Explore the dying ghats of Kolkata with The Ganges Walk every Sunday this February
All great cities, they say, are built near water and it is no less true for the cultural capital of India-Kolkata. The Hooghly River, till date happens to be the heart and soul of Kolkata and the entire city is dotted with Ghats from the bygone era. The flights of steps leading down to the river that have inspired fascinating stories from centuries back, have also seen the city evolve over time. This winter, Explore the Dying Ghats by The Ganges Walk promises to give the history enthusiasts a delightful experience peppered with facts and myths surrounding the ghats in the city.
“The river has played a major role in shaping the history of Kolkata, which developed out of a small village named Sutanuti. Job Charnock, who is accredited with the founding of modern day Kolkata arrived here back in 1686 through the Ahiritola Ghat. Sutanuti used to be the soul for trade and commerce as most of the Zamindars and people who influenced Kolkata’s history were centred around it. They were the ones who controlled it. Hence, the tales of these ghats are not just facts from the past but also stories of these people,” says Atreyee, one of the two friends who will be conducting the walk.
Atreyee Basak and Poulomee Auddy of The Ganges Walk intend to take the participants on a two-kilometre long nostalgic journey which will commence at around 8 am, every Sunday of this month from Mutty Lal Seal Ghat and end with a bhnar of Malai chaai from a shop near Anandamayee Kali Temple, Nimtala Ghat.
“Both Poulomi and I were born in North Kolkata and we have been fortunate enough to grow up in houses reminiscent of glory and heritage. The meandering lanes and palatial buildings around have always fascinated us. As we grew up, we gathered information about these mansions by visiting them and talking to the present generations who live there. We want to rediscover the charm that beckoned travellers and traders from all corners of the world,“ adds Atreyee.
Most of these ghats are now dilapidated, and almost unrecognisable from a distance. The Mutty Lal Seal Ghat is one such place. The ghat was constructed by a virtuous businessman and philanthropist named Mutty Lal and stands as a fine example of classical Greek architecture with four tall Corinthian columns supporting the parapet. “Through this walk we want to make people aware of our heritage and how today it lies in utter disrepair,” expresses Poulomee.
The first stop will be followed by a visit to Chhotulal’s Ghat and Zenana Ghat. The Chotulal Ghat, also known as Chotelal Ki Ghat was named after Chhotelal Durga Prasad, an eminent lawyer. It was constructed in a mixed style of Hindu and Islamic architecture. Unfortunately, the entrance of the Ghat is now blocked from the view by the stalls of the flower market. On the other hand, Zenana Ghat was once extensively used by women for bathing. The Ghat with its typically beautiful dome and four minarets at the four corners look exactly like a mosque. The marble floor and the walls of the monument, ornamented with coloured plates add to its grandeur.
Next, the participants will be taken to the Armenian Ghat- a cast iron structure built exclusively for the docking of Armenian ships way before the British arrived, and later as railway reservation counter, Jagannath Ghat- a classical monument with a drum shaped crown on top originally known as Sovaram Bysack’s Ghat, Prasanna Kumar Tagore’s Ghat- a monument influenced by European architecture, and Nimtala Ghat- the first burning ghat of the country.
The walk will also explore a few century old shrines that dot the banks of the Ganges.
A River’s Memoir:
- Due to the shift in Ganga’s course towards the West, the river had left behind a land now known as Strand Road. The present day Nimtala ghat is the third ghat with the same name and stands at the conjuncture of Nimatullah Mosque and Anandamoyee Kali Temple. Most people believe that the ghathas derived its name from the mosque built by Mohammed Ramzan Ali for one of his ancestors named Niyamatullah. However, it is also believed that all these places get their names from a Neem tree that stood there towering over Anandamoyee Kali Temple, under which Charnock had sought shelter when he set foot on Bengal.
- Way before the Howrah Bridge we know today was built in 1943, the two shores were connected by a pontoon bridge which is considered as its first incarnation.
Information given by the organisers
Explore the Dying Ghats walk by The Ganges Walk will take place every Sunday throughout February at 8 am. Rs 500 per person