When Shakespeare wrote the lines, ‘What’s in a name…?’ , he had little idea that he would be proved not very accurate by a City thousands of miles away- a City initially anointed as the Capital of the British empire in India.
Yes, happily, Calcutta has its Theatre Road and its Shakespeare Sarani, and for good reason too. But that is not the only story that is waiting to be discovered in the city.
Team Calcutta Walks is in a constant endeavour to unravel the amazing poem that is the city. She is almost allegorical. So, here is a special tribute to the City, with a special spotlight on the incredible stories behind the streets of Calcutta.
And just to make it fun- we choose streets whose names begin with the alphabets in the word C.A.L.C.U.T.T.A !
C- CREEK ROW
Did you actually know that Creek Row, gets its name from a creek that actually flowed through areas like Beliaghata, Sealdah, Dharmatala Street, before emptying its waters into the Hoogly at Prinsep Ghat?
This river route was particularly popular in the 17th century and it is believed that the creek was the boundary for the village of Kalikata.
Infact the name Calcutta is derived from this creek or khal and kata or that which has been cut.
A- AHIRITOLA STREET
Ahiritola Street is one of the oldest localities of Calcutta, finding a mention in records as far back as 1784. The name originated from the ahirs or the Bihari cowherds and milk vendors, who had a large settlement here.
L- LALBAZAR STREET
Lalbazar Street is synonymous with the Kolkata Police Headquarters.
But records prove that there was no bazar or market there. It was a locality. It also was known as Flag Street to soldiers and sailors for the string of flags hung across the street comprising taverns, eating houses and brothels.
The Lal or the red colour preceding the word does not just mean red- it perhaps was a reference to the ‘loll shrob’ or claret that was served at the taverns here.
Renamed after India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Chowringhee Road has two interesting theories about its name.
One theory suggests that the name comes from the village of Chera-Anga or the dismembered body, referring to the origin of the Kalighat shrine, which is said to house the relic of Sati, wife of Hindu deity Lord Shiva.
There is another theory which states that the road derived its name from the Hindi word ‘Chowringhee’, which means multi-coloured, referring to the houses on that street.
U- URQUHART SQUARE
Named after the Principal of the Scottish Church College and the Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University, Urquhart Square is the street in front of the aforementioned College. That street was formerly known as Cornwallis Square, but named after William Spence Urquhart, who lived here for about 4 decades.
T- TAGORE CASTLE LANE
The Tagore Castle Lane gets its name from the Pathuriaghata Rajbari or mansion of the Tagores, built by Prasanna Kumar Tagore. This palatial mansion was once the hub of the who’s who of the city.
T- TIRETTA BAZAR STREET
Tiretta Bazar Street is named after Edward Tiretta, who is credited for constructing the first modern market in the city, taking the area on lease from the government for an annual payment of 500 rupees.
A- ALBERT ROAD
Formerly known as Dalhousie Street, this little road gets its name from Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria. It is famous for the ISKCON temple located in that area today.
This is just a taster of the scope of the subject that is the streets of Calcutta. Each street is as animated as it can get and photo opportunities are there for the eye that looks beyond.
Walk with us at Calcutta Walks as we take to the streets which have so many more such tales to offer.
A History of Calcutta’s Streets by P.T. Nair.