B. B. D. Bagh

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For Dalhousie Square in Montreal, see Dalhousie Station (Montreal).
Writer's Building from across Lal Dighi in B.B.D. Bagh

B.B.D. Bagh (Bengali: বি.বি.ডি.বাগ়), formerly called Dalhousie Square, is the shortened version for Benoy-Badal-Dinesh Bagh (Bengali: বিনয়-বাদল-দীনেশ বাগ়). It is the seat of power of the state government, as well as the central business district in Kolkata in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Origin of name[edit]

B.B.D. stands for three young Indian independence activistsBenoy, Badal and Dinesh — who on 8 December 1930 shot dead the Inspector General of Prisons, N.S. Simpson, in the balconies of the Writers' Building of the then Dalhousie Square. The square had been named after Lord Dalhousie, Governor General of India from 1847 to 1856. At different times it has been called ‘The Green before the Fort’ or Tank Square.[1]|

As we enter the town, very expansive square opens before us, with a large expanse of water in the middle, for public use… the square itself is composed of magnificent houses which render Calcutta not only the handsomest town in Asia but one of the finest in the world. One side of the square consists of a range of buildings occupied by persons in civil employments under the Company, such as writers in public offices.[2]

L. de Grandpre, A Voyage in the Indian Ocean and to Bengal (1803)

Geography[edit]

The B.B.D. Bagh area is near the Hooghly river in the western part of the central Kolkata and is a square built around the old Lal Dighi tank. The old fort built by the British was around where the General Post Office now is. The area was in the heart of Kalikata or the White Town in old Calcutta.

History[edit]

A picture of Dalhousie Square looking northeast in the 1870's
A view of the General Post Office in the 1880's

B.B.D. Bagh (or Dalhousie Square as it was formerly known) was created as the center of the British East India Company's trading post along the banks of the Hooghly River. Between the river and the tank (now known as Lal Dighi), lay the original Fort William. In the summer of 1756, Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa launched an attack on the British town for the Company's decision to strengthen the fortifications around it. The survivors of the attack were sent to a garrison within the fort which spurred an incident infamously known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. The British soon retook the city after the Nawab retreated from the forces of Robert Clive. Within a year, the Company's forces had taken all of Bengal and Calcutta, along with the square, was established as the commercial and political center of British India. Over the next one and a half centuries, the square grew with in its importance and influence. It was named after Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India and after the fall of Company rule in India, the Writer's Building became the secretariat of the Viceroy of India. A number of corporations and institutions opened offices and headquarters in and around the square that gave it it's role as the central business district of the city. In 1912, the capital of British India was officially moved to New Delhi, but the majority of the financial and political institutions in the area remained. During the first half of the 20th Century, the Indian Independence Movement began to reach its peak and took a violent turn in Bengal. On the eighth of December 1930, three revolutionaries, Benoy, Badal, and Dinesh stormed the building and fatally shot the Inspector General of Prisons, N.S.Simpson. The three committed suicide and the square was renamed B.B.D. Bagh in their honor after Indian independence. In 1947, the political establishments were officially handed over to the government of India and the government of the newly formed state of West Bengal. Over the next few decades, Calcutta (as it was known) would go through rapid economic decline, but B.B.D. Bagh would remain the heart of East India.

Modern Significance[edit]

A view of the General Post Office in 2010
The Central Telegraph Office which lies to the south of the main square.
Hong Kong House which has and still houses the offices of HSBC in Kolkata.

B.B.D. Bagh is still the commercial and political center of all of East India and many of the business and political institutions from the colonial era still exist. The centerpiece is the Writer's Building which is the secretariat of the Government of the State of West Bengal and houses the office of the Chief Minister of West Bengal. To the west lies the General Post Office, the Royal Insurrance Building, the eastern office of the Reserve Bank of India, the headquarters of the Eastern Railway, head office of the Kolkata Port Trust, and a number of other government offices. To the north lies the Royal Exchange Building which houses the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Calcutta Stock Exchange, the Standard Chartered Building, and many financial establishments. The eastern end also houses a number of offices till Chittaranjan Avenue. The area south of the square is home to the Raj Bhavan which is now the residence of the Governor and the former residence of the Viceroy and Governor General of India. A number of former British colonial administrative offices including the former Foreign & Military Secretariats, the Treasury Office, the Telegraph Office, and the Kolkata Town Hall can be found here. This area is also a major commercial district with the offices of HSBC at Hong Kong House and the Great Eastern Hotel.

B.B.D. Bagh can still be considered as one of the best remnants and concentrated zones of British colonial architecture in the world. The square is also characterized by other historical landmarks including St. John's Church which was one of the first buildings in Calcutta and is modeled on St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London's Trafalgar Square. The church is home to a number of beautiful stained glass windows and paintings as well as the mausoleum of Job Charnock, the man who founded modern Calcutta. B.B.D. Bagh also has a statue of famous philanthropist Maharaja Lakshmeshwar Singh of Darbhanga (1858–1898) sculpted by Edward Onslow Ford.

Overall, the square sees thousands of people arriving from all over the Kolkata metropolitan area to the number of offices and businesses that have characterized the area for the last 3 centuries since the establishment of Calcutta.

Preservation[edit]

The Dalhousie Square was included in the 2004 and 2006 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) due to "decades of neglect".[3] After this listing the international financial services company American Express provided funding through WMF for the square's preservation. A number of buildings in the area have also been listed as heritage buildings and are going through or have gone through extensive restorations to bring back the charm of the square. The centerpiece, the Writer's Building, has also been temporarily vacated to give way for a massive restoration of the building which has fallen into disrepair in many areas.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p 268-9, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  2. ^ Quoted by Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, Traders and Trades in Old Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, pp. 156-160, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
  3. ^ World Monuments Fund - Dalhousie Square

Gallery[edit]

External links[edit]

Kolkata/Esplanade travel guide from Wikivoyage

Coordinates: 22°34′19″N 88°20′56″E / 22.572°N 88.349°E / 22.572; 88.349