The moment someone thinks about forts and Calcutta the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind is that of Fort William and if that person has some interest in the history of the city then probably would also mention the old Fort William that was once destroyed by the army of Siraj ud-Daulah.
This blog well actually has a lot to do with Siraj ud-Daulah since we talk about some forgotten forts of Bengal and some of these played a crucial role during the siege of Calcutta by the forces of Siraj ud-Daulah.
While researching about Achipur and Budge Budge I had to go through several old records and books and one name that cropped up some way or the other was that of Fort Budge Budge. Now for a matter of fact, I never saw or heard anything about a fort in Budge Budge. After a lot of research, I could finally locate Fort Budge Budge so hang on tight let me take you back in time when most of the city that we now see were still marshes infested with mosquitoes and tigers and Salt Lake indeed was a vast dry salt bed.
East India Company had already established its business in India especially around Bengal and was slowly trying to expand its footprint across the region. Siraj ud-Daulah was then the Nawab of Bengal and he was slowly getting unhappy and impatient about the sudden flurry of activities by the company around Calcutta and their fast-expanding business empire. A gain for East India Company meant a slow increasing loss for the Nawab in terms of revenue from taxes. Apart from this the company also harbored some of the fugitives and helped some to escape out of the reach of the Nawab’s army.
Siraj ud-Daulah marched on to Calcutta and easily took control over the town renaming it Alinagar in 1756. The old Fort William was heavily damaged and not to forget the infamous Black Hole incident.
Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clive, who was at that time posted in Arcot was summoned to reach Calcutta via the ships and help take back the city from the Nawab’s army. Five ships reached Fulta (Falta) on 20th December 1756 and assembled out there before their march towards Calcutta. At Fulta Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clive met with Major Kilpatrick who had already been camping there and had received the first initial message of the fall of Calcutta.
Above Fulta the next line of defense from the Nawab’s army was at Budge Budge where they had captured Fort Budge Budge and reinforced it with an artillery battery.
Around the 29th of December, the Company forces launched their assault on Fort Budge Budge and on the 30th of December, the forces under the command of Robert Clive captured Fort Budge Budge thus signaling their first victory in recapturing Calcutta.
On 1st January 1757 Clive’s army managed to take over the Fort Makwa Tana and surprisingly the well-placed battery on the opposite side of the river was found abandoned as the Nawab’s forces had retreated up north towards Fort William (old). By the 2nd of January, the army managed to recapture Fort William.
Location of Fort Budge Budge
This part was tricky since no official documents mentioning longitude and latitude references. All old documents simply mention it as a fort in Budge Budge. The political map of Budge Budge that we now see is very different from the one that used to exists earlier. In old maps, there are mentions of Pujali, a portion of which later became Achipur and Budge Budge which further got divided due to municipal demarcations.
The only reference that I had was an old map by Mark Wood in 1785. This was a survey may of the Hooghly river from Fort William to Budge Budge Fort. This proved to be a game-changer since now I had some visual reference. The map drawn by Mark Wood was hand-drawn and new satellite imagery could at times be a bit tricky when it comes to the river as rivers tend to change courses from time to time. Another major issue was the size and resolution of the map available with me, it was way small to read the detailed description.
To solve this problem I took a snapshot of roughly the same spot covered in that old map from satellite imagery and then overlaid it on the old map. Slowly adjusting the angle and ratio I finally managed to align key reference points of the river. One of the main points was the Khaal (canal) meeting the Hooghly.
Now finally I had the reference point of the location of Fort Budge Budge on the map by Mark Wood and its relative position of the map. I then entered those coordinates and could finally mark out Fort Budge Budge.
What Can You Now See At Fort Budge Budge
The fort does not exist anymore but there are visible remains that mark out the presence of fortification around this place. This fort was demolished as per order from Fort William on 24th March 1795. These orders were passed by Lord Cornwallis on 22nd February 1793 as he deemed the maintenance and repair cost of old forts useless and along with the Fort Midnapore, the Fort Budge Budge was also demolished.
Lord Cornwallis did not find any significance in having that fort as according to him defensively it would not be of any use and the maintenance of the property would also be of no use thus it’s better to sell off the property after handing it over to the Board of Revenue.
Initially, the walls were demolished and the cannons and guns were shifted to Fort William. It was decided that the land will be sold by the government to private parties.
The fort was demolished but what remained were the moats around the fort. Records mention of the moats still present in the last part of the 19th century. Since these were water bodies being fed by the river canal these survived.
Looking at the size of the property it is obvious that no one could have purchased this land for building a palatial house instead the company was encouraging industries to develop around these regions of Bengal.
Currently at the very site of Fort Budge Budge sits Budge Budge Jute Mills. It is one of the largest jute processing and weaving facilities in this part of Bengal. A jute mill typically employs thousands of workers and most of these workers settled around the factory in small houses and some of these moats were converted into ponds which came in handy for the mill workers and their family.
You cannot see the fort not even a single brick from that fort remains but the moats are still visible. These are in the shape of small ponds that dot around the jute mill. By their position, you can make out that these were positioned in a zig-zag manner surrounding the fort.
Fort Makwa Tana
There was another fort that was mentioned as Fort Makwa Tana and this was the second fort that was captured by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Clive after the capture of Fort Budge Budge. This place was not clearly defined in the ship logs but was mentioned located at the narrowest section of the river right before reaching Fort William. There was also a mention of Fort Makwa Tana being located right opposite of Matia Buruz (Metiabruz) or the mud fort built by the earlier Muslim rulers of this region. Matia is roughly translated as Matti and Buruz in Arabic meant fort.
In one journal entry, it was mentioned that Fort Makwa Tana was located in the very place where the current Superintendent’s bungalow was built at Botanical Gardens. This was an important landmark since with this we get both the location of Fort Makwa Tana and the location of Metia Buruz. William Roxburgh was a famous botanist and it is with his help that the current Botanical Gardens became what it is now. The main residence of William Roxburgh at Botanical Gardens was known as Roxburgh House which still stands today. So Roxburgh House was built on the very grounds of Fort Makwa Tana.
Later on, a large iron chain used to put across Fort Makwa Tana and the Mud Fort across the Hooghly River to stop pirates from making surprise attacks.
Makwa in Arabic means iron and Tana as in Thana would mean station as in Police Thana (Police Station). This place was also referred as Thana Makwa in some places while some also referred to the fort out here as “Tanners Fort”.
This was the official residence of Dr. William Roxburgh who was the first Superintendent of the East India Company’s Garden which we now know popularly as Shibpur Botanical Gardens. He initially set up a Herbarium on the ground floor of his official residence in the year 1795 where he stored, listed, and filed various specimens.
With time the collection of specimens grew and the ground floor of Roxburgh House was not enough thus in the year 1882 a new double-story building (Herbarium House) was constructed to house the entire catalog of specimens by Sir George King. This building now not in use lies in ruins as this in turn was shifted to the newly constructed building right next to it in the year 1972.
Considering the proximity of Herbarium Houseit can be safely said that Fort Makwa Tana was also covering this portion of the property.
The adventure never stops actually and I had never planned to write this blog. It all happened when I was researching about Swami Vivekananda and his journey through Budge Budge. One thing led to the other and I got hooked on to finding more about Fort Budge Budge. Few more blogs about interesting places around Budge Budge are planned next and who knows what discovery I can come up with next.
Location Of Fort Budge Budge
Fort William India House Correspondence Vol XX by A. C. Banerjee
The Investor’s India Year=book(1927-28) Ed. 15th by Place, Siddons And Gough
Calcutta And Environs by Hassan Suhrawardy
Indian Records Series Bengal in 1756-1757 Vol III
Calcutta And Calcuttans From Dihi To Megalopolis by Oneil Biswas
Travels in India a hundred years ago with a visit to the United States by Thomas Twining
Bengal In 1756-1757 Aselection Of Public And Private Papers Dealing With The Affairs Of The British In Bengal During The Reign Of Siraj-Uddaula by Samuel Charles Hill
Press List of Ancient Documents relating to the Governor-General of Bengal in Council preserved in the Secretariat Record Room of the Government of Bengal. Vol IX