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HERITAGE GHATS OF CALCUTTA – Armenian Ghat

Armenian Ghat Old Picture

During the British rule the Armenians contributed a great deal towards the development of infrastructure, trade and commerce of Calcutta. One among them, Manvel Hazaar Maliyan, was an eminent Calcutta trader, who was involved in the business of multifarious items, mainly spice and precious stones. The elegant  Armreian Ghat was built by him in 1734, along the Hoogly River, with a view to make storing arrangements for the merchants of the town to facilitate shipments. In fact, this Ghat was built especially to facilitate the docking of their ships.

A panoramic photograph of river ghats by Bourne and Shepherd - 1880s
A panoramic photograph of river ghats by Bourne and Shepherd – 1880s

Manvel Hazaar Maliyan was popularly known in Calcutta as Huzoorimal and the gracefully designed cast iron structure of the Armenian Ghat was locally called as Armani Ghat. Like other Ghats in Calcutta, people used to come here to take a dip in the holy water.

Armenian Ghat - Cast Iron Structure
Armenian Ghat – Old Picture

With time, Armenian Ghat was linked to a public transport service. The East India Railway Company started a regular service, twice daily, between Howrah and Hoogly from 15th August 1854 and Armenian Ghat became their booking office. The passengers used to buy their tickets from the Ghat, crossed the river by launch or steamer, sponsored by the railways and board from the allotted platform at Howrah. It became more busy when The Cachar Sunderbund dispatch steamer also started functioning from the Armenian Ghat. In the mean time, the Tramway Company introduced in February 1873, a trial service to run a  horse-drawn tram route between Sealdah and Armenian Ghat Street for the benefit of the ferry passengers. But before the trial service became a regular one, the ferry service of the Railway Company was discontinued after the construction of the Howrah Pantoon Bridge.

Horse drawn Tram
Horse drawn Tram

Slowly but steadily, the transport system by the road and the railways improved, Calcutta lost its importance as a port and the Armenian Ghat lost its past glory. At present, it is used as a storehouse of the Calcutta Port Trust, yet the ancient structure reminds one of its heritage. Even today it becomes busy with the bustles of the traditional wrestlers, body builders, the bathers and the worshipers. It also reminds us that once upon a time the Armenian community was an integral part of this city.

Armenian Ghat signage
Armenian Ghat signage
Armenian Ghat - Jetty
Armenian Ghat – Jetty
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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