Barrackpore is situated on the banks of River Hooghly, few kilometres north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The name Barrackpore (formerly Chanak) originates from the word barracks. It is believed that this town, with name “Barbakpur” and “Barbuckpur” was a major collection centre during the regime of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and was associated with a Mahal in the Ain-e-Akbari, under the Mughal Empire respectively. The name changed to Barrackpore with time. It is now covered by Kolkatta Metropolitan Development Authority.
By 15th and 16th centuries, Chanak and other towns in the region gained popularity as river towns and thereafter the British established Barrackpore as first major military base of the East India Company in 1772. They further established Government House and Estate at Barrackpore to be used as the residence for the Viceroy. Warren Hastings took over as the first Governor General on 20th October, 1774.
Barrackpore gradually gained importance because of its linkage to Calcutta, the then capital of British India which served as a military seat till 1910. Later, the capital was shifted from Calcutta to New Delhi. In the 19th Centuary, Barrackpore became famous for the two major rebellions which took place in Barrackpore against the British authority.
The first rebellion, in 1824, was led by Sepoy Binda Tiwary wherein the 47th Bengal Native Infantry comprising of high-caste Hindu refused to board boats to cross the polluted “dark waters” to Burma in the First Anglo-Burmese War. Consequently, the rebels were mercilessly killed by British.
The second and the most significant rebellion in Barrackpore took place in 1857 wherein Mangal Pandey, an Indian soldier, attacked his British commander. The motivation behind his rebellious attitude was the use of new ‘greased’ cartridges. The greased cartridges with animal fat had to be beaten before use, which disturbed Mangal Pandey and other sepoys. They refused orders to fire the greased cartridges. He was subsequently court-martialed and his regiment was disbanded, an action which offended a number of sepoys. He was later sentenced to death. The incident provoked the outbreak of the ‘revolt of 1857’.
A monument at Barrackpore Cantonment and a park, where Mangal Pandey attacked the British Officers and was later hanged were put in place to mark his commemoration.
Barrackpore is also known for being the birthplace/association of some of the noted individuals: Rashtraguru Surendra Nath Bandyopadhyay (father of Indian Nationalist Movement), Bharat Chandra Roy Gunakar (wrote Annada Mangal in Medieval period), Ramprasad Sen (regional song writer), Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya (author of India’s National Song ‘Vande Matram’, etc.
The city is known to have been visited by Ram Krishna Paramhansa, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, and Mahatma Gandhi. Other highlights of this town are: annual festivals and melas, Sukanta Sadan Theatre Hall, Durga Puja, month long fair at the temple of Goddess Kali at Shyamnagar, etc.