& Cultural Centre
of Higher Education in French
Chandernagore is located on the Grand Trunk Road at a
distance of about 35 Km from Kolkata, Central Business District.
Institut de Chandernagor is located on the Strand Road, west bank of
Hooghly river. It is the heart of Chandernagore. One can reach
Chandernagore via Delhi Road from
Kolkata and also via G. T. Road;
by train from Howrah Station any local train via Bandel in the main
line, can reach Chandernagore Railway Station within 50 minutes; and
by launch from Kolkata or Howrah Ferry Ghat via Serampore can reach
Rani Ghat at Chandernagore.
Institut de Chandernagore, Strand Road, Chandernagore,
Hooghly, Pin: 712136, Phone no.: (033) 2683-9661.
Today there is no separate identity that sets Chandernagore apart from any other town in West Bengal. Yet, it has a distinct place in the colonial history of Bengal. European nations such as the Portuguese, Dutch, French, Danish, and English started their commercial operations on India's eastern flank along the river Hooghly. The sites they selected became the nucleus for their colonies in Bengal at the towns of Hooghly, Chinsurah, Chandernagore, Serampore and Barrackpore respectively. Even Germany was drawn to this riverbank.
In 1725, the French Naval Commander, the Chevalier d'Alber put down the names of three towns: Calcutta, Chandernagore and Chinsurah as the most developed of Bengal's semi-urban agglomerations. The French had begun to visit India from the 17th Century, among whom the travelers François Bernier (a Physician, who was in Mogul Court in Delhi) and Jean Baptiste Travernier are notable. They wrote interesting and valuable accounts about what they perceived as the hidden treasures and curiosities of India.
In 1664, the French East India Company (La Compagnie des Indes Occidentales) was founded under the Ministry of M. Colbert. The Emperor Aurangzeb gave a firman to the French Company for doing business and to establish their koothi in 1676 and 1688 at Chandernagore. After getting permission from Ibrahim Khan, the Dutch settled in Chinsurah and established FORT GUATAVUS; the French established in Chandernagore FORT D'ORLEANS and English established in Calcutta in the year 1691, FORT WILLIAM.
The events of 1757 when the British under Clive defeated Siraj-ud-Daula at the Battle of Plassey and the Clive-Dupleix era are well known. Chandernagore was affected by these passages of history.
Before Battle of Plassey, Robert Clive, Chief of the British Army and Watson, Commander of the British Navy attacked Chandernagore over land and water on 18th March, 1757 and defeated Jean-Baptiste Joseph Gentil, Chief of the French Army on 23rd March, 1757. Joseph Gentil retreated to Cassimbazar and Patna. He was ADC to Kasim Ali Khan in the Battle of Baksar (1764) and helped Shuja-ud-Daulah.
Prior to the French Revolutions, in 1769, French private traders could trade in Bengal by investing capital with the English East India Company. But after the outbreak of French Revolution and subsequently the Government setup in France coming under the constitution of 1791, French trade activities in India changed.
Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe, Yanam, and Chandernagore became bastions of French rule, a foil to the British. The French regained Chandernagore from Britishers in 1816. The Commissioner appointed by Louis XVIII, the King of France, took it from Mr. Gordon and Colonel Loveday representing the British Government. M. Ravier was appointed Chef de Service. Chandernagore, too became the active centre of India's own yearnings for freedom. It came to provide a vital communication link between two emerging centres for the revolutionary aspect of the Indian freedom struggle - Chittagong and the Punjab.
The leading members of Anusilan Group of Chandernagore - Rashbehari Bose, Sirish Ghosh, Motilal Roy, Charuchandra Roy, Durgadas Sett and other merged with the like-minded Anusilan group at Calcutta. At that time, the citizens of Chandernagore came to play an active part in the Indian freedom movement, directly or indirectly.
India becoming independent on 15th August, 1947, Chandernagore was required to choose its political destiny. The French Government declared "FREE CITY (Ville Libre) CHANDERNAGORE"
on the 27th November, 1947 and constituted an Administrative Council by the people of Chandernagore. According to the agreement between the Government of India and the French Republic, on 8th June, 1948 the people of Chandernagore were asked to decide on their future administration, as the democratic right of free citizens. This was done by way of a referendum on 19th June, 1949.
For the referendum two international observers - Holger Anderson of Denmark and Rudulfo Buron Castro of El-Salvador were engaged, who reached a few days before the referendum to observe the situation.
The issue posed before the residents of Chandernagore was "Do you approve of keeping Chandernagore within the French Union?" The system of voting was through colour coded ballot paper. Each voter was handed over a blue envelope (called 'bulletins' in French, the blue colour signifying the first colour of the French National Flag) which consisted of a white piece of paper indicating 'YES' and a pink one signifying 'NO' indicating the desire of the voter to merge Chandernagore into the Indian Union.
The results of the referendum:
The voting began on 19th June 1949 from 7.30 a.m. and the Presiding officer of the booth gave the voters a blue envelope for vote.
Out of 12194 total electors, 7608 voters caste their votes, 7473 voters voted for a merger with the Indian Union and 114 for keeping Chandernagore within the French Union.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India, received the news of the verdict of the referendum with an unbounded joy and sent his greetings to the people of Chandernagore, with the following words:
"We welcome Chandernagore and its people to the Indian Union and to the Indian Republic to be as partners in the disciplined liberty of a great country and in its great tasks that confront us."
The verdict of referendum was clear and categorical - the concept of merging Chandernagore in the Indian Union was accepted by the people of Chandernagore.
Chandernagore was not immediately merged into Indian Union due to some technical problems. So the de jure transfer was delayed. However de facto transfer of Chandernagore took place on 2nd May1950, and First Indian Administrator, Basanta Kumar Banerjee, was appointed by the Government of India to take charge from Georges H. Tailleur, the last French Administrator, according to the Indo-French agreement on 18th April, 1950 at Writers' Building, Calcutta. The de jure transfer took place on 9th June, 1952 in pursuance of the Treaty of Cession of Chandernagore on 2nd February, 1951.
The French had ruled over Chandernagore for about two hundred and fifty years. With the referendum, that era came to a close.
The period between 27th November, 1947 and 2nd May, 1954 was divided into two different administrative systems.
27th November, 1947 to 2nd May,1950: The Administrative Council, i.e. representatives of the people of Chandernagore ruled under the first President of the Council, Harihar Sett. The Administrative Council abolished the Head Tax, Cycle Tax, amended the Rental Act and reconstituted the Education system with effect from 1st January, 1948.
2nd May, 1950 to 2nd October, 1954 the Indian Administrator ruled Chandernagore within the Indian Union.
On the surface, it would seem that there is virtually no reflection of the French connections in the life rhythms of Chandernagore today. But the French link had an impact on the culture and evolution of Chandernagore, especially on its educational setup. French architectural influence can also be discerned in its old buildings and in the city's road plan. Dupleix's House, i.e. the Institut de Chandernagor preserves relics of the French colonial history of two hundred and fifty years and symbolizes the shared heritage of both countries.
In pursuance of the Treaty of Cession of Chandernagore in 1951 a Cultural Institute was established in 1952 by the Government of India under Ministry of External Affairs by the name, "Museum and Art Gallery".
The Museum was setup with a core collection from the gifts of the antiquarian, Harihar Sett, the first President of the 'Free City of Chandernagore', a social reformer and philanthropist. Throughout his life he continued his untiring effort to research the history and culture of Bengal. He was rewarded Chevalier de la Legion D'Honneur, by the French Government on 29 May 1934.
On the pursuance of the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. Jyoti Basu, the French Government prepared the conservation project of the Institute and placed a sum of Rs. 58,26,000.00 only to the Government of India in 1988. The National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) took up the conservation work in 1989 and completed in 1994. The Archaeological Survey of India died the balance restoration work during 1996 - 2000.
The Archaeological Survey of India, declared the buildings and property of the Institute as a Protected Ancient Monument of National Importance, the final notification being published in the Gazette of India on 4th March 2003.
Off late, Government of West Bengal in Higher Education Department constituted a governing body under the Chairmanship of Hon'ble Governor of West Bengal for coordinated action to run the Institute, vide notification No.- 190 Edn (H-SE) dated 9th August 2005.