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Mohit Roy's book Old Mirrors - Traditional Ponds of Kolkata
Ponds of Kolkata are the living documents of history. They are associated with many historical..

THE HISTORY of ponds and tanks of Kolkata is ever interesting. Kolkata is a city of ponds. There are very few places indeed which are not associated with this or that pond. Thakurpukur, Padmapukur are such places. Kamala and Bimala tanks are 400 years old, more ancient than the Tajmahal. It is a living history of the city if you read about the ponds. There are many localities such as  Shyampukur, Manoharpukur, Padmapukur, Thakurpukur, Bosepukur, Dattapukur, and Padmapukur.

Pukur meaning pond gives these places a living history. Very few scholars are ready to have the painstaking efforts for tracing out the history of the disappearing ponds and tanks. Some of the ponds are just in name now. Some are there but water has dried up. In some ponds there is  still scope for doing some digging and refilling with fresh water. The tradition of Kolkata is 300 years old. Some ponds are there which are more than 250 years old.  

The Heritage Committee of Kolkata Municipal Corporation has recently done a marvellous job. They have published a book Old Mirrors- Traditional Ponds of Kolkata recently. The author writes the book as the Director of  Vasundhara which is a non- profit organization. He has documented 48 ponds of Kolkata. The age of some ponds is 250 years and 24 of them are 200-300 years old. He had studies all the 48 ponds in details. He gave an elaborate history of the ponds and along with that he researched out the present conditions of these water bodies. The author even tried to bring out the stories of the ponds that are lost due to filling up. He writes, “Heritage ponds need to be saved. We expect this work will initiate some efforts on the part of KMC and others to conserve these great water bodies." Really , there are some places which are today recognized only as some pond - Talpukur, Jhamapukur, Fariapukur, Ahiripukur, Keorapukur, Muraripukur, Jorapukur, Shethpukur, Neogipukur, , Nonapukur. As many as 30 roads are named after the ponds. Google enlists 488 ponds in Kolkata  but the book of Mohit Roy gives the names of 387 ponds.

Some of the ponds were very big. One is obviously the Lal Dighi (meaning Red Pool) is a body of water in the middle of BBD Bag , earlier known as Tank Square or Dalhousie Square, in the heart of Kolkata  Lal Dighi in Dihi Kolkata  was there before the arrival of Job Charnock, Sabaran Roy Chowdhury had a kutchery (court-house) and a temple of its family deity Shyam Rai, near Lal Dighi. It was so named possibly because of the red colour the water acquired during dol, the festival of colours. The court-house was first taken on rent and later purchased by the British East India Company.Whatever may have been its beginning, it was deepened and lengthened in 1709 and converted from a dirty pond full of weeds and noxious matter into a much needed reservoir of sweet water.In the 18th century Tank Square was, ‘in the middle of the city’. ‘It was dug” says the Dutch admiral Stavorinus who visited the settlement in 1770, ‘by order of Government, to provide the inhabitants of Calcutta with water, which is very sweet and pleasant. 

Boral’s Sen Dighi is another ancient pond. It is in the South Kolkata. The ancient Tripur Sundari Temple is related to Sen family which dug this Boral tank.. Another such pond is Pagla Pir pond of Tollygunge. There is one Majar of a muslim saint. The Chandipukur of Behala is also 300 years old. There is a myth related to this pond. Saborna Roychowdhury family got one golden jar from Ma Chandi in this pond. Every year a fair is organized and a Shiva temple is there.

On both sides of it there is the famous pond of Bhukoilash palace .Saint Ramprasad sang his songs near this pond. In Beliaghata, the last Bengali Moghul general  Pitambar Mitra did much for digging the Balaipukur. All ponds of Bhavanipur are now only in name. Padmapukur and the Chatterjeepara Shan pukur are now the two ponds still there in Kolkata bearing the history of two hundred years. Mohit Roy in his book takes us back to the old history of the ponds. He speaks of Hedua where we may imagine to see Narendranath going to swim or Goldighi where Surendranath Banerjee is delivering his fiery speech.

Besides one such pond probably in Muraripukur the Swadeshi revolutionaries made their hand bombs for killing the British sahibs, or Tagore walking calmly beside Jhinjhiri Pond . Even recently we have the history of Santoshpur Galakata pukur where the Naxalites organized their terrible  activities. Can we really forget  Kashipur pond where we can still trace the activities of Raghu Dacoit , the Bengali Robinhood. Kolkata  Municipal Corporation has started rethinking over the ponds preservation and the publication of the book of Mohit Roy is a welcome step in increasing general awareness of the people who still use these ponds. Mohit Roy wrote about 48 ponds,but there are still more ponds which can make us equally nostalgic about the lost heritage of Kolkata.

A little care and love for the ponds of Kolkata can save them. These ponds are living documents of history and if these historical facts are archived in detail by the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, it will then be a great job in preserving the  grand heritage of Kolkata.Kudos to Mohit Roy for his book Old Mirrors - Traditional Ponds of Kolkata.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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