The Shaping of the Modern Calcutta

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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 to A 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.

Ranabir Ray Choudhury
Ranabir Ray Choudhury

Ranabir Ray Choudhury has been a journalist with The Statesman and The Hindu group of newspapers since 1970 till 2010. His interest in the past of Kolkata has led him to publish three compilations since 1978 – Glimpses of Old Calcutta 1835-1850, Calcutta a Hundred Years Ago, 1880-1890 and Early Calcutta Advertisements 1875-1925 – and a full-fledged account of the Government Houses of Kolkata since the days of Job Charnock – The Lord Sahib’s House, Sites of Power: Government Houses of Calcutta 1690-1911. This is his fifth book.