Jawaharlal Nehru Road

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For the road in Chennai, see Inner Ring Road, Chennai.
Not to be confused with Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Delhi.

Jawaharlal Nehru Road (earlier known as Chowringhee Road), in the Chowringhee neighbourhood, is the arterial road running from the eastern fringes of Esplanade southwards up to the crossing with Lower Circular Road (renamed Acharya Jagadish Bose Road), in the city of Kolkata, India. It is the single most important road of the metropolis of Kolkata. It was renamed after Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister.

History[edit]

High rises along J L Nehru Rd

Arguably one of the first roads in the city, prior to the coming of the British, the road used to link the villages of Kalighat and Chowringhee. The village of Chowringhee was named after a Jain religious figure of those days, and the name stuck on in spite of the British rule and was changed only after the independence of India.

After the British started expanding their settlement outside the Fort area in the mid-18th century, the area around Chowringhee was one of the first expansions. And the same area remained their pride and commercial centre until their departure in 1947. During the early British developments around the Chowringhee area, they built huge bungalows and houses all along the eastern end of the road, thus earning Kolkata the sobriquet - 'City of Palaces'. It was really a wonderful era of Kolkata, which came to be the second city of the British empire. Rows of huge palatial houses flanked by gardens and the area along the western edge of the road was a huge open area called the Maidan. The Maidan was intentionally kept open and development-free due to security purposes of Fort William.

Manohar Das Tarag in 2011

Later there were tanks made on the western stretch of the road at each important crossing right from the Lower Circular Road junction (now the Exide crossing) to the Esplanade near Curzon Park. Of these only a couple exist now - the Manohar Das Tarag and the one at the junction of Park Street and Chowringhee. Of the reclaimed tanks, one was where the Calcutta Information Centre and the Maidan Police Station now stand, another one where the Maidan metro station now stand and still a third on where the Esplanade bus-terminus now stand. The beauty of the road no longer exists and can only be seen in drawings and sketches of the bygone era.

With the advent of trams, tram-tracks were laid along the western edge of Chowringhee to connect the area of Tollygunge to Esplanade. These tracks, also, no longer exist.

Of the grand palaces and mansions of the era, only a few still remain - "the Oberoi Grand Hotel", the "Janbazar" Building (which was owned by Rani Rashmoni) at the junction of Corporation Street (now S.N.Banerjee Road), "The Chowringhee Mansions" (now housing several offices) at Kyd Street intersection, the "Asiatic Society" at the Park Street crossing and the majestic "Indian Museum" are the well known ones. Some buildings from a later period include the "Kanak Building" (now housing offices of Citibank and Standered Chartered Bank) at the junction of Middleton Street, "Virginia House" (housing the headquarters of ITC) and the New Market Watch Tower building. The building at the Lindsay Street intersection, which used to house the famous Italian joint Firpo's, was razed in a blaze in 2002.

Chowringhee still remains very much the heart of Kolkata and the place of choice for many large business houses. But in spite of all the changes one thing remains constant - "When you build on Chowringhee, build it like Chowringhee, in style". This saying of old must have been followed by each architect who designed the newer buildings on Chowringhee, showcasing their extravagant self. Examples include the Tata Centre at the intersection of Harrington Street (now Ho Chi Minh Sarani), Jeevan Sudha (at the Middleton Street intersection), Everest House (next to Tata Center), J K Centre, SAIL Building, The Reliance House, the Metro Railway Building, among others. Chattejee International Center is the tallest building situated on this road. It rises up to a height 91 metres (299 ft) from the ground and comprises 24 floors.

Places of interest[edit]

Jawaharlal Nehru Road is not only the commercial heart of the city, but also the cultural heart. The Indian Museum and the Government Art College are located here, along with the afore-mentioned Asiatic Society. The Bishop's House, housing the residence of the Bishop of Kolkata and the St. Paul's Cathedral, is located here.

The M. P. Birla Planetarium is on the junction of Jawahalal Nehru Road and Cathedral road, the Victoria Memorial is a stone's throw away on Queensway. The neo-cultural centres of Nandan, Rabindra Sadan and the Academy of Fine Arts are next to Chowringhee on Lower Circular Road and the Cathedral Road.

The Tipu Sultan Mosque is at the intersection of Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Chittaranjan Avenue) and Lenin Sarani (formerly Dharmotollah street)

The Chowringhee is home to four stations of the Kolkata Metro i.e., Esplanade, Park Street, Maidan and Rabindra Sadan.

The huge expanse of the Maidan is busy throughout the year with fairs and political meetings.

Proposed Skyscraper[edit]

A 310 metres (1,017 ft) tall residential skyscraper (65 floors), named The 42 is being built at 42B Jawaharlal Nehru Road between Tata Centre and Jeevan Sudha. Once completed, it will become the tallest building in India outside Mumbai.

Gallery[edit]