HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA - The Oriental Assurance Company Building
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HERITAGE BUILDINGS OF COLONIAL CALCUTTA – The Oriental Assurance Company Building

Oriental Assurance Company Building

During the British rule, the Insurance sector in India was monopolized by the British Insurance Companies and the said British Companies operating India offered policies only to the Europeans. Among all such companies the Oriental Government Security Life Assurance Company was the pioneer to break the system. They started their business in India on the 5th of May, 1874, from Bombay. The dramatic increase of their business in the country over the next few decades inspired them to open their second branch in Madras 1901 and the third in Calcutta in 1914.

Located between the imposing Yule House in the northeast and the huge building of Jessop Company in the west across the road, the building of the Oriental Assurance Company stands on the busy but narrow thoroughfare named Clive Row. Today, the neglected building looks somewhat unimpressive, despite its height. But its intricate ornamentation speak highly about its past grandeur.

Oriental Assurance Company Building Entrance
Picture By: Dipankar Chatterjee

The central part of the building, complete with an entrance, has a rather small pediment. The central part of the pediment is adorned with an inverted star, inside a rising sun, which probably is the symbol or the loge of the company. Finally, the star inside the burning sun is surrounded by serpentine flowery designs. Each side of the building is designed with four columns with ionic capitals, separating the bays. The two projecting side bays of the side entrances are also crowned with pediments. Atop each of the four columns that divide the building’s bays, .there stands four giant Greek male figures, with their arms extended upwards, as if taking the burden to hold up the entire roof. The optimum point of the entire second floor windows are decorated with a human face, embellished with decorative wreaths.

The Oriental Assurance Company Building
Picture By: Dipankar Chatterjee
The Oriental Assurance Company Building
Picture By: Dipankar Chatterjee

Unfortunately it seems that, standing in the heart of the city, this vintage building of 1914 is now counting its days for the ultimate tragic end. Years of non-maintenance and negligence made it unsafe and vulnerable. Portions of the stairs have already collapsed. Deep rooted strong vegetation are creating deep cracks all over the age old structure. The pathetic dilapidated look of such a heritage building should be treated as a matter of shame for the concerned authority.

Dibyendu Banerjee
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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