Preserving Kolkata’s riverbank heritage

A river plays a significant role in the development and progress of a city and Kolkata is not different. It’s the Hooghly River which helps the city to grow as a business hub of Eastern India even today. The relevance of Kolkata’s River Hooghly and the need to care for its riverbanks and ghats has increased in importance in recent months.  Since 2019, the River Festival has hosted a number of cultural events to bring people to the ghats and initiated the renovation of Champatala Ghat. In this year’s O Nodi Re : River Festival 2024, in association with The Barge Company and Trisys, Kult X hosted a talk on the Bengal Paddle on 7 February to bring together a host of organisations who wish to see a riverfront renewal. The evening witnessed a Special Panel Discussion in the esteemed presence of Dr. Saumitra Mohan, IAS, Transport Secretary; Smt Rishika Das Roy, The Barge Company;  Shri K Mohanchandran, Senior Vice President, Operations, Taj Hotels; Shri Shubhodip Ghosh, Bengal Chamber of Commerce; Smt Monica Khosla Bhargava, Architect, Kham Consultants, Ms. Laily Thompson, Organizer and Founder, Kult X; along with other Consul Generals & well-known dignitaries.

“O Nodi Re – River Festival ’24″ highlights the next chapter of preserving Kolkata’s riverbank heritage. This festival will be celebrated on 7th February, 10th February and 11th February 2024.  This visionary program invites everyone to play a vital role in preserving and enhancing the cultural and historical significance of these riverfront spaces. By collectively adopting ghats, it aims to foster a sense of community, revitalizing Kolkata’s connection with its rich heritage along the flowing currents of the iconic rivers. This initiative focuses on shaping a harmonious future for our city, where each adopted a ghat becomes a symbol of shared responsibility and pride. Highlighting the improvement of a selected part of the Hooghly riverfront into a vibrant cultural and leisure hub, without destroying the authenticity of that area and as time goes by, they are targeting the stretch between Kumartuli Ghat and Ahiritola Ghat. On 10 February, Shri Moloy Roy from Rajdanga Durga Puja will create his magic at Nather Bagan Ghat which will provide a backdrop for the musical story Kolkutta ki Jalkatha, dance by New Light and Ramyini and songs by Rahul. And on 11 February, the Princep Ghat walkway will be transformed by a range of localised events lit up by Suman Maity from Tala Prottay Durga Puja and the Kolkata illumination project. Baul and Bhatiali songs, chhau dance, information displays, art as well as a surprise Salsa dancing show completed an unusual evening at the well-used ghat.

In her address, Ms Laily ThompsonFounder of Kult X,  said, “We need our ghats to be clean all day and be accessible and safe as well as provide a range of experiences to welcome people to the riverside.  We know that Kolkata citizens are anticipating a big improvement of our ghats. “Adopt a Ghat” is a programme where everyone can join in.  Individuals and groups of Kolkatans can adopt a ghat and look after it through regular clean ups, holding events, bringing friends. Corporates and business houses can repair, paint and maintain individual ghats.  Let’s do this together and show what our love for our city looks like”.

Shoma Basu, Retired Banker with HSBC and now a partner with KultX said, “This year, let’s not just celebrate culture, but actively contribute to its enduring legacy by adopting a ghat in the heart of Kolkata.”

Mudar Patherya from Trisys said,“Our ongoing collaboration will be focused on enhancing the ghat experience for everyone, whether they visit for leisure or daily activities. Our goal is to encourage residents to explore these extraordinary locations, revel in their city’s rich culture and heritage, and turn these ghats into significant attractions for both city dwellers and visitors alike through the Adopt a Ghat initiative.”

Rishika & Piyush Singhee from The Barge Company said – We’ve been trying to help change how the city interacts and experiences the river. This entails elements of both tangible and intangible heritage. Our organization has been trying to add to the riverscape of the city through our efforts. For example the restoration of India’s only surviving paddle steamer ‘The Bengal paddle’, and the curation of India’s only riverine museum is a way to get more people interested in the history and legacy of the river. Kolkata is ripe for people coming together to work on reclaiming the lost ghats of the city and we are inspired to be a part of the ecosystem of change around this.

The inaugural evening of the festival ended on an impactful note for the “Adopt a Ghat” initiative. Engaging voices from diverse backgrounds illuminated the importance of community involvement in preserving the ‘ghats’. As the evening wrapped up, a sense of purpose lingered, setting the stage for a renewed dedication to the city’s rich cultural legacy through the Adopt a Ghat program.

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