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Bowbazar
Neighbourhood in Kolkata (Calcutta)
Kolkata Bowbazar Map.jpg
Country  India
State West Bengal
City Kolkata
Ward
Metro Station Central
Elevation 36 ft (11 m)
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
PIN 700,012
Area code(s) +91 33

Bowbazar (also spelt Boubazar) (Bengali: বৌবাজার) is a neighbourhood and police station[1] in central Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta, in the Indian state of West Bengal. The neighbourhood has been at the forefront of Kolkata’s changing society.

History[edit]

In Wood’s map of 1784, the entire portion of the road from Lal Bazar to what was known for a long time as Circular Road (now Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road) or even a part of that road was shown as Baithakkhana (archaic spelling Boytaconnah). It received its name from an old banyan tree which stood at its eastern extremity and formed a baithakkhana or resting and meeting place for caravans of merchants who traded in Kolkata. Beyond it were the salt lakes and marshes. Job Charnock is said to have chosen the site of Kolkata for a city, in consequence of the pleasure he found in sitting and smoking under the shade of a large tree. Posterity loved to connect his name with the Baithakkhana tree, which is shown in Upjohn’s map of 1794 on land subsequently appropriated by Sealdah station. However, it finds no mention in Wood’s map of 1784.[2]

In earlier days, it was called 'avenue to the eastward' stretching from earlier Dalhousie Square to what is now Sealdah. Subsequently, the road was named Bow Bazar Street and it absorbed Baithakkhana. Bow Bazar is commonly said to be a corruption of Bahu Bazar or "Bride’s Bazar". One source says that a bazar is said to have fallen in the share of a daughter-in-law of Biswanath Matilal but some historians have failed to trace or identify that person.[2] This particular market is said to have been located at premises no. 84A, near the present crossing with Nirmal Chandra Street. There were several (also bahu in Bengali) markets along its course, among them is Baithakkhana Bazar at premises nos. 155–58, where many (also bahu in Bengali) items were sold.[3]

Bow Bazar Street has been renamed Bipin Behari Ganguly Street. However, the locality continues to be called Bow Bazar. A road stretching from Bipin Behari Ganguly Street to Mahatma Gandhi Road is called Baithakkhana Road.[4] The market along the road at the southern (Bow Bazar) end of the road is called Baithakkhana Bazar. Bipin Behari Ganguly (1887 – 1954) was a revolutionary leader, who spent about 24 years in British Indian jails. He later joined the Congress movement.[5]

At the cross roads, where Lal Bazar, Bow Bazar, Chitpore Road and Bentinck Street meets, was the place of execution, where a pillory was later built.[2]

Grey area[edit]

After their victory in the Battle of Plassey, the English decided to build new Fort William, in 1758. The native population shifted from Gobindapur mostly to Sutanuti. The European inhabitants of Kalikata gradually moved to around the Maidan.[6] Civilians were not allowed to live within the new fort. Gradually the areas to the south of the Great Tank and to the east along Chowringhee Road were emerging as preferred haunts for the Englishmen. While Sutanuti developed as the Black Town, the Esplanade and Chowringhee emerged as the White Town.

However, the areas around Writers' building, Baitakkhana (Bowbazar), Dharmatala, Entally, Taltala and Janbazar went down in estimation and were gradually taken over by 'the rest', which included half-castes, Portuguese, Armenians, Anglo-Indians, Muslims and so on, 'to become grey areas between Black and White Towns of old Kolkata'.[7]

The 1876 census found that around 10,000 people crossed the Hooghly River and entered the city every day. They settled in large numbers, clustered in slums, in the area between Mechuabazar and Bowbazar. The stark poverty of these people which used to be confined throughout the year to mud walls and tiled roofs, used to converge in large numbers before the houses of the Bengali rich for food and gifts on special occasions.[8]

Chinatown[edit]

In the 18th and 19th centuries when Kolkata was growing and was capital of the British Empire in India, a large number of Chinese came and settled in the Bowbazar-Tiretta’s Bazar area. Later, a large chunk moved to Tangra on the eastern fringe of Kolkata and set up tanneries there. Thereafter, although some Chinese continued to live in Bowbazar, it was Tangra that became Kolkata’s China town.[9]

The Chinese in Bowbazar were mainly Cantonese. In the years after independence, the area was opened up with the laying down of new road networks and the construction of large modern apartment blocks in place of very dense housing had an adverse effect on the Chinese community.[10]

Kothas[edit]

The narrow lanes of Bowbazar have numerous kothas or baiji-quarters which house numerous singing and dancing girls. There are renowned dance teachers coaching the dancing girls. In a report The Telegraph carried a candid report, "The Kathak master who would arrive every day in a rickshaw through the narrow alleys of Bowbazar was the famed Kathak guru Ram Narayan Mishra of the Lucknow gharana (school). He was accompanied by one of his young students, a boy named Chitresh Das. Das remembers his guru going from baiji-quarter to baiji-quarter, the burly bouncers touching his feet, mothers of baijis in their zari (gold)-bordered saris personally dressing a paan (betel leaf) for him." There used to be rules and norms, and Bowbazar was meant for the cultured rich. In olden days if anyone misbehaved, they were just told, 'Matlab se aaye, jaiye Sonagachi (if you have come with bad intentions, go to Sonagachi, the red light district).’” However, things have changed and the kothas of Bowbazar are in decline.[11]

Red light district[edit]

Bowbazar has a red light area where about 1500–2000 sex workers peddle themselves. The surrounding areas are inhabited by slum dwellers, truckers and migrant labour. The adjacent Tirreta’s Bazar area is mainly a loading – unloading point with offices or godowns of highest number of transport companies. The area is very unsanitary.[12][13]

First tram[edit]

Horse-drawn tram – life-size model at City Centre arcade, Kolkata

19th century Kolkata was a city of palanquins and horse-drawn carriages. The tramway was the first attempt at mass transport. The first horse driven tramcar rolled out on 24 February 1873 running betweenArmenian Ghat and Sealdah via Bowbazar as well as Dalhousie Square.[14] In 1899, Calcutta Tramways Company Limited introduced electric traction and the old system was electrified.[15] The Central station of Kolkata Metro serves Bowbazar.

Market[edit]

Bowbazar market on Bipin Behari Ganguly Street is known for its jewellery shops besides other shops dealing in wooden furniture, musical instruments, shoes, seasonal fruits, fresh vegetable and flesh etc.[16] There are different areas for different products. It is Kolkata’s jewellery district, with a wide ranging collection of gold and silver ornaments. Many are beautifully designed and crafted stone settings.[17] For most families a visit to Bowbazar is a must whenever there is a wedding in the family.

Bowbazar bomb blast[edit]

Mohammad Rashid Khan, a satta (sort of gambling) don, masterminded the Bowbazar bomb blast on 15 March 1993 which killed 69 people.[18] He and five of his associates were sentenced to life imprisonment.[19]

Education[edit]

Bowbazar is home to some of the renowned Kolkata schools and colleges but it also has other distinctions in the field of education.

The scholar, educationist and reformer Vidyasagar came to Kolkata with his father from Birshingha in Midnapore in 1829 and settled in Panchanantala, a locality within Bowbazar. Thakur Das Bandhopadhyay, Vidyasagar’s father, could not afford to buy oil for lamps and hence young Vidyasagar sat under a roadside lamp post at night and did his lessons.[20]

Dr. Mahendra Lal Sircar, established the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, a national institution for higher learning whose primary purpose is to foster high quality fundamental research in frontier disciplines of the basic sciences, at 210 Bowbazar Street in July 1876. It was later shifted to Jadavpur. It was at the laboratories of this institution that Sir C. V. Raman did his monumental work, on Physical Optics leading to the discovery of the celebrated Raman Effect, which won for him and India the first Nobel Prize in Science.[21] That building is now the prestigious Goenka College of Commerce & Business Administration which is an eminent Commerce College and one of the best in Eastern India. It was ranked as the 7th best Commerce College in India in 1999.

Bengal National College and School with Aurobindo Ghosh as principal and Satish Chandra Mukherjee as honorary superintendent started functioning at 19/1 Bowbazar Street on 15 August 1906. It later grew to be Jadavpur University.[22]

Culture[edit]

Banga Natyalay was the first theatre to print admission cards in Bengali.[23]

Traditionally, musical soirees were organised by the large houses of old Kolkata, but there also were some humbler houses that organised similar soirees. Amongst them was the Bowbazar home of the musical family of Borals.[24] The Jhulanbari festival held at Bowbazar is celebrated in an ambience of Indian classical music. [25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bowbazar Police Station". Kolkata Police. Archived from the original on 8 June 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, pp. 285–286, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  3. ^ Nair, P. Thankappan in The Growth and Development of Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol. I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p. 17, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-563696-3.
  4. ^ Map no. 31, Detail Maps of 141 Wards of Kolkata, D.R.Publication and Sales Concern, 66 College Street, Kolkata – 700073
  5. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), 1976/1998, Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, (Bengali), p. 349, ISBN 81-85626-65-0
  6. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., p. 72
  7. ^ Lahiri Choudhury, Dhriti Kanta, Trends in Calcutta Architecture, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, pp.159–160
  8. ^ Banerjee, Sumanta, The World of Ramjan Ostagar, the Common Man of Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol. I, pp. 78–79
  9. ^ "Chinatown to become a tourist spot". The Financial Express. 19 July 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  10. ^ Berjeaut, Julien. "Chinois à Calcutta, les tigres du Bengale (Chinese in Calcutta, the Bengal Tigers)". French Centre for Research on Contemporary China. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  11. ^ Roy, Sandip (29 October 2006). "Umrao Jaan, the story untold". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  12. ^ "Jabala Jaag". CRY. Archived from the original on 8 December 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  13. ^ "Truckers Study". Prantik Jana Vikash Samity. Retrieved 16 August 2007. [dead link]
  14. ^ Basu, Rajsekhar. "Calcutta Tramways". Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  15. ^ Nair, P.Thankappan, Civic and Public Services in Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, pp. 235–6
  16. ^ "Bowbazar Market". Kolkata information. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  17. ^ "Shopping". Fodor’s. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  18. ^ Chakrabarty, Rakhi (25 July 2004). "Don’s shadow on son’s life". The Statesman. Retrieved 16 August 2007. [dead link]
  19. ^ "Rashid Khan gets life term". The Statesman. 31 August 2001. Retrieved 16 August 2007. [dead link]
  20. ^ Ghosh, Kaushik (24 December 2002). "Beacon that lit Bengal lies in neglect". The Statesman. Retrieved 16 August 2007. [dead link]
  21. ^ "Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Kolkata". Department of Science and Technology, Government of India. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  22. ^ "Centenary Celebration of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Jadavpur University". Jadavpur University. Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  23. ^ Mukhopadhyay, Ganesh. "Theatre Stage – Banga Natyalaya, Bowbazar". Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 16 August 2007. 
  24. ^ Mitra, Rajyeshwar, Music in Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, p. 183
  25. ^ Sen, Sandhya (1 January 2005). "Music: Thumri power at Jhulanbari". The Statesman. Retrieved 16 August 2007. [dead link]

Images[edit]

External links[edit]

Kolkata/North Kolkata travel guide from Wikivoyage

Coordinates: 22°34′12″N 88°21′32″E / 22.570°N 88.359°E / 22.570; 88.359


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15 news items

Calcutta Telegraph

Calcutta Telegraph
Sat, 12 Apr 2014 16:21:00 -0700

A for Abar Khabo: In an online tribute, a non-resident Bengali has gone to the extent of thanking his father-in-law for having a house near Bhim Chandra Nag's famous old proud-to-be-shabby sweet shop in Bowbazar that boasts of a Cooke and Kelvey clock ...
 
Times of India
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:33:32 -0700

From Bowbazar crossing a big procession will be organised with old style horse carriages and phaetons that will carry prominent personalities of the city to the centre of the festival at College Square. To add to the festivities there would be some ...
 
Times of India
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:56:14 -0700

Meanwhile, All India Minority Forum president Md kamaruzzaman met the Gupta and urged to change the booth that have been earmarked near a Buddhist temple at Bowbazar. "Buddha Purnima - one of the major festivals of the Buddhists - is on May 14 and ...
 
Economic Times
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 17:42:04 -0700

An initiative by the Wada Toro Abhiyan to draw up a charter of sex workers' demands as part of the process of developing a "Peoples Manifesto" saw women from the Kolkata red light districts of Kalighat, Sonagachhi and Bowbazar demand rehabilitation for ...

indiatvnews.com

indiatvnews.com
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 23:28:58 -0700

In addition, the group has also requested the displacement of polling booths inside the schools located in the Buddhist temple complex in the Bowbazar area of central Kolkata as the date of polling in that area May 12 would coincide with the ...

Daily News & Analysis

Daily News & Analysis
Thu, 03 Apr 2014 09:39:11 -0700

In addition, the group has also requested the displacement of polling booths inside the schools located in the Buddhist temple complex in the Bowbazar area of central Kolkata as the date of polling in that area May 12 would coincide with the ...
 
Times of India
Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:15:00 -0700

Earlier, when Buddhadeb Bhattacharya was the chief minister, Rashid Khan - the prime accused in the Bowbazar blast case of 1993 - the jail officials had wanted his release but judicial officials had turned down the proposal as Khan was accused in a ...
 
Times of India
Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:03:46 -0700

... brake on the drive early this week till the dispute was resolved. The drive was resumed on Friday. The civic team on Saturday visited many areas in north Kolkata which include Bowbazar, Chittaranjan Avenue, Bidhan Sarani, Cossipore among other areas.
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