7 min readSunday, December 6th 2020

IndiaKolkata

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The year 2020. A year that has disrupted a lot of things across all the continents. A year that we all want to forget. But touchwood for me a year that just passed by, staying put at home, working longer hours, not with any such tough times or bigger problems (quite lucky and privileged I would say). But nonetheless, a year which was majorly a blur which just passed by inside the home, and not much travel or outings. 

So last Saturday (just after the Pujo), when every one of us felt like going out to visit a place, and for the first time after March for my parents especially, we chanced upon the moment and decided to head out to Prinsep Ghat and have some fine dining at Ordinance Club. Prinsep Ghat has always been a charming and relaxing place for me since my college days. Sitting by the riverfront, chatting with friends or family, or grab some snacks from the nearby vendors, it is a perfect place to spend a Saturday evening.  Though when we started we thought we would do all that, but the ghat section is closed by 8 pm, and so by the time we reached, we were already late. So rather we just spend some time at the James Prinsep monument, on whose name the ghat is named.

As the ghat was closing, we headed to the walkway adjacent to the ghat to have some tea and spend some time by the Hooghly riverfront.

Since we could spend much time at Prinsep, rather let me share some facts and anecdotes about this place.

Entering Prinsep Ghat

The Prinsep Ghat was built in the year 1841 along the banks of Hooghly river in Kolkata, during the British rule in India, in memory of Anglo-Indian scholar James Prinsep.  For a long time, Prinsep Ghat was just a lovely white monument on the bank of Hooghly. Even then it was a popular recreational spot for the locals in the city of joy. It was also the spot where dignitaries embarked upon when they came to the city. 

As you enter Prinsep Ghat, you are welcomed by a grand monument with the 2nd Howrah bridge in the background. If you visit after sunset, both the monument and bridge are lit up beautifully and are a treat to watch sitting by the garden. As soon as you leave the building and walk towards the river you will notice lyrical tunes of Rabindra-sangeet floating in the air. Nothing could complement the essentially Bengali atmosphere near the river better than that. It’s a fairly recent development. Normally I don't like the idea of having music played on speakers in parks or touristy places, but the soft tunes of Rabindra Thakur blend into the ambiance with the sound of the birds and the ruffling of leaves.

 

About James Prinsep and his memorial

James Prinsep was a versatile genius, who came to India in 1819, at the age of 20. He became the Assay-master of the Calcutta Mint. He also founded the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and deciphered the ancient Kharosthi and Brahmi scripts of India. In his short, yet illustrious life he achieved several remarkable feats in art, science, and numismatics.

He took a keen interest in architecture during his stay in Benaras (Varanasi) when he created an accurate map of the ancient city. He helped design the drainage system of Benares and restore the Mughal-era minarets which were in a state of decay. In Kolkata (then Calcutta), he continued the work on a canal connecting Hooghly to the Sundarbans in the east. No wonder this renowned Indologist was loved by people. On his demise at the age of 40, the citizens raised a public fund of Rs. 12,000 to construct this monument in 1841. Since then this has been an important landing place for dignitaries who visited Calcutta.

In 2001, the building was restored without loss of its original character and splendor. The white marble building is a bright example of Greek and Gothic architecture blended with Indian style.

 

Sunset from Prinsep Ghat

It’s simple, romantic, and artistic. The place is as much for young couples as it is for the solitary wanderers. Photographers, filmmakers, and artists flock to the place in the evening for inspiration. 

Catch one of the best sunsets in Kolkata, in the backdrop of Hooghly and the Vidyasagar Setu, or on a boat ride in the Hooghly river. A memory you will cherish for a lifetime.

During my college days when I had just started with photography, Prinsep ghat and the Hooghly soon became one of my favorite spots to learn and practice with the camera. I had spent a lot of time practicing composition, framing, and various techniques along the numerous ghats of the river.  It was the perfect frame to capture the long shots, the night scenes, or experiment along the walkway for some street compositions. Let me share one of my most cherished shots from the Princep  Ghat below.  I still remember the joy of able to capture what I have imagined. The settings - Aperture  ƒ/14.0, Shutter - 13 sec, ISO - 100, and a picture-perfect :).

 

Learning long shots at Princep in. 2012

The Beautified riverfront

Thankfully after years of negligence, the banks of Kolkata came to the notice of authorities. Today if I had to show someone around my city, I’d proudly take them on a long walk on its riverfront. The riverfront has been renovated to a beautiful walkway from Prinsep, all the way to the Bridge, around a 4km stretch along the Hooghly, the lifeline of Kolkata. The walkway is beautifully maintained and thankfully clean. There are dustbins all along the sides, so honestly, there is no excuse for littering here. From here you can walk to Babughat, followed by Millenium Park, all the way up to Howrah Bridge. It’s just 3.9 km but try walking on a hot summer evening with reluctant friends. The walkway is dotted with eateries, parks, benches, ghats, jetties, and some old clubs. This walkway shares the story of Kolkata - gets you into the lifeline and heart of the city.

Vidyasagar Setu from near Prinsep  Ghat
The boats come ashore after a day's outing :)

Places to visit near Prinsep Ghat

Before taking a walk along the riverfront you can visit the scintillating Victoria Memorial and St. Paul’s cathedral. You can also see the majestic Fort William only from outside, as it is now a property of the Indian Army.  There is another walkway nearby called Man-O-War jetty which commemorates the role played by the Port in the Second World War. 

Below is a walking map for a walk along the beautified banks of Hooghly all the way to the Millennium Park and onwards to the famous Howrah Bridge. While walking along the riverfront you will cross many ghats and jetties on the Hooghly, and also quite many eateries to refresh your energy. With a small detour at Babughat, you can walk around the splendid Eden Gardens and the old colonial buildings of the Calcutta High court. 

After visiting Millenium Park,  make sure to hop on to the ferry from Babughat to Howrah station on the other side, and enjoy the majestic views of Howrah Bridge - Kolkata most treasured and iconic monument.

Walk from Prinsep to Howrah bridge  through  Millennium Park

Few Interesting Facts and Tips about The Prinsep Ghat

  • The Princep Ghat is perfect for photography. People who love photography keep visiting this place every now and then.
  • There is a jetty near the ghat known as the Man-O-War jetty, which commemorates the role that the jetty played in the Second World War.
  • A popular song from the Hindi movie “Parineeta” was shot here. The place is indeed picturesque and there are lots of movies, songs, etc shot in The Prinsep Ghat.
  • There is also a railway station named after the same Prinsep Ghat which is maintained by the Eastern railway and is a part of the Kolkata Circular Railway
  • Enjoy the sunset from the ghat or hop on a boat ride to view the Howrah bridge and enjoy the cruise along the cherished Hooghly river.
  • Relish some local and cheap street food along the walkway sitting by the river.