Maratha Ditch

It was a three-mile long moat excavated around Kolkata (then known as Calcutta) in the present Indian state of West Bengal, in 1742, as a protection against possible attacks by marauding Bargis, as the Marathas were known locally. The Bargis, however, never came to the city. Later, the ditch proved to be useless when the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, came and ransacked the British settlement in 1756.The ditch was never completely built. It was mostly filled up in 1799 to build the Circular Road and the balance was filled up in 1892–93. It earned Kolkatans the sobriquet “Ditchers”. The area bounded by the ditch was considered to be the original town of Kolkata.

Maratha Ditch denoted by Orange Line

Lt. Col Mark Wood’s Map of Kolkata in 1784-85 showing the extent of the Maratha Ditch

Bargi invasions

For about ten years (1741–1751) the spectre of Bargi invasion and large scale plundering of the countryside dominated the western part of Bengal. Bargi invasions took place almost as an annual event. Bargi is corruption of a Marathi word which meant horsemen who were provided with horses and arms by the Maratha Empire in contrast to the siladars, who had their own horses and arms.

The ditch

When the Bargis started plundering the Bengal countryside, the Nawab was still powerful, and the British were in the process of developing their trading outpost at Kolkata. It was fear of the Maratha attack that made them dig the Maratha Ditch, cutting across the only pathway, north of Kolkata, through which invasions by land were possible.

As shown in Map above :

The original plan of the ditch extended for seven miles but in six months three miles of it were finished. When it was found that the Bargis did not approach Kolkata, further excavation stopped. Except for a detour on the north-east at Halsibagan, to enclose the garden houses of Gobindram Mitter and Umichand, it followed the later day Circular Road (Upper Circular Road has been renamed Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road, and Lower Circular Road has been renamed Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Road) from Perin’s Point at the north-west extremity of Sutanuti (in present day Bagbazar), where the Chitpur Creek met the river, down to a spot near the present Entally corner. It was planned to excavate it to the south of Govindpur, but that was stalled.

Maratha Empire

Although the Maratha Ditch was thought of as a protection against the possible plunder of the Kolkata by the Bargis, the “natives” had to pay for the construction of the Maratha Ditch to protect the British seat of power, Fort William.

Info & Image :

Map : Google Earth