Coordinates: 21.78° N 87.75° E
Contai (also known as Kanthi) is a Subdivisional town in the District of East Midnapore, West Bengal, India.
Contai was originally a part of Hijli kingdom, a tributary state of Orissa ruled by the Hindu King Gopinath Pattnayak. In 1852 the East India Company of British India announced Contai as a Sub-Division consisting of six police stations - Contai, Khejuri, Ramnagar, Bhagwanpur, Egra and Patashpur. But the Government continued working from Negua. The Sub-Division that covered 912 sq. miles was the second largest in Bengal . In 1863 when Nimak Mahal (the salt factory and business center) at Contai, in the teeth of a serious crisis, ceased functioning, the Sub-Divisional office was shifted from Negua to the abandoned Nimak Mahal building. Bankim Chandra Chottopadhyay, the precursor of Bengali novel, worked as the Deputy Magistrate of Contai, though for a short period, from January 1860 to November of the year. In 2002, Medinipur District was divided into two parts – Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur for the sake of administrative efficiency and expediency. Purba Medinipur consists of four Sub-Divisions – Tamluk, Contai, Egra and Haldia. Contai Sub-Division now consists of eight blocks of Ramnagar, Digha, Kanthi(Contai), Khejuri and Bhupatinagar.
Contai Subdivision is famous for its tourism, cashew crop, fishing and processing industries. The land is highly fertile and therefore, agriculture is also the major driving force that sustains the middle-class economy of this region. However, sometimes agriculture is affected by frequent floods due to torrential Monsoon rain and Cyclone formed from depressions in the Bay of Bengal.
Contai is well-connected by roads/highways with other nearby cities and towns like, Digha, Dantan, Kharagpur, Midnapore,Tamluk, Haldia, Howrah, and Kolkata. The town is also connected by a rail link to Howrah/Kolkata which is again extended to Digha.The rail line is believed to have given a rise to the local economy. For local transportation, bus, mini-bus, taxi, and cycle rickshaws are available. The opening of Central Bus-stand has eased the traffic congestion within the city to a great deal. The region holds great potential in tourism but lamentably enough, no other place except Digha has been developed properly.
There are numbers of well-known schools and colleges in Contai. For higher education, besides the Prabhat Kumar Collegeunder the Vidyasagar University, there is an Ayurvedic College, a Polytechnic Engineering College, a Veterinary College, etc. The literacy rate of Contai subdivision is as high as 95%. Major schools in Contai are: Contai High School, Contai Model Institution, Contai K.M.Bidhyabhaban, Contai Hindu Girls' School, Chandramani Brahmo Girls' School, Kishorenagar Sachindra Siksha Sadan etc.
Among many festivals in Contai, "Gandhi Mela" is the most popular. It is held during January/February each year. Many people from Contai and neighbouring subdivisions take part in "Gandhi Mela" not only for amusement but also for agricultural and industrial exhibitions. The Kapalkundala Temple, Hijli Mosque, Dariapur Light House, Rajbari, Junput, Shankarpur, and Digha are the main tourist attractions in Contai Subdivision.
History of Contai or Kanthi
Some suggestions about the name
In the 15th century, during the visit of Fa-Hien, Contai was uninhabited and had no name for the outside world. In Valentine's travelogue, a harbour, KENDUA by name, was mentioned. This harbour was on the bank of the river, a short distance from the Rasulpur estuary. Later the harbour was shifted to the present site of the Contai Town.However, it is said, the name of the abandoned port was retained for its new location, In foreigners tongue, Kendua is said to have changed first to Cauntee and finally to Contai, whereas in local tongue it has changed to Kanthi (k?n??).
But linguists raise serious doubts about such change of pronunciation. They offer other suggestions.Mr.Yogesh Chandra Sarkar thinks that the name Kanthi owes its origin to outstretched sand-dune, about 27 miles from Rasulpur estuary to Peeplipattan, that from the sea looked like a long wall or Kanth (k?n?) as it is called by local people.
Some suggest that the name may originate from the custom of local people to build long walls or Kanths around their habitation in order to keep off wild beasts like buffaloes, tigers and rhinoceroses that were found in abundance then and these Kanths gave the place its name.
Yet, some people, conversant with the local history, give another explanation. They say on the sand dunes lived Saints and Fakirs or witch doctors to whom afflicted people often came for cure and who asked them affectionately in somewhat Hindi, “Kanha thee?” meaning to say ,'where are you from? Gradually the cure-seeking people coming from distant places came to identify this unnamed place by those two words “Kanha thee”, and in course of time the words merged into one to give the virgin or Ahalya land a name.
Old Contai Sub-Division
Some Fond Memories Connected with it and Reorganization.
In 1852 the then East India Company Government announced Contai as a Sub-Division consisting of six police stations-Contai, Khejuri, Ramnagar, Bhagwanpur, Egra and Potaspur. But the Government continued working from Negua which was the earlier name of todays Egra (“Agrapattan”). The Sub-Division that covered 912 sq. miles was the second largest in Bengal .
In 1863 when Nimak Mahal (the salt factory and business center) at Contai,
in the teeth of a serious crisis, ceased functioning, the Sub-Divisional office was shifted from Negua to the abandoned Nimak Mahal building.
Bankim Chandra Chottopadhyay, the precursor of Bengali novel,worked as the Deputy Magistrate of Contai, though for a short period, from January 1860 to November of the year. From Negua, where his headquarte was then, he went to Dariapur, a village near the Rasulpur estuary in order to investigate a robbery case. He was bewitched by the beauty of the beach –sand dunes covered by woodland against the background of the wide river and the sea. He stored it in his memory and incorporated the scenery in his romantic novel Kapal Kundala.
Bankim's father, Jadav Chandra Chattopadhayay,while serving as the Deputy Collecter of Midnapur District, has travelled to Majnamutha, Narduamutha and Seepur, all in Contai Asub-Division, on land-settlement business .He stayed here from 1838 to 1839 and rendered good service to a good number of people so as to earn the pet name Jadav –Deputy.
Dwijendralal Roy, the composer of patriotic dramas and songs, also came here as the settlement officer of of Burdwan. He stayed for three years,from 1890 to 1893. During his stay at Sujamutha, he protested against the unlawful increase of land-revenue and thereby incurred wrath of Lieutenant Charles Eliot and as a result got his increment frozen.
In 2002, Medinipur District was divided into two districts–Purba Medinipur and Paschim Medinipur for the sake of administrative efficiency and expediency. Purba Medinipur consists of four Sub-Divisions –Tamluk, Contai, Egra and Haldia. Eight blocks of Ramnagar, Digha, Kanthi (Contai) Khejuri and Bhupatinagar remained in Contai Sub-Division while the newly formed Sub-Division of Egra consisted of five Blocks of Bhagawanpur, Pataspur and Egra police stations.