March 26-28, 2018: A photo exhibition on the domestic private heritage buildings of Chandernagore was conducted at the French Institute, Chandernagore. Inhabitants of Chandernagore across numerous age groups participated in the event and were sensitized about the wonder that is Chandernagore! The institute wall not only displayed fascinating photographs of these palatial buildings, but also excerpts from interviews of ‘owner-custodians’ that brought out lively phenomenological narratives and perceptions. It was a visual and emotional treat to the audience who felt attached to the place and space through these vivid illustrations and comments. Experts including A. Panda and Arul from INTACH Pondicherry were invited to deliver presentations to local inhabitants on strategies that had been successful to preserve the built heritage of the former French colony. There were lively presentations, interactions, exchanges among invited experts, project teams, ‘owner-custodians’, and other inhabitants of Chandernagore who turned up for the exhibition.
Multi-Stakeholder Round-Table at the British Council
April 6, 2018: A multi-stakeholder round-table conference was conducted at the British Council, Kolkata on involving the project team, the state government planning officers, secretary of the West Bengal Heritage Commission among others. That the project aims to come up with a comprehensive Heritage Management Strategy by 2020 was explained by the project team. There were brainstorming sessions and exercises involving all participants to explore strategies towards the accomplishment of the project objective. The participants discussed laws that needed to be mobilized, avenues of funding, as well as ways to get over the apathy of private heritage property owners towards conservation.
April 22, 2018: Heritage site visits in Chandernagore and Serampore were conducted followed by river-symposium. Project team members including academicians, photographers, volunteers and invited resource persons (secretary of the West Bengal Heritage Commission and municipal planners) participated in the day-long programme. A fascinating presentation was delivered by the UK Co-PI Dr Helle Jorgensen on the cultural heritage of Tranquebar.
Chandernagore: The sacred Heart Church of Chandernagore, Prabartak School, Ashram and Library, Surya Kumar Modak shop, Liberty Gate, Nrityagopal Smriti Bhavan, Cancer Hospital, Nandadulal Temple and some other old houses.
Serampore: Sir William Carey cemetery, Serampore college, Danish Tavern, Jagannath Temple, Serampore Rajbari, Serampore court and some other old houses.
August 23, 2018: A meaningful meeting and exchange with school teachers of Chandanagore was conducted at the Chandanagore Municipal Corporation to sensitize them about the heritage fest scheduled on November 25. While the Indian PI presented an overview of how this project was formulated as part of a collaborative venture between UK and India and explained in detail project objectives, agenda, and outcomes, the local lead honorary researchers informed the participants about series of events that will be conducted during the heritage fest. Detailed information was also provided about the use of LAYAR App. The honorable Mayor and Education Officer participated in the program and delivered briefly on the significance of this project and the need to scale it up.
Itachuna Rajbari – A Case Study Visit
This one-hectare eighteenth-century palatial compound is one of the very few privately owned functioning heritage enterprise in West Bengal. The larger project team organised a day visit to understand its operational and marketing strategies. It caters to wedding, conference, trade, and for overnight stays and, crucially, it has a functioning dalaan devotional space at its centre with regular services. The place has a significant web presence at itachunarajbari.com
The initiative to start and build this enterprise has its origins with a key single member in the ancestral family who owns the palace. This individual gained commercial expertise in the US and then built up this hospitality enterprise in the former family seat. Although the family does have apartments in Itachuna, they generally reside in Kolkata or abroad. As other visitors, testify on the usual visitor websites, the project team found the place extremely well maintained and well run by professional staff, senior members have good knowledge of English. Team members found the views across the green and prosperous agricultural land from the roof with the rituals ringing out below was very impressive as the evening drew in. It is clear that a great deal of thought has been given to the delivery of the food and beverage offering which have elements of luxury built into it. It is clear that the venue positions itself as giving day visitors and overnight guests a taste of the luxury enjoyed by the Rajbari’s Maratha owners since Shri Safalllya Narayan Kundu began its construction in 1766.
Clearly, Chandernagore and Hugli more generally, with its grand houses near the Hugli River would be the ideal location for homestays or for a similar form of enterprise and a detailed assessment of the viability of this will be a feature of the Project’s future Hugli Heritage Management Strategy Report due in 2020. The contacts made with the senior staff during our visit will help us to learn more about this rare privately-owned success story in West Bengal.
Heritage Walk 1
Tiasha De, student of Chandernagore College and also a member of Hooghly River of Cultures project writes her experiences of a Heritage Walk she conducted on 3rd October
On 3rd October 2018, the first-ever heritage walk delivered by Hooghly River of Cultures Project volunteers took place. It was delivered to forty or so students from the Department of English of Surendranath College for Women, who came up from Kolkata. It was surprisingly easy for me to prepare as I visited so many heritage sites in the course of my volunteering for the project team. I feel lucky when I was invited to deliver the walk at a relatively short notice. I tried my level best to perform the task. On the very day, we started our tour a little late due to some minor difficulties with the late arrival of the bus from Kolkata but it was fine from then on. My expert mentor Mrs Neline Mondal and myself were the ones who guided the students for this Heritage walk. It was a privilege for me to show them all the parts of my hometown. We visited various spots like the Strand, the Church, the Museum, the Library, and the Nandadulal Mandir. The participants were filled with awe on seeing the beauty of the Strand and were also amazed by the story behind every site The tour was successful as later many of them said that it was a great experience for them. I too had a positive experience as a heritage guide and showed them the place I grew up. Dr Ian Magedera and Dr Antara Mukherjee were a big help in shaping my preparation.
Though I did not get an ample amount of time to tell the group everything but it was a fulfilling experience for them and I was happy on seeing such happy reactions of the students. We hope that this kind of heritage walks will keep on happening so that the inhabitants, as well as the visitors, can gain a piece of proper knowledge about Chandannagar as a whole.
Heritage Walk 2
On Christmas day, 2018, Know Your Neighbour organized a Day long Trip to Chandannagar.
Our journey commenced from Howrah Station, while the rest of our group joined us at Chandannagar.
The first part of our program was ably guided by Souptik Choudhury of the Hugli River of Cultures Project who showed us around the town.
We visited the B.Ed College, an interesting example of colonial architecture built by local elites; the French cemetery where we saw the coming together of different European forms of architecture and the tomb of the controversial Radhanath Sikdar, recently discovered; the Lal Dighi where a fort once stood; the Gala Kuthi, where glue (needs better word) was crafted, and which later became the Cancer Hospital, one of the few places where the characteristic French window can still be seen; the Nandadulal temple, built by a local ijaradar in the 1740s, in the style of aatchala.
Stopping for stimulating tea and snacks in the crisp winter afternoon, we went through the Burrabazar area where we saw an old French school, and many examples of how older structures were making way for newer ones, in between catching a glimpse of the জগৎধাত্রী ঠাকুর এর কাঠামো and the Strand area, where we passed by the schools and offices of the yesteryears.
Our walk ended at the Sacred Heart Church, which beautifully lit and decorated for the Christmas.
We then proceeded for the next part of our program to the book fair. Here we had a discussion session on the ‘Representation of the Minorities in the Media’. KYN volunteer Mohona Maitra introduced Know Your Neighbour and our work to the audience.
Sabir Ahamed elaborated on the importance of the initiative and its relevance in current times and spoke of how the media perpetuates stereotypical images of the minorities.
From his ongoing research, our special guest Samrat Amin explained how Bengali soaps and serials, portray images of the Muslims as barbaric, backward, uncivilized, and in dire of rescuing.
KYN Volunteer Madhuri Katti Di spoke on the importance of social media and how its power is being misused to spread ruses and rumours. We were pleasantly surprised at the responses from the audience, who shared with us their stories of amity and unity and made our initiative very meaningful. A local resident perfectly ended the program while sharing his experience with the beautiful Bhakti song of Lallan Fakir.
Our sincerest regards to all our volunteers Mohammad Reyaz, Sabir Ahamed, Madhuri di, Mohona, Sudip Da, and others, Anuran Kar Gupta for the great photos, Antara Muherjee of the Hugli River of Cultures Project, and all who attended the program. We hope you join us for our future events too.”
Heritage Walk 3
On February 10, 2020, the Hugli River of Cultures Project organized a Heritage Tour in Chandannagar for Professor Mandira Chakraborty, Mr. Ron Mitra, and for Mr. Ashok Pande, a travel writer, and translator. The tour was conducted by Souptik Choudhury, a project volunteer. The tour explored the town’s French colonial background, its revolutionary links to the freedom fighters, and the intangible Bengali heritage and culture.
As the quintessential part of any Chandannagar heritage walk, the visitors experienced the fragrance of the French colonial heritage through structures such as the Barasat Gate, Sacred Heart Church, French Museum (formerly known as the French Governor’s House), The Judicial Court compound (previously the Hôtel de Paris), St. Joseph’s Convent, the Municipal Corporation building, the former Dupleix College (now known as the Chandannagar Govt. College) Registry Building along with the famous riverside Strand of Chandannagar and its various “Ghats”. A walk around the Barabazar locality showcased for the visitors the area formerly known as the “Ville Blanche” or “the town for the white people” during the French rule with a few surviving French era buildings and bungalows.
As this tiny town was a major safe haven for the freedom fighters revolting against British rule, the visitors learned about some of the revolutionary activities of Kanailal Dutta, Makhanlal Ghoshal, Rash Behari Bose, Motilal Roy, etc. Gala Kuthi, an ideal place for hiding the revolutionaries is still imbued with the smell of ammunitions while the wind around the Prabarktak Ashram still whispers the words of Sri Aurobindo and Motilal Roy.
The elegant architectures of the magnificent Nritya Gopal Smriti Mandir and the beautiful Patal Bari present the rich history of local affluent and culturally important families like the Setts, Khans, and Rakshits. Nandadulal Temple, built-in 1740, now only laments the glorious past of the town before the British invasion while the 500-year-old Borai Chandi Temple portrays the presence of this locality in ancient times. An idle evening stroll around the old lanes of Sarisha Para gave the visitors the taste of a traditional Bengali “Para” culture, with its many “roak” or stone seats outside the houses where people still sit and have a chat with their neighbours during their leisure time. The unmatchable taste of steaming cups of tea and local bakery made biscuits at the local Bazar concluded the tour.
Pencil sketches of the town’s important heritage sites by some of Chandernagore’s young citizens who participated, representing their schools and colleges, in the drawing competition at the HeritageFest on 25 November 2018
Theme: ‘The heritage building that is most important to me and how I want it to look in the future’
Pre-event drawing entries submitted online by participants for the HeritageFest organised on 25 November 2018
Theme: ‘The heritage building that is most important to me and how I want it to look in the future’
LIST OF WINNERS
PRE-EVENT DRAWING COMPETITION
ALAPAN SAHA Chandernagore Kanailal Vidyamandir, English Section 1st
SWASTIK MODAK Chandernagore Kanailal Vidyamandir, English Section 2nd
ARPAN MALLICK Sri Aurobindo Vidyamandir 3rd
SWETA DEY CHANDERNAGORE COLLEGE
BRINDA SAMANTA CHANDERNAGORE COLLEGE
ARITRA PAUL Supreme Knowledge Foundation 1st
SOUMIT DAS Khalisani Mahavidyalaya 2nd
ALAPAN SAHA Chandernagore Kanailal Vidyamandir, English Section 3rd
SWAPNIL MONDAL CHANDERNAGORE BANGA VIDYALAYA
SOHAM DASGUPTA GANGES GURUKUL
AMLAN MUKHERJEE KANAILAN VIDYAMANDIR, ENGLISH SECTION
SOHAM DASGUPTA Ganges Gurukul 1st
SUDIPTA DATTA & ANUKA MANDI Khalisani Mahavidyalaya 2nd
DIP BAIDYA & SUMIT ROY Chandernagore Banga Vidyalaya 3rd
SULAGNA CHAKRABORTY 1st
GAUTAM PAL & NIRMALYA KOLEY 2nd
REEMA CHATTOPADHYAY 3rd
DEBATE (FOR THE MOTION – In the opinion of the house heritage conservation is an elitist activity)
PREYASI SENGUPTA Lalbagan Balika Vidyalaya 1st
SRIJATA SETT Chandernagore College 2nd
SAYANTAN KHAN Aurobindo Vidyamandir 3rd
DEBATE (AGAINST THE MOTION – In the opinion of the house heritage conservation is an elitist activity)
ADRIJA CHAKRABORTY Supreme Knowledge Foundation 1st
PRIYASA MUKHERJEE Chandernagore College 2nd
SHIRSHENDU PRAMANICK Banga Vidyalaya 3rd
ANKANA BHAR Lalbagan Balika Vidyalaya 3rd
Participants Volunteers Speakers
One Day Symposium on Intangible Heritage
On Sunday 20 January 2019, a symposium was held in the hallowed precincts of ICCR Kolkata.
Purba Chatterjee, Assistant Teacher of English at Konnagar Rajendra Smriti Vidyalaya and Senior Project Volunteer on the Hugli River of Cultures Project, in her talk provided a diachronic overview of the contested histories surrounding the origins of the Puja in Chandannagar.
Oishi Biswas, Student at Chandernagore College and Project Heritage Activist, spoke on the technical developments in lighting technology and how local light artists over the last eighty years or more have used the latest imported technologies to create art forms which have been at the cutting edge of light artistry to create at Puja time, a Bengali version of the French son et lumière, sound and light shows.
Dr Ian Magedera, Senior Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Liverpool and UK Principal Investigator on the Hugli River of Cultures Project, explored the universal fascination with the outsize humanoid form, how it is used to create an inclusive public spectacle.
Dr Ramanuj Konar, Assistant Professor of English at Sarat Centenary College and Project Photographer, showed through his photographs how Chandannagar Jagadhatri Puja is a diverse form of cultural expression, decentralised across the urban fabric of the town and only coming together in one final procession at its climax.
Dr Pinaki De, Film Maker and Assistant Professor of English at Raja Peary Mohan College, spoke on ‘The Carnivalesque: Celebration of Jagadhatri Puja in SAMAYITA’. This paper explored how a hybrid fact and fictional form is being used to provide a historically accurate depiction of the material cultures associated with Jagadhatri Puja and a grand narrative to appeal to make a film that can appeal to all segments of society to help to anchor among the general public the cultural value.
Pushpen Saha, Guest Faculty in English at Sarat Centenary College and Producer of the project Jagadhatri Puja docudrama spoke on ‘Behind the Scenes: The Making of SAMAYITA’ to explore the technical challenges of working on the film to provide the authentic flavour and anthropological accuracy through understatement. The paper was accompanied by stills from the docudrama in progress.
Swapnendu Kar, the Cinematographer, Editor and Sound Designer, spoke on ‘The Grind behind the Vision: The Shooting of SAMAYITA’ to share his experiences of working for the film.
Finally, the docudrama team released the teaser which will be posted here very soon.
Hugli Heritage Day
First Hugli Heritage Day
The first-ever Hugli Heritage Day organised by Hugli River of Cultures was observed on Sunday, January 13, 2019, at the beautiful edifice of late Shri Harihar Seth in Chandannagar.
The Principal Investigator of the Hugli River of Cultures Pilot Project, Dr Ian Magedera in his opening speech tried to encapsulate the entire activities and events that took place since the project was in its nascent stage. The primary reason for this is to help the audience in gaining a fair knowledge of what the project and the Heritage day are all about. Dr Magedera also mentioned that preservation of the heritage sites could benefit the place both culturally and economically. This would help to enrich people’s urban quality of life.
Next, we had Mrs. Neline Mondal, Honorary Community Co-ordinator, and Researcher who read out a passage from Georges Tailleur’s ‘Chandernagor ou le lit de Dupleix’ both in French and Bangla. Once again through Mrs. Neline’s readings, we could hear the French voice in public.
Next, there was a solo dance performance by Archita Chatterjee, one of the members of the project and a student of the Arts and Humanities department from the Indian Institute of Technology. The title of Archita’s dance was ‘Bidaybelay smriticharon’ that talks about a girl, her childhood days, and her emotions attached to her own house just before the night of her wedding.
It was also through the medium of dance that the head, Barun Sengupta, and his students of ‘Milan Tirtha’ conveyed an important message of how the river Ganga helps the local people to survive. Ganga here is seen both as a creator and a destroyer.
Part two of the program was headed by Dr Jenia Mukherjee, Principal Investigator of the project in India. Dr Anuradha Chowdhury, a Sanskrit teacher from the Indian Institute of Technology shared her first-hand experience in Pondicherry. It was informed that the local people played a crucial role in making Pondicherry a beautiful Heritage site. The next speaker of this part was Mr. Satrajit Goswami who is a well-known academician and a researcher and his research work is on Bandel. This has helped him to discover the rich and the fascinating history of the concerned region.
The next session invites the owners/members of the ‘grand’ houses of Hooghly who shared their feelings regarding their own houses. The owners and the members include Sett Bari, Dey Bari, Das Bari, Mondal Bari, Bannerjee Bari, and Addy’s family attended the discussion.
The third part involved the ‘planner’s voice’. The planners were Mrs. Gopa Sen, an architect, Mr. Bappaditya Chatterjee, Chairman of the Konnagar Municipality, Mr. Ranjan Chattopadhay, former Director-General of Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and finally, we had Dr. Basudeb Mallick. These personalities with their hard work had restructured some of the buildings and tried to preserve the heritage sites. Being an architect, Mrs. Gopa Sen dedicated her time to renovate the Governor’s House and the Red Building in Srirampur. Mr. Bappaditya Chatterjee showed his interest in restoring Abanindranath Tagore’s mansion and the Riverine project in Kolkata became successful because of Mr. Ranjan Chattopadhay’s sharp vision and wisdom.
And the final session had Mr. Kalyan Chakrabortty, Director of Rash Behari Research Institute (India), Mr. Subrangshu Ray, an eminent scholar, and Dr. Pinaki De, Associate Professor of English as its speakers. They suggested that heritage sites must be utilized as tourist spots which would help in the development of the economy. The notion of installation art came into the forefront through their discussions which may make the heritage sites artistically appealing and more fascinating. With this positive note, the program ended.
Second Hugli Heritage Day
The Second Hugli Heritage Day was celebrated on 23 January 2020 at the Danish Governor’s House in Serampore. In collaboration with West Bengal Heritage Commission and supported by Serampore Initiative of the National Museum of Denmark, project members of Hugli River of Cultures celebrated the day by focusing on heritages and cultures of riverside towns in Hooghly. The programme was inaugurated by Honourable Chairman of West Bengal Heritage Commission, Sri Subhaprasanna. Plaque unveiling ceremony of restored Danish buildings in Serampore such as the Danish Tavern and the Danish Governor’s House was done by Sri Subhaprasanna, Honourable Chairman of West Bengal Heritage Commission, along with Sri Umapada Chatterjee, Secretary of West Bengal Heritage Commission, Sri Biswajit Matilal, Honourable Member of West Bengal Heritage Commission and Vice President of Birla Corporation Limited, Srimati Abhinanda Mukherjee, Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector, Dr Bente Wolff, curator of the National Museum of Denmark, Smt Gopa Sen and Sri Manish Chakraborty, architects behind the restoration of The Danish Governor’s House and The Danish Tavern respectively. Many esteemed personalities were invited to attend the event; for example, the members of Kolkata based NGO, ‘Know Your Neighbour’ like Mr Sabir Ahamed, Mohmmad Reyaz, Madhuri Katti and Md. Anwar, a member from US Consulate, Mr Shubhomoy Mitra, members from Serampore Municipality Sri Sukhen Das, faculty members from various colleges such as A.B.N. Seal College, Coochbehar, Surendranath College for Women, Kolkata, Serampore Girls’ College, Khalisani Mahavidyalaya, Chandannagar, Sundarban Hazi Desarath College, Pathankhali, West Bengal, Amity University, Aliah University, Kolkata, members of ‘Sree’, Sri Mohit Ranadeep, Sri Soumitra Sankar Ray, Sri Shyamal Basu, Smt Ashapurna Basu, owner custodian of a heritage house, Sri Gautam Sett and his wife, Ex-Director General, KMDA, Sri Ranjan Chatterjee, teachers from Rishra Mission School etc. The entire event was photographically documented by the members of the Photography Club, Behala College, Kolkata. The day also witnessed the launch of Hugli Heritage Management Strategy, a policy document on heritage management of riverside heritages. spearheaded by Dr Soumyen Bnadyopadhay, co-investigator, Hugli River of Cultures Project and Sir James Stirling Chair Professor of Liverpool School of Architecture, the book compromises of contributions from scholars and faculties from the University of Liverpool, UK and Hooghly, India. The inaugural issue was handed over to the Chairman of West Bengal Heritage Commission. While Dr Ian Magedera, Principal Investigator, Hugli River of Cultures, discussed the importance of heritage buildings and appreciated the efforts of the workers who came to Serampore from Murshidabad to restore the various heritage sites of the place, Dr Bente Wolff, who has been the driving force behind the restoration of the Danish Governor’s House, the Danish Tavern, the Vheto, a Bengali restaurant and St. Olav’s Church, urged the august gathering to used the spaces so that the local people can get new avenues of earning. Dr Bente Wolff also informed the audience that the Danish Governor’s House is a large building whose frontal portion is now used as a sub-divisional office; the other portion of the building, she suggested, could be used for conducting seminars and conferences. She added that a portion of St. Olav’s Church is now used as a classroom for teaching the physically handicapped children and thus the church is used both for worshipping and charity purposes. Wolff thanked the West Bengal Government and the District Magistrate for helping her team in restoring the heritage sites of Serampore. Gopa Sen, the architect, shared her experience of working with the Serampore Initiative for more than 10 years. Professor Soumyen Bandyopadhyay also presented a detailed account of heritage management, explained the meaning of heritage and relation with the younger generation. Mr Bandyopadhyay said, “Heritage is a living entity and not a dead asset. It is not only an architect’s prerogative but it also involves people from the fields of humanities and science. It is a part of a multidisciplinary study. Heritage is a product of cultural interaction”. He opined that heritage sites must be managed properly because it has an impact on the economic and social structure. Here lies the role of the future generation who needs to understand the cultural value of these sites. Mr Bandyopadhyay also mentioned that research work remains incomplete if it is not implemented in society. Hence it is the responsibility of the research scholar to implement his plans in reality. He focused on the idea of ecological sustainability, culture and economic planning which form the significant parts of heritage restoration projects. Road maps have to be updated and connection with local people is also required in this kind of venture. He also focused on the idea of ‘heritage tourism’ that will help to generate revenue from various heritage sites. For that, the project members must have a brief knowledge about the history of the place. Mr Bandyopadhyay has also discussed the four case studies – on Chandernagore, Serampore, Barrackpore and Konnagar – in Hugli Heritage Management Strategy. This will help to expand the scope of the research work and reshape the management plans related to it. Another important part of the project is to enhance visibility and access which will help the project to reach out to a wider audience. After Mr Bandyopadhyay’s presentation, Sri Subhaprasanna Bhattacharya, the Honourable Chairman of West Bengal Heritage Commission discussed the history of trading in colonies and the significance of Hooghly river which led to the growth of civilization and culture. He also mentioned about the funds that need to be utilized properly and gave an important suggestion of opening a gallery in Serampore which will exhibit the history of the place and the Danish settlement. This will help the future generation to learn more about Serampore and its architectural and historical value.
The first part of the day’s programme ended with a screening of the impact film of the project, Reverberations: Voices from the Riverfront. Directed by Pritimoy Das, Reverberations mostly captured what people think about the project. Students from Moulana Azad Urdu High School and Sri Aurobindo Vidyamandir who shared their thoughts on heritage, culture and their opinions on the first Heritage Day that was celebrated on 25 November 2018 at Rabindra Bhavan in Chandannagar, were present to see themselves on screen. In the post-lunch session, the fifty minutes long docudrama on Chandernagore’s intangible cultural heritage, Jagadhatri Puja, entitled Samayita, was screened for the first time. Director Dr Pinaki De and the entire crew of the film interacted with the audience about different aspects of filming after the screening. Dr Biswanath Bandyopadhay explained the implication of Jagadhatri Puja in Chandernagore. Finally, Dr Ian Magedera concluded the event by announcing future activities of the project and thanked all the members of the project for organizing such a memorable event on heritage and culture.
-Reshma Khatoon, member
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River-Time: 1396-1854 (A Time Before the Railways Came)
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