Chandannagar: Promenade and heritage buildings of Bengal’s erstwhile French colony to get facelift

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Updated: July 21, 2019 9:28:42 PM

Over the years, several initiatives centred on the restoration of these buildings have been taken. Some of these were being demolished for lack of upkeep and legal protection.

Chandannagar aka Chandernagore, as it was then called, had become a European colony in 1673 when France wanted to set up a trading post in Bengal. (Image: YouTube grab)Chandannagar aka Chandernagore, as it was then called, had become a European colony in 1673 when France wanted to set up a trading post in Bengal. (Image: YouTube grab)

Chandannagar, which was an official French trading colony till 1950, is set to get the much-awaited facelift soon, as a team of experts commences study of the Strand promenade on the banks of Hooghly to give shape to the MoU signed between France and the West Bengal government.

The expenditure for the joint initiative which is set to restore the neighbourhood town in Hooghly district to its former glory will be sanctioned once the experts submit their report, Atri Bhattacharya, the tourism secretary of the state, said. We have signed an agreement to restore and renovate parts of Chandannagar (around 50 km from Kolkata) which have historic relevance. We will start with the Strand and then move on to the other heritage buildings.

A team of experts is on the job, studying the promenade. The government can spell out the cost of the project only after the experts submit their report to us, Bhattacharya told PTI on the sidelines of French National Day celebrations at a city hotel.

In February this year, the West Bengal government and France signed the memorandum of understanding, with an active engagement of the French Consulate in Kolkata, to restore heritage structures in the erstwhile French colony most of which are growing fern and moss from their near-dilapidated and cracked remains.

The French Consul General in Kolkata, who has visited the town on three occasions since coming to the city last year, said the project was very close to her heart. The first time I had visited the place was 20 years ago, when I was posted in Dhaka. I am looking forward to make this project happen. It will boost ties between the two countries. We are thankful to the West Bengal government for its initiative, Virginie Corteval said. Chandannagar aka Chandernagore, as it was then called, had become a European colony in 1673 when France wanted to set up a trading post in Bengal.

It grew into a prosperous trading town under the governance of Joseph Francois Dupleix with several iconic architectural structures constructed to serve as hotels and rest houses for the colonial traders. The French lost the town to the British in the 1757 Battle of Chandernagore only to regain control in 1816. It remained a French territory in India till 1950. Architect Aishwarya Tipnis, who has been closely associated with the project for a long time, said a total of 99 buildings were identified with a French connection in 2010.

Over the years, several initiatives centred on the restoration of these buildings have been taken. Some of these were being demolished for lack of upkeep and legal protection.

In 2015, we launched a website to put up all information and research that has been done on this riverside town, she said. Much work has been done on Pondicherry, another French colony in the country, but not many know about this quaint town in Bengal.

With the help of students and local volunteers, we have organised workshops, heritage walks to generate awareness on the relevance of the town, while also drawing attention of the government. I am glad that the project has taken off, she added.

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