Calcutta Walks discusses some interesting facts from the pages of history. The second episode discusses one of the most prominent roads in Calcutta – The Strand Road which was built using sand and clay all the way from England.
Mirza Ghalib reached Calcutta on the 20th of February 1828 and remained here till October 1829. On one occasion he remarked, “Kalkatte jaysa shaher toh ruhay jamin pay nahi hay, agar may mujarridh hota our khanadari ki jimabaria mujpay hayel na hoti toh sub kuch chor charkey yahi ka ho jata”. True, the city has the power to make everything else seem insignificant. And perhaps it is a similar feeling which inspired me to write ‘Calcutta walks’. In the first episode, I covered the history of A.J.C. Bose Road, and now I shall try to explore the story of Strand Road.
The Strand Road which was built sometime in 1828 by the river Ganges is one of the most prominent roads in Calcutta. But did you know this busy road, which runs along the Hooghly River, was built with sand that was brought from England? Well, I was unaware of this until I saw a Facebook channel named ‘Golpo Holo Sotti’ which brings to us such interesting facts from the pages of history.
I did some research and found that during the 18th and 19th centuries, Calcutta was an important hub of trade and commerce for the British East India Company. They used to trade commodities such as cotton, spices, and various textiles which were taken to England by ships. The ships used to dock at Chandpal Ghat where they used to load goods. However, when they returned from England they had to sail without any cargo. Those voyages were often dangerous as empty ships are more prone to sinking than loaded ones during a long voyage.
To solve this issue, English sailors came up with the idea of filling the vessels with soil from Britain to increase their weight. Upon arrival at Calcutta’s ghats, the clay and soil were no longer needed as they had to unload before picking up their intended cargo. The British sailors, therefore, discarded the soil along Chandpal Ghat and Babu Ghat.
The amount of soil dumped was so significant that local British authorities decided to construct a road along the river banks. This led to the creation of Strand Road, which was part of Marquess Wellesley’s plan for the Ganga embankment.
In 1820, the first shipment of sand arrived in Calcutta from England. The sand was transported in ships that sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, a journey that could take several months. Once the ships arrived in Calcutta, the sand was unloaded onto barges and transported upriver to the construction sites.
The sand from England proved to be a game-changer for Calcutta’s infrastructure. It provided a solid foundation for the city’s roads and helped to prevent erosion along the riverbanks. Strand Road, which was built in the mid-19th century, was one of the first major roads to be constructed using this imported sand. The road quickly became an important artery for the city’s commerce and trade, connecting the bustling port area with the rest of Calcutta.
Today, Strand Road remains an important landmark in Calcutta’s history and is still a vital thoroughfare for the city’s transportation. While many people may not realize that the road was built with sand imported from England, it serves as a testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the engineers who helped to shape Calcutta or Calcutta as we know it today.
With this, I end today’s episode, until another interesting story about my city, The City of Joy.
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A devoted foodie with keen interest in wild life, music, cinema and travel Somashis has evolved over time . Being an enthusiastic reader he has recently started making occasional contribution to write-ups.