The Ochterlony Monument, popularly known as ‘Monument’, is a prominent and iconic landmark of Calcutta. It was designed by J. P. Parker and erected by Burn & Company in 1828, on the north-eastern side of Calcutta Maidan. The Monument was dedicated to the memory of Major-general Sir David Ochterlony, a commander of the British East India Company. He was commemorated for his successful defense of Delhi against the attack of the Maratha Yaswantrao Holkar in 1804, and also for the victory of the East India Company in the Anglo- Nepalese War of 1814 to 1816. The expenditure regarding the construction and the foundation of the monument was paid from the public fund.
In this context, it may be noted that, Sit David Ochterlony was born in Boston in Colonial America, came to India as an ordinary cadet in 1777, and died in Meerut on 15th July, 1825. In his personal life, he accepted and embraced the Persian Mughal culture. It is said that, he had thirteen Indian concubines. The most distinguished among those beautiful women was Mahruttun Moobaruck Ul Nissa Begum, a former Brahmin girl from Poona. Later, she was converted to Islam and was nicknamed Generallee Begum. She was the mother of two daughters of Sir David Ochterlony.
The 157 feet tall monument, praised by Mark Twain as the ‘The Cloud Kissing Monument’, was designed in a combination of Egyptian and Syrian style, with a classical fluted column, and crowned with a Turkish dome on the top. It has two top balconies, accessible by a serpentine staircase, which consists of 198 steps from the ground level to the first balcony and another 25 from the first to the second balcony.
The square base, built in Egyptian style, is actually the doors of entry to the Monument. The doors are ornamented with motifs, known as the ‘Wings of Desire’. The classical fluted column above the square base was built in Syrian Style. The column is topped by the two balconies, as stated above, with a Turkish cupola on its crown. The first political meeting near the Monument was held in 1931, and was presided over by Rabindranath Tagore, condemning the British for the killing of a young man in Hijli.
In August 1969, the then ruling United Front Government of West Bengal, rededicated the Monument to the memory of the martyrs of the Indian Independence Movement and rename it as ‘Sahid Minar’.
From the top balcony one can have a mesmeric panorama of the City of Joy. But it has been prohibited since 1997, when a youth jumped off from the lower balcony of the Monument. Now it depends on the availability of a prior approval from the Lalbazar Police Headquarters.
Location of Ochternoly Monument (Sahid Minar)