Joydip Sur
2023-03-16 08:01:25

Mahatma Gandhi Road A Cobbled Road Of History

Mahatma Gandhi Road A Cobbled Road Of History

Renowned American novelist and poet Don Williams Jr. had once remarked, “The road of life is filled with twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Our most memorable moments come from the journey, not the destination.” We couldn’t have possibly agreed more with these beautiful words.

Truly, no two roads are ever the same. And here we are literally talking about the roads that complete the cityscape. In the everyday din we often forget the voluminous history stashed aside as these roads continue to be christened and re-christened. This month we set out on a trail to rediscover Mahatma Gandhi Road.

 Mahatma Gandhi Road is beyond doubts one of the most important east-west thoroughfares of Caclutta connecting two of its major railway terminus. It starts from the Sealdah flyover in the East and stretches till Barabazar in the West.

But long before this road was renamed after Gandhiji, it was known as Harrison Road named after Sir Henry Leland Harrison, the then Chairman of the Calcutta Corporation.  Starting as a district Magistrate of Midnapore, Harrison rose to the position of Chairman in April 18, 1881 and held the seat till April 15, 1890. A dynamic town planner, he received his knighthood in 1887, but died of cholera at the age of 55 on May 5, 1892. 

The decision to rename this road (which was until then known as Central Road) as Harrison Road was reached at the Special Meeting of the Corporation held on May 17, 1892.

However, the real credit behind building the road goes to a Bengali Deputy Collector of Land Acquisition Department by the name of Kali Charan Ghosh. He was the man in charge to acquire the land for the construction of Harrison Road. The construction of this road is considered to be one of his greatest achievements.

At the time of its construction the road had a length of 8900 feet (1.685 miles) with a uniform breadth of 70 feet which included 50 feet of carriage way and two footpaths, each 10 feet wide.

 The Calcutta Corporation spent over Rs. 47 lakhs to construct this road. The construction of the road was begun on April 11, 1889 and the work was completed in 1892-93. The first section of the road from Clive Street (Netaji Subhas Road) was opened to the traffic on June 28, 1890 absorbing the lane leading direct from Clive Street to the old Nimai Charan Mullick Ghat, constructed by the illustrious Singbahini Mullicks of Barabazar.

 The Mullicks of Barabazar gifted four bighas of land to the corporation for the construction of the road. Of the money given over one bigha land was Debuttar property valued at Rs. 63,000. 

Harrison Road remained the central connector till almost a decade after independence. It was only in January 5, 1956 that a proposal to rename it as Mahatma Gandhi Road was notified by the Calcutta Corporation. This notification appeared in the Calcutta Municipal Gazette on January 21, 1956. The municipal body at its weekly meeting held on August 31, 1956 is said to have sanctioned the above proposal.

 The stretch of Mahatma Gandhi Road is as diverse as it gets. Once you start walking on Mahatma Gandhi Road from Sealdah, you would first come across the Sisir Market. This market is home to a huge number of stores selling everything from clothing, electronics items and umbrellas to invitation cards, bicycles and food products. A few steps from here will take you to Chabi Ghar Cinema Hall. At one point of time this used to be the place where people from the Bengali middle class from north Calcutta used to come to watch the latest Bengali flicks. At a few metres from here is the Surendranath College. This college wears the distinction of churning out some popular politicians of our times.

 If you look rightwards from here, you will see a large number of lodges and guesthouses like Ideal Lodge, Hotel De Bengal and Hotel Cozy among several others.

 Continue your journey westward from here and on your left you will find loads of stores selling invitation cards. This is a unique feature of this road. Nowhere else in the city will you ever come across a stretch of road with countless number of stores just selling invitation card. You will also find several stores selling a wide variety of sports items ranging from cricket bats, footballs and basketballs to badminton racquets, running shoes and weight training equipments among others.

 As you approach the Mahatma Gandhi Road and College Street crossing, on your left stands the Dilkhusa Cabin. This small food joint tucked away right behind some roadside bookstalls is an institution in itself. This cozy little food joint is frequented by hundreds of customers everyday. Despite the mushrooming of several other fast food joints in the close vicinity, Dilkhusa Cabin’s popularity seems to be unaffected. And bang opposite to Dilkhusa Cabin is a very popular saree store called Adi Mohoni Mohan Kanjilal.

 Once you cross the Mahatma Gandhi Road and College Street junction and approach C.R. Avenue, on your left you will find shops bearing the name of several musical band. This is yet another unique characteristic of this road. Calcutta Band, Mahboob Band, India Band, Yosuf Band and Darbar Band are some of the popular names. And on the right you will come across a wholesale fruit market colloquially known as “fal patty”.

 A few hundred metres from here will bring you to Calcutta’s largest wholesale market – Barabazar. This is possibly the busiest juncture in this stretch of the road. There isn’t any item under the sun that you can think of that is not sold here. From dawn to the late hours of the evening, this place is hustling and bustling with trade and activities.

 Doted with old buildings and stores on both the sidewalks along the entire stretch of the road, Mahatma Gandhi Road is truly a visual treat for any passerby. Rediscovering Mahatma Gandhi Road is not only an enlightening experience, but also a romance unfolded. It’s the romance of time, history and culture piled up on a stretch of road we so often avoid because of traffic snarls!!!


Did You Know?

Gandhiji’s first visit to Calcutta was on March 12, 1915 and the Statesman’s report on the event is reproduced here: “

Some six thousand Indians, mostly Marwaris, Gujratis and up-country Hindus were present yesterday morning at Howrah Station to receive Mr. Gandhi who came down to Calcutta accompanied by Mrs. Gandhi on his arrival was presented by Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu to several prominent Indians who led him to a carriage. Several young men unyoked the horses and dragged the carriage in the midst of a procession to the residence of Mr. Bhupendra Nath Basu at Shyambazar, where Mr. Gandhi will reside during his short stay in the town.”

Gandhiji’s last visit to Calcutta was during the great Hindu-Muslim riot and killings (1946-1947). He stayed at Beliaghata for quite some time to restore peace. Sodepur Ashram was his Calcutta headquarters during the later years, however, he stayed with Deshabandhu Chittaranjan Das and Netaji Subhas Bose during his earlier visits to the city.


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