The megacity of Calcutta was founded in the early Nineteenth Century by Job Charnock with Kali Katta, Sutanuti and Gobindapur villages. In the Eighteenth century, the chief occupation of the people of Sutanuti was to spin thread (in Bengali “Suta Luti”) and sell them in the market of Soya Bazar (the present day Sova Bazar). Over the period, Sutaluti became Sutanuti and is now known as Bagbazar.
From the northern side of Bagbazar, Maharatha raiders (known locally as “Bargi”s) used to make surprise attacks unleashing a reign of terror on the residents. To save the citizens from this terror a huge protective ditch was dug by the British in 1742, which is still known as “Maharatta Ditch”. Near this ditch was established a castle named “Parrin Castle”. Before the battle of Plassey, the army of Holwell had fought with the army of Mir Zafar, the general of Sirajuddaullah at this place, which gave the place its name ‘Barud Khana'(lit. Magazine House).
Near the ‘Maharatta Ditch’ is the tram depot. Near this tram depot is a hospital known as “Nelo Sahib’s Hospital” dedicated to the service of the ailing poor. This was established on a plot of land donated by one Sri Haridas Saha, a philanthropic businessman famous for his limestone trade. Nayan Krishna Saha was Haridas Saha’s father. At the request of the son, the road to the north of Bagbazar was named “Nayan Krishna Saha Lane” by the Calcutta Corporation. On this road lies the houses of Haridas Saha where he had built a temple dedicated to Radha-Krishna. At present this house is famous as “Hari Saha Temple”.
To increase the width of the road, Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority divided it in two parts – the larger part meets the crossing in the south, and the smaller part goes to Chitpur Tram Depot. This smaller portion has a width of 10-12 feet and houses Ramakrishna Math, Bagbazar’s premier branch, the four-storeyed building of ‘Udbodhan Office’. In the Nineteenth century, Nayan Krishna Saha Lane was dotted on both sides with the huts of Muslims whose chief occupation was fishing. People engaged in this trade are known in Bengali as ‘Nikarhi’, hence this area was also known as “Nikarhi Para”, there used to be a dilapidated mosque in this area which has now been renovated and is in much use.
Under the influence of modern science and technology of the twentieth century, Calcutta underwent a total transformation. The wave of this new change in the form of western culture of opulence and grandeur started beating on Bagbazar too. There were changes all around. The names of roads too were undergoing change. The road in front of the Mother’s House was changed from Mukherjee Lane to Udbodhan Lane.
The three-storied house of Mother’s was the tallest in the neighbourhood. In front of the house there was a huge field of grass which looked like a green carpet. ‘Maharatta Ditch’ could be seen meeting the Ganga at a distance of less than a kilometer. The solitude of the place was attractive – the semi-darkness of the approaching evening, the nature full of tranquility, the sweet munnur of the flowing Ganga filled minds with divine thoughts.That divine tranquility is today lost in the glaring neon lights and has become a mute witness of the past.
“Kashi Mitra Crematorium” and the “Shmashaneswar Shiva Temple”, situated to the south of the Mother’s House are places of pilgrimage for us. Sri Ramakrishna’s ‘supplier’ Balaram Babu, Sri Ramakrishna’s disciple Swami Yogananda, Mother’s disciple Swami Prajnananda and Mother’s attendants Yogin-Ma and Golap-Ma were all cremated here.
The Ghat where Holy Mother and Swami Saradananda used to take bath, the bank of Ganga where Swami Brahmananda Maharaj used to take evening walks are extremely holy places for the monks as well as devotees of the Ramakrishna Order.