The History of Calcutta Part 1: Shyambazar
What was the real source of the name of Shyambazar, researchers have always been in a conflict with that question. Famous historian and friend of Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Gourdas Basak opines that the name comes from the family idol 'Shyamray' of one of the richest Bengali merchant of Calcutta, Shobharam Basak. On the other hand, renowned Calcutta specialist and essayist, Prankrishna Dutta wrote that -once upon a time there lived a Brahmin named Syamacharan Mukhopadhyay. His pond was called 'Syampukur', from where the name 'Syambazar' or 'Shyambazar' has come into existence.
But no one ever wrote that Shyambazar was a market of sea salts. Old Bengali meaning of 'Shyam' was sea salt. Many entrepreneurs made their fortune in Bengal by trading salt at that time. Even Antony Firingi was a merchant of salt. The storehouses of salt were mainly situated towards Belgachhia which have turned into ruins today but the storehouses by the banks if the river near Burrabazar are still in work.
Not far from Shyambazar, in Baranagar, there was a factory for pork meat processing, wrote East India Company employee, Strensam Master in 1676. This meat was exported in foreign countries. It may be so that the salt needed in the processing was supplied by the Shyambazar warehouses.
Once the villain of the infamous 'Blackwell Massacre', Jeffania Holwell changed the name of Shyambazar to 'Charles Bazar'. Shobharam Basak got into a lot of legal conflicts and procedures to reinstate the name to 'Shyambazar'.
Prince Dwarkanath Tagore of Jorasanko also started his career as a 'Nimki Dewan' or 'Salt Superintendent' of the East India Co. His first posting was in Basirhat's Bagunda. And to our surprise, 'Basir' also means 'salt'. So Basirhat was a salt market. So Shyambazar and Basirhat held the key to Bengal's salt trade. History is indeed salty!