Asansol a coal-mining-industrial-commercial centre, is the second largest city in West Bengal, after Kolkata. It is the 29th most populous city in India, with over a million residents. It is a sub-division located in Bardhaman District, in the western periphery of the state.
The entire stretch from Andal to Barakar and covering Raniganj, Jamuria , Asansol, Burnpur , Neamatpur , Kulti and Barakar , composed of a long stretch of about 40 kilometres along Grand Trunk Road forms one urban agglomeration, all of which falls within Asansol subdivision. The gaps between the almost contiguous urban centres are filled with collieries and small settlements. It should properly be considered as one city. The Chittaranjan - Rupnarayanpur urban centre is also closely linked. For the purposes of planning the entire stretch from Panagarh to Barakar is overseen by the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA).
Initially people of Dravidian and Austroloid stock inhabited this region. Around two thousand five hundred years ago, it became an area of significant Jain activity. According to some, the last Tirthankar of Jain religion, Mahavira Vardhamana, used to live and work in the area. The district and headquarters town thus came to be known as Bardhaman. Some identify the spread of Jainism in West Bengal with the Aryanisation of the region. Evidence of major Jain activity exists in the Jain temples on Pareshnath Hill in neighbouring Jharkhand. There is an old Jain temple at Begunia on the bank of the Barakar river. A number of temples in neighbouring Bankura district also bear evidence of major Jain activity in the region.
Later, the area was possibly part of the Vishnupur kingdom, where the Malla dynasty ruled for around a thousand years till the advent of the British. There is a Vishnupur style temple in Chhotodighari village providing a clue to its links with Vishnupur. The local dialect and culture of the region has closer affinities with those of Bankura and Vishnupur than the other neighbouring areas. It is evident that the area was part of different kingdoms at different points of time.
Development of industries
The extensive growth of railways in the country led to the development of the iron and steel industry. In 1870, James Erskine set up the Bengal Iron Works. It was also known as Barakar Iron Works. Some sources attribute the development to Hoare Miller and Co. of Kolkata. It is possible that James Erskine was an employee of that company. The first blast furnace using coal instead of charcoal went into production at Kulti in 1875. In those days, the place was more easily identified as Kendwa. Kulti was a smaller village than Kendwa.
IISCO Steel Plant at BurnpurBurn & Co promoted The Indian Iron and Steel Co. Ltd. in 1918. G.H.Fairhurst is credited with having founded the plant at Burnpur (then better known as Hirapur). Sir Rajendranath Mookerjee and T. Leslie Martin were also associated with it. Sir Biren Mookerjee joined a little later and played a major role in the development of the plant. Iron production started at Burnpur in 1922. Kulti Works of Bengal Iron was merged with IISCO in 1936. Steel Corporation of Bengal (SCOB) set up the steelmaking facilities at Burnpur in 1939. SCOB was merged with IISCO in 1952 and Martin Burn was then the managing agent of the company. Indian Standard Wagon (ISW) (later renamed Burn Standard) set up its wagon factory at Burnpur.
Damodar Valley Corporation, the first multipurpose river valley project in the country, had a major presence in the periphery of the area with two dams at Maithon and Panchet (at both places the river forms the border with Jharkhand). The artificial lakes behind the dams have added considerably to the natural beauty of the area and are centres of picnicking.
Chittaranjan Locomotive Works (CLW) was the first locomotive workshop in India. It has been named after the great freedom fighter, leader and statesman Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das. It initially produced steam locmotives. The production activity started on 26th January, 1950 the day when India became a Republic. The first steam locomotive Deshbandhu was dedicated to the nation by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. With the roll out of first CLW built WAG-9 electric locomotive Navyug on 14th November 1998, India joined the select club of five countries which can manufacture electric locomotives with 3-phase technology. In 2006, CLW produced Dr Silver, a 6000 HP three-phase locomotive with remote diagnostic system. Until 31st March 2006 CLW has produced 3380 electric locomotives.
Sen Raleigh Industries started production in their cycle factory at Kanyapur, near Asansol, in 1949. Pilkington set up a glass factory at Asansol. The Jaykay group established an aluminium plant at Jaykaynagar, near Asansol. The Dhakeswari textile mill was set up at Suryanagar on the banks of the Damodar. Bengal Paper Mill was established at Ballabhpur, Ranigunj. Hindustan Cables Ltd. set up their plant at Rupnarayanpur.
The steel industry was expanded in a big way. A new plant was set up in neighbouring Durgapur. The plant at Burnpur was expanded. There also was considerable expansion of townships and other facilities. Nehru Park (formerly Lahmeyer Park) was built utilising the natural contour of the terrain on the banks of the Damodar. The airstrip at Burnpur can handle small aircraft.
Pumping arrangements in the Damodar RiverAsansol is located at 23.68° N 86.98° E. It has an average elevation of 97 metres (318 feet).
While most of Bengal is flat alluvial plains, Asansol subdivision lies on exposed Gondwana rocks and consists mostly of undulating laterite soil. It forms the lower edge of the Chota Nagpur plateau, which occupies most of Jharkhand.
It is located between two mighty rivers, Damodar and Ajay. Another mighty river, Barakar, joins the Damodar near Dishergarh. A small rivulet, Nunia, flows past Asansol. The Ghagarburi temple on its banks attracts devotees round the year.
Nehru Park on the banks of Damodar RiverThe city's economy is primarily based on the coal and steel industries. Situated in the Damodar River valley, the city has evolved and expanded over time to a current population of one million, ranking it 23rd in India. It is located about 200 km from Kolkata.
Asansol is in the heart of the coal country. Ranigunj Coalfields covers an area of 1530 km². Although it is spread over four districts of West Bengal – Bardhaman, Birbhum, Bankura and Purulia – and a part of Dhanbad district (Jharia coalfields are also in that district) of Jharkhand, the heart of Ranigunj Coalfields lies in the Asansol region. Pandaveswar, Kajora, Jhanjra Bankola, Kenda, Sonepur, Kunustoria, Satgram, Sripur, Sodepur and Salanpur are the major coal areas around Asansol. Kasta Coalfields, north of the Ajay river in Birbhum district, Mejia and Parbelia, across the Damodar in Bankura district, and Mugma, across the Barakar river in Dhanbad district, are adjacent to Asansol. Only small patches intrude into Durgapur subdivision. Coal in India was first mined in Narayankuri near Ranigunj. Sitarampur boasts of the first Mines Rescue Station, Directorate of Mines Safety and explosive manufacturing unit now defunct but the former two still in active operation.
Bardhaman became a major administrative centre for the Muslim rulers and the subdivision was a part of the Muslim kingdoms in the region. It later became a part of the Bardhaman Raj functioning under the Mughals. When Mir Kassem, then Nawab of Sube Bangala, ceded Bardhaman along with Medinipur and Chittagong to East India Company in 1760 (three years after the Battle of Plassey), it was beginning of a new and eventful chapter for the region. Till that time the area was a wilderness of forest and jungle, dotted at long intervals with tiny settlements. The countryside was ravaged and plundered by outlaws.
As the area witnessed prosperity and growth, it also took a leading part in many other activities. Both Burnpur United Club and Burnpur Cricket Club flourished. There were clubs such as Barret Club and Kulti Sammelani, which prospered. Golf was played at Kulti and Yachting was popular at Maithon. In 1951, Asansol Rifle Club was set up at Chandmari. The two cultural hubs are Rabindrabhabon at Asansol and Bharati Bhawan at Burnpur.Another important cultural center of Asansol City is Sarat Mancha, located at Asansol Police Lines.
Asansol is an important educational hub, acting as the educational centre for the entire population of the coal belt from Dhanbad to Ranigunj. Ramakrishna Mission, Manimala Girls, Estern Railways High School, Dyanand Anglo Vedic Higher Secondary School, St. Patrick's Higher Secondary School, St. Vincent's High and Technical School, Loreto Convent, Assembly of God Church School, The Eastern Railway School, Subhaspalli Bidyaniketan and Burnpur Riverside School are some prominent schools. An upcoming nonprofit online directory called the Asansol Schools Network will enable those with connections to Asansol to find each other - http://asansolschools.org/. There are five schools run by IISCo authority. There are four colleges, an engineering college, one pharmacy college and two polytechnics.
Churulia - here the famous poet - Kazi Nazrul Islam was born. He is considered the national poet of Bangladesh. The village is about 17 km from Asansol, and contains a museum with his works and a memorial for him.
Santiniketan - Visva-Bharati, founded by Rabindranath Tagore and now a central university and an institution of national importance, is located here. It is about 90 km from Asansol.
Durgapur - An industrial city 50 km to the east of Asansol and home to the Durgapur Steel Plant
Bishnupur - the famous terracota temple town and home to major art and craft is about 100 km from Asansol. The Bankura horse, symbol of Indian handicrafts is produced at Panchmura, near Vishnupur. It is also the home of the Baluchari sari, initially woven with Ramayana and Mahabharata motifs but now modernised.
Kalyaneswari Temple – The temple of the Lady of Fulfilment, about 20 km from Asansol has been a place of pilgrimage, particularly for barren women, for about five centuries.
Joydeb-Kenduli – temple dedicated to the Sanskrit poet Joydeb, on the banks of the Ajay river, is about 80 km from Asansol. Makar sankranti mela with bauls (religious singers with a detached philosohy and spontanaeity of their own) participating is held in mid January.
Bakreshwar – hot spring and temple is about 70 km from Asanasol.
Joychandi Pahar – popular picnic spot and centre for rock climbing training, is about 30 km from Asansol.
Chinakuri-Close to power supply and coal mining areas. The Gupta and Biswas family were amongst the most prolific and successful people here.