The Lottery Committee of Calcutta- Why it was established and what it did ?

The city of Calcutta was established in the 18th and 19th centuries and rose along with the rise of power of the British in India. If you have ever wondered, how the city was over time established and built, one of the first institutions, that came up predominantly in the 19th century, the Lottery Committee was one of the key players in this development.


In 1817, after Lord Wellesley, governor-general of India had departed, the Lottery Committee was established. It was primarily done to continue the previous governor-general’s ambition to continue town planning in Calcutta. British accounts of the time both by the administration, as well as British residents in Calcutta, were often obsessed with health and sanitation, things that they found missing in this colony. As a result, town and urban planning were high for them on the priority list. It was therefore in the interest of the British residents, as well as the government. Therefore, this was a voluntary association.


This Committee was made for town-planning. The Lottery Committee would hold Lotteries to raise funds for constructing and doing up different parts of the city of Calcutta. They would carry out city planning in significant parts of the city.

City Planning

The Committee had commissioned a new city map to provide a picture of Calcutta. The major activities undertaken by the Committee were road building in the Indian part of the city, clearing of the river banks from encroachments, and chalking out of the space for the Victoria Memorial building amongst others. As Ranabir Ray Chaudhary has shown in his book, they built the major connecting roads in the Northern and central parts of the city, around which the residential areas were developed. Dalhousie Square, and what is today maidan were developed by the committee. Furthermore, in the Park Street area which was partially uninhabitable, Bustee clusters were cleared out from there to make it better. The Tolly’snullah was also cleared up. Other areas which they developed included Strand Road, as well as Chowringhee and Red Road. Furthermore, Cossitala, Colootala, and Garden Reach also were developed and refurbished by the Lottery Committee. A lot of these areas have changed over the years, but the major contours remain the same.

Recommended reading for further information

If you are interested in the proceedings of the Lottery Committee some more, reading Ranabir Ray Chowdhury’s latest book is highly recommended, as it offers immense detail on their contribution to the city of Calcutta.

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