Khidirpur The Untold Story

Team Chronicle

Khidirpur or Kidderpore was once just a suburb of Calcutta lying in its west. Bounded by Alipore in the east, Ekbalpur in the south, Hastings in the north and Metiabruz in the south-west, it was nevertheless an important neighbourhood for the port city because of its docks.

In 1888, the Suburban Municipality was amalgamated with the Calcutta Municipal Corporation under the Calcutta Municipal Consolidation Act II, enacted that very year. Khidirpur area is as old as Calcutta and also finds a mention in the East India Company’s records in 1709 which says “Mr. Josia Chitty and other servants of the company made complaint against the chaukis.”

There is a huge debate over the source of its name. It is believed that Khidirpur was named after Colonel Robert Kyd who laid out the Botanical Gardens. According to noted historian PT Nair, Khidirpur was shown in the map of Hooghly in 17th Century, long before the arrival of Col. Kyd to India. Khidirpur is the anglicized name of Kedarpore, the pore (pura in Sanskrit) of Kedar, Lord Shiva. Since the altar of the goddess of Kali is situated at Govindpur, in the Maidan, it is but natural that her consort should have a place nearby, hence the name Kedarpore, said Nair.

The Shiv Mandir of Bhukailash, Raktakamaleshwar is renowned because of its Shivalinga (11 feet high) carved out of a single black stone and during Shivaratri a large number of devotees gather here and to pray. It is the largest in Asia.

Another theory about the nomenclature of Khidirpur states that it is a corruption of Khizarpur, named after Khizr-Alai-Salam, the guardian saint of the seas and the delta for the fishing communities. According to another legend, the British could not converse in Bengali and whenever they passed by, they asked for the directions to the port where their ships used to harbour in broken Hindi which sounded somewhat like ‘kidder-port’.

Today, Khidirpur is synonymous with the port or dockyard. Though ship building was started by Colonel Henry Watson, who acted as a second to Philip Francis in his memorable duel with Governor General Warren Hastings, only the market Watgunge still serves as a reminder to his memory. In fact, the port appears to have got its name from Lord Kyde, an engineer by profession in 19th century who designed and supervised the lock gate of the port connecting the Hooghly River, so that the change in tides does not affect the water level of the port.

Khidirpur has a constituency known as Kabitirtha because three poets namely Hem Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutta and Rangalal Bandopadhyay resided in the area. The area also has streets named after these poets. Khidirpur has several heritage buildings; some of them are Bhukailash Rajbari, Solana Kabristan, Katapukur Cemetery, Nazrul Setu (the collapsible bridge), and the residences of famous poet Rangalal Bandopadhyay and Michael Madhusudan Dutta.

The famous Solana Masjid is a mosque as well as a burial ground. It is said that a wealthy Hindu lady had sold this land to the Muslim priest for solaa anna and that is how it got its name.

Some of the important landmarks of this neighbourhood are Khidirpur College, Fancy Market and Syed Baba ka Maazar. Khidirpur was also the residence of Woomesh Chandra Banerjee, the first Congress President. His family was displaced from Khidderpore when the land for docks was acquired.  The Khidirpur Bridge is the only collapsible bridge constructed by the British to bring ships inside the dock yard of Garden Reach. The bridge can be folded and stands perpendicular to allow ships to pass.

There are several families residing in the area for ages like the Bakuliya house. Bagkothi is one of the most renowned houses in the entire Khidirpur area. Raja Joynarayan Ghoshal, the Raja of Bhukailash had gifted statues of a tiger and a lion to S.A. Aziz, as a token of friendship. It is due to these statues the house is named Baghkothi.