Chandernagore (also spelled Chandannagar, Chandernagar, Chandernagor and Chandanngore) is a small city located 30 kilometers north of Kolkata, in West Bengal, India. Situated along the banks of river Ganges, the city has been able to maintain a separate identity different from all other cities and abide by her own characteristics. The "City of Liberty" has always attracted people from all over the world due to her indescribable beauty. Though the total area is a meagre 19 square kilometers having a population of only over 150 thousands, she has managed to maintain a distinct place not only on the map of India but also on that of the world. This small town for over a period of 300 years has a unique blend of culture and heritage which is unparalleled in history. Chandernagore is well connected to Kolkata by railways, roadways and river and it takes about an hour to reach the place. The people of Chandernagore have excelled in all the fields varying from literature and education to culture, sports and arts throughout history. Chandernagore hosts many tourist places like Museums, the Strand, Churches, Temples, Rabindra Bhaban, birth places of many celebrities and many other spots some of which are not so well known but nevertheless a treat for the tourists and historians.
Chandernagore is 37 km by road from Kolkata via G.T.Road or Delhi road. Taxis and private cars in Kolkata are easily available to approach Chandernagore. Since National Golden Quadilateral is almost completed, you can use Bombay highway from Calcutta. This new highway is very fast, 4 laned and dodges traffic congestion near Bally bridge.
Local trains from Howrah through Eastern Railway main line run very frequently (peak frequency one train every 10 or 12 minutes). Many important express and passenger trains halt here. If you are coming from Kolkata you can catch any of these local suburban trains: Burdwan via main line, Bandel local, Katwa local, Pandooah local or Memari local. Ticket prices for local trains are Rs.8 one way. Normally, there is very heavy crowding during morning and evening rush hours.
Note that there are two train stations in Chandernagore: Mankundu and Chandannagar Stations. If you are planning to alight at Mankundu Station and travelling from Howrah Station, make sure to take a local train and ask other passengers if the train will stop at Mankundu or not. Some trains skip Mankundu Station during rush hours.
The nearest airport is at Kolkata (Kolkata Airport), which is airlinked with all major Indian and international cities. Chandannagore is only 40 km by road from the airport. Please check flight schedules from the airport. If you want to go to airport from Chandernagore, the best option will be to hire a car. The cab will charge around Rs. 500-600 and will take around 1.5 hours- 2 hours depending upon traffic.
The government of West Bengal (West Bengal Surface Transport Corporation) operates river services across river Hooghly (Ganga) and also between Chandannagore and Kolkata and Belur.
You can rent a car if you wish. In the rail station itself, you will find innumerable rickshaw drivers waiting and calling you. Talk to one of them. It should not take more than Rs. 150/- to visit the entire city. This is an over estimate. Try to burgain as much as you can. In the evening, leave the rickshaw and take a leisurely stroll in the promenade in Chandannagar strand. You can also book an autorickshaw to get around in Chandannagar. There is an excellent service by this autorickshaws. You can connect yourself through autorickshaws to both Chandannagar & Mankundu Station from Strand. An autorickshaw is a small three wheeler van, similar to the tuk tuks of Thailand. There are dirt cheap (around Rs. 3-5) and usually you have to travel with a group of people (say 4 or 5 people). Normally, these autorickshaws ply on designated routes, but you can hire them personally to take you to a desired place.
Chandernagore is famous for its Jagatdhatri Puja. It takes place just one month after the Durga Puja, usually in the month of November. The pandals, street lightings, idols - everything will make you spellbound. Millions of people from different parts of the country come here during that period. If you are crowd averse, then its better for you to avoid Chandernagore during that time. Though, the atomosphere then is electrifying, and the whole city buzzes with exuberance. The emersion of idols gets marked with illuminated processions.
- Ancient temples: Nandadulal Temple, built in 1740 by Indranarayan Roychoudhury presents an excellent example of ancient Indian sculptures. There are many fascinating temples devoted to Kali, Shiva and other deities which show marks of brilliant craftsmanship and artistic taste.
- Chandannagore Strand. Chandannagore Strand is a beautiful tourist spot along the banks of the river Hooghly. It is a superbly decorated pavement studded with lights surrounded by lushy green trees. It is about 1 km in length and 7 meters in width, and many buildings of historical importance surround the spot. It is very popular visiting spot of the local people and the tourists would love to stroll along enjoying the mild breeze and watching the small boats sail by. Along the strand are present Vivekananda Mandir (a meditation centre) and a protruding structure into the river Ganga. This is supposed to be the best decorated bank of the river along its entire length of 2500 km.
- Chandannagore Museum and Institute (Institut de Chandernagore), On Strand. One of the oldest and finest museums of the entire region. It boasts a beautiful collection of French antiques (like cannons used in Anglo-French war, wooden furniture of 18th century, etc.) which are difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The institute still teaches French through regular classes.
- Nritya Gopal Smriti Mandir: Built by Sri Harihar Seth, and donated to the people of Chandannagore. This building still serves as a theatre hall and a library. It was first of its kind in the entire locality.
- Residences of famous personalities: Chandernagore hosts a galaxy of famous personalities who had strong impact not only on contemporary society but also affected Indian History. The revolutionary leader Rash Behari Bose, Kanailal Datta and the great social reformer Sri Harihar Seth belonged to this place.
- The Sacred Heart Church. The Sacred Heart Church of Chandannagar (l'Eglise du Sacré Cœur): The beautiful church stands for over two centuries to mark the beauty of the architecture during the French period - a good place to visit for the historians and tourists alike. The remains of the Church of St. Louis is also an attractive tourist spot.
- The Underground House (Patal-Bari). The building is another beautiful example of the advancement in the knowledge of architecture and the aesthetic sense of the people of those earlier days. Its lowest floor is submerged in the River Ganga. The Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore frequently visited the place and appreciated a lot about the building. He felt that the place influenced him to a large extent and broadened his intellectual capabilities. He mentioned Patal-bari in many of his famous novels. The famous social reformer Pandit Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar also stayed in the building.
- French Cemetery, GT Road, opposite Lal Dighi. The French Cemetery contains 150 tombs and is located on the Grand Trunk Road opposite Lal Dighi (a large lake). The eminent person buried in the French Cemetery in Chandannagar includes Duplessis, the founding father of French Chandannagar and pioneering meteorologist Henry “Storm” Piddington, who also finds mention in Amitav Ghosh’s novel The Hungry Tide
Apart from these, there are a number of amusement parks in Chandernagore, which attracts millions of picnic lovers during the winter:
- Chhuti, opearted by Chandernagore Municipal Corporation which is located near Delhi Road.
- Wonderland Amusement Park, operated by KMDA is the most popular one, which is located near the Chandernagore Rail Station.
Another big crowd puller in Chandernagore is Christmas celebration. Chandannagar has a very old church in the middle of Barabazar and it is point of major attraction during Christmas for people of all faiths.
You can also enjoy Charak puja in Hospital ground on Laxmigung street and Jyotimore crossing. during Bengali New Year. In Charak puja, a groups of men and women, hang from a bamboo stick of 10 or 15 foot height and they are swung in a circular direction. Good art to see!!!
- Sri Aurobindo: Chandannagor, a French colony in India, was the hiding place of Sri Aurobindo during middle of February to 1st April, 1910. He arrived on the strand area from Kolkatta (Calcutta - British India) and stayed all the time at Gondalpara at Balaichandra De's house.
Chandannagar is a small city. There is not much to do. Nowadays, the local civic authority and some local clubs are trying to promote the city as an adventure sports hub.
- There is an artificial rock climbing wall near the strand. You need to contact Chandannagar Mountaineering Association to participate there. Chandernagore Municipal Corporation operates motor boat trips in the river.
- Take a leisurely stroll in the strand in the evening. It's wonderful. The atmosphere is very attractive. Infact Rabindranath Tagore once wrote "Ananta e akasher kole, tolomolo megher majhar, eikhane bandhiachhi ghor, tor tore kabita amar" (In the vastness of the sky, amidst the trembling clouds, here I have built my adobe, for you, o my verse), while he was in Chandernagore.
- Walk in the lanes and by-lanes. There are a number of historical architectural wonders from the French colonial period.
Chandernagore was once called Farashdanga. At that time, the local handloom industry was at its peak. Farashdanga Dhoti saris were famous not only in Bengal, but in other parts of the country also. The industry still exists, though it's getting sicker and sicker every day. You can go to the place called Halderpara, where some of them still exist.
There are innumerable shops where you get whatever you want. From most modern civic amenities to apparels, everything is available. There are a few air conditioned shopping malls also present there. Buy a souvenir from there if you wish.
There is also new air conditioned mall coming up in Laxmigung Bazar. The mall is supposed to house all local and national brands.
The major shopping area in Chandernagore is concentrated in the Bagbazar and Laxmigung Bazar area. During peak seasons, i.e. Durga puja and Jagadhatri puja, streets are jostling with people buying clothes and accessories.
Chandernagore is famous for its sweets. Suryakumar Modak, a famous confectioner, apparently invented a new sweet named Jolbhora Sandesh once upon a time. Nowadays, his grandsons operate more than one sweet shops in the city. Don't forget to have a taste of jolbhora. Apart from this, the other sweets and deserts are also very tasty and delicious. Names of few famous sweet shops are listed below:
- Baba Panchanan Mishtanna Bhandar (Panchanantala, Chandernagore) - Famous for its mouth watering lyangcha
- Harigopal Nandi and Sons (Baghbazar, Chandernagore) - Famous for golapi pyanra, diabetic sandesh etc.
- Mrityunjoy Sweets (Sridurga Chhobighar More, Chandernagore) - Famous for Lord Chomchom, Pantua, and Mishti Doi.
- Sumis Enterprise (Boro Champatala, Chandannagar)- An array of ambrosia: Canned Packed Traditional Bengali Sweets: Specially Canned Packed Rosogolla and Gulab Jamun.
- Surya Kumar Modak & Grandsons, Saibal Kumar Modak (Barasat, Chandernagore) - For Jolbhora and other sweets
Apart from these, few very good restaurants are also available, where you get a wide range of food from Chinese to Indian. few of them are:
- Abhinandan (laxmigunj Bazar, Chandernagore) - Decent food.
- Restaurant Sundari (Mahuar More, Chandernagore) - One of the oldest restaurants. Though food is not so good.
- Royal Biryiani (Baghbazar, Chandernagore) - Serves good biryiani, though the standard is deteriorating.
- Satyam Garden Restaurant - Set amidst a small garden, and a huge historical building called Nrityagopal smriti Mandir.
- Shalimar Restaurant & Bar (Burrabazar, Chandernagore) - The architecture is from the colonial period. The food tastes good as well.
Street food in Chandernagore is really awesome. However, it is not always advisable to eat outside food specially from vendors as they maintain poor hygiene standards. Some of the places where you can go to tease your taste buds are:
- Bajrangi Singh's fuchka - A close competitor of Benarasi. Hawks in Fatakgora More.
- Benarasi Singh's fuchka - No one on the earth can produce fuchka better than Benarasi. Its in the strand.
- Bolaida's fish fry - Its near Chandernagore Municipal Corporation in burrabazar. Unparallel taste, and pocket friendly as well.
- Ganeshda's chowmien - Its in the newly developed food court in Church Road near Chandernagore Strand. Go for the "Chicken mix".
- Laxmida's shop - One of the oldest. The standard has detoriareted drustically. Still, one of the most renowned faces in foody world in the city.
- Rabida's Pakoda - In Burrabazar. Mega sized Chicken Pakoda with spicy chilli sauce. Don't forget to try different chops (all vegetarian) of Raja Phuluri near Hospital ground. Heavenly.
Liquor shops are available throughout the city, where you get a vast variety of foreign liquors. Few bars are also in operation. Chandernagore was once famous for its home-made country liquor industry. Its still very much alive on the other side of the railway track (though illegally operated). Prudence says: don't venture. You never know what can happen to you after that. Also one should refrain oneself from drinking in open public places as it is deemed to bad in Indian culture.
- Ganesh Sweets in Laxmigunj Bazar is famous for its lassi. It's a treat to your thirst in the hot and humid days of summer.
There is a scarcity of good hotels in Chandernagore. One has to book well in advance if you plan to visit the city. Few options which are available are:
- Rabindra Bhaban Guest House. Operated by Chandernagore Municipal Corporation. Located just opposite the strand, its a beautiful place to stay.
- KMDA Park Rest House - Set amidst the beautiful garden in the amusement park called Wonderland. Operated by KMDA.
- Ritzy Manor This is also located in the strand. Its owned by a private house.
The first one can be booked through the following no. +91 33 26835840. This is the no. of Rabindra Bhaban. If it is full, they should be able to help you with the phone no. of the second place.
Chandernagore is very close to most other one time non-british colonies. Chinsurah, once held by Dutch is just 5 km away from Chandernagore. Former Portuguese settlement Bandel and Danish settlement Serampore are also nearby. One can visit Hangseswari Temple in Bansberia, Tarakeswar, Furfura Sharif in Jangipara, Belur Math also from Chandernagore.