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The Shaping of Modern Calcutta (The Lottery Committee Years, 1817-1830)

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Item Code: UAQ897
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Language: English
Edition: 2022
ISBN: 9789391125301
Pages: 516 (Throughout Color and B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 660 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The volume focuses on the Calcutta Lottery Committee's work from 1817 till about 1830 when, for all practical purposes, the functions of the committee relating to the improvement of the city ceased effectively. The work done by the committee was phenomenal because the projects conceived and implemented by it still cast their long shadow on life in modern Calcutta.

Thematically, the book is a sequel tod City in the Making Aspects of Calcutta's Early Growth, published by Niyogi Books in 2016. That work ended with the formation of the Lottery Committee in 1817: this book takes up the story from there. As with the earlier work, this book is wholly based on archival material available at the West Bengal State Archives.

Among other things, the Lottery Committee built the major arterial roads in the northern and central parts of the city, which in time determined the layout of the contiguous residential areas. Dalhousie Square and the entire ground between Park Street and Circular Road were developed by the committee. Previously, a large part of the ground south of Park Street was low lying and marshy, generating pestilence all around. Bustee clusters were located here probably because of the availability of Gangajal from Tolly's Nullah (the Adi Ganga) through the existing network of drains, the river being some way off to the west. The story of the making of Strand Road is narrated in detail, the Lottery Committee also being responsible for putting up the first brick-and-mortar decorative balustrade which still adorns the Chowringhee area and Red Road.

About the Author

During his quarter-century with The Statesman in Calcutta (1970-94), principally as a leader writer, Ranabir Ray Choudhury (b. 1948) discovered his interest in the past of a great city which the East India Company had selected as the nerve-centre for its operations in the Indian subcontinent and further to the east, extending to Singapore and beyond. In time, this growing interest led to the publication, in association with the newspaper, of three compilations -Glimpses of Old Calcutta 1835-1850 (1978), Calcutta a Hundred Years Ago 1880-1890 (1987), and Early Calcutta Advertisements 1875-1925 (1992). He next wrote The Lord Sabib's House, Sites of Power: Government Houses of Calcutta 1690-1911 (2010). A City in the Making: Aspects of Calcutta's Early Growth (2016) was published by Niyogi Books. This is his sixth book.


In 1901, A.K. Ray wrote in the Census of India: 'It may be truly said that it was under the direction of the Lottery Committee that the work of reconstructing chaotic Calcutta into the decent shape of a modern town was not only inaugurated but pushed on with vigour. This book attempts to shed some light on how the work was accomplished. The present volume is, in fact, a supplement to the author's earlier work, A City in the Making: Aspects of Calcutta's Early Growth, which dealt with the spatial growth of Calcutta (Kolkata) from the time of Job Charnock (1690) till the setting up in October 1817 of the Committee to Superintend the Effective Use of the Lottery Funds, known as the Lottery Committee. In this book, the story is taken up to 1830 when, for all practical purposes, the committee's effective work was over, the East India Company in London asking its Government in Calcutta that it be 'abolished'.

The book is rooted in the official records of the committee's work spread over thirteen years which, essentially, comprise a collection of disparate events and themes, all of them tied to the main thread of the city's spatial development. The central effort has been to segregate the diverse individual threads and form each into a consistent account, all the separate strands taken together yielding (hopefully) a depiction of how the city of Calcutta acquired the rudiments of its present road-grid. To mention just a handful of the separate items which make up the story, Strand Road along the river was conceived and built by the Committee as was also the arterial thoroughfare stretching from Shyambazar in the north to Park Street (now Mother Teresa Sarand) in the south comprising Bidhan Sarani, College Street, Nirmal Chunder Street, and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. Amherst Street (Raja Rammohun Sarani) was built along with Cornwallis Street (Bidhan Sarand, Colootala Street (partly Maulana Shaukat Ali Street, Acharya Brojen Sil Street and Angarika Dharmapala Street) and Mirzapur Street (Surya Sen Street) being constructed linking Chitpur Road (Rabindra Sarani) in the west to Circular Road (Upper Circular Road was renamed Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road) in the east. To the west and south-west of today's BBD Bagh (then Tank Square), Koila Ghat Street (Babu Tarapada Mukherjee Sarani), Hare Street and Hastings Street (Kiron Shankar Roy Road) were opened up Bankshall Street was created from an open space in front of the Governor's house in the early 18 century, and Church Lane, to the west of St John's churchyard, was given the consolidated shape of a street. Two ancient roads, Clive Street (Netaji Subhas Road) and Chitpur Road, were widened while the entire area of Garden Reach behind the row of garden houses on the southern bank of the Hooghly was developed with roads and drainage being built resulting in an influx of native residents.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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