William Wilson Hunter.

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Sanskirt Epic poems. When Charnock settled on the banks of the
Hiigli, in 1686, a pilgrim road ran through a thick jungle along the line
of the present Chauringhi. This path proceeded via the Chitpur road
through marshes and woods, now the site of Calcutta. At Chitpur it
joined the old highway to Mursiddbdd and the north. The nearest
village to the shrine of Kali-ghat (the village through which the Chitpur
road passed) was the Moslemized 'Kalikata' of the Ain-i-Akban, or
Revenue Survey of 1596, and is the Anglicized ' Calcutta' of the present
day. A forest, interspersed with swamps, and infested by wild beasts
and robbers, lay between the shrine and the village. That forest has
now given place to the fashionable quarters of Chauringhi and Theatre
Road, together with the adjoining maiddn, except the strip along the
river bank, which was dotted by the old hamlet of Govindpur. As late
as the second half of the last century, Warren Hastings shot tigers in the
jungle that now forms the fine open space upon which the Cathedral
is built. Servants engaged at < country houses ' in that neighbourhood
(then a solitary suburb, now covered with some of the best streets of
Calcutta) put off their clothes and valuables before going to their homes
for the night, lest they should be stripped by robbers on the way.

Chauringhi, with its northern continuations, Bentinck Street and the
Chitpur Road, forms, therefore, one of the most ancient pilgrim-routes
in Bengal ; and this line was destined to become the central street
through the modern city of Calcutta. The shrine of Kali-gMt stood at


the southern end of it, while the northern end was celebrated for the
temple of Chiteswarf, which gave its name to the ancient village of
Chitpur, now a northern suburb of Calcutta. For about a century
after Charnock's settlement in 1686, the English town clustered round
the old Fort, which occupied the site of the present Customs House
and Post-Office. By degrees it crept along the river bank, both
north and south, while the country houses of the wealthier English
residents gradually extended as far as Chitpur at the northern end of
the central route, and Alipur at its south-western extremity. The
maiddn, or great open plain, was cleared of jungle, partly for the new
or present Fort William (built i757-i773>> after the battle of Plassey
and the diwdni grant had given Bengal to the English. But the
southern corner of the maiddn, together with the now fashionable
quarter of Theatre Road which skirts it, remained for some time a
swampy and jungly tract. Until the middle of the present century,
the Chitpur road still divided the English mercantile part of Calcutta
along the river from the native villages or bastis which clustered
inward to the east of it. By degrees, however, two inner main routes
were formed from north to south, running nearly parallel to Chauringhi
and its continuation, the Chitpur road. The middle of the three
routes is now represented (beginning from the south) by Wood Street,
Wellesley Street, College Street, and Cornwallis Street. The eastern
or most inland of the three routes is the Circular Road, which still
nominally marks the eastern boundary of Calcutta. The northern
part of the Circular Road is formed from the debris thrown up from
the Maratha Ditch, when that ancient defence was erected against the
predatory hordes in 1742. A section of it runs along the route of the
Ditch itself, after it was partly filled up, by orders of the Marquis of
Wellesley, at the beginning of the present century.

These three lines, running nearly parallel to the river on the west,
are intersected by a number of cross streets connecting them with the
bank of the Hugli. The most important of the intersecting streets
running east and west are now (beginning from the north) Sobha
Bazar (starting inland from the Hugh bank), with its eastern continua-
tion, Grey Street, called after a former Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal,
Sir William Grey; Nimtala (from the Hugli bank), with its eastern
continuation, Beadon Street, called after Sir Cecil Beadon, another
Lieutenant-Governor; Cotton Street, with its eastern continuation,
Machua Bazar Road ; Canning Street, called after Lord Canning, the
Governor-General (starting from the river bank), with its eastern con-
tinuations, Kulatala and Mirzapur Streets; Lai Bazar, with its eastern
continuations, Bow Bazar and Baitakhana; the Esplanade, with its
eastern continuation, Dharmtala Street, starting inland from the north-
eastern corner of the maiddn or open plain. From this point the


maiddn stretches between the river bank on the west and Chauringhi,
with the residential part of the modern city. It contains the cricket
ground and the Eden Gardens on the river-side at its north-eastern end.
The modern Fort William occupies an extensive site on the Hugli bank,
below the Eden Gardens; while farther down the river, the southern end
of the maiddn contains the suburb of Hastings on the bank with the
Ellenborough course and race-course, a little inland to the east. A
large grassy park, studded with trees, stretches inland from the Eden
Gardens, the Fort, and Hastings, to Chauringhi Road. Chauringhi is
lined with magnificent houses, about 60 of which occupy a mile and
a half of road from north to south. This line of noble structures,
facing the open plain, is connected with the fashionable European
quarter behind it on the east, by three main routes running nearly east
and west, Park Street, Theatre Road, and Lower Circular Road.

Practically speaking, the European commerce of Calcutta is con-
centrated between the river bank on the west and Chitpur Road on
the east, with Canning Street on the north and the Esplanade on the
south. Its centre may be taken at the Post-Office, which practically
marks the site of the original Fort William. The road along the river
bank is known as the Strand, and has for the most part been reclaimed
from the river by successive embankments constructed during the past
fifty years. The European retail trading quarter lies within a small
area inland to the east of the commercial centre. The residential
European quarter, as already stated, runs along the Chauringhi side of
the maiddn, and inland from that stately line of mansions.

The Native Quarters of Modern Calcutta skirt the European quarters
on the north and east. The large native produce firms occupy, how-
ever, the north-eastern portion of the space which has been mentioned
as the seat of the European commerce, towards Canning Street. The
native shippers chiefly frequent the river-side streets northward from
Canning Street up the Hugh'. But everywhere beyond the European
quarter, Calcutta is interspersed with bastis, or native hamlets of
mud huts. As we proceed eastwards or inland from the Chitpur road,
these bastis become numerous, until they form the great outlying
suburbs which surround Calcutta on the north, east, and south. The
growth of the European quarters, and the municipal clearings demanded
by improved sanitation, are pushing these mud hamlets outwards in all
directions, but especially towards the east. Price's description of them
in the last century has been quoted ; and some of them remain in
the same filthy and unhealthy state at the present day. They form the
despair of municipal reformers and of the sanitary authorities, but the
work of improvement is steadily, although slowly, going forward among
them. They have given rise to the reproach that Calcutta, while a
city of palaces in front, is one of pig-styes in the rear.


_ Monuments and Public Buildings.— Calcutta is justly celebrated for
its monuments. Perhaps the most conspicuous is the tall column towards
the north-eastern end of the open plain or maiddn, in honour of Sir David
Ochterlony. ' For fifty years a soldier, he had served in every Indian
war from the time of Hyder downwards,' to nearly 1823. It rises 165
feet, with a Saracenic capital, and presents a noble view of the city
from its top. Among the monuments to Governors-General may be
mentioned those of Lord William Bentinck (1828-1835); Lord
Hardmge (1844-48); Lord Lawrence (1864-68), and Lord Mayo
(1S69-1872). An enumeration of the Calcutta monuments is, however,
beyond the scope of this article. One of them is remarkable for
beauty of des.gn and spirited execution. The bronze equestrian statue
to Sir James Outram, 'The Bayard of the East,' rises on the Chauringhi
side of the great park, opposite the United Service Club. It represents
the hero with drawn sword, looking round to his troops, and cheering
them forward. Nothing can exceed the lifelike action of both man
and horse ; and although unveiled by the Commander-in-Chief as long
ago as 1874, it still attracts groups of native gazers everv day, and
forms a favourite rendezvous, round which the European children of
Calcutta play with their nurses in the evening. It is an admirable
example of Foley's work; and to this artist the city also owes several
others of its most successful statues.

The present Government House stands at the northern end of the
great park or maiddn, and separates it from the European commercial
TZ !u !, already mentioned > « was built by Lord Wellesley, who
held that 'India should be governed from a palace, not from a
counting-house; with the ideas of a prince, and not with those of a
retail dealer in muslins and indigo.' During the second half of the
ast century, part of its site had been occupied by Warren Hastings'
own residence and as appears from a plan of Calcutta in 1792,
also by the old Government House and Council House. It was
commenced in i 799 , and finished in 1804, at a cost of £8000 for the
fnT \ ^ I3 / -°'° 00 f0r the buiidi "g> an " £5000 for the first furnishing;
total, about .£150,000, or at the present value of silver, about £175,000.

Lo n rd g s7/, " CUPy ab ,° Ut 6 aCTeS > and the desi § n was adapted from
Adam F **' Ked ' eSt ° n **> Derb y shi ^> ^ by Robert

cental 1 grea \ W ', nS ,! IUn t0 each P° int of the com P^> from a
S a PP™^d by a magnificent flight of steps on the north.

besMeft^ I* ° ne , 0f * e fineSt Chambers in a "y P^e; a "d

con ta n S f h e apart T^ ^ *? ^^ a " d his staff ' «* Elding

ns sTtt" LJ So f , amber " Which the Su P reme L ^^e hold!

many 0/ hJ " V IT" "^ have * hist0rical interest ' ^ "<*

GenLl is nehhL t a " ,StiC VaIue - The series of G ™™™'

Oeneral is neither so complete nor so deficient in pictorial merit as the


remarkable series of Portuguese Viceroys in the Government House at
Goa. Various articles of furniture and trophies recall the perilous early
days of the Company, having been captured from the European or native
powers. The two fine full-length portraits of Louis le Bien Aime and his
queen, with the chandeliers, and twelve busts of the Caesars in the aisles
of the Marble Hall, are said to have been taken from a French ship.

The High Court. — To the west of Government House, nearer to the
river, stands the High Court. This imposing structure, in somewhat
florid Gothic, was completed in 1872, on the site of the old Supreme
Court. The design is said to have been suggested by the Town Hall
at Ypres ; the front is faced with stone, and the capitals of the pillars
of the grand colonnade are beautifully sculptured. The most interest-
ing among its many portraits are those of Sir Elijah Impey, by Zoffany ;
of" Sir Henry Russell and Sir Francis W. Macnaughten, both by
Chinnery ; and of Sir William Burroughs, by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

The Town Hall also stands west of Government House, between
it and the High Court. It is a large building in the Doric style,
approached by a noble flight of steps leading up the grand portico. It
was built in 1804 by the citizens of Calcutta at a cost of about
Rs. 700,000. Among many interesting pieces of art, it contains a
marble statue of Warren Hastings, by R. Westmacott, another of the
Marquis of Cornwallis, and a more recent one of Ramanath Tagore, a
well-known leader and reformer of native society in Calcutta. Among
other buildings of note are the Bank of Bengal, facing the Hiigli, and
the Mint, also on the river. The Currency Office, the Central Telegraph
Office, the General Post-Office, a huge, heavy building, and the new
Secretariat of the Government of Bengal, line the four sides of the
historical Tank (now Dalhousie) Square. _

Churches.— The principal churches number about 30, including
Protestant ones of many denominations, Roman Catholic, Greek, Parsi,
and Hebrew. The Brahma Samaj, or new Theistic sect of Bengal,
founded by Raja Rammohun Roy, have three places of worship. I hi
Hindu temples are numerous, but feeble in design; while of the Munam-
madan mosques, the only one of architectural pretensions is the Masjtd
at the corner of Dharmtala Street. It was built and endowed in 1842,
says the inscription, by the 'Prince Ghulam Muhammad, son of the
late Tipu Sultan, in gratitude to God, and in commemoration of tne
Honourable Court of Directors granting him the arrears ot his stipend

m ThTcathedral Church of the diocese of Calcutta, St. Pauls at the
southern corner of the maiddn or open plain, was commenced in 18391
and consecrated in 1847. An earlier project started in 1819, feU
through from want of funds. St. Paul's Cathedral is pr* -lu-ally t he
work of the late Bishop Wilson. Of ^75,ooo raised for its building and


endowment, the Bishop gave ,£20,000, and the East India Company
£15,000; while the whole subscription raised in India amounted to
only £12,000. The remaining £28,000 were subscribed in England.
About £50,000 were spent on the building, which is of a style known
in Calcutta as Indo-Gothic ; that is to say, Gothic adapted by a
military engineer to the exigencies of the Indian climate. The trees,
which have grown up around it, now help to remedy the deficiencies of
the architecture ; and the spire rises picturesquely from the evergreen
foliage at the extremity of the maiddn farthest from the town of Calcutta.
The Cathedral is built in the form of a cross, 247 feet in length, with
the transept 114 feet, and the tower and spire 201 feet in height. The
most remarkable monument is a life-sized kneeling figure in bishop's
robes, by Chantrey, bearing the single word ' Heber.'

St. John's Church, or the old Cathedral, was commenced in 1784.
It was erected to replace a still older Church, built in 17 15, the steeple
of which fell down in the earthquake of 1737, while the whole Church
was demolished by the Muhammadans during their occupation of
Calcutta after its capture in 1756. The first meeting of the committee
for building the present St. John's was attended by the Governor-
General, Warren Hastings, and his Council. The structure cost
about £20,000, chiefly raised by voluntary subscription; a native
Raja presenting the old burying-ground, in the midst of which the
church stands, together with two acres of land adjoining, then valued
at £3000. The only work of art of importance is the old altar-piece,
The Last Supper, painted and presented by Zoffany, and now removed
to the west entrance. The graveyard around contains, however,
several tombs of great historical interest. First in importance is that
to Jobus Charnock, the founder of Calcutta in 1686, ' qui postquam
in solo non suo peregrinates esset diu reversus est domwn suce eternitatis
deamo diejanuarii 1692.' The mausoleum which covers Job Charnock
is the oldest piece of masonry in Calcutta. Slabs commemorating
the noble surgeon William Hamilton, who died 171 7, and Admiral
Uatson, are built into its walls.

The Old Mission Church has a peculiar interest as having been
erected, 1767-1770, by Kiernander, the first Protestant missionary to
-Bengal and at his own expense. In 1786, the good Swede found
himself unable to defray the charges involved by his benevolent
schemes, and the church was seized by the Sheriff. It was rescued
and restored to religious purposes by Charles Grant, afterwards the
well-known East Indian Director, who paid Rs. 10,000, the sum at
which it was appraised. Kiernander came to Cuddalore, in Madras,
as a Swedish missionary in 1 740. Stripped of his property, and driven
from the place on its capture by Count Lally, he took refuge at
Tranquebar in 1758, and in the following year he arrived in Calcutta.


After more than a quarter of a century's usefulness as a missionary in
that city, his pecuniary circumstances compelled him to become Chaplain
to the Dutch Settlement at Chinsura about 1787-88. He returned to
Calcutta in 1795, and there died in 1 799, at the age of 88. His humble
« Beth-Tephillah,' or House of Prayer, has now, under the name of the
Old Mission Church, one of the largest congregations in Calcutta.

St. Andrew's Church, known as the Scotch Kirk, is a handsome
Grecian building. It was commenced on St. Andrew's Day, 1S15.
Lord Moira, the Governor-General, with his lady, the Countess of
Loudoun and Moira, attended in State, together with an imposing array
of Masonic, military, and civic dignitaries. A feud, which for a time
shook Calcutta to its centre, arose in regard to the spire. 'Bishop
Middleton, the first Bishop of Calcutta, believed that the Church of
England had a monopoly of spires.' Dr. Bryce, the Scotch pastor of
the° newly-founded St. Andrew's Kirk, determined to vindicate the
claims of his Church and his nation to these ecclesiastical ornaments,
by carrying his steeple some feet higher up than that of St. John, then
the Cathedral Church, and by placing a cock on the top of it in order
to crow over the Bishop.

The Roman Catholics have 8 churches, the most important ot
which are the Cathedral, the Church of the Sacred Heart, and St.
Thomas'. The last-named is in connection with the Loretto Convent,
which stands on the site of Sir Elijah Impey's famous house, between
Middleton Street and Middleton Row.

The Hugli Bridge.— Calcutta, as described in the foregoing para-
graphs, lies on the east or left bank of the river. It is, however,
connected with the important railway suburb on the other side of the
Hugh by a floating bridge. This structure, supported on enormous
pontoons, is i53oVeet in length between the abutments, and has a
massively-constructed roadway for carriages, 48 feet in width, with
footpaths of 7 feet on either side. It was commenced in 1873, and
opened for traffic in 1874, notwithstanding a serious collision with a
large steamship, which the bore or tidal wave of the Hugli had
wrenched from her moorings, and dashed against the unfinished bridge.
It has cost ^220,000, and a toll is levied on all traffic between Calcutta
and Howrah, except in the case of passengers and goods proceeding to
or from the East India Railway terminus on the Howrah side.

Fopu/afion.—Ca\cutt3. may in one sense be said to extend across
the Hiigli, and to include Howrah on the western side of the river, as
well as °the suburban municipality on the east. The total population
of the area thus defined was returned in 1881 at 789,864. ^ But
Calcutta proper, or the central portion, known as the Municipality or
'Town of Calcutta,' and lying, roughly speaking, between the old
Maratha Ditch and the Hugh', is governed by a distinct municipal body.



In 1 710, the population was reckoned at from 10,000 to 12,000. In
1752, Mr. Holwell estimated the number of houses within its limits at
51,132, and the inhabitants at 409,056 persons; but both these estimates
must have been far too high. In 1822, the number of inhabitants was
returned at 179,917, or according to another calculation, 230,552;
in 1831, at 187,081; in 1850, at 361,369; and in 1866 at 377,924.
In 1872, the first regular Census taken under the supervision of
the municipality returned the population of the town at 447,601 ; but
as the results presented features of doubtful accuracy, another Census
was taken in 1876, which gave the population of the town, excluding
the suburbs, at 429,535. The latest enumeration, in 188 1, returned
the population of Calcutta, including Fort William and the Port of
Calcutta, at 433,219, and the suburbs at 251,439, making a total of
684,658, exclusive of Howrah, or 789,864 with Howrah.

The Census of 1881 was taken simultaneously on the night of the
17th February by four distinct agencies. That of Calcutta proper,
namely, the area included in the metropolitan municipality, was con-
ducted by the municipality; that of Fort William, by the military
authority ; the enumeration of the floating and river population was
under the immediate supervision of the Superintendent of the Port
Police ; while the operations in the suburbs were carried out under the
superintendence of the Vice-Chairman of the Suburban Municipality.
The total area of the town, including the Fort and Esplanade, but
excluding the river, is 5037 acres, while that of the suburbs is computed
at 1 4,41 3 acres, or nearly three times as large. The following table
exhibits the population of the town and suburbs of Calcutta, within the
above limits, on the night of the 17th February 1881 : —

Area, Population, etc., of the Town and Suburbs of Calcutta,
February 1881 (exclusive of Howrah).








Number '









Town of Calcutta,
Fort William
Port of Calcutta,









I 43.893 106-99
346 ...



Total, .





144,402 106 99


11 59







i7'45 2'8 3


Grand Total,









* Including the area of the Esplanade outside the Fort, the population of which, including the
mxiddn (153) and the Presidency Jail (n 82), have been returned as within the town proper.


Comparison with last Census. — Apart from the Fort and the Port,
the population within the strictly municipal area of Calcutta, which was
409,036 in 1876, was returned at 401,671 in 1881, showing a decrease
of 1 "8 per cent. ; the falling off varying in the different wards from
2*2 to nearly 21 per cent. Five wards show an increase varying from
3-910 i3'9 per cent. Total decrease in certain wards, 13,553;
total increase in others, 6188; net decrease, 7365. The variations
in most instances are satisfactorily accounted for by the outward
movements of the population in consequence of municipal or other
improvements. As a rule, the tendency has been for the popula-
tion to move back from the river bank, and from the centre of the
town to the outskirts beyond the strictly municipal area. In the
wards along the river bank, the improvement of the Strand Bank,
and the removal of private residences or their conversion into ware-
houses for the storage of jute and other produce, account for a consider-
able decrease in the number of inhabitants. In some of the more
central wards, too, there have been considerable municipal improve-
ments, which have opened out the most crowded thoroughfares by
new roads and clearances, and have had the effect of driving the
people farther east into neighbouring wards. A slight increase in the
Fort population is attributable partly to the fact that at the Census ot
1 88 1, a detachment of Native Cavalry was temporarily encamped here,
and partly to the fact that in February 1881 several military head-
quarter offices were in the Fort, which in April 1876 were in the

The port of Calcutta, including vessels proceeding up and down the
river, which in 1872 contained a population of 17,696, had in 1881 a
population of 28,200, showing an increase of 10,504 souls, or 59 per
cent. The sea-going population numbered 6153, on board 192 vessels,
either in port or proceeding up or down the river. The number of
boats censused was 4220, with a population of 22,047 souls. Deduct-
ing vessels or boats censused before or after the date of the enumera-
tion, the actual population of the port on the night of the 17th February
1881 was 21,342 souls, as compared with 17,696 on the night of the
6th April 1876. The increase in the shipping is partly explained by
the difference in the time of the year at which the Census was taken ;
and an increase in the shipping naturally explains an increase in the

Online LibraryWilliam Wilson HunterThe imperial gazetteer of India (Volume 3) → online text (page 30 of 56)