Lal Dighi

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General Post Office and Reserve Bank of India building from across Lal Dighi

Lal Dighi (meaning Red Pool) is a body of water in the middle of B. B. D. Bagh, earlier known as Tank Square or Dalhousie Square, in the heart of Kolkata, earlier known as Calcutta, in the Indian state of West Bengal.


Lal Dighi in Dihi Kalikata was there before the arrival of Job Charnock.[1]Sabarna Roy Choudhury 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.[2]

Some jackals were howling on one of the banks of the tank. Further away another larger animal was breathing heavily. A few horses released from their carriages were savouring the grass, but in the indistinct moonlight Trilochan Das could not recognise them from a distance. He felt a bit scared. Waves of glow worms blown by the winds formed alternative patches of light and darkness.

On getting into water in a tank, Trilochan Das was used to removing the moss by thumping around. However, the water in that tank was crystal clear. It was the favourite Great Tank or Lal Dighi of the English. They did not drink water from that tank but they sometimes dropped the fishing lines in the afternoons or embarked upon swimming competitions. The water in the tank was protected for possible use in case of a sudden fire somewhere. Natives were prohibited from going there.

After getting into knee deep water, Trilochan Das first washed his face. He drank the water to his heart’s content. Then as he attempted to get up, after filling up his pot, two guards came running after him…[3]

Sunil Gangopadhyay
from the novel Sei Samay

There are other theories and stories about Lal Dighi. Some say that the reflection of the red colour of the old fort used to sparkle in the water of the tank and so it acquired its name.[2] According to another school of belief, Lalchand Basak, had dug the immense pond and it came to be known as Lal Dighi after his name.[4]

Prankrishna Dutta had given yet another history in Nabyabharat. According to him, the tank was dug by either Mukundaram Seth of Gobindapur or his son. He had a court house there, where dol festival was celebrated in a big way. The tank became red or crimson with the colours used and hence the name.[2]

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.[1]

In the 18th century Tank Square was, ‘in the middle of the city’. It covers upwards of 25 acres (100,000 m2) of ground. ‘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. The number of springs which it contains makes the water in it almost on the same level. It is railed around, no one may wash in it.’ The tank was formerly more extensive, but was cleansed and embanked completely in Warren Hastings’ time. It has always been esteemed the sweetest water in Calcutta, and until the introduction of municipal water supply, was the chief source of supply of drinking water to the European community.[5]

Battle of Lal Dighi[edit]

On 18 June 1756, the Battle of Lal Dighi was fought between Siraj ud-Daulah and the forces of British East India Company, leading to withdrawal of the British from Kalikata, till their victory in the Battle of Plassey near Berhampore on 23 June 1757.[6]

Underground car park[edit]

Government of West Bengal has planned for a 115,000 square feet (10,700 m2) underground car park at the northern end of Lal Dighi at a cost of Rs. 35 crore. It will accommodate about 700 cars. It will be the biggest car parking plaza in Kolkata.[7][8] It will be a two-storey structure and it would not cause any harm to the existing Lal Dighi.[7]

Earlier, three construction firms – Simplex Projects Limited, Tantia Construction Company and Samar and Samar, a joint venture with Rajpath Contractors Engineers Limited, had submitted bids on the original tender, but the Public Works Department (PWD) cancelled that and revised the plan.[9] The state government asked private players for free parking zone for 350 VIP cars. When it failed to find a build-operate-transfer partner, it assign PWD the job of constructing the underground car park from the state government’s budget.[7]

The plan has faced various hurdles. The urban development department and PWD have been at loggerheads.[10] PWD and Calcutta Tramways Company could not agree on shifting tram tracks on the north-east of Lal Dighi, along the Netaji Subhas Road.[9] When the PWD sought permission to pump out Lal Dighi water, the fire services categorically said no. The pond also acts as the reservoir for water pumps in the BBD Bag complex. The fire department has stipulated that a minimum water level of 2.5 metre must be maintained during the two-year construction of the parking plaza. Lal Dighi’s current water level is 6 metre.[11] The project is expected to be completed around October 2010.[12]

B. B. D. Bagh is likely to undergo a regeneration drive, possibly with financial aid from US-based World Monuments Fund and some city based chambers of commerce. Set up to further accessorise the centre of the city without losing the old world charm emanating from colonial architecture, Kolkata Regeneration Society (KRS) has been formed with the Governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi as chairman. The other functionaries of the society include Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, mayor, Barun De, historian and Dilip Chakraborty, principal secretary, state information and cultural affairs department. It would function in an advisory capacity.[13]

With about 8 feet (2.4 m) of the twenty feet structure likely to be above ground, engineers, architects and town planners fear that it would be an eyesore in a heritage zone. After a presentation was made to the Kolkata Regeneration Society in June 2007, the Governor has advised a reconsideration of the design.[12]


  1. ^ a b Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, p. 18, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  2. ^ a b c Patree, Purnendu, Purano Kolkatar Kathachitra, (in Bengali), pp. 154-5, 3rd edition, 1995, Dey’s Publishing, ISBN 81-7079-751-9
  3. ^ Gangopadhyay Sunil, Sei Samay (Those days), a Sahitya Akedemi award winning novel about nineteenth century Kolkata, (in Bengali), pp.55-56
  4. ^ "Lal Dighi". Retrieved 25 July 2007.
  5. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., p 268-9
  6. ^ Sinha, Pradip, Siraj’s Calcutta, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, pp. 8-9, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1
  7. ^ a b c "PWD to redo car park plan". The Statesman, 13 October 2005. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  8. ^ Ganguly, Deepankar (2 July 2007). "Car park in new avatar". Calcutta, India: The Telegraph, 2 July 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  9. ^ a b "Car park not on track". The Statesman, 5 March 2005. Archived from the original on 26 September 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  10. ^ "Ministers bicker over bridge, car park projects". The Statesman, 14 November 2006. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  11. ^ "Parking project in pond muddle". Times of India, 29 June 2007. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  12. ^ a b Ganguly, Deepankar (2 July 2007). "Car park in new avatar". Calcutta, India: The Telegraph, 2 July 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  13. ^ "Dalhousie square to don new look soon". The Statesman, 28 February 2007. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2007. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

External links[edit]

Kolkata/Esplanade travel guide from Wikivoyage

Coordinates: 22°34′19″N 88°20′56″E / 22.572°N 88.349°E / 22.572; 88.349