1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hugli (town)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HUGLI, or Hooghly, a town and district of British India, in the Burdwan division of Bengal, taking their name from the river Hugli. The town, situated on the right bank of the Hugli, 24 m. above Calcutta by rail, forms one municipality with Chinsura, the old Dutch settlement, lower down the river. Pop. (1901) 29,383. It contains the Hooghly College at Chinsura, a Mahommedan college, two high schools and a hospital with a Lady Dufferin branch for female patients. The principal building is a handsome imambara, or mosque, constructed out of funds which had accumulated from an endowment originally left for the purpose by a wealthy Shia gentleman, Mahommed Mohsin. The town was founded by the Portuguese in 1537, on the decay of Satgaon, the royal port of Bengal. Upon establishing themselves, they built a fort at a place called Gholghat (close to the present jail), vestiges of which are still visible in the bed of the river. This fort gradually grew into the town and port of Hugli.

The District comprises an area of 1191 sq. m. In 1901 the population was 1,049,282, showing an increase of 1% in the decade. It is flat, with a gradual ascent to the north and north-west. The scenery along the high-lying bank of the Hugli has a quiet beauty of its own, presenting the appearance of a connected series of orchards and gardens, interspersed with factories, villages and temples. The principal rivers, besides the Hugli, are the Damodar and the Rupnarayan. As in other deltaic districts, the highest land lies nearest the rivers, and the lowest levels are found midway between two streams. There are in consequence considerable marshes both between the Hugli and the Damodar and between the latter river and the Rupnarayan. The district is traversed by the main line of the East Indian railway, with a branch to the pilgrim resort of Tarakeswar, whence a steam tramway has been constructed for a further distance of 31 m. The Eden canal furnishes irrigation, and there are several embankments and drainage works. Silk and indigo are both decaying industries, but the manufacture of brass and bell-metal ware is actively carried on at several places. There are several jute mills, a large flour mill, bone-crushing mills and a brick and tile works.

From an historical point of view the district possesses as much interest as any in Bengal. In the early period of Mahommedan rule Satgaon was the seat of the governors of Lower Bengal and a mint town. It was also a place of great commercial importance. In consequence of the silting up of the Saraswati, the river on which Satgaon was situated, the town became inaccessible to large ships, and the Portuguese settled at Hugli. In 1632 the latter place, having been taken from the Portuguese by the Mahommedans, was made the royal port of Bengal; and all the public offices and records were withdrawn from Satgaon, which rapidly fell into decay. In 1640 the East India Company established a factory at Hugli, their first settlement in Lower Bengal. In 1685, a dispute having taken place between the English factors and the nawab, the town was bombarded and burned to the ground. This was not the first time that Hugli had been the scene of a struggle deciding the fate of a European power in India. In 1629, when held by the Portuguese, it was besieged for three months and a half by a large Mahommedan force sent by the emperor Shah Jahan. The place was carried by storm; more than 1000 Portuguese were killed, upwards of 4000 prisoners taken, and of 300 vessels only 3 escaped. But Hugli district possesses historical interest for other European nations besides England and Portugal. The Dutch established themselves at Chinsura in the 17th century, and held the place till 1825, when it was ceded to Great Britain in exchange for the island of Sumatra. The Danes settled at Serampur in 1616, where they remained till 1845, when all Danish possessions in India were transferred to the East India Company. Chandernagore became a French settlement in 1688. The English captured this town twice, but since 1816 it has remained in the possession of the French.

See D. G. Crawford, A Brief History of the Hooghly District (Calcutta, 1903).