Church. Bandel is the birthplace of the eminent writer Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay.
  • Baidyabati is a place to visit the holy house of Bappaditya Chatterjee.
  • Chandannagar is an important and nice town of Hooghly and famous for Jagaddhatri puja and awesome lighting.
  • Chinsurah is the district headquarters and a historical town of Hooghly. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay composed the “Vande Mataram,” the national song of India, at Chinsurah. The Dutch villa is separated at Joraghat and Townguard. They are called ‘Mondal Bari’ as they are now under the aristocratic ownership of the Mondal family. One can see the Dutch lioness murals on the entrance doors and allied wooden motifs. In spite of such historical background, a major portion of the original Dutch villa at Townguard road, where once nationalist leaders used to held meetings and conferences, was demolished and gone into the hands of builders/promoters. The back portion and the joraghat Mondal house with Dutch acknowledgment are intact. The hierarchy of inheritance is becoming weak and the landmark assets needs urgent preservation as well as heritage status application
  • The historical triple cities of Chandanagar-Chinsurah-Serampore are called Little Europe as these were all European colonies.
  • Tribeni and Bansberia