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HERITAGE GHATS OF CALCUTTA – Jagannath Ghat

Jagannath Ghat

Jagannanth Ghat is located on the eastern bank of River Hoogly, just to the north of Howrah Bridge. It was beautifully constructed in classical European style by Shobharam Basak, the famous trader and merchant, who became a millionaire by supplying textiles to the East India Company. In all probabilities, Jagannath Ghat, with a drum-shaped crown on its top, was constructed around 1760s. Though initially it was known as Shobharam Basak’s Ghat, the name was changed to Jagannath Ghat, probably due to the presence of the adjacent Jajannath Temple, which was also constructed by Shobharam himself, at an earlier date. Jagannath Ghat is very near to Mullick Ghat, the famous flower market of Calcutta. In this connection it may be noted that the Mullick Ghat was built by Rammohan Mullick, in memory of his father, Nimai Mullick.

Crowded Jagannath Ghat
Crowded Jagannath Ghat

Ridiculously, after two and half century of its existence, the name of the Ghat was suddenly replaced by “Chotulal’s Ghat”. It is said that, in the recent past, accidentally a bunch of old photographs of colonial Calcutta was discovered in a shoebox, which included two photographs of Jagannath Ghat, marked by some unknown person, as Chotulal’s Ghat. But it is really surprising and unimaginable, how without any investigation or verification, an established name is changed overnight only on the basis of the markings by an unknown and unidentified writer. Today, even the old photographs of the imposing building of Jagannath Ghat are marked as Chotulal’s Ghat, which is hitherto been unknown in the historical accounts or maps.

Cargo arrival notice to Lals at Jagannath Ghat
Cargo arrival notice to Lals at Jagannath Ghat

Usually a Ghat is named after a deity or a celebrity who founded it for the benefit of the commoners. Chotulal is definitely not a celebrity during those days. However, he may be an ordinary man like Chandpal, the owner of a small shop at one of the Ghats of Hoogly River, which in the course of time was named after him as Chandpal Ghat. It is also possible that the said Chotulal was somehow related to the particular Chiranji Lal-Sham Lal family, who had their family business of a steamer cargo service from Jagannath Ghat steamer station. Probably, Chotulal had some significant role in conducting the business from Jagannath Ghat, and that is why in due course the Ghat earned a nickname Chotulal’s Ghat. This hypothesis may be right or wrong, but there is a documentary support, which shows that in the past, there was an active marine dispatch service station at Jagannath Ghat, which was managed by some Lals.

The edifice of Jagannath Ghat remained intact till the 1940s, but since then, it has been lost forever in the wide wilderness. It was either destroyed for unknown reasons or replaced. Chotulal Ghat is still there, but that is an altogether different structure and does not have any similarity with the documented snaps of Jagannath Ghat.

Arial View of Jagannath Ghat
Arial View of Jagannath Ghat
Jagannath Ghat -1944
Jagannath Ghat -1944

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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