Lal Dighi

Lal Dighi at Kolkata

Lal Dighi at Kolkata (The Great Tank)

The Lal Dighi is also popularly known as Tank Square or Dalhousie Square. It is a man made water tank believed to be built before the British era. The name ‘Lal Dighi’ means ‘Red Water’ in Bengali. It was so named because of the red color the water acquired during the festival of Holi or Dol in Bengal. The British used to call it by the name of ‘The Great Tank’. The water body is surrounded by many types of greenery all around and presently a great spot for angling. Many of Kolkata’s Heritage buildings are around the Lal Dighi, like GPO, High Court, Writers’ Building, Andrew’s Church, etc.

Location of Lal Dighi in Kolkata

It is located at the centre of B.B.D. Bagh. Nearest landmark is Calcutta High Court.

History of Lal Dighi Kolkata

There are several stories regarding the origin of Lal Dighi. Since there is no factual document recorded, many telltales surround its nomenclature. According to some, the dighi already existed during the time of Sabarna Roy Choudhury who belonged to one of the many aristocracies that ruled over that region. He had a kutchery (court-house) and a temple of his family deity Shyam Rai, near Lal Dighi. During the festival of Holi or Dol Jatra the tank acquired a red color because of the sprinkling of ‘Red Abir’ or red powdered color over it. It was before the arrival of Job Charnock, who was the founder of Calcutta. At that time it was under the Kalikata village. The court-house was first taken on rent and later purchased by the British East India Company. Another story goes that, it was named after Lalchand Basak, who had dug this immense pond and thus the tank got its name. Some also say that due to the reflection of the red coloured old fort in the water of the tank it has acquired the name of Lal Dighi.

However, according to the Dutch admiral Stavorinus who visited the settlement in 1770, the tank was deepened and lengthened in 1709 by the British Government and cleaned thoroughly converting it into a reservoir of sweet drinking water. The tank covers upwards of 25 acres (100,000 m2) of ground. It was converted into a fresh reservoir for the purpose of providing clean water to the inhabitants of Calcutta. The tank was formerly more extensive, but was cleansed and embanked completely in Warren Hastings’ time. It was railed around and natives were not allowed to wash in it. Until the introduction of municipal water supply, the tank was the chief source of supply of drinking water to the European community as well.


Trivia of Lal Dighi, Kolkata

  • On 18 June 1756, the Battle of Lal Dighi was fought between Siraj ud-Daulah and the forces of British East India Company near the tank leading to the withdrawal of the British from Kalikata, till their victory in the Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757.
  • The Government of West Bengal has planned for an 115,000 square feet (10,700 m2) underground car park at the northern end of Lal Dighi at a cost of Rs. 35 crore. It will accommodate about 700 cars. It will be the biggest car parking plaza in Kolkata. It will be a two-storey structure and it would not cause any harm to the existing Lal Dighi.
  • The pond also acts as a reservoir for water pumps in the BBD Bag complex. The fire department has stipulated that a minimum water level of 2.5 meters must be maintained during the two-year construction of the parking plaza. Lal Dighi’s current water level is 6 meters.