A river is often described as the lifeline of a city and a Ghat is described as a broad flight of steps that is situated on a riverbank to provide access to the water body, especially for bathing. Apart from that, a Ghat is also used for ferry service. During the early days of Calcutta, Chandpal Ghat was the busiest ferry Ghat of the city and was often called the gateway of Calcutta. It retained its ‘busiest’ title for quite a long time, even after the independence of the country, till the Circular Railway started to operate in the city.
In the ‘Plan of Fort William and part of the city of Calcutta’ surveyed in 1753, the name of Chandpal Ghat was mentioned as the southernmost Ghat on the River Hooghly. History says, Sir Philip Francis and his fellow Councillors of the Supreme Council of India under the East India Company, disembarked here in 1774. It may be mentioned here that, Sir Philip was one of the chief antagonists of Warren Hastings and later, his accusations against Hastings led to the impeachment of Warren Hastings and Elijah Impey by the British Parliament.
Since the arrival of Sir Philip, Chandpal Ghat had earned a special class or a special category among the Ghats of Calcutta. On 12th September 1786, Lord Cornwallis, the first Governor General of India, also landed at this Ghat. Gradually, Chandpal Ghat became the gateway, not only of Calcutta, but also of British India. As Calcutta became the most important trading centre in India, the importance Chandpal Ghat was also increased accordingly.
Usually, any foundation, be it a temple, a building or a Ghat, is named after a deity or a celebrity or the founder. However, Chandpal Ghat is an absolute exception to this general custom. It is believed that Chandranath Paul, after whom the Ghat was named, was neither a rich man nor an eminent person. Popularly known as Chandpal, he was a petty shop owner, who used to sell the necessary household items from his petty shop by the side of the Ghat. With time, the name of the petty shop owner became synonym of the Ghat.
The ferry service to and from Chandpal Ghat is still functioning well, especially during the rush hours of the day. There is a jetty or a bridge, which goes up from the concrete slab towards the main road outside. The jetty consists of two lanes, one to come in and the other to go out. Apart from avoiding the terrific traffic jam, one can freely enjoy the serene beauty and cool breeze blowing over the river while crossing the river by the ferry service.