To trace and identify the listed ghats of Calcutta is a daunting task, if not impossible. What creates more confusion lies in the fact, in different times one particular ghat is often called by a different name with a different story behind its name. Apart from that, it is very difficult to differentiate and identify the ghats, as the approach of the Mullick Ghat and the other adjoining ghats, standing very near to the iconic Howrah Bridge, are almost lost in the hustle and bustle of the chaotic crowd associated with the famous flower market.
The Chotulal Ghat, also known as the Chotelal Ki Ghat in Hindi, is almost joined to the Mullick Ghat and according to some people, it is not a separate ghat, rather an extension to the well-known Mullick Ghat. According to Kolkata Kaleidoscope - Official Blog of KMC. [KMC BLOG], the ghat was named after Chhotelal Durga Prasad, an eminent lawyer at the Calcutta High Court. There is also a fascinating story behind the construction of the Chotulal Ghat. The local legend says, Chotelal Durga Prasad was a wealthy man, but he had no peace in his mind, as he was childless. One day in the morning, while he was about to take a dip in the holy river, he met a Muslim holy man, a Fakir, who asked him to build a ghat at that place and blessed him by saying that his longing for a child will be fulfilled. In the due course, Chotelal really had a son and to keep his promise, he built the ghat.
However, there is no documentary evidence to prove that, one Chhotelal Durga Prasad, a lawyer at Calcutta High Court, constructed the ghat and it seems that the story behind its naming is also imaginary. In fact, neither the identity of Chhotelal Durga Prasad nor the date of construction of the ghat is really known.
According to puronokolkata.com, though the name of Chotulal Ghat appeared for the first time in ‘City of Calcutta Census Map’ drawn in1913 by Richards, it was not included in the ‘City of Calcutta Map’ drawn by Wagner & Debes in 1914.
Considering everything it seems that, there is no separate entity of the Chotelal Ghat, it is only a byname of the Mullick Ghat. According to another source (e-Kolkata Blog), Baboo Chotelal Durga Prosad was a merchant carrying on business in Radhabazar, Calcutta, who also had business in princely state Furruckabad, now in Uttar Pradesh. After his death, in 1872, his heirs and executors intimated the then Calcutta Port Commissioners, their desire to spend a sum of 100,000 Rupees to construct a bathing ghat in memory of Chotelal Durga Prosad.
They also requested to engage a respectable contractor to construct a building for the proposed ghat. Accordingly, Makintosh, Burn & Co was engaged and the construction of the memorial ghat was completed in 1875. The structure, designed by Richard Roskell Bayne, an English architect, comprised of a single storyed European classical style building, crowned with a drum like cupola. From the description, it seems to be the original pavilion of Nemai Mullick Ghat, built by Ram Mohan Mullick in 1855 in memory of his father and subsequently, the name was shortened to Mullick Ghat. However, that beautiful edifice was modified and ornamental rooftop was destroyed subsequently just to making a new floor in 1987.
There is a white marble plaque embedded high up on the wall on the right side of the stairs leading to Chotelal Ghat, dedicated by a few English women to the memory of those pilgrims, mostly women, who were drowned in that area of the river with the ship named Sir John Lawrence in the cyclone of 25 May 1887.
There is a wrestling ring (akhra) next to the ghat, along with the statue of a Guruji (teacher), which is supposed to be one of the most famous of its kind in Calcutta.