Chandannagar – Kolkata’s French Connection

Categories Travel

Before we come to the historic Chandannagar (chandannagore), let’s dwell a little on Kolkata. Nothing represents the idea of India better than this city – crowded, religious, passionate, overwhelming, dirty, cheap and good food, strong women and stupid politics. No wonder, it’s the only other city that has been the nation’s capital.

Somehow, I have avoided the city for exactly the same reasons I avoid religious places. An Odia has no business being in that city unless you are an aspiring plumber. But Sid travels a lot more to the city and is in love with it. Especially, the rural Bengal. He says it is green, well irrigated and is magical. The infamous Bengal famine happened elsewhere. Lately, the Great Bong Land has little to claim, so let’s not take away whatever little is left. There was a time when the city had more intellectuals than hilsas, but that was a long time ago.

To compensate for the pain that Bengali boast was to our national consciousness, we now have a Narendra Modi. He claims to have built Gujarat in six days, one day faster than God took with the universe. He is more organized and entrepreneurial. Narmada flows from his hair and he must be having a blue throat too, with all the poison he promises to save the country from.

Anyway, let’s put all this East-West wars behind us and head to Chandannagar. An hour’s drive away from Kolkata, it is an erstwhile French colony with far too many lingering characteristics. It’s surprising the ease with which we have forgotten the French rule, our national conscience is almost indifferent to them as our old colonisers. If anything, everybody loves the French colonies as some cultural highpoints.

Chandannagar is a beautiful place. There are quaint streets, some old buildings, a terracotta temple and a mosque with a disputed history. The best part is the strand along the river Ganga, walk in the shade of trees and watch the boats sail by. It’s the perfect getaway when you want to put some distance between yourself and Kolkata.


chandannagore institute


chandannagar in kolkata

chandan nagar

chandan nagore

french colony in india

chandan nagar kolkata lamp post

  • aparna

    very nyc way of expressing beauty of this place

  • Rajesh K

    That reminds me – I should find time to visit Pondicherry and document that city sooner… It has a lot of French relics and a section of the city is just like France! Time and Money are two elusive things 😉

    Destination Infinity

  • Siddhartha

    Hi… That’s a lovely n lively discussion. I was in Kol n had to stay there for a few days for work n was lucky to have got a free day to plan an outing. I am generally crazy about countrysides. Suddenly some memories of my past flashed. I could recall how I debated with my Anglo Indian school principal about the actual pronunciation of this place. He argued its’Chandernagore’ n I was suggesting that its a distortion by the French of the place called ‘Chandannagar’. This recall of my school days gave me an idea that why not to visit Chandannagar. I did so. The journey took me 2+ hrs though the distance is not much, but you reach this place through the worlds narrowest n most ill kept ‘expressway’. There is another route as well. But that’s too equally bad. But after reaching Chandannagar, I realised my folly regarding my useless argument with my school principal. I wished that it could have remained ‘Chandernagore’ n not have become Chandannagar once again.
    This place has a crazy romance associated with it. It’s another example of how human oriented planning of cities is done by the westerners. The city had a school, college, hospital, Church, municipal office, cultural centre n several other institutions of human concern. N not to miss.the beautiful walk way on the banks of the river with several seating arrangements for ppl. Still you could see ppl relaxing, reading, chatting, thinking and the ambiance adds on to the process of human intellectual stimulation. We sent the colonisers back, we renamed the cities, we reclaimed the honour n then what, left it there.

  • aishani

    chandanagar is one of the most under rated historical places in bengal. its historical value and importance is truly unparalleled if one is interested in the advent of the british in the country.. :O

    • Can’t agree more. Though, I remember reading about it in school history books. After that it sort of vanished until Sid visited this place.

  • umashankar pandey

    I must admit your post about Chandannagar was a revelation. I will surely visit it whenever I’m around Kolkata. those are fine shots. (Is tilting an effect here?)

    • Thanks Umashankarji. I guess Sid will better answer the photography questions. I already have three commitments here on a Chandannagar trip. At this rate, we will need to book a bus!

  • namrota

    Never knew of the historical past of Chandannagar and certainly had no idea of its beauty. Would visit the place, for sure, in my next visit to Kolkata.

    Very nice post, btw… loved reading it. 🙂

    • Thanks for the appreciation, Namrota. It is one of the few French relics in our country. Is that even supposed to be a good memory!! 🙂

  • very nice read … thanks for sharing Kolkata’s French Connection .. born and brought up yet was unaware … thanks again 🙂 Chandannagar indeed is a gr8 place to be to ease out of Kolkata buzz .. once in a while 🙂 amazing clicks !!!

    • Hey thanks. You should do that next time you are in Kolkata, you will love it.