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Calcutta Walks – Gumghar Lane

Calcutta Walks – Gumghar Lane

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Gumghar Lane

This article delves into the historical significance of Gumghar Lane in Calcutta, shedding light on its obscure yet fascinating past, particularly focusing on the legacy of Goomghur Hospital.

Welcome to another exciting installment of Calcutta Walks! Join me as I delve into fascinating tidbits about my beloved city, the City of Joy – Calcutta. Previously, we explored the rich history of AJC Bose Road, Strand Road, the first shopping mall and The Grand Hotel. Today, let’s embark on a journey down Gumghar Lane, uncovering its hidden stories and unique charm.

Tucked away amidst the bustling trade hub of Calcutta lies a narrow lane shrouded in obscurity – Gumghar Lane. Many city dwellers are oblivious to its existence, yet this dingy alley holds a significant place in history, its roots extending back to the 19th century. Situated near Chandni Chowk, Gumghar Lane remains steeped in mystery, its name invoking curiosity and intrigue among those who stumble upon it.

Historian P. Thankappan Nair sheds light on the origins of Gumghar Lane in his book “History of Calcutta’s Streets,” tracing its mention back to the Bengal Agra Directory of 1850. Initially known as Goomghur Lane, the transformation to Gumghar remains enigmatic, possibly an anglicized rendition of its former name. Nair elucidates that the lane derived its appellation from the native hospital, known as Goomghur, situated on its northern side. This hospital, a haven for isolation (gum), served as a sanctuary for patients afflicted with contagious diseases.

In the annals of Calcutta’s history, the significance of Goomghur Hospital cannot be overstated. Established in the late 18th century, it functioned as a pioneering institution for quarantine facilities during the tumultuous times of the 19th and 20th centuries. Unlike conventional hospitals of British India, Goomghur Hospital was distinguished by its sole purpose of isolating patients suspected of contagious ailments. The 1852 edition of the Calcutta Review attests to its vital role in combating diseases like cholera and smallpox, prevalent in Calcutta during that era.

Artistic impression of old Gumghar Lane
Artistic impression of old Gumghar Lane

The strategic location of the hospital, nestled in the sparsely inhabited precincts of Dharmatala, facilitated its operations and minimized the risk of disease transmission. As Calcutta burgeoned into a cosmopolitan center, the legacy of Goomghur Hospital endured, paving the way for subsequent medical advancements. Its significance reverberates in the establishment of Asia’s first medical college, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, in 1835, marking a pivotal moment in the evolution of healthcare in the region.

However, the passage of time cast a veil of neglect over Gumghar Lane and its historic institution. In 1990, the echoes of its past faded as Gumghar Hospital ceased its operations. Yet, destiny intervened two decades later when the West Bengal state government resurrected the hospital in 2010, repurposing it to combat a modern-day scourge – the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the colonial-era facades that still adorn the lane, Gumghar Hospital emerged as a beacon of hope, providing critical care to those grappling with the ravages of the pandemic.

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Gumghar Lane another view

Today, as the world grapples with the resurgence of infectious diseases, the narrative of Gumghar Lane resonates with newfound relevance. Its historical significance serves as a poignant reminder of the cyclical nature of public health challenges and the enduring spirit of resilience that defines Calcutta. As we traverse the labyrinthine alleys of the city, let us not forget the hidden gems like Gumghar Lane, whose stories enrich our understanding of Calcutta’s past and present.

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