Heritage landmarks in Bengal's Dutch town get special plaques
Seeking to popularise shared built heritage and local history in this former Dutch colony in Bengal, the Netherlands and state authorities have joined hands to put up special plaques at 20 landmarks, including a few private houses endowed with unique architecture.
The plaques, containing informative text in English and Bengali, and a small picture of the landmark, were unveiled on Saturday by Dutch Ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga in the presence of local authorities.
"This is in continuation with our efforts to document and popularise the Dutch and local Bengali history of this historical town that is filled with iconic buildings.
"The Dutch came here 400 years ago, and the past four centuries encompass a multi-layered history, and the idea is to celebrate not just the European link but also local history," Honorary Consul of the Netherlands in Kolkata, Namit Shah said.
As part of the Dutch-West Bengal collaboration, a volume on historical Dutch buildings was earlier published. A booklet 'Dutch in Chinsurah' with an accompanying website was also brought out.
"The 20 buildings include Court House, Commissioner's Bungalow, Dutch Cemetery, Hooghly Mohsin College, Imambara, Susanna Anna Maria's Tomb, Circuit House, Dutch Barracks and Police Lines. Besides, plaques have also been placed at three old private houses ('baris'), which have Dutch-influenced or other unique architecture," Shah said.
Apart from these plaques, two big plaques have been erected, which contain the map of Chinsurah and these 20 spots, forming sort of a heritage trail, he said.
A senior Dutch Embassy official said the idea also is to "promote homestay and bicycle heritage tour and link heritage with economic development".
Shah said the list initially included 12 spots, but it was later expanded to include other historical building too, besides those linked to the Dutch legacy.
"People come to Chinsurah and go back. We wanted to leave a favourable trail in their consciousness, and so this project was undertaken. The state and municipal authorities supported a lot to execute this," Shah said.
"Kerala is another integral part of shared Dutch legacy in India, and Alleppey (Alappuzha) with its canals is like Amsterdam. We want to first engage in cleaning of the canal and then using the area for boosting heritage tourism," the Embassy official said.
Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC) or the Dutch East India Company, which was originally established as a chartered company in 1602, is said to be one of the first multi-national companies, which also had its own logo. The Commissioner's Bungalow here has the Dutch marker, reading "VOC 1687" on its inside wall.
Among other iconic landmark of Chinsurah include Ghorir More, a colonial-era Gothic tower, imported by the British in memory of King Edward VI.