The Maidan (literally open field) also referred as Brigade Parade Ground is the largest urban park in Kolkata in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is a vast stretch of field and home to numerous play grounds, including the famous cricketing venue Eden Gardens, several football stadia, and Kolkata Race Course. Maidan is dotted with statues and pieces of architecture, most notable being the Victoria Memorial. Due to the freshness and greenery it provides to the metropolis, it has been referred to as the "lungs of Kolkata".
Maidan is a property of the Indian Army and hosts the Eastern zone high command of the Indian Army in Fort William. The Maidan stretches from as far north as the Raj Bhavan building in Esplanade and as far south as the National library on Belvedere Rd. in Alipore. The wide field stretches from the Hoogly River on the west to the Victoria Memorial on the east. It is a historical and cultural center of Kolkata as well as a center of leisure and entertainment for Calcuttans.
In 1758, one year after their decisive win in Battle of Plassey, the British East India Company commenced construction of the new Fort William in the center of the village Gobindapur. The inhabitants of the village were compensated and provided with land in Taltala, Kumartuli and Shovabazar. The fort was completed in 1773.
“The tiger-haunted jungle which cut off the village of Chowringhee from the river was cleared, and gave way to the wide grassy stretch of the Maidan of which Calcutta is so proud. The formation of this airy expanse and the filling up of the creek which had cut off the settlement in the south, led the European inhabitants to gradually forsake the narrow limits of the old palisades. The movement towards Chowringhee had already been noticeable as early as 1746.”
The Maidan was initially developed as a 5 square kilometre parade ground for the forces. While the Europeans moved to the area around the Maidan, the Indians moved away. The richer families such as the Debs moved to Sobhabazar, the Tagores to Pathuriaghata and Jorasanko, and the Ghosals to Bhukailash (Khidirpur).
The Maidan has been with the army since it was developed, they are the owners, but administration of the Maidan was one on the long list of duties of the police. Thieves, both Indian and European, were there as early as the 1860s. Legally, the fort and the Maidan were excluded from the city as per Act 16 of 1847.
Around the Maidan
While the core of the Maidan has remained untouched except for roads and tram tracks across it, the surrounding areas have seen a lot of construction activity. In 1882, Calcutta Tramways Corporation introduced steam-powered trams across the Maidan from Chowringhee to Kalighat and Khidirpur. In 1889, came the electric trams.