|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 (formerly known as Calcutta), in the Indian state of West Bengal. The neighbourhood has been at the forefront of Kolkata’s changing society.
On Lt. Col. Mark Wood’s map of 1784, the portion of the eastward road from Lal Bazar to what was known for a long time as Circular Road - which ran along the filled-in Mahratta Ditch and is now Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road - was shown as Boytaconnah Street, which received its name from the Baithakkana, or "resting place", where merchants formed and dispersed their caravans, sheltered by an old banyan tree (called a peepul tree in Cotton), at the road's eastern extremity, beyond which, to the northeast, were 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 Aaron Upjohn’s map of 1794, on land subsequently appropriated by Sealdah station. However, the tree is not on Wood’s map.
Later, Lal Bazar and Boytaconnah Streets were called "avenue to the eastward", which stretched from former Dalhousie Square to Sealdah. Subsequently, that road was named Bow Bazar Street. 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 been part of 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 No. 84A, near the present crossing with Nirmal Chandra Street. There were several (also bahu in Bengali) markets along its course, among them Baithakkhana Bazar at Nos. 155–58, where many (also bahu in Bengali) items were sold.
Bow Bazar Street has been renamed Bepin Behari Ganguly Street (named for Bipin Behari Ganguli (1887 – 1954), revolutionary leader, who spent about 24 years in British Indian jails, later joining the Congress movement). However, the locality continues to be called Bow Bazar. In keeping with the neighbourhood's earliest name, a road stretching from B. B. Ganguly Street to Mahatma Gandhi Road is called Baithakkhana Road, as well as the market along the road at the southern (Bow Bazar / B. B. Ganguly) end being called Baithakkhana Bazar.
After their victory in the Battle of Plassey, the English decided to build anew 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 emerged as preferred haunts for the Englishmen. While Sutanuti developed as the Black Town, the Esplanade and Chowringhee emerged as the White Town.
The areas around Writers' building, Baitakkhana (Bowbazar), Dharmatala, Entally, Taltala and Janbazar decreased 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 had been hidden throughout the year behind mud walls and tiled roofs when their numbers were less, was apparent when they converged in large numbers before the houses of the Bengali rich, looking for food and gifts on special occasions.
In the 18th and 19th centuries when Kolkata was growing and was the capital of the British Empire in India, a large number of Chinese came and settled in the Bowbazar to the Tiretta Bazar area. Later, a large portion 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, by opening up the district to the Indian city.
The narrow lanes of Bowbazar have numerous kothas - quarters which house numerous singing and dancing girls (baijis). There are renowned dance teachers coaching the dancing girls. 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 labourers. The adjacent Tiretta Bazar area is mainly a loading – unloading point with offices or godowns of a large 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 between Armenian 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 Bepin Behari Ganguly Street, is known for its jewellery shops. It is Kolkata’s jewellery district, with a wide ranging collection of gold and silver ornaments, with many beautifully designed and crafted stone settings. For most families a visit to Bowbazar is a must whenever there is a wedding in the family.
There are, as well, shops dealing in wooden furniture, musical instruments, shoes, seasonal fruits, fresh vegetables and meat, etc. There are well-defined areas for different products.
Bowbazar bomb blast
Mohammad Rashid Khan, a satta (sort of gambling) don, masterminded the Bowbazar bomb blast of 15 March 1993, which killed 69 people. He and five of his associates were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Bowbazar is home to some renowned Kolkata schools and colleges, and has a distinguished history 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 thus young Vidyasagar would sit under a roadside lamppost at night to do 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 later moved to Jadavpur. It was at the laboratories of this institution that Sir C. V. Raman did his monumental work on Physical Optics that lead to the discovery of the Raman Effect, for which Raman was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Science won by an Indian. That building now houses the Goenka College of Commerce and Business Administration, an eminent business school, one of the best in Eastern India. It was ranked as the 7th best commercial college in India, in 1999.
The Bengal National College and School, with Aurobindo Ghosh as principal and Satish Chandra Mukherjee as honorary superintendent, was first situated at 19/1 Bowbazar Street, starting its work on 15 August 1906. It later grew to be Jadavpur University.
Traditionally, musical soirées were held in the large private houses of old Kolkata; but there also were some humbler houses that had similar soirées, amongst the latter being the Bowbazar home of a musical family, the Borals. The Jhulan Bari festival held at Bowbazar is a celebration of Indian classical music. 
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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