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Chandannagar: A walk on the French side

This little French colonial town is one of Bengal's best-kept secrets
Last Updated : 16 April 2022, 10:43 IST

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As you stroll down the strand at Chandannagar, larger than life mansions and other architectural beauties with a strong French influence catch your attention. This little town with its magnificent buildings and boulevards that have stood the test of time, is Bengal's French secret.

The Danes, the French, the Dutch, and the British have left their mark on India. One such town is Chandannagar or Chandernagore on the banks of the river Hooghly.

Located about 35 kilometres north of Kolkata stands this former French colony that was established in 1673 for trade purposes; it remained a French colony till 1951. It makes for an interesting day trip from Kolkata with its gorgeous mansions, heritage architecture, and museums located along a promenade by the banks of the Ganges.

The Chandannagar Strand happens to be the hub of the town. This prominent tourist spot stretches for almost a kilometre, and all along, there are benches where people sit and catch up with friends over a cup of chai.

At the mid-point of the strand stands the Durgacharan Rakshit Ghat, built in 1920. Nearby is a gate constructed in 1937 that has the French Revolution slogan "liberté, égalité, fraternité" (liberty, equality and fraternity) etched on it.

Among the other notable buildings on the strand is the Dupleix Palace, which houses some rare artefacts. Now converted into a museum, it also houses a French-language school.

A few steps ahead is a distinct red building—the French Fort, now a court. And almost 50 metres from there is the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Photography is prohibited here, but this two-storeyed edifice has beautiful stained glass windows and coloured relief panels describing Christ's journey with the cross. There's a statue of St. Peter with a rooster at the entrance.

Scattered across the city are various other architectural marvels.

Neline and Ujjal Mondal's "Mondal Bari" is a 300-year-old stately house almost in ruin now. Neline, from Belgium, came to India to complete a project and never went back, getting married to one of the sons from the Mondal family.

The house has 85 rooms, out of which only a few are in use. The house is a treasure of artefacts like a huge Belgian glass mirror brought via the water route from Belgium. There's 18th-century wooden furniture and fine paintings on the bedroom walls of the house.

Distance from Kolkata: 45 km

How to reach (from Kolkata): Regular local trains like the Howrah-Bandel local and the Howrah-Burdwan local take you to Chandernnagar. Take the GT Road after crossing Vivekananda Setu in Bally if you are travelling by road.

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Published 16 April 2022, 10:40 IST

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