By Aparna Mitra
Chinsurah (which in local dialect becomes Chuchura) is a city in West Bengal situated on the shores of the Hooghly river. For many centuries now, Chinsurah has been a melting pot of various cultures. Its close proximity to the river, made it a prominent port and a major attraction for the colonial rulers. In varying times, Chinsurah was ruled by the British and Portuguese. But the Dutch colonialists ruled over this city for more than 200 years and their influence can be seen at large in the architecture of Chinsurah, even today. Though, Chinsurah is still not considered a hot spot for West Bengal tourism, but it has some remarkable monuments. So, let us take a tour around this beautiful Dutch city.
Tourist attractions of Chuchura
Itachuna Rajbari (Chuchura Rajbari)
Itachuna Rajbari (also known as Khanyan Rajbari) is symbolically named after its distinct red and white appearance. This mansion, which is about 250 years old, has now been converted into a heritage home stay. Built during the rule of Bargees (or Maratha warriors), one can feel its grandeur with columns filled arcade surrounding the huge courtyard. The backyard of this palace has remnants of its past through the presence of ‘Dhan Mandi’ (Treasury), ‘Tulsi Mandap’ (Tulsi tree area), ‘Khamar Bari’ (place for animals) which portrays its glorious past.
- Must Visit: ‘Sreedhar Jeeu’ (the temple of the royal family’s deity) and the adjoining pond with a serene jungle in its vicinity adds to the adventure of this Rajbari.
- Trivia: Many scenes of the Bollywood film, ‘Lootera’ was shot at this palace.
- Special Information: A guided tour to the pond and temple is organized daily at around 4:30 PM. Every Saturday, the locals participate in a musical night.
- Restrictions: Pets are not allowed inside the Rajbari.
- Nearby attractions: The Mahanad Brahmamoyee Kali Bari (8 KM away), where Rani Rashmoni gained spiritual awakening to build the Dakshineswar Kali temple.
Nearest railway station: Khanyan (2.2 KM away)
Bansberia’s major attraction is the Hanseswari mandir built by Raja Nrisingha Deb Roy in the 17th century. Defying all prototypes, the temple resembles an European castle with its 13 minarets. The blue idol of Ma Kali sitting within the temple has been carved out of Neem wood and stands on an elevated lotus bed. Also a Shiva Linga adorns the upper floor of the temple. Within this temple complex, stands another place to visit in West Bengal – the Ananta Basudeb temple. Contrasting in its architecture, this temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The major attraction of this temple are richly carved terracotta panels. Both these temples are surrounded by a picturesque landscape and lush greenery.
- Hanseswari Temple Timings: 6 AM – 8 PM
- Trivia: Mesmerized by its divinity, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa called this place ideal for Adyashakti Sadhana.
- Special Information: There are spiral stairways leading to the minarets but tourists are prohibited from visiting this area.
Nearest railway station: Bansberia (1 KM away)
Bandel Church (Basilica of the Holy Rosary)
Bandel church is claimed to be the one of the first churches in West Bengal, built by the Portuguese in 1599. Though the original building was burned down and revived later by Father Joan Da Cruz. The Holy shrine of ‘Our Lady of Happy Voyage’ (Mother Mary) is housed atop the main entrance porch of the church. At the entrance of this church is the mast of a ship that miraculously escaped a devastating storm in Bay of Bengal. The premises also includes a clock tower, various statues of Mother Mary and Lord Jesus and a graveyard.
- Bandel Church Timings (Visiting Hours): 8 AM to 5 PM.
- Bandel Church History Trivia: After the original church was burnt down by the Mughals in 1632, the lost statue of Mother Mary was discovered from the Hooghly river by fishermen.
- Special information: Photography is strictly prohibited inside the church.
- Nearby attractions: Hooghly Imambara
Nearest railway station: Bandel (2.5 KM away)
Hooghly Imambara, nearby Bandel Church, is an important pilgrimage centre for Shia Muslims. The mosque was initially built by a Persian salt trader, Muhammad Mutahar. The entrance of the mosque is marked by a twin clock tower leading into a huge courtyard. Pillared corridors running along its periphery lead to the main Zaridalan, where prayers are offered daily. Throughout the Imambara there are age old Arabic inscriptions. Situated behind the Imambara is an unique Sundial, which was used to track time much before the watches were invented. Alongside this Sundial, the deeds of Hazi Mohsin are engraved on the rear wall. Moreover, the view of the Hooghly river from here is very pleasing.
- Hooghly Imambara Timings: 10 AM – 6 PM (remains closed for tourists every Friday, during the prayers)
- Entry Fee: INR 10 per person
- Trivia: During its glorious days, the 7-stepped throne in the Zaridalan is believed to have been decorated with gold and silver.
- Special information: The clock tower can be accessed by climbing 152 stairs but has separate entries for men and women. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Zaridalan.
- Nearby attractions: Ghorir More, showcasing the famous Edwardian Clock, is just 2.7 KM away. The Dutch Cemetery, is merely 2.6 KM away, contains graves of renowned Dutch reformers.
Nearest railway station: Hooghly Ghat Station (0.5 KM away)
Debanandapur is the birthplace of the famous Bengali writer, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Fondly known as ‘Katha Shilpi’ (artist of words), most of his novels have been an inspiration for well known movies such as Devdas, Parineeta, Khushboo etc. Situated amist a rural backdrop, the house of this great writer is called Sarat Chandra Smriti Mandir. The house has been converted into a museum for visitors to get a glimpse of his childhood days.
- Sarat Chandra Smriti Mandir Timings: 10 AM – 5 PM
- Trivia: Sarat Chandra was an acclaimed novelist as well as a freedom fighter. His brother Swami Vedananda is known as a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa.
- Special information: Photography is strictly prohibited inside the house.
Nearest railway station: Bandel Junction (2.1 KM away)