I have very thin line of linkage with the so-called city of joy – Kolkata with few connected relations and friends. My parents moved to the north long before the partition and were happily settled in Delhi where I was born and raised. Therefore, when I got this piece in a messaging app, it intrigued me and I decided to spread it further to my non-Bengali friends…
There is always some intriguing story behind the old names of the streets or localities across the world based on some anecdotes and Kolkata is no different in this regard…
The name probably derives from the bend (or BAANK in Bengali) that river Ganges takes at that point. The vast unoccupied land used to have Haat or Bazaar which was popularly called Baankbazaar later became Bagbazaar.
Long ago there used to be a famous market in what is currently known as Shyambazaar. John Jefania Hallwell renamed it as Charles Bazaar sometime in the 19th century. The Seths and Basaks were the original settlers of Sutanuti (one of three villages that form Kolkata) and Shobharam Basak used to be a rich landlord of the area in the 18th century Bengal. He was a devout of Shyamray (Shri Krishna) and named the area after his Lord as Shyambazaar.
When Nawab Shiraj Ud Dawla attacked the British forces in Kolkata, his Elephant Brigade had their tents in the area which was named as Hatibagan.
However, there’s another story as well… Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s land holding was spread beyond the Shobhabazaar (his seat of power and residence) and his herd of elephants used live in the area that’s now called Hatibagan.
There is a temple called Aadi Chitteshwari Durga Mandir in Chitpur area of the Kashipur. The Chitpur Road is one of the prime streets of modern day Kolkata. It was the early days of Kolkata, the city was taking shape slowly, the river Ganges (or Hoogly) used to flow through the area that is now Stand Road. It is said that a bandit called Chitte Dakat made the idol of the Durga using a Neem Log that came floating on the river Hoogly from some unknown place. Later, Manohar Ghosh, a rich person of the area built the Aadi Chitteshwari Durga Temple which is how the area came to be known as Chitpur.
The area that come alive after Sun down with the whiff of Rajanigandha or Tuberose flowers mingled with aroma of the different kinds of cutlets from the street shops and the queens of the night come out in their best livery to scout for the clients was named after the Pir (or Fakir) called Sona Ullah Ghazi.
However, another narrative suggests that the area was famous for the nightly adventures of the well to do gentlemen and there was another location nearby where the proletariat crowd used to frequent after sun down. The former was called Sonagachhi and the latter came to be known as Rupogachhi to differentiate between the clientele.
When the tradition of Durga Puja was started by Shobhabazaar Rajbari (or the Zamindar of Shobhabazaar), the sculpters or the Kumor’s were brought in and settled near the zamindari which came to be known as Kumortuli.
It is said that in the bygone years, many ironsmiths used to live and work there and the constant sound of “Thanthan” as they would work on the iron pieces made the place famous as Thanthania. Alternative narration suggests that to warn of the impending attacks by the dacoits, the temple bell would be rung and the “Thanthan” sound would echo in the area. Whatever it is, the name of the place is due to the sound of metal meeting metal.
The map made by Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wood refers to the area east of Lalbazaar, then called Maratha Khat, later renamed as Circular Road and now called Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road, as Boytaconnah Street. It derives basically from the term Baithakkhana. There used to be a very old Banyan tree under which the traders from different places would assemble and do business or simply exchange ideas. It is said that even Job Charnock used to frequent this place when he made Calcutta (Kolkata) his trading headquarters. In 1794, Aron Upjohn created a map of the region which describes the Banyan Tree and refers the place as Baithakkhana.
Even today, the street between Boubazaar to Mahatma Gandhi Road is referred as Baithakkhana Road and the market thereof is called Baithakkhana Bazaar.
The road stretching from Binoy-Badal-Dinesh Bagh (earlier Dalhousie Square) to Shealdah is called Boubazaar Street. There are two opinions around the naming of the place popularly known as Boubazaar. According to one, the Marwari businessman Bishwanath Motilal bequeathed a Bazaar to his daughter-in-law (in Hindi Bahu means Son’s Wife or daughter-in-law) and that Bazaar became “Bahubazaar” and later colloquially came to be known as BOUBAZAAR. However, historians could not establish any linkage or whereabout of this particular businessman.
The other and perhaps more likely reason is that there were many bazaars scattered in that area selling a variety (Bohu or many) of items which prompted people to refer this place as BOHUBAZAAR.
Much later, sometime in the 70’s the Boubazaar Street was rechristened as Bipin Bihari Ganguly Street after the freedom fighter who spent a long 24 years in the British jail and later joined Indian National Congress after independence.
In the bygone days, the area had a big Canal probably called Vidyadhari on whose banks the boats would kept upturned to clean the hull and apply tar to prevent decay. In Bengali the boat is called “Dingi Nouka” therefore the place was called Ultodingi and later came to be known as Ultodanga.
Now, the canal does not exist but once upon a time people used take the boat ride to cross the canal. There is also a story of bamboo & wood trading associated with the place but that’s not relevant to the current topic.
Long before Job Charnock set his foot in Kolkata, Laldeeghi existed in the village of Kolikata. The court and the Mandir of Roy Choudhuri’s were in close vicinity of Laldeeghi (Red Lake). It is said that while playing with colors during HOLI (festival of Colors), the lake would turn Red and that’s how the name Laldeeghi came about. However, historian Prankrishna Dutt gives the name of Mukundran Seth and family for creating this lake and having his office-cum-residences on the bank of the lake. The family used play the festival of colors in the lake and the lake would turn red for few days afterwards which prompted the locals to call it Laldeeghi.
Some others say that the image of the adjacent Red Old Mission Church created an illusion of red water from which popularized it as Laldeeghi. Yet, some others say that certain Lal Chand Basak created the lake and therefore it was named after him.
Once upon a time there used to be a salt making plant in this area. The Salt Traders were called “Malangi” in Bengali from which came the name Malanga Lane.
Santosh Mitra Square
Earlier it was Nebutalar Math and even before that it was known as St. James Square. But at the very beginning this was called Hazurimal Tank, after the Punjabi Businessman who arranged to dug up 22 acres of land to create a lake. Later, the lake was filled up and Muchipara Police Station and residential quarters of Portugese Clerks of British Empire was established which was called Keranibagan (Clerk’s Garden). Later, the name was changed to Nebutala (because of huge number of lemon trees in the area, Lemon=Nebu or Lebu in Bengali) and it is known as Santosh Mitra Square after the freedom Shaheed Santosh Mitra.
In 1775-76, Major William Tally started the digging and dredging of a canal that would link Assam with Bengal. East India Company gave permission to Major Tally to charge Toll from the boats that would use the canal and through the area. They also permitted him to create a market place around the area which was duly completed in 1776 and came to be known as Tallygaunge and canal was called Tally Canal. Today, it is one the most popular area of South Kolkata.
I have put across some of the more popular localities but surely there are many more stories floating around for many other places, after all, Kolkata is a very old city and still has many untold stories hidden somewhere. I appreciate if anyone would like to contribute with their stories about places that hasn’t been included here. Thank you.
All Images Are Taken From The Internet…
3 thoughts on “Naming of Kolkata Streets & Places”
How many of these place have you been to? Anyway, it’s a good collection of stories behind some famous areas/streets of Kolkata.
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A few places but if you ask me to take you to those places, I will fail miserably without Google Maps. 😁
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The original Kolkata is a small city breadth-wise, so you can use metro and walking to cover a large part of the old Kolkata. Rest take taxis. Ola & Uber are unreliable in Kolkata in odd hours, unfortunately.