Chinsurah: Students find out relevance of Dutch heritage

Satabdi Biswas, Mrinalini Datta Mahavidyapith, Birati, Kolkata, India

India is unity in diversity. It is admixture of many cultures from time immemorial. Many people came to India, lived here and left the indelible impression of their culture which is a part of our rich heritage. Chinsurah is one such place where Dutch people came long back, lived and left a rich heritage. Chinsuarh is situated in the district of Hooghly in West Bengal on the right bank of river Bhagirathi and about 50 km away from the city of Kolkata in India. The district extends between 23°1’20” and 22°39’32” North latitudes, and 88°30’20” and 87° 30’15” East longitude. In earlier times, tidal current used to come to that place regularly enabling small ships to come here from the Bay of Bengal. Dutch sailors discovered Chinsurah four hundred years ago for business purpose even before the British came. It was one of the important trading centres of the then Dutch East India Company since 1607.

The Netherlands Government and the state Government of West Bengal (India) decided to promote that historical place for tourism and explore its true essence. Several Dutch architectures are lying there in Chinsurah like fort, Dutch cemetery, toll collection gate, Tomb of Susana Anna Maria and some houses. This heritage contributes to our culture a lot. Some of them are also in good conditions and many buildings are in ruined condition, like toll tax collection gate.

It is situated along ‘Taldanga Road’ which is further connected with G.T. Road. Now it is called ‘Tola Fatak More’. Formerly there were two pillars with a gate and the then Dutch Government representative used to collect tax from people doing inland business. Now it is nothing but broken brick pillars laying aside the road. Another big building was the Fort known as ‘Gustavus’. There is no mark of it now; only the demarcation pillar of outside garden was there. Some pillars are also there and a pillar named as No.18. It is near about 10′ tall. We saw one of the pillars in the east side towards the river Bhagirathi.

We also visited the Armenian Church. The foundation stone of this church was laid by the then last Dutch Governor. The Sandeshwar Jeu Temple is situated just on the river bank name Sandeshwar Ghat. It is a Hindu temple where lord Shiva is worshiped. The last Dutch Governor Daniel Overbeck gifted two brass drums to the Temple which are still there.

Objective: To find out the importance of Dutch Heritage in Hooghli District with special emphasis on their influence in present day context.

The survey details are given below:

Name of the college Mrinalini Datta Mahavidyapith
Department Geography
Students 31
Faculty Member 4
Student’s Quote “…We are overwhelmed to see the contribution of the Dutch on our culture, society and this study enriched us both geographically and historically “… Nilimesh Majumder 1st year


..”This socio-economic study in Chinsurah motivated us to identify many contributions of the Dutch in Southern Bengal…” Samrat Biswas 3rd Year



Teacher’s Quote:  
Satabdi Biswas ..”From the questionnaire study we see that the young generation are not very much aware about the historical contribution of Dutch. At the same time they are willing to preserve the same for future….”
Priyadarshini Sen ..”This study of ours not only explores the geographical parameters of Chinsurah but also highlights the historical importance of the same ….”
Chinmoyee Mallik …”This project will help our students to get a complete picture of Chinshura with special mention of the Dutch influence on the pre-independent society of Bengal….”
Report type Statistical analysis based on the questionnaire schedule

Methodology: Face-to-face interview of the respondents near the above-mentioned place visited.

Survey Results: We conducted a survey along with 31 students to find out the relevance of Dutch heritage among the local people and who visited the sites on that day. The respondents age composition was of 18-40 years and 41 to 60 years and above. The students below 18 years were also questioned regarding their perception of the Dutch heritage in their places of visit or residence. Most of the young people do not know about the places and surprisingly older citizen are much more aware of that. At the same time most of the young respondents advised us to restore the sites as these are very important. Most of the respondents belong to the students’category, unemployed and the service category of occupation

The respondents informed that a few tourists come here during winter of which about 80 percent are Indians and rests are foreigners. The residents however pose satisfactory opinion regarding the Dutch Heritage maintenance. Almost everyone interviewed confirmed that the tourism should be encouraged. With much publicity and increase in the number of visitors, business activities will also enhance as a consequence. Basic road infrastructure should also improve along with means of various transports to attract more international tourists.

20% of the respondents said that the conservation of Dutch Buildings are in good condition and 20% said that it was in bad condition and 60% also conform their answer in satisfactory portion.

The Dutch Cemetery was found in a good condition because it was under taken by the Archeologically Department of India.

Findings:– It is interesting to see that all of the respondents are willing to restore the Dutch heritage and at the same time they also request that the Government of India and Netherland jointly took the initiatives to restore the same.

Acknowledgement: We are highly indebted to the members of India-Netherlands Friendship Society, especially Dr. Ganesh Nandy, General Secretary of the organization, for their guidance and support during the entire tour.