Princep Ghat, Kolkata – History and the fascinating life of James Prinsep

by Kolkata

Home > India > West Bengal > Kolkata > Princep Ghat, Kolkata – History and the fascinating life of James Prinsep

Last Updated on: May 20, 2021    |     

The grand white structure is standing with all its élan and the mighty river flowing beside it. My journey for the day ends today here. I look at the river passing by taking with itself all the filth and dirt of the city, and so my heart is also cleansed of all the doubts and negativities. Princep Ghat or Prinsep Ghat always has this assuring effect on me. After monuments and graveyards, the third post in our Kolkata series is about this beautiful ghat in Kolkata.

Bengalis and Kolkatans are by nature romantic. They love to recite Tagore whenever got chance. According to us, Princep Ghat is one of the most romantic places in Kolkata. It is a perfect place to meet up with friends, a great hangout place where you can gossip and chat over phuchkas and bhelpuris, a good place for catching up with your old friends. Located along the banks of the beautiful Hooghly River, the memorial was built in the memory of James Prinsep. The Vidyasagar Setu above it adds to its charm all the more.

Princep Ghat and Vidyasagar Setu are two most famous tourist attractions in Kolkata

Where is Prinsep Ghat (Princep Ghat) located?

Princep Ghat is located between the Water Gate and St. George’s Gate of Fort William beside the Hooghly River. The monument is one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Kolkata. It might seem that Princep Ghat was not a proper ghat as it is located some distance away from the river. But earlier, there were some stone steps leading to the river. With time, the river has receded and the stone stairs are perhaps buried under the earth.

Princep Ghat is was built in the memorial of James Prinsep, an Anglo Indian researcher and scholar.

Who was James Prinsep?

Princep Ghat in 1900

Princep Ghat in 1900 | Source: Wikimedia

James Prinsep was the son of John Prinsep, a rich indigo planter who later became a merchant for the East India Company. James Prinsep studied architecture under the gifted Augustus Pugin. But he had to discontinue his studies because of an eye infection. James was appointed the Assistant Assay Master in Calcutta Mint and he arrived at the city on 15th September 1819.

While writing this post, I started reading about James Prinsep. He had led a short but such an illustrious life that I was totally impressed with him and kept on researching about him. Well, I am sharing only a few facts about him in this post.  

James Prinsep was a man of science and had studied architecture and chemistry. Later in 1820, he embarked on a budgerow (a barge with cabins) known as bajraa locally towards Benaras. He took his equipment and books in a second boat.

He became the Assay Master of the Mint in Benaras. His work was to test the proportion and quality of the metals used in the coins. Apart from his regular duties at the mint, he also did considerable pro bono work.

  • He created two accurate maps of the Benaras in 1822, one in Roman script for the administration and the other in Devnagari script for the locals. He had plotted all the important buildings of Benaras on the map.
  • He was also the mind behind the building of a tunnel to drain the swamp outside the city. You can say that it was the precursor of modern-day infrastructure.
  • He also repaired the minarets of the Alamgir Mosque.

After spending a decade in Benares, he came back to Calcutta. He completed a project started by his brother in building a canal to connect the distributaries of the River Ganga near the delta in order to make them navigable. Infact, the present Inland Waterways Project is an extension of this colonial engineering.

As an assay master, James also introduced a system of uniform coinage.

However, the most important contribution of James Prinsep was decoding the rock edicts of Emperor Asoka which was in Pali Script. In Kolkata, he was the editor of the Journal of Asiatic Society. In this time, he collated all the available data that were inscribed on the rocks and pillars and in 1837 decoded what is now known as the Brahmi script. It was due to his work that the life and work of Emperor Asoka were finally recovered in his homeland.

James also deciphered the Kharoshti script that appeared in the coins from the regions now in modern Pakistan and Afganistan.

His long hours of work eventually took a toll on his health and he returned to England just before he turned 40 to recover his health. He died on 22nd April 1840 due to “softening of the brain” which perhaps mean some disorder related to the brain.

In 1843, the Princep Ghat Memorial was built in his memory. The Palladian style monument was designed by W. Fitzgerald and the money to build the monument was collected through public subscription.  

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE : Galiff Street Pet Market, Kolkata – the hobbyists’ ultimate destination

More about Prinsep Ghat, Kolkata

Princep Ghat was considered to be one of the grandest and best monuments found for access to a river. It was built to replace Chandpal Ghat as the principal point of embarkment and disembarkment for the important visitors to the city. In 1875, when Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and the eldest son of Queen Victoria visited Calcutta, he was welcomed at the Princep Ghat. Later in 1905, Prince of Wales (later King George V) and in 1911, the British royal family visited India and Princep Ghat bore the witness to all these visits.

Side view of Prinsep Ghat

The Princep Ghat bears a resemblance to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, though on a much smaller scale. The monument is built on 6 sets of Ionian columns holding a 40 feet roof painted in white. It looks grand from a distance. The monument was neglected for a long time. But in 2001, the monument was restored by the city’s Public Works department as a part of the government’s beautification project. The spot has been maintained since then. It is now one of the most popular spots in Kolkata for locals and tourists alike. You can sit in the lawn in front of the memorial, take a stroll and even visit the riverside. You will also see a number of models and photographers here on shooting assignment. The place is quite photogenic!

Prinsep Ghat Railway Station

There is a railway station named Princep Ghat. It is a part of the Circular railway track of Kolkata. A journey through this railway track will take you through very beautiful landscapes and is highly recommended. Take a train from Princep Ghat to Bagbazar. You will travel beside the Hooghly River and below the Howrah Bridge. From Bagbazar, you can return back to Baboo ghat by return launch.

Did you know that Durga Puja in Kolkata is India’s Official nomination for UNESCO’s 2020 list of cultural institutions? Know more about the Durga Puja in Bonedi Bari (aristocratic families) of Kolkata.

As you cross the railway track, you see the serene Hooghly River welcoming you. You can sit at the ghat and enjoy some tranquil moments. Watching the sunset is an added bonus. A boat ride in the river is also a wonderful experience. With The Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu at the backdrop, a boat ride through the Hooghly River will definitely leave you wanting for more! Boat rides can be taken from the ghat for INR 300 for half an hour. It is surely an experience that must be indulged in.

Boat ride on the Hooghly River

Second Hooghly Bridge from Princep Ghat

Entry Fees of Princep Ghat

There is no entry fee. You can enter visit the monument, sit at the lawn and take pictures at your will. However, we feel that the monument should be maintained in a better way and if required entry fees may be introduced.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE : Bow Barracks, the Anglo-Indian community in Kolkata

Leave no Footprints

We have visited Prinsep Ghat a number of times and every time we saw some graffiti on the wall. I am not speaking of the artwork here, but the work of budding lovers who write their names on the walls as their declaration of love! Stains of betel spit are also found at the corners.

Well, we highly condemn such acts and try to stop whenever we see such budding artists. There should be some guard at the place who should look after this so that this heritage structure is not destroyed in this manner. Finally, the onus is also on each of us to keep our city clean.

destroying the heritage

How to reach Princep Ghat?

Princep Ghat is one of the most iconic places of Kolkata. If coming from Howrah, you can take a ferry from Howrah to Baboo Ghat. From there, it is a walking distance to the ghat. You can also take a yellow taxi, Ola or Uber. We would, however, recommend you to take the ferry ride over the Hooghly River.

Did you know, Kolkata has a thriving Chinese community? Know how we celebrate Chinese New Year in Kolkata.

Places nearby

You can visit Victoria Memorial, St.Pauls Cathedral, Esplanade, Rabindra Sadan and Birla Planetarium which are all quite nearby.

Princep Ghat remains one of my favourite places in Kolkata. It is a splendid place to relax and reminisce. An ideal place to consider the future and renew the vows of life.

View of Princep Ghat from the garden

Prinsep Ghat is aplace to meet with friends

Boat ride at Hooghly River

2 Backpackers taking a boat ride on Hooghly River at Princep Ghat

Are you from Kolkata? Have you visited Kolkata? What is your favourite place in Kolkata? Let us know your thoughts about Kolkata in comments below. If you like the post please share it and pin it for a later read!

Reproduction of the content, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer and photographer, is not encouraged at all and a violation of the same will attract legal action. If you need anything, Contact Us.

May We Suggest

Best Kolkata Travel Guide for the first timers

Best Kolkata Travel Guide for the first timers

Well, what can we say about Kolkata? It is our hometown, a place that we love dearly. To be honest, only after we became travel bloggers, did we understand the beauty and charm of the “City of Joy”, a sobriquet that is given to Kolkata. Kolkata is rich in heritage and...

Armenian Christmas Celebration in Kolkata

Armenian Christmas Celebration in Kolkata

With Christmas around the corner, Kolkata too is getting decked up in the mood of festivities. December 25th has now become a festival for all. Bow Barracks near Bowbazar celebrates the spirit of Christmas all through the week. But do you know, that another community...

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival – Kolkata

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival – Kolkata

There was a festive mood at the Calcutta Boating and Hotel Resorts near Tangra on the afternoon of 11th June 2017. Kolkata was celebrating the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. And the whole place was filled with people of the Kolkata Chinese community as well as others....

Ramzan Food Trail at Zakaria Street, Kolkata

Ramzan Food Trail at Zakaria Street, Kolkata

Kolkata is celebrating the holy month of Ramzan or Ramadan. And the Ramzan fast breaks after the sunset with Iftar. Like all other festivals, Kolkata celebrates the month of piousness with equal passion. And exploring the area around Nakhoda Mosque during this time is...

Chinese New Year Kolkata

Chinese New Year Kolkata

New years are the time of celebration and are perhaps one of the most important festivals of the community. The Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals of the Chinese calendar. And the Chinese community in Kolkata celebrates it among mush festivities....

St John’s Church Kolkata – Reliving the history

Just as you move around the north-western corner of Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s house, you come across a Neo-classical structure – the St John’s Church Kolkata. The church stands tall as a witness to all the bygone eras of Kolkata. St. John’s Church Kolkata is the...


  1. I recently visited Kolkata with my friends. It looks like I missed seeing this place. I wish I would have read your blog post before. However, I have marked this on my bucket list and will definitely be going to explore this place on my next visit.

    • Hope you visit the place in your next trip!

  2. Hey I’m from Kolkata and this place is one of my favorites. The victoria is also my favorite. There are lots of memories. Whoever comes to kolkata, visit this place once positively.

    • Thank you Sayeri! I think we Kolkatans love these places.

  3. That was such a well explained description of the place.

    Would definitely want to visit this beautiful architecture the next time I am in Kolkata.

    • Thank you Sanjay!

  4. I have never been to Kolkata. After reading your post,I feel like visiting it asap. Thanks for such an attractive,informative and enticing post

  5. It’s ashamed this beautiful building has to carry all the budding lovers names on its body and beetle juice stain at its corners. Maybe a trash can or a fine will help. Seems like James Princep, in his short life on earth, did a lot of good things to Kolkata. Especially the tunnel that helped drain the swamp outside the city as well as completed the project that his brother started to distribute the water from the Ganga River.

  6. Princep Ghat looks amazing and most importantly the history associated with it. Loved to know about James Princep as I don’t know anything about him. It must be beautiful sight when a mighty river flowing besides this wonderful gate and it really looks like Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate though it is not giant. Really a wonderful place for peace and relaxation.

    • Thank you Yukti! James Prinsep is a fascinating person.

  7. I loved this post so much. It’s good to explore the culture of a place in detail and it seems that you and I have pretty much the same interests. Thanks again for sharing this story with us.

    • Thank you, Rahul!

  8. I have visited Princep ghat and I was fascinated by its beauty.

    I even took a boat ride and had some pucchka riverside.

  9. Princep Ghat is indeed a revelation. Another gem from India’s most enigmatic city, Kolkata. This was indeed a lovely read. Apart from the place itself, the story of the man after whom it is named sounds really fascinating and had my attention riveted. This man seems really a prodigal genius given the various achievements of his lifetime. Reading about him deciphering the Ashoka edicts was something unexpected, spurred to read more about this personality.

    • Thank you guys! James Prinsep’s life is so fascinating. I started reading about him and could not stop!

  10. Such a well described write up of Kolkata and the history. I visited many years back on my way to Darjeeling but never been in interiors, seems the visit is due now.

    • Thank you Anish! Please do visit Kolkata.

  11. Though I knew about James Princep, I didn’t know about this fascinating place dedicated to him. I would love to visit it when I’m in Kolkata.

    • Thank you and please do visit Princep Ghat on your next visit to Kolkata.

  12. Kolkata seems such a fascinating place. I really enjoyed reading this about Princep Ghat. I’ve travelled quite a bit around India, but not made it to Kolkata- hopefully soon!

    • Thank you Sara. Please visit Kolkata! Its a lovely city. And if you are here, know that you have a guide here! 🙂

  13. This monument looks like the lesser visited ones in Kolkata. I am very excited reading about its history. When I visit next time will definitely make it point to add it on my list.

    • Thank you and please do visit it!

  14. That is definitely an impressive and beautiful monument! It’s cool to know the history behind the Princep Ghat. It’s definitely a beautiful view with the river and bridge behind it. I would like to take a boat ride on the river as you did!

    • Thank you. Boat ride is one of the highlights of Kolkata and you must experience it when you are here.

  15. Im definitely gonna visit this place! Thanks for sharing the tempting facts about the place!

    • Thank you Nitya!

  16. I have never been to Kolkata, never got a chance …but this place looks so beautiful and I need to visit soon..for place and for food too!!!

    • Thank you Ruchi!

  17. It’s great that the city restored the monument. It’s nice that the monument is free to visit, but I could see that an entry fee would help to continue to maintain it. It’s too bad that people aren’t taking care of it themselves in the meantime.

    • We too think that an entry fee would be good to maintain the monument. Thank you!

  18. I have never been to Kalkota but this place is definitely a must when traveling there. I would love to explore the city with a boat ride…you just get to see a different angle of the city. I had no idea that Kalkota is so green though!

    • Thank you Paulina. Well, Kolkata is not all that green, but parts of it are sure.

  19. Thank you so much for this areltic, it saved me time!

  20. It’s one of those few places in Kolkata that never seem boring, regardless of how many times you’ve been there!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Agni Amrita Travel Blogger

Hi! we’re Agni & Amrita.

A creative couple, explorer and the team behind Tale of 2 Backpackers.

Find more about us.

Don’t miss out

Latest Video

Copyright © 2023 Tale of 2 Backpackers – Made with ❤️ by us | All Rights Reserved

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This