Jagannanth Ghat - Bustling Bathing Ghats
softetechnologies
17-04-2019    375 times
Jagannanth Bathing Ghat

Constructed aesthetically in classical European style by Shobharam Basak, Jagannanth Ghat is located on the eastern bank of River Hoogly, just to the north of the Howrah Bridge. During the early days of Calcutta, Shobharam Basak was a famous trader and merchant, who became a millionaire by supplying textiles to the East India Company. Jagannath Ghat, with a strange drum-shaped crown on its top, was possibly constructed around 1760s. Following the prevailing custom of naming a structure after its founder, initially it was known as Shobharam Basak's Ghat. Later, the name was changed, probably due to the presence of the adjacent Jajannath Temple, which was also constructed by Shobharam himself, at an earlier date. Mullick Ghat, the famous flower market of Calcutta, built by Rammohan Mullick, in memory of his father Nimai Mullick, is a close neighbor of Jagannath Ghat.

Jagannath Ghat c1760s
Jagannath Ghat c1760s

However, after two and half century of its construction, the name of the Ghat was suddenly and ridiculously changed to 'Chotulal's Ghat'. The story behind the renaming is based on a story, which is said to be linked with the sudden discovery of a bunch of old photographs of colonial Calcutta in a shoebox. In the bunch, two photographs of Jagannath Ghat were marked by some unknown and unidentified person, as Chotulal's Ghat. Based on those unauthenticated markings, the established name of a well known structure was surprisingly and shockingly replaced overnight in 2012. It is simply unimaginable and baffling how the experts and the recognized institutions could reject a well established name unhesitatingly and unceremoniously without investigating about the unknown marker of those photographs, taken by Johnston & Hoffman in 1885 and accept the new name unquestioningly. It is interesting to note that the name 'Chotulal's Ghat' is nowhere mentioned in any historical accounts and maps relating to the city of Calcutta.

Jagannath Ghat c1760s - aerial view
Jagannath Ghat c1760s - aerial view
Jagannath Ghat c1760s

In view of the changed situation, a question regarding the identity of so called Chotulal naturally triggers the brain cells. It is definite that he was not a celebrity or an eminent person during those days. May be, he was just an ordinary man like Chandpal, the owner of a small shop at one of the Ghats of River Hoogly, which in the course of time was named after him as Chandpal Ghat. There is also a distant possibility that the so called Chotulal was somehow related to the family of Chiranji Lal-Sham Lal, who had their family business of a steamer cargo service from Jagannath Ghat steamer station. In that case, it is not entirely impossible that Chotulal had some significant role in conducting the business from Jagannath Ghat and due to his known identity among the locals, that Ghat earned the nickname Chotulal's Ghat in course of time. However, this is only a hypothesis, which may be right or wrong. Nevertheless, there is documentary evidence, which supports that in the past, there was an active marine dispatch service station at Jagannath Ghat, managed by some Lals.

Cargo arrival notice to Lals at Jaggarnath Ghat
Cargo arrival notice to Lals at Jaggarnath Ghat

Today, the imposing and massive building of Jagannath Ghat is almost lost in the wide wilderness of the hustle and bustle of the crowded locality. Nobody seems to be aware about its existence or the exact location where it stands or the direction to reach before it. In fact, the beauty and grandeur of the building is now almost hidden behind a clutter of hoardings and illegal constructions. However, despite its dilapidated condition, it is still structurally strong, due to its solid foundations and the thick walls. Over the years many additions and alterations have been made to it. As the tidal pattern of the river has altered, new steps have been added to the Ghat. At present it is being maintained and managed by the Kolkata Port Trust.

Interestingly, Chotulal Ghat stands very near to the Mullick Ghat flower market, which is an altogether different structure, without any similarity with the archival photographs of Jagannath Ghat.

Jagannath Ghat 1944
Jagannath Ghat 1944
Jagannath Ghat
softetechnologies
softetechnologies
    Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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