Fort William, Kolkata
By Aashima Chowdhry
‘We are not makers of history; we are made by history.’ – Martin Luther King Jr.
As the cultural capital of the country, Kolkata has a multitude of heritage sites that bring us face to face with the past. The city has witnessed defining moments in history that have shaped the present face of India. An everlasting relic of the yesteryears that houses numerous anecdotes of bravery and leadership is Fort William.
Taking almost a decade to complete, the fort was built in the year 1696 in commemoration of King William III and is a testament to the British era in India. Spreading over an area of 70.9 hectares, the fort sits on the eastern banks of Hooghly river and overlooks lush green gardens. Shaped like an irregular octagon, its design is largely influenced by Georgian and Gothic architecture with numerous arched windows and intricate stonework on its brick and mortar structure.
The original fort was attacked by the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah in 1756 that questioned the ability of the fort to act as a safe haven for the British soldiers.
It is chronicled in history that the Nawab captured and held 146 British prisoners of war in a dungeon measuring 14×18 feet, the night he laid siege to the fort. The dungeon was so small that by sunrise 123 of the prisoners died due to suffocation and heat. This dungeon is popularly known as ‘The Black Hole of Calcutta”.
Later, a second and more secure fort was completed after the Battle of Plassey under the supervision of Lord Robert Clive who ordered clearance of the area around the fort. This area came to be known as ‘Maidan- The Lungs of Kolkata’.
At present, the Fort is headquarters to the Eastern Command of the Indian Army and remains heavily guarded with certain areas being closed to civilians. Weddings at Fort William are a major trend in Kolkata and take place in the most royal and grand manner.