“Ekhane bagher khancha chilo. Jara bodmasi korto tader ei bagher khachey fele dawa hoto” (There used to be a tiger cage right here and people who used to do bad things would be thrown inside the cage) muttered the boy of around ten years of age as he explained the functionality of the old structures within the fort complex.
In my last couple of blogs I have been exploring various places around the river route from Diamond Harbour to Calcutta which was primarily used by East India Company to enter India and in the future colonize it. Often lost in context the importance of this river route changed the fortunes and shaped the history of the nation. Not only the British even the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and other trading kingdoms used the Hooghly to trade with India.
History of Fulta Fort
This river route also became a hub for sea fearers and thus every kingdom built its trading post. While the British concentrated in Calcutta the French-built Chandannagar as their hub and the Dutch settled around Chinsurah.
To manage the shipping routes each of these kingdoms had set up shipping stations along the way. These supported the ships in terms of military back up in the vent of piracy attempt and also helped as a waiting station since Hooghly is a tidal river and the movement of ships is completely dependent on the position of the tide.
The Dutch had set up a shipping station in Fulta (Falta) which they referred to as Voltha. This was a small shipping station and not many details are available as to the structures within this station which are referred to as Fulta Fort. Reports also suggest that the Dutch had a factory around Fulta which was also the reason why they had a shipping station out there to support the transportation of goods.
Clive & Fulta Fort
During the siege of Calcutta by Siraj ud-Daulah many British and Portuguese families had escaped out of Calcutta and gone to Fulta to seek refuge. What we find mentioned in different correspondents is that Fulta Fort was not big enough to support all the refugees and most of these family members were spending days and months onboard boats while some managed to stay in tents and small huts. Most of the refugees died and very few survived in these adverse conditions.
The Dutch support to the refugees did not go down well with Siraj ud-Daulah and he laid siege to Chinsurah on his way back to Murshidabad. The Dutch had to settle this with a large sum of money amounting to 4 Lakhs which they had taken a loan from Jagat Seth.
A huge despatch was sent from Madras (Chennai) which was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Clive and Admiral Watson towards Calcutta for the recapture of the city. They sailed from Madras on October 1756 and reached Diamond Harbour by December due to adverse wind conditions on the sea.
Siraj ud-Daulah’s men had taken over Fort Budge Budge and reinforced it expecting an attack. Budge Budge was located around 24 Kilometres upstream thus Clive and his men arrived at Fulta Fort on the 20th of December 1756. Before his final assault on Budge, Budge Clive gathered intelligence and sent regular small dispatches towards Budge Budge to gain knowledge of the enemy positions.
The final attack by Clive and his men took on the 29th of December 1756 on Fort Budge Budge and was liberated within a day. By 2nd January 1757, Clive managed to recapture Old Fort William thus liberating Calcutta from Siraj ud-Daulah.
Clive Finds Love at Fulta
One of the most interesting facts is that of Clive getting engaged to the widow of Capt. Buchanan at Fulta. Her husband had been killed in the infamous Black Hole incident. Clive fell in love with her and married her in Calcutta after it was liberated from Siraj ud-Daulah.
She bore two children (one boy and one girl) from Clive. The girl died in her infancy and the boy was sent to England but also died at his young age in 1765. She died in 1759 just three years of her married life with Clive and was buried at Kasimbzar.
Structures Present At Falta Fort
Very few random structures remain of the original fort. The fort became an illegal residence for refugees post India’s independence and squatters took over various sections of the fort. Over the years after many legal battles, most of the families have settled permanently and have built permanent structures within the fort compound.
The fort had the river on the western side and the rest three sides had deep moats which luckily are still present. Access to the fort compound is through a bridge on the eastern side. There is another access point from the west but would only support crossing over on foot as it’s not a permanent paved section.
On the western side, you have a large resort which you can book online and it has a fantastic view of the riverfront. The riverfront is also a picnic spot thus you can go for a long drive and spend some good time out here.
Once you enter the fort across the moat using the bridge you will come across the main entrance. Here is an interesting part, the ground floor of the entrance is much older and can be seen by its architectural style but the first floor has a concrete roof with iron rebar which was added much later.
A Beacon Tower was installed here to aid ship navigation along the Hooghly. More such beacon towers can be seen across the river line in Burul, Pujali, etc. These helped the ships as markers for navigation but now not used anymore as ships use GPS to navigate along the sea. These were mostly installed in the later part of the 19th century.
The beacon tower is itself installed on an old portion of the original fort and a portion of the tunnel of the old fort can still be seen.
Only a few structures survive from the original fort which is said to have multiple tunnels to aid escape in the event of an enemy attack. I was informed by the elders of this refuge colony that this whole locality was taken over by squatters and they used the bricks from the already broken structures to create temporary shelters for themselves.
A vaulted structure can be easily spotted on the northern side of the fort which is surrounded by many tiled roof houses. I found someone still using that as a part of their extended house.
One huge room like structure which had fallen walls could be seen right next to a house, the locals inform that there was a tunnel-like structure underneath it but it can’t be accessed now as the thick fallen walls now make it impossible to access them.
One of the most prominent old structures is a room with a vaulted roof made of bricks and this structure is half sunk in the ground. The member of the household told that they dug out a lot of soil from beneath to be used for their house construction and that revealed interiors of the room. They also informed about eleven feet deep concrete tunnels below the ground that they had found while digging the foundation of their home. It ran from west to east and more such tunnels were found by other families when they were digging for their house foundation.
The most confusing structure was perhaps the semi-circular concrete structure which can be seen made up of rebar iron and concrete, this surely was not part of the original Dutch fort but surely is very old. This is the spot which the boy was referring to as the cage which housed a tiger. This could very well be a cannon turret judging but its semi-circular design. The mechanism functions and the locals tell that was last tested around ten years back and the sections seem to rise and move.
How To Reach Falta Fort
You can reach Falta by your vehicle or by public bus or public train. The nearest train station is Diamond Harbour which has a frequent connection from Sealdah – South. Diamond Harbour is located around 18 kilometers from Falta and can be then reached by shared auto.
Bus routes will also involve you to take Bus towards Diamond Harbour and then taking a shared auto to reach Falta Fort.
The most convenient is by your vehicle. If you are coming by road then you can approach either from Diamond Harbour Road or from Budge Budge. I would recommend traveling via Budge Budge as Diamond Harbour Road often tends to be very crowded and frequent traffic jams delay the journey.
Other Places To See Around Falta
If you do get time then visit the Falta Police Station to see the old cannon located in their garden. Do take prior permission with the sentry before clicking photos. The gun proof mark on the barrel has the letter “P” and the British crown. This gun proof mark does relate to any of the registered gun proof house in London or Birmingham which makes me doubt that this might have been manufactured in India.
Another very interesting place would be Bose Institute located right next to the police station. This is the summer home of renowned scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose. This grand building located right next to Hooghly River is now part of Bose Institute (Falta Campus – Experimental Farm).
Overall a day trip to Falta can be easily clubbed together with Budge Budge and Achipur. It can be a good weekend trip also and there are numerous hotels around Burul, Falta, and Diamond Harbour.
Warren Hastings and British India by Penderel Moon
A History of the Military Transaction of the British Nation in Hindostan by Robert Orme
Armenians in India by Seth Mesrovb Jacob
Three Frenchmen in Bengal; Or, the Commercial Ruin of the French Settlements in 1757 by S. C. Hill
Parochial Annals of Bengal A History of the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment of the Honourable East India Company In the 17th 18th Centuries by Henry Barry Hyde
Report for the Year (Great Britain. Army Medical Services). V. 36, 1894