A discussion by the Hooghly river at sunset, exhibitions showcasing British-era buildings of the city and cultural programmes Sunday marked the 325th anniversary of English trader Job Charnock’s landing in 1690.
Charnock was considered to be the founder of Kolkata but in 2003, the Calcutta High Court ruled against it saying Kolkata’s existence is older than Charnock’s landing. However, this didn’t stop enthusiasts from celebrating it as Kolkata’s 324th ‘birthday’ Sunday.
Intellectuals and artists gathered a decorated cruise vessel by the river as dhaakis (drummers) set the mood for the evening. Prominent among them were singers Usha Uthup and Haimanti Shukla. Conch shells were blown to welcome the participants to a session on the city’s cultural evolution.
History buffs trooped to an exhibition of photographs showcasing north Kolkata’s British-era buildings, home to erstwhile zamindars or landowners, to revisit the old-world charm of the city.
Organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the exhibition was held at the Calcutta Rowing Club to commemorate Charnock’s maiden tryst with Kolkata.
According to history books, Charnock purchased the villages of Kalikata, Sutanuti and Govindpur from landlord Sabarna Ray Chowdhury. These hamlets developed and came to be known as Kolkata.
However, the high court’s decision on a PIL filed in 2001 by the 500-member Sabarna Roy Chowdhury Paribar Parishad (family committee) has since debunked the claim.
The display Sunday highlighted domestic architectural marvels as photographed by American photographer Laura Mcphee. The collection depicts the harmony of international influences on architecture and details of Indian family life and relics of personal history that deck up these homes.
Adding to the cultural and historical aspect, an ilish (hilsa) festival showcased the city’s love for the prized silvery fish.
Netizens took to Twitter to observe the importance of the day.
“Happy Birthday Kolkata! Good Job!…Charnock,” said one.
Others put up pictures of the Englishman’s mausoleum at St. John’s Church here.