Hijli Shaheed Bhawan, the old Building of IIT Kharagpur
The name of Kharagpur comes from the name of the old Shiva templeKhargeswar, located at Kharagpur The Temple was established by King Kharag Singh Pal and was named after him. The land has mythological importance too. As depicted in the ancient epic narrative Mahabharata, this area was ruled by the Demon King Hiramba. Pancha Pandavas spent a part of their repatriation years here. Bhim had fallen in love with Hirimba, sister of Hiramba. This angered Hiramba, who fought with Bhim. It was believed that Hiramba was killed by Bhim at the very place where Khargeswar Temple is located.
Historically, Kharagpur was a part of the Hijli Kingdom and ruled by Hindu Oriya rulers as a feudatory under Gajapati Kings of Orissa. Historians claim that in the 16th century, Kharagpur was still a small village surrounded by dense forests. The village was on high rocky barren land. The only inhabited settlement near Kharagpur was Hijli. Hijli was a small island village on the banks of the Rasulpur River, in the delta of Bay of Bengal. It developed into a port town in 1687. Hijli was also a province and it existed until 1886. It covered parts of Bengal and Orissa. It had important towns likeTamluk, Panskura, and Debra, along with the Kelghai and Haldi rivers on the north, south, and east sides bounded by Bay of Bengal and Kharagpur, Keshiary, Dantan, and Jaleswar on the west.
Hijli was ruled by Taj Khan who was the disciple of Guru Peer Mackdram Sha Chisti. It was also ruled by the Kushan, Gupta, and Pal dynasties, and by the Mughals. It is said that Hijli had excellent business and trade centers with judiciary, prison, and administrative offices during the reign of Hindu Kings and during the Moghul Raj. The capital of Hijli was inBahiri up to 1628 and was shifted to Hijli afterwards. Hijli Province was at its peak in 1754 and was highly prosperous during this period.
In the 18th century Khejuri, another port town, came into existence. It was established by the British primarily for carrying out trade with European countries. Khejuri was also an island set up on the banks of the Koukhali River in the delta region. Development of this region because of the ports in Khejuri and Hijli can be measured by the establishment of the first Indian Telegraph Office here, in 1852. This connected Khejuri with Calcutta. In the devastating cyclone of 1864, both ports were destroyed. The islands have since merged with the mainland.
Captain Nicolson was the first English colonialist to invade Hijli and captured the port. In 1687 Job Charnock with soldiers and warships captured Hijli, defeating Hindu and Mughal defenders. After the war with the Mughals, a treaty was signed between Job Charnock and the Mughal Emperor. The loss suffered by Job Charnock forced him to leave Hijli and to proceed towards Uluberia, while the Mughal Emperor continued to rule the province. From there, they finally settled at Sutanuti in Kolkata to establish their business in Eastern India. This was the start of the East India Company in India. Hijli as we know it today is only a small part of the Hijli Province, and was created for establishing administrative offices by the British in the 19th century. It is curious that almost the entire Kharagpur division of today has boundaries identical to Hijli Province.
Kharagpur is home to people from every religion and caste, from all over the country. At the same time, Kharagpur retains its small-town charm. Movie theaters include "Bombay Talkies," "Aurora," "Sitala," and "South Cinema." Bombay Cinema is now equipped with digital projection and surround sound system. People from various parts of the country have made Kharagpur their home and have settled there. Apart from Bengali, Hindi, English and Telugu are widely spoken languages.
Places of worship include a "Durga Mandir" at Gole Bazar,Sitala Mandir at Puratan Bazar, "Jagannath Mandir" near Gate Bazar, "Church" at Golebazar, "Gurudwara" at Subhaspally and at Nimpura, "Masjid" near Gole Bazar, Jalaram Temple at Jhapatapur and several temples and churches. The most famous festivals here are Durga Puja, Ganesh Puja, Saraswati Puja, Kali Puja, Ammavaari Puja, Navratri and others. Also Raas, and Mata Puja is conducted in a year by locals in the whole railway colony. Rath Mela celebrated near the premises of Jagannath Temple. Navratri festival is celebrated by the local Gujarati community every year by performing Garba/Raas at Gujarati School and Jalaram Temple. The biggest festival of all is the Dussehra or Ravan Pora.
Kharagpur has a Book Fair ("Kharagpur-er Boimela" in Bengali) which started in 2000 and happens every January. A Flower Fair ("Ful Mela" in Bengali) is also organized every year.
Digha is a popular tourist destination which is just 100 km from Kharagpur and hence one of the popular weekend getaway and picnic spot. Apart from this Kansai River also forms an important picnic spot for localites.