11 Sep 2018

Kharagpur

Kharagpur is an industrial city in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal, India. It is the most populated, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan city of Paschim Medinipur district.

History-
Kharagpur received its name from the twelfth king of Mallabhum, Kharga Malla, when he conquered it. Kharagpur was a part of the Hijli Kingdom and ruled by Hindu Oriya rulers as a feudatory under Gajapati Kings of Orissa. Historians claim that in the 16th century, Kharagpur was still a small village surrounded by dense forests. The village was on high rocky barren land. The only inhabited settlement near Kharagpur was Hijli. Hijli was a small island village on the banks of the Rasulpur River, in the delta of Bay of Bengal. It developed into a port town in 1687. Hijli was also a province and it existed until 1886. It covered parts of Bengal and Orissa. It had important towns like Tamluk, Panskura, and Debra, along with the Kelghai and Haldi rivers on the north, south, and east sides bounded by Bay of Bengal and Kharagpur, Keshiary, Dantan, and Jaleswar on the west.

Hijli was ruled by Taj Khan who was the disciple of Guru Peer Mackdram Sha Chisti. It was also ruled by the Kushan, Gupta, and Pal dynasties, and by the Mughals. It is said that Hijli had excellent business and trade centers with judiciary, prison, and administrative offices during the reign of Hindu Kings and during the Mughal Raj. The capital of Hijli was in Bahiri up to 1628 and was shifted to Hijli afterwards. Hijli Province was at its peak in 1754 and was highly prosperous during this period.

Captain Nicolson was the first English colonialist to invade Hijli and captured the port. In 1687 Job Charnock with soldiers and warships captured Hijli, defeating Hindu and Mughal defenders. After the war with the Mughals, a treaty was signed between Job Charnock and the Mughal Emperor. The loss suffered by Job Charnock forced him to leave Hijli and to proceed towards Uluberia, while the Mughal Emperor continued to rule the province. From there, they finally settled at Sutanuti in Kolkata to establish their business in Eastern India. This was the start of the East India Company in India. Hijli as we know it today is only a small part of the Hijli Province, and was created for establishing administrative offices by the British in the 19th century. It is curious that almost the entire Kharagpur division of today has boundaries identical to Hijli Province.

In the 18th century Khejuri, another port town was set up on the banks of the Koukhali River in the delta region. It was established by the British primarily for carrying out trade with European countries. Khejuri was also an island. In the devastating cyclone of 1864, both ports were destroyed. The islands have since merged with the mainland.
Kharagpur Railway Station Drone View

Railways in Kharagpur-
The first railway establishment at Kharagpur started with the commissioning of the rail link between Cuttack – Balasore – Kharagpur and from Sini to Kolaghat via Kharagpur. Kharagpur as a junction station was established in Railway map in December 1898. The public mood and the reaction of society on introduction of rail transport in this region has been nicely depicted by the famous Bengali Novelist Dr Ramapada Chowdhury (who was born and raised in Kharagpur) in his novel Prothom Prohor. It is said that the people were initially afraid to travel by train for fear of the bridge collapsing, and for fear of getting outcaste or Dalit status, since there were no separate seating arrangement for different castes and religions. However, things changed due to famines in the early 20th century. The railway company came forward and offered jobs to the local unemployed men, gave them free ride by train, and even offered a blanket for travelling by train. This promotional scheme broke the taboos and made rail transport acceptable to the society.

Midnapur's District Headquarters was connected to the bank of the Kosai River in February 1900. Construction of the bridge over Kosai completed in June 1901. The rail line from Howrah to Kolaghat up to the Eastern bank and from Kharagpur up to Western bank of Rupnarayan River was completed in 1899. However, trains between Howrah and Kharagpur was possible only in April 1900 after the bridge over Rupnarayan River was completed.

Howrah – Amta light Railway (2 ft gauge - 610 mm ) line was completed in 1898 and was operated by M/s Martin & Co. of Calcutta. This link remained operative till 1971. After closure of the light railways, the demand for a broad gauge line between Howrah and Amta gained momentum. The project was completed in four phases. In the first phase, the line between Santragachi and Domjur was completed in 1984. In the 2nd phase it got extended up to Bargachia in 1985, and later up to Munsirhat. Mahendralal Nagar station was completed in 2000, and the final lap up to Amta got completed in December 2004.

Former captain of Indian Cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni also worked as a ticket collector in Kharagpur from 2000-2003 before starting playing for India.

The need for a rail link between Panskura and Tamluk was conceived at the beginning of the 20th century, almost at the same time the rail link between Howrah and Kharagpur was opened. The railway company received offers for construction from two Agencies, M/S Martin & Company and M/s Babu Nibaran Chandra Dutta. The former against guaranteed return of 3.5% while the latter without any guarantee. Although the offer of the latter was lucrative, the dilemma of whether to offer the work of construction to a native or not forced the project to be abandoned. After Independence, the requirement of rail link connecting Panskura and Durgachak came up primarily for the purpose of constructing Haldia Port. The rail link between Panskura – Durgachak via Tamluk completed in 1968, which was later extended to Haldia in 1975. Extension of rail link to Digha from Tamluk was sanctioned in 1984; it took 20 years to complete, in two phases. The first phase linked Tamluk and Contai in November 2003, and the tourist destination Digha was connected to Howrah in December 2004.

Geographical location of Kharagpur and its rail links with the rest of the country favored construction of a centralized workshop with facilities to carry out major repairs of all broad gauge stock. The work was sanctioned in 1900; construction of the workshop was completed in 1904.

Urban Structure-

Nimpura is a place for housing of thousands of railway employees. There is a long winding road from Nimpura to Hijli which goes through Tangrahut (Arambati), Talbagicha and another one from Kalaikunda to Gopali through Hiradihi, Talbagicha. The south of Kharagpur is a planned area belonging to the Indian Railways which was established by Britishers as residential area. Nearby is the Kharagpur Municipality and the fire station. Kharagpur Railway Colony is the biggest railway settlement in India having about 13,000 quarters. There are several railway residential areas namely Chhotta Ayma, Bara Ayma, Old Settlement, New Settlement, Mathurakati, Nimpura, South Side, Traffic etc. The BNR ground is a very large playground which can be developed and properly maintained. Outside railway settlement popular areas are Bhawanipur, Subhaspally, Kharida, Malancha, Inda, Jhapatapur, Prem Bazaar, amongst others. Important market place has developed around Gole Bazaar which is one of the favourite and reliable shopping destination for locals. Other markets like-Gate Bazar, Inda Bazar, Puratan Bazar, Janata Market, Kaushallya, DVC market, IIT Tech market are also renownded in Kharagpur town. Town is witnessing growth around Chowringhee, Inda areas where new construction has taken place. Big Bazaar, operated by Future Group, was the first mall to open in Kharagpur. It remained the only mall in the city for nearly a decade. Post 2017, a number of new malls and shopping centers have come up. The Railway Garden (also known as BNR garden) on the south side of railway station is a park and is quite popular among all ages. It is a popular picnic spot in the town. It also has a toy-train ride within the park.
Courtesy-Wikipedia

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