The origin of Rishra situated on the right bank of the River Hugli dates back to the pre-colonial era. It is situated in the District of Hoogli in West Bengal. This town lying on the co-ordinates of 22.710 N latitude, 88.350 E longitude, is a few decades old region. The reference of Rishra was first seen to have occurred in Bipradas Piplai’s “Manasamangal Kavya”, written in the fifteenth century. At the time of giving description of the movement of Chand Saudagar along the River Bhagirathi in a barge for business he narrated:
The above text of Manasamangal provides a different spelling of the name of the town. There has been further and marked evolution in the said spelling down the era as Reshra, Risshra, Isharah, Ichera, Icchra, etc. In Jadavpur University a research work was conducted in respect of the names of villages in our country. It was noticed that there are several villages in our country in a single name. But the name of Rishra has been found to be unique during such research exercise. In the book written on traveling description by a French traveler Vernia, the name of the Rishra village was noticed which was situated eight miles away from Kolkata. During the Sen Dynasty, it is told that there were hermitages of the saints (Rishi) on the bank of the river Bhagirathi. It is presumed that the name “Rishra” might have been derived from the word Saint or Rishi with whom it is believed to have been associated over a pretty long time in the past.
During the Mughal period, the village Rishra and its suburbs were thickly populated. The hot and humid climate of the area was congenial to the textile industry. The land was thus famous for textile and silk weaving. The Hindu weavers here used to manufacture fine cotton pieces, while Muslim weavers monopolized in silk manufacture. In the fertile land in and around the area, paddy, jute and betel-leaf were grown in abundance. The Kaibartas utilized the marshy land for fishing.
During the last phase of the industrialization under the Danish rule, the entire civic administration was completely disrupted. After taking over the possession of the town of Serampore, the British Company began to look after its civic amenities. The earlier “village committee” was transformed into Serampore Municipality. Rishra and Konnanagar were included.
Evolution of Rishra
Once Rishra was a lag-behind village teeming with ditches, ponds, pools and cultivable lands. Inspite of all that, a vast area of the village attracted all since the 18th century. The area of the land from the Ganges at the east to the present railway track was above 570 bighas. Out of these 570 bighas, about 196 bighas proved to be most conducive to the production and manufacture of jute goods. It was known as “Rishra Bagan (Rishra Garden)”. From the boundary of Mahesh to the present Bidhan Chandra College it was extended. In a part of this land covering an area of 60 bighas full of all facilities of setting up of jute mill, the first Jute Mill in India was established which was known as “Wellington Jute Mill” in 1855. In the year 1780, Warren Hastings purchased about 136 bighas of land excluding the land of the Wellington Jute Mill. Slums began coming up one after another around and in the vicinity of the jute mills and huts with tiled roofs were built therein which now comes within the ward numbers 1 to 8.
Wherein the present Municipal Office is situated was known as “Charuchandra Nagar”. Dr. Charuchandra Chattyopadhyay was the owner of a vast area of land in this area. Besides this, on the land on which the recently obsolete Presidency Jute Mill, ICI, Phosphate Co. Ltd., Jayashree Textiles, Kusum Products Limited, J. K. Steel were situated was used for cultivation earlier. Bagher Khal or Baghkhal was situated at the southern limit of Rishra indicating the boundary of Rishra Konnanagar was known as “Alinagar Mouza” in the past. A channel was also excavated on the northern side of the Hastings House, which was known as Champa Khal, and afterwards it became silted and now it remains as only a caricature. In the year 1890, on the eastern side of Grand Trunk Road another channel was excavated for discharging the wastewater of the village was named as “Railand Channel”. In the year 1888 the authorities of Wellington and Hastings Jute Mills first arranged to supply purified water in the slum areas. Besides these there were abundance of ponds, pools and lakes in the village of Rishra.
Evolution in Industrial Scenario
In the middle of 18th century some people from England reached Rishra and undertook an effort to install Industries. Actually after the purchase of Garden House by Warren Hastings industries flourished in Rishra with a new vigor. In the year 1855 the first Jute Mill of India “Wellington Jute Mill” was established in Rishra. In the year 1875 Hastings Jute Mill started its production with the joint effort of Adam Birkmyre and Archy Birkmyre. At the fag end of Second World War on 15th April, 1944 Hastings Mill compound was selected as the Central Office of Air Force of the friendly side (India-Barma). In the year 1937, the most modernized Industry “A.C.C.I” was established. This included Electrolytic plant, which began to produce Chlorine.
On 21st February 1944, at the outset, the first factory producing Flux was established which was gradually flourished with its different branches including a High Tension porcelain Electrical Insulator Plant in 1965. In the year 1945 a Factory in the name of Kusum Products was set up which started to produce Vegetable Oil, Detergent etc. Its products Vegetable Oil branded as Kusum and Prasad Vanaspati, Nirmal Bar and Gnat Detergent were popular in our Country. Besides myriad big, medium and small types of engineering industries, manure producing industries and others taking together give the town a complete industrial shape.
At the very initial stage the main source of centre for education was toll wherein the students were taught to earn knowledge about the Bengali ward. In the year 1845 an Educational Institution was established in the premises of Prem Mandir to teach the Sanskrit language. The first primary school was established in the Chandi Mandap of Har Babu in his House. In the year 1855 at the southern side of Kali Buxi Ghat the Dewanji Family established a Pucca School which was later on known as U.P. Boys’ and U.P Girls’ School. In this way interest in study and Education spread over the village which yielded a good result and at present there are a number of primary, high schools on different languages including a collage wherein the local youths are getting opportunities to get themselves educated.
Population: Its variety and Character
If we discuss about the population of Rishra in the past it would be seen that the ancient inhabitants of Rishra were divided into four categories. They were Tribal, people belonging to the backward classes and peasants. In the year 1894 after the installation of Railway Line, people in good number from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra and other parts of country came to Rishra in search of job in the Industries and gradually settled in the village and started to reside here permanently and the village got a shape of Mini India with its character Unity and Diversity.
From the very inception there was no bar on any community in the village to observe their religion independently and peacefully. Rathayatra and Snanyatra of Mahesh were considered to be the popular festival of Bengal. In “Samachar Darpan Patrika Issue” on 5th June 1899 a report on the matter was published. At the advent of the people belonging to the different castes, creeds and languages organizing different religious festivals -- the town assumed a cosmopolitan character. During the Rathayatra and Snanyatra people in a good number from Rishra, Serampore and its adjoining area assemble therein. At the initial stage fair centering the Brahma Puja was the only festival. Now Fair centering the different Pujas in Rishra is held in every year. For the last seventeen years, Rishra Fair has been included in it, which reflects the culture of different castes and creeds as well as that of the different language-speaking people.