Chandannagar has a fascinating history. Unlike the rest of India, which was colonised by the British for two hundred years, Chandannagar was ruled by the French. However, do not expect it to be like Puducherry (the erstwhile French colony) – it’s very different in look and feel.
Located just 30 km north of Kolkata, along the banks of the Ganga, it makes for a good weekend escape, particularly during monsoon. Imagine sitting on a quaint bench on the Chandannagar Strand and watching the raindrops hungrily melting into the soft-flowing Ganga… a cup of hot tea in hand, a lazy demeanour enveloping the environs, small boats sailing past.The kilometre-long Strand is a must-visit for everybody on a visit here. Several buildings of historical significance flank this stretch. There’s Vivekananda Mandir (a meditation centre) jutting out into the Ganga. Adjacent to it is the Institute de Chandannagar (Chandannagar Museum and Institute) that boasts of a collection of cannons used in Anglo-French war, 18 CE wooden furniture, and more.
Not very far from the Strand is the Chandannagar Church, sporting French architectural techniques. In front of the church lies a ship’s mast. According to legend, it was presented by the captain of a vessel that had encountered a storm in the Bay of Bengal and was saved by the grace of Virgin Mary. Visit the Underground House (Patal Bari), an aesthetic architectural marvel with its lowest floor submerged in the Ganga. The great social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and Nobel laureate RabindraNath Tagore are known to have stayed here during their visits. The ancient temple of Nandadulal, built in 1740, is a brilliant example of ancient Indian architecture. There are several small temples devoted to Kali, Shiva and other deities here. The Chandannagar experience is incomplete without a trip to the New Mrityunjay sweet shop. Located near the railway station, its fresh preparations will urge you to come back for more.
How to reach there:
Chandannagar is well connected to Kolkata (about 30 km away) through local trains. Several run at short intervals from the Howrah Railway Station. By road, take either the Grand Trunk Road or NH 4. The town is also connected to Jagaddal of North 24 Pargana District by ferry, available from 5.30 am to 10 pm.
Located on the Strand road, Rabindra Bhawan, owned by Chandannagar Municipal Corporation, is a good option.