||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (April 2013)|
|Neighbourhood in Kolkata (Calcutta)|
|Elevation||36 ft (11 m)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Area code(s)||+91 33|
Bowbazar (also spelt Boubazar) (Bengali: বৌবাজার) is a neighbourhood and police station 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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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'.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Red light district
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.
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. In 1899, Calcutta Tramways Company Limited introduced electric traction and the old system was electrified. The Central station of Kolkata Metro serves Bowbazar.
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. 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. For most families a visit to Bowbazar is a must whenever there is a wedding in the family.
Bowbazar bomb blast
Mohammad Rashid Khan, a satta (sort of gambling) don, masterminded the Bowbazar bomb blast on 15 March 1993 which killed 69 people. He and five of his associates were sentenced to life imprisonment.
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.
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. 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.
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. The Jhulanbari festival held at Bowbazar is celebrated in an ambience of Indian classical music. 
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- Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, pp. 285–286, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
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- Map no. 31, Detail Maps of 141 Wards of Kolkata, D.R.Publication and Sales Concern, 66 College Street, Kolkata – 700073
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- Mukhopadhyay, Ganesh. "Theatre Stage – Banga Natyalaya, Bowbazar". Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 16 August 2007.
- Mitra, Rajyeshwar, Music in Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, p. 183
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bowbazar.|
Kolkata/North Kolkata travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Photos of Parsi Temple, Metcalfe Street (Bandook Gali)
- Photos of Chinese Temple, Tiretta Bazar
- Photos of Chinese New Year